Lead Generation 101: A Beginner’s Guide into Acquiring Quality Leads

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Welcome to the world of Lead Generation – a game-changing approach that fuels business growth in today’s competitive landscape.

With 61% of marketers finding lead generation their biggest challenge and 79% making it their top content marketing goal, its importance cannot be overlooked.

Whether you’re new to the world of inbound leads or looking to optimize your existing online lead generation efforts, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need about lead generation.

Let’s dive in!

What Is a Lead?

In marketing, a lead refers to an individual or business entity that has expressed interest in your products or services. They have provided their contact information, allowing you to engage with them further.

Let’s understand the different types of leads commonly encountered.

The Different Types of Leads

There are three types of leads commonly encountered:

  1. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
  2. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
  3. Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

1. What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?

Marketing Qualified Lead is a prospect who has shown interest in your offerings but may not be ready to make a purchase yet.

They have engaged with your marketing materials, indicating a higher likelihood of conversion in the future.

2. What Is a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?

Sales Qualified Lead is a prospect identified as being ready for direct sales engagement. They have demonstrated a higher level of interest and intent, making them prime candidates for sales outreach.

3. What Is a Product Qualified Lead (PQL)?

Product Qualified Lead is a prospect who has experienced or interacted with your product or service. Their usage or engagement suggests a genuine interest and potential for conversion.

Let’s address the elephant in the room, lead generation.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of attracting prospects to your business and increasing their interest through nurturing, all with the end goal of converting them into customers. This can be achieved through various strategies such as offering free e-books, hosting webinars, providing discount codes, and engaging through blog posts and social media content.

Let me explain this with an example.

A company that sells fitness equipment creates a series of blog posts and videos about effective workout routines and healthy nutrition tips.

They offer visitors a free e-book on “10 Essential Exercises for a Fit Body” in exchange for their email addresses.

As people download the e-book, the company collects leads interested in fitness and can nurture them with personalized content and offers.

Now that is lead generation in action.

You can generate leads at any stage of your sales funnel. In fact, you should make sure not to focus too intensely on any one stage.

Ideally, you want to have ways to reach customers who are in the Awareness, Evaluation, and Conversion stages.

If you only focus on building awareness of your brand, you won’t be able to convert as many of those leads into customers.

Likewise, if you optimize your Conversion strategies but neglect Awareness and Evaluation, you won’t have any leads to convert at all.

Let’s talk about the lead generation process and how lead generation works.

The lead generation process consists of two main components:

  1. Lead Generation Marketing: Attracting traffic to your website 
  2. Generating Leads: Convincing your visitors to share their email addresses

Let’s discuss the two components in more detail.

Lead Generation Marketing

The first step, lead generation marketing, involves finding effective ways to draw potential customers to your website. There are several strategies commonly used to drive traffic:

1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Utilizing online advertising to display ads in search engine results, paying platforms like Google or Bing for increased visibility.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Optimizing your website to rank higher in organic search results, without paying for ads, by aligning with search engine algorithms.

Bonus Content: SEO Made Easy—Ultimate Guide to Explode Your Traffic

3. Social Media

Leveraging popular social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn through content posting or paid ads to attract traffic and compete with search as a significant traffic source.

Bonus Content: Ways to Grow Your Email List with Social Media

4. Display Ads

Employ various ad formats (video, image, audio, text) on relevant websites, often through Pay-Per-Click (PPC) models, to drive traffic to your site.

Bonus Content: How to Boost the ROI of PPC Campaigns With Targeted Optins

5. Offline Events

Engaging in offline marketing activities, such as industry conferences and meetups, to network with potential customers, introduce your brand, and direct them to your website.

6. Referral Programs

Encourage satisfied customers to refer others to your business. Offer incentives or discounts to both the referrer and the new lead to boost participation.

Bonus Content: Ultimate Guide to Referral Marketing for Beginners

7. Webinars

Host webinars, workshops, or virtual events on topics relevant to your target audience. These events help showcase your expertise and build trust with potential leads.

8. Guest Blogging and Partnerships

Collaborate with other businesses or influencers in your niche. Guest posting on their blogs or collaborating on joint projects can expose your brand to new audiences and route prospects to your website.

How To Generate Leads

Once visitors arrive on your website, the next goal is to convert them into leads.

