Lead Generation: Beginners Guide to Lead Gen

What is Lead Generation

Lead generation is one of those marketing practices that gets talked about quite often, but defined a lot less. In my experience many marketers don’t actively understand what lead generation is and often struggle to come up with tangible lead generation strategies and programs. However funnily enough, most marketers would have an aspect of lead generation in their strategies, without often recognising it as such.

The key is to define what lead generation is – in a very simplistic way:

Lead generation is the marketing practice of using a number of marketing programs, tools and strategies to capture user data in order to sell them a service, product or advertise to.

The most misconception in marketing I find is that lead generation is primarily a data capture exercise for the sole purpose of selling the end user a particular product or service. This just isn’t true in today’s world. Leads have a number of purposes, and although the end goal may be commercial (for businesses at the least), not all leads are collected for the purpose of selling to.

Take for example the list of potential uses of different types of leads:

  • Convert to a customer
  • Use as brand ambassador (to help promote products)
  • Advertise to (third party)
  • Sell on (collecting leads for the sole purpose of selling on)
  • To acquire affiliates (sub set of brand ambassadors)
  • To acquire writers or bloggers


Lead Generation Stages

Typically I like to break lead gen into four stages:

  • Acquisition
  • Nurture / Warming Up
  • Conversion
  •  Post Conversion Relationship

I will look at each of these stages in some detail later on in the guide, but suffice to say a really good lead generation program doesn’t and shouldn’t end at the point of conversion.

This guide will aim to explore lead generation in depth and new content will be added to it regularly, so please bookmark the page, or subscribe to get updates.

Traditional VS Online Lead Generation        

In the past, marketers have often relied on offline or “traditional” marketing channels to acquire leads, some of these will be explored later on in the guide. Of late the move to online media has been championed by the fact that not only can online offer better ROI, its flexibility as a medium means that a campaign can be turned off, improved, or accelerated and amplified should metrics support or contrast the original targets set at the onset of the campaign.

In addition, digital media has evolved drastically and the development of new marketing platforms such as social media, and the re-emergence of email allows new channels to be added to the mix, where data selection can be narrowed down to user interests rather than generally targeting a larger base “in the wild”. This allows for better collection of “qualified” or high quality leads and increases the efficiency of limited marketing budgets.

The Importance of Lead Generation as a Marketing Channel

As I have highlighted earlier, lead generation is a key way to capture data that can be marketed or sold to. However what makes it an important channel?

The key difference between lead generation and other marketing channels is that the potential customer is a “known quantity”, in many respects you have much more information on the customer than you would have in any “broadcast medium”. This makes this customer an important one to the business, if the business can develop the right lead nurturing and lead funnel strategies to take that customer through a journey from contact to conversion.

The other primary point to be raised here is, even when leads aren’t being collected to be sold to, you are developing a database and potentially developing a captive audience for your advertising or branding strategies.

In a B2B environment especially, lead generation could be THE most important channel, as sales teams are better used on “known” customers that have been profiled and predisposed to buy, than “cold contacts”.

Lead Generation as a marketing technique is also a great way to build a customer and audience base that your business or brand can build relationships with. Understanding and knowing your customer and potential customers would help you better market to them; create better products or services to sell to them, and produce better content and media that they would like to consume.

Defining Lead Prospects

In the numerous lead generation guides, articles and content I have read, it seems that the definitions of types of prospects are more often than not, left out. Interestingly many marketers use the phraseology in their day to day work, though how many people using the terminology actually understand the difference between prospect types is debatable, although I would concede most would know the difference. The key is not knowing, but understanding the different types.

There are many different types of lead prospects, depending on your niche and industry, however the five main ones used in a sales funnel are:

  • Cold Prospects

Typically people that have had no interaction with your brand or company ever and may not even be aware of its services or products.

  • Warm Prospects

Warm prospects tend to have two different descriptions, depending on who you speak to. A warm prospect could be identified as someone that knows about your brand or company, and potentially has a positive view of the business. On the other hand a warm prospect could be defined as someone who started out as a cold prospect but was “warmed” by moving down your sales or communications funnel so that they know about your company and might be receptive to moving even further down the sales funnel.

  • Hot Prospects

Although not ideally the best way to describe them, “hot” prospects are those that have moved to the end of the funnel, and are highly responsive or active, and are predisposed to carry out an action should the conditions be right for them to convert.

  • Negative Prospects

Not all leads are cold before you contact them – there is usually a subset of any given database that is negative to your brand, service or product. The typical sales behaviour towards these is a “do not market” policy; however there are ways of potentially converting these leads into sales and move them back into the funnel, depending on the ROI payoff.

Content yet to be added (please bookmark the page, or subscribe to get updates.)

  • Lead Profiling
  • Lead Scoring
  • Lead Generation Channels
  • Lead Generation Strategies
  • Lead Purchasing (buying leads)
  • Lead Selling
  • Black Hat Lead Generation
  • Business to Business Lead Generation
  • Business to Consumer Lead Generation
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Lead Generation Metrics