1. What is Lead Generation
The term ‘lead generation‘ refers to all marketing activities aimed at generating as large a list of contacts interested in a product or service as possible. A lead is a potential customer who has previously shown an interest in a given product by leaving a contact in exchange for valuable content.
A customer may show interest in a variety of ways. He/she may, for example, leave their contact by filling in a form to participate in a webinar or to stay updated via a newsletter on a certain topic, or in exchange for an eBook.
It is a kind of barter by which the company gets in touch with an interested user and builds a profitable relationship with them.
Lead generation activities allow the company to build up a list of potential customers and consolidate the relationship with its target audience.
2. How to set up a lead generation campaign
Lead generation is the first step in formulating an effective sales funnel. The funnel refers to the path a user takes when he or she goes from simple interest in a product or service to purchase.
The term ‘funnel’ is used to define this path because it reflects the analogy of the funnel. Indeed, lead generation campaigns aim to attract the greatest number of users through content that satisfies at least one of their needs.
The funnel analogy also suggests another important aspect: it is not certain that all leads will turn into sales, but this is still the most effective way, on the web, to establish profitable relationships and enlarge the pool of potential customers.
To set up a good lead generation campaign one needs to:
- define the needs of the target audience
- choose the needs to be satisfied;
- create quality content capable of intercepting and satisfying at least one of the needs of the target audience;
- prepare a contact request format and draw up a list of potential customers
2.1 Lead magnet
In the jargon, specialists use the expression Lead Magnet to refer to all those quality contents that arouse the interest of users and are usually exploited during the initial phase of a sales funnel when a list of new contacts is to be created. Articles, videos, webinars, newsletters, are all content, persuasive or informational in nature, which, when based on user needs, represent added value. They therefore become a real magnet that the company provides to users in the hope of drawing them into the orbit of its brand and turning them into potential customers.
The objective of lead magnets is to convince users to provide their contact in exchange for a useful and valuable product.
3. How to create a list of potential clients
Let us go deeper into the matter and analyse how and through which channels lead generation campaigns are implemented.
Valuable content is perceived as such depending on the need it satisfies and the immediacy with which it does so. Users have no time to waste and it is rare for them to dwell on a given piece of content, especially since they are literally bombarded with news and advertisements on a daily basis.
The ‘value’ of this content depends first and foremost on the degree of satisfaction it is able to provide the user. A very favourable condition for this content to have a good appeal is that it is free.
For this reason, lead magnets are usually free content.
A channel often used for lead generation campaigns is the blog, a sometimes indispensable tool for consolidating the relationship with users, providing them with a service, and increasing organic traffic within a website.
This activity allows companies to position their website in the first pages of search engines and generate traffic without investing large sums of money in paid campaigns. Nowadays, more and more businesses use this activity to keep their community updated and launch new products or services.
A good blog article can be valuable content that captures the user’s attention and convinces them to contact you only when it provides solutions to problems or satisfies a need. Very often, in fact, blog articles contain one or more CTAs, which refer to forms to be filled in to leave contact details or subscribe to some other service.
3.2 SEO optimization
Another interesting way of acquiring new contacts is SEO optimisation of the company website. Blogging can meet this specific need, but it does not exhaust the spectrum of possibilities.
To increase the visibility of a website, one can in fact revise the HTML structure from an SEO perspective, improve the management of internal and external links, and focus on keywords that intercept traffic better than others (in this sense, the use of long-tail keywords, which are more specific and functional to the business in question, is recommended).
SEO techniques are used to position a website at the top of search results and are an excellent tool to boost lead generation campaigns.
Literally ‘Webinar’ (web + seminar) means online seminar and has been used as a digital marketing tool for a few years now to win new market shares and retain existing customers.
The web is teeming with free online events aimed at acquiring new contacts. All the user has to do is register with their details to be able to take part in the event and use the service. These online events fall within the logic of Inbound Marketing: they are valuable content that attracts users, turns them into leads and convinces them to continue in the funnel until the final purchase.
The webinar thus becomes an incentive to convince users to show interest in a particular product and leave a contact.
Websites and social media are now overflowing with call-to-actions such as ‘subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on new offers’. It is now an established practice to invite users to subscribe to a newsletter service. On the one hand, it is used to retain customers and offer them new services or products, on the other hand, it is a very powerful tool to acquire new contacts.
Often, in order to convince users to subscribe to the newsletter, discounts or free trial periods are offered to access other services or products. The user in this case has to subscribe to the service and give his contact details in order to receive weekly or monthly e-mails.
The newsletter is one of the most direct channels to convince the user to leave their e-mail address and for this reason it is one of the most used in lead generation campaigns.
3.5 Social Campaigns
Social campaigns are initiated for a wide variety of reasons. The objectives range from consolidating brand awareness to building a high-profile brand reputation, from increasing sales to retaining existing customers, from building a community to promoting products or services.
Every good social campaign therefore has well-thought-out objectives. One of these can be the acquisition of new contacts. Many companies now invest in social campaigns to build up a list of potential customers and initiate targeted marketing operations.
The advantage of social campaigns, in relation to lead generation, is to be able to address an enormously large pool of users with valuable content that meets specific needs and acts as an incentive to establish a first contact. Another notable advantage is the possibility of targeting the audience precisely according to socio-demographic characteristics, interests, job role, etc.
4. Lead nurturing
So far we have discussed what is meant by lead generation and the different channels and tools used to initiate a campaign for the acquisition of new contacts. However, the discussion, without a definition of lead nurturing, would remain incomplete.
Lead nurturing refers to that series of activities which precisely ‘nurture’ the contacts acquired during the lead generation campaign. In this case ‘nurturing’ refers to a peculiar meaning: lead nurturing activities in fact aim first and foremost to consolidate the relationship with the newly acquired user, to increase engagement, and to establish a long-lasting and mutually profitable dialogue.
Lead nurturing is thus the development of activities whose aim is to offer a concrete benefit to users acquired during the lead generation campaign. The idea behind these activities is the following:
“Nurture the lead to gain more benefit”
Why online lead generation is so important today
The market is ultra-competitive. Every company struggles to gain new market shares or to defend those on which it has already placed its flag. In this jungle, the ability to attract new customers and thus expand one’s user base is of paramount importance. A company’s very survival depends on it.
Until before the advent of the Internet, the acquisition of new customers took place through traditional channels, such as participation in events or trade fairs, telephone or door-to-door contacts, leafleting or poster activities, etc. These methods, while still representing good acquisition channels, have to deal with a completely different scenario.
The Internet has changed the way of marketing. It has completely overturned it by introducing new channels and methods that open up a spectrum of infinite possibilities that every business should approach to benefit from.
Lead generation should be conceived as a starting point to establish a profitable relationship with web users. Exploiting this type of opportunity, made possible by digital channels, is a prerequisite for the growth of any business. Relying only and only on traditional channels and methods of customer acquisition would mean, nowadays, giving up a world of infinite possibilities for growth.