This can be achieved using lead generation tactics along the buyer’s journey, sparking users’ interest in your product or service and encouraging them to submit their contact information, often motivated by an incentive called a “lead magnet.”

Here are common marketing strategies businesses employ to generate leads:

1. Lead Magnets

Offer valuable resources or incentives, like free trials, demos, or samples, to entice visitors to provide their contact information. These lead magnets can be placed strategically on your website.

Bonus Content: How to Create a Lead Magnet: A Step-by-Step Guide (+Examples)

2. Landing Pages

Create dedicated landing pages for specific products, services, or promotions. These pages should have clear call to action (CTAs) to encourage visitors to leave their information.

Bonus Content: Easy Landing Page Design Tips to Boost Conversions

3. Live Chat and Chatbots

Implement live chat support on your website or use chatbots to engage with visitors in real time. This can help address inquiries and capture leads more effectively.

Bonus Content: Live Chat Best Practices: How to Streamline Customer Service

4. Optimize Website and Forms

Ensure that your website is user-friendly, mobile-responsive, and loads quickly. Also, keep lead capture forms simple and easy to fill out to encourage more submissions.

5. Customer Testimonials and Reviews

Showcase positive customer feedback and reviews on your website. Positive social proof can boost credibility and attract more leads.

6. Content Marketing

Create high-quality, valuable content addressing your target audience’s pain points and interests. This could include white papers, blog posts, infographics, videos, and more. Content that provides solutions or valuable insights will attract potential leads.

Bonus Content: Content Formats Proven to Boost Audience Engagement

How To Qualify a Lead

Once leads have entered your system, qualifying them to determine their readiness for conversion is crucial.

Let us discuss various methods of lead qualification.

  1. BANT Criteria: Assessing leads based on their budget, authority, need, and timeline helps gauge their potential.
  1. Lead Scoring Systems: Assigning scores to leads based on their engagement level and demographic data helps prioritize follow-up efforts.
  1. Qualifying Questions: Asking specific questions during lead interactions helps gather more information and assess their fit.

While having many leads is exciting, it’s important to appreciate the value of high-quality leads. These prospects will likely become customers and can significantly advance through your business’s sales funnel.

Bonus Content: What Is Lead Quality? And How to Measure It (+8 Bonus Tips!)

Lead Generation Strategies

I leave you all with the top lead gen strategies I have compiled over time for my readers that are very effective and easy to implement.

1. Respond to Social Media and Customer Support

Everyone wants to feel seen and heard. When you respond positively to public comments on social media, you show that you’re paying attention to your customers. Likewise, timely and helpful customer support can set high expectations for working with you.

Keeping your existing customers happy is a great way to generate referrals and repeat purchases.

2. Feature Real Users in Your Marketing

Give your best customers a claim to fame by featuring their words and images in your marketing. This shows potential leads how they might benefit from your service or product. Plus, people will be excited to share their feature with family and friends.

Remember, always ask permission to share testimonials and photos.

3. Throw a Party

Parties and events are a great way to help customers associate your business with having fun. Gather potential customers at your location or offsite and treat them to a good time. You can demonstrate your products and services or build connections.

You can also sponsor other events to develop your brand recognition.

4. Send Physical Mail

In the age of flooded email inboxes, a physical envelope can get people’s attention.

Consider sending “lumpy mail,” which is any kind of mailer that contains something besides a flat letter or postcard. You might send a branded pen or magnet with your contact information or something more unusual like a balloon or key.

People are often curious enough to open an oddly shaped package instead of tossing it in the recycling bin.

You can also send different-sized mail than a standard envelope. This can also catch people’s eyes. Be aware that “lumpy” or off-size mail may need additional postage.

Make sure to include a way to contact you or purchase your product. It can be fun to connect the item you send with the act of purchasing or visiting.

For example, a car dealership might send a fake car key with an invitation to bring it when they come for a test drive.

5. Offer Samples

Another way to generate leads for B2B marketers is to offer samples or trials.

Respectfully ask for an email address or phone number before they claim their freebie. You’ll have a whole list of people interested in hearing from you and have already tried your product or


This strategy also works well with digital offers. Use OptinMonster to create popup campaigns that ask for an email address to send a free eBook sample, limited membership access, or trial software code.

Bonus Content:Email Marketing: The #1 Ridiculously Easy Way To Grow Your Business

6. Create an Experience

We spend so much of our time online that offline experiences can take on a new meaning. Turn your digital marketing or sales process into an enjoyable experience for your customer.

Put a photo-friendly prop by your storefront to encourage people to take and share photos of your location. You could even offer discounts or other promotions if they tag you on social media.

You can also create a game or activity related to your business and take it to local events. Collect contact information from participants to send them marketing materials later.

The experience doesn’t have to relate directly to your product or service. You’re just trying to generate interest and awareness of your work.

7. Send Referral Gifts

In addition to a sincere thank-you note, you can send a gift to people who refer you to new leads. This shows that you appreciate your existing customers.

Referral gifts can also motivate new leads to become customers since they see how well you will treat them.

Some businesses only send referral gifts for leads that purchase, while others do so for all referrals. It’s up to you!

8. Offer a Gift With Purchase

Adding a bonus item or upgrade can help people purchase your product or service. Combine this strategy with a time limit to turn leads into customers quickly.

11. Start a Loyalty Program

A great way to encourage repeat business and referrals is to offer a loyalty program. Choose a way to track a customer’s inbound purchases or referrals and give them a gift when they reach a certain number.

For example, selling consumable items could give a free product after the customer has purchased ten.

You can also keep track of a customer’s referrals and send them a reward after a certain number of referrals have become customers.

Another fun variation on the loyalty program is to offer a discount for bringing a friend in for a service or purchasing two products at once.

9. Host a Contest or Giveaway

People enjoy the feeling of winning. Many are happy to hand over their contact information to win a prize. You can collect entries on an ongoing basis or for a limited time.

With OptinMonster’s gamified coupon wheel campaigns, you can even give every visitor to your website a chance to win a free or discounted product.

10. Give Them a Call

Outbound calling can still reach new customers for your business. Avoid cold calling and being impersonal by learning about their needs before reaching out. You can collect information through a form or survey on your website.

OptinMonster’s Field Mapping feature can significantly help in this process.

By leveraging Field Mapping, you can capture specific details (such as demographics, interests, or industry preferences) about your leads through customized opt-in forms.

These forms can be strategically placed on your website to gather information aligned with your sales objectives.

In addition to form-based data collection, you can further track your subscribers’ activity by utilizing email segmentation.

Using this data, sales people can customize outbound calls to address specific pain points and offer relevant solutions, increasing the chances of success.

For more information, explore these 11 Ways to Use OptinMonster’s Field Mapping Feature.

11. Provide Awesome Customer Service

Make your existing and potential customers feel cared for and like they are “more than just a number.” Take time to answer questions thoughtfully and compassionately.

Hire extra help or invest in tools to help you do this at scale. Happy customers will reward you by purchasing again and telling their friends about your business.

12. Host a Customer Appreciation Event

Show your existing customers how much they mean to you with a customer appreciation event.

This should be a sales-free space and focus on building positive relationships. Create a memorable experience for your guests, who’ll have fond memories of your brand.

You could invite customers to bring their friends, who could become new leads for your business.

13. Teach a Group Workshop

You can connect with many potential customers by teaching a workshop or class.

Choose a topic related to your product or service and tell participants about your business at the beginning or end. You are teaching them something valuable and building a relationship with new leads.

The workshop participants learn something and see that your business can help them.

14. Participate in Community Service

Give your employees and leadership time to help on community service projects. It’s a more personal way to impact than financial sponsorship, though donations are helpful too.

Volunteer for causes together, then share authentically about the experience on your website and marketing campaigns. Branded clothing can lend your business some brand recognition and credibility.

Find reputable nonprofit or NGO partners and follow their volunteer guidance to avoid being performative or exploitative.

15. Make Charitable Donations

Many customers want to feel good about their purchase beyond the thrill of receiving the item or service. Consider donating to a charity on behalf of your customers.

You can even let them pick from a list. This allows them to feel like their purchase has a positive impact and may encourage them to work with you instead of another business.

For example, you could include a field in your checkout form where customers can choose a charity to which you will donate a portion of their purchase.

16. Offer Free Setup or Migration

Some leads might feel nervous or overwhelmed