What is lead generation?

Lead Generation 101: A Beginners Guide

Lead generation used to refer to the process of identifying potential customers for your business. These days it’s so much more than that. Lead generation also refers to the technologies available to help drive quality leads and prospects into the new business funnel.

Lead generation software, such as has been developed to make the life of the sales and marketing teams easier. A lot like how marketing automation saves time when it comes to setting up programmatic campaigns, the aim is to make finding quality leads that meet your killer values painless. For example, you can filter your website visitors based on industry, company turnover, company size and much more.

Firstly, what is a lead?

A lead is essentially a professional who has expressed interest in your company’s services, whether that’s by getting in touch directly (think email, tweet, message on LinkedIn) or by browsing your website and visiting the high scoring pages.

But there’s more to it than that; there are different types of leads: cold, warm and hot. A cold lead is one that has expressed interest like all other leads in the journey but is not yet ready to purchase. For example, they might have browsed your website, but aren’t fully engaging with you as a company, or have expressed that they are still only researching options, etc.

We’re all familiar with hot leads. They’re highly engaged with your communications, perhaps they’ve been attending your webinars and seminars, they’re clicking on your emails, and they’re downloading your whitepapers and case studies. They’re ready to meet your sales team and are actively looking to buy a product or service.

What about a warm lead then? They’re somewhere in between. Your warm leads need nurturing; perhaps they’re still researching what they need and how you can provide them with a solution. A warm lead is more engaged than a cold one but less advanced in the journey.

It goes without saying that they need to be treated differently. For example, hot leads are normally open to booking meetings, so you are more likely to have successful sales calls with them. However, if you were to call a cold lead, it’s likely to be a frosty interaction, so you should consider creating a nurture email program to send them more information.

Ok, so if that’s a lead, what’s a prospect?

There are many of different definitions out there, but here’s ours. A prospect is essentially a hot lead who has entered the sales process. They’ve booked a meeting and are ready to sign a contract.

Interesting… so is lead generation just calling people until they buy stuff?

No, that’s just cold calling. Lead generation starts with a strong strategy that not only defines who you should be contacting but how and when. We recommend using website visitor tracking software, like GatorLeads, where you can not only see what businesses are looking at your website, but which pages.

What’s more, is that you can identify those businesses who meet your killer values.

What are killer values?

Think of these as the criteria for your ideal leads. If you don’t have killer values yet, consider the customers you have won within the last three months and analyse what they have in common.

Consider common attributes such as:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Employee size: are you mostly working with small, medium, or enterprise size businesses?
  • Business type: are your services more beneficial to other business services or do you work with consumers?

Additionally, you may want to consider what your customer needs to have in place already. For us, we target businesses who are using specific CRM systems to store, track and analyse their data and are already using an email service provider. In the past, we have worked with customers without one or both, but it hasn’t been as successful.

What is an MQL?

MQL or Marketing Qualified Lead meet the killer values you have defined, and are engaging with your website or lead nurture campaigns. Essentially, it is the process of warming a lead, so they are ready to be passed from marketing to sales.

Setting out and defining your MQL’s helps build a strong working relationship between your sales and marketing teams, making the lead generation process as efficient and successful as possible. The two must agree what makes an MQL based on, firstly, that they fit your killer values, but are also a warm lead.

For example, our leads need to have completed some of the following to be considered an MQL:

  • Have one of the following sources: PPC campaign, LinkedIn campaign, or a blog referral from one of our partners
  • Generates a lead score of 20 points or more in one week, or 50 in one month
  • Has looked at the pricing page on our website
  • Has filled out a demo request
  • Has downloaded a whitepaper, guide or case study from our website
  • If they’ve downloaded a whitepaper, they need to have received a specific campaign from the relevant nurture program

How do I define my MQL?

To build your MQL you’ll need to consider leads you’ve converted into customers and their journey.

We defined what our MQL’s are based on building our killer values and personas. We then considered the ideal journey the lead took to become a customer.

Having a lead generation solution, such as GatorLeads, is central to this, as you’ll want to track your them according to how they engage with your website. It’s not enough to know they’ve downloaded a case study from your website, opened and clicked on an email. You’ll want to know what pages they visited and if there are any common themes.

Lead generation tools allow you to score pages on your website according to how you rank them for importance. For example, by knowing what they’ve looked at will help you determine how interested they are. If your leads are looking at demo requests, chances are they’re in the prime position to speak to sales, so give that page a higher score.

If they’re still looking at blogs though, you might want to hold off a little longer and let these lower scoring pages accumulate over time.

Do I need to do this?

Technically you don’t need to do anything. We do recommend defining what a marketing qualified lead is though, as you’ll more likely filter better quality leads through to your sales team, therefore hopefully converting more leads to customers!

How do I create my own lead generation strategy?

First and foremost, you should start with your killer values. Consider what your best customers have in common and fish for leads that fit the bill. Variety is the spice of life, so you don’t need to be too specific but consider turnover, location, company size etc.

Next up: creating personas. This is important for profiling your ideal customer so you can qualify leads based on suitability. For example, we know that for us we better meet the needs of B2B companies than B2C.

In addition to this, building personas means you can tailor your approach to what worked best with your current customers. Perhaps they respond better to Outlook style emails than design heavy campaigns.

Now you know who you’re targeting, but do you know what you should be doing? When it comes to our b2b lead generation strategy, we have a few key campaign programs we run. For example, we have a nurture workflow for cold leads, and is divided into four key stages: intrigue, discover, consider, decide.

For warmer leads, we have a specific workflow for those who have downloaded a whitepaper, guide or case study from our website. We target leads based on the topic they have engaged with, and they enter an automated program of campaigns that continue to nurture that interest over 12 business days (we disable sending campaigns over weekends as we’re targeting B2B).

The series sends:

  • whitepaper, waits 4 days
  • Features of our service that the lead has engaged with (e.g. marketing automation), waits another 4 days
  • A relevant case study
  • Finally, a dynamic email from the sales person who is assigned to that lead in our CRM, about setting up a demo

Once the lead has received this series, the workflow checks if they have clicked on any of the campaigns. If they have booked a demo, they exit the workflow, as they’re now considered a prospect. If they haven’t clicked, we invite them to a relevant seminar, where they will meet the sales team.

What about buying leads? How does that work?

To make sure you’re getting the best quality leads, you’ll want to use your killer values as your criteria. Or more specifically, base it off the customers you’ve won in the last three months. It’s a rinse and repeat system provided that you’re analysing them regularly!

We have a feature on GatorLeads called Auto Nurture which allows you to buy the data of your website visitors who tick the boxes of your killer values. Once you’ve set up the rules for it, you assign some credits to automatically buy and from there enter them into a nurture workflow as mentioned above.

When you buy the data, you’ll initially have email addresses for certain contacts within the company, but you can’t see exactly who looked at your website. When we do this ourselves, we tend to look for sales and marketing managers and directors, as historically these are the best contacts for us.

What’s the best way to manage my leads?

It goes without saying that the very best way to manage your leads is within a CRM that is customised to report on everything you need and integrates with your ESP. Our sales team use GatorLeads integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

This means that they have full visibility of who’s on the website, what they’re looking at and their lead score. Additionally, we also use it to make sure leads are assigned to certain members of the sales team, so no one is treading on each other’s toes.

So, what do team Gator do?

You’ll discover many of our tried and tested tidbits throughout this blog.

In our approach to lead generation, we use a variety of campaigns to warm our leads. We do this by setting up marketing automation workflows based on our core topics (that is: email marketing, lead generation and marketing automation), with a structure of content suitable for the level of engagement of the lead so far. We are then able to score the leads based on what they click on.

For example, we track the topics our website leads interact most with and send them campaigns based on those topics. Personalisation is key.

What is IP lookup and how does it work?
IP Lookup is a tool that enables you to identify the IP addresses of companies browsing your website. It’s key that we point out it will only show you:

  • IP addresses that are linked to businesses, you cannot identify individuals or home-workers
  • Companies viewing your website, but not the employee. For example, if we were looking at your website it would not tell you Amy Johnson, Marketing Executive, CommuniGator is online, just Someone at CommuniGator

If an IP address is registered with a company, the lookup software will then delve into our huge database to tell you who it is. So rather than seeing a list of gobbledegook numbers (that is, IP address) you’ll see a list of companies with information that company house holds about them, like country, revenue, staff size etc.

From there you could purchase email addresses of contacts based on job title. For example, sales director, marketing manager, or CEO.

On the CommuniGator suite, GatorLeads is the tool to use. Simply add the tracking code to your website and go! We have an open API, meaning we integrate with almost every CRM, allowing you to create custom dashboards for your teams to assign and track their leads.

What else can it do?

You can also use lead generation software, like GatorLeads, to track the performance of your PPC campaigns. GatorLeads allows you to easily set up different UTMs to assign to your links automatically, making it really straightforward to track your multichannel campaigns.

You can also track links sent to individuals using personalised URLs, or what we like to call: PURLs. This means we can cookie drop specific links sent, so you know for sure if a certain contact at a company is engaging with your sales team.

But it doesn’t stop there. You can track any external channel, from PPC to blog shares and social media.

What are your top tips for killer lead generation campaigns?

In summary, we recommend learning as much as possible about your new customers to determine what made them convert and studying their lead journey. Find out what they have in common with each other and target leads that have similar profiles, chances are they’ll be better quality and more likely to convert.

Once you’ve done that, we recommend optimising your website using lead generation software. Using page scoring helps you differentiate cold, warm and hot leads into separate pots so you can tailor your campaigns to the stage of the buying cycle they’re in.

So, you’ve determined what makes a good lead, what comes next? Your content. Make sure that you are producing regular, useful blog posts, whitepapers, case studies and if possible webinars that are meaningful to your customers and leads.We know that content creation can seem intimidating, especially if you have a small team. Consider using freelance writers or an agency who understand your company and industry, if you have the budget.

And if you don’t try tapping up people around your business. They may not be natural writers, but they are fountains of knowledge about what you do! We have some great tips available for planning, producing and proofing your own content here.

To make the most out of your content, we recommend syphoning down bigger pieces such as whitepapers and guide into smaller, easily digestible pieces, such as webinars, social media posts and email campaigns that link to blogs, that link back to the larger pieces. Save those for your more engaged leads.

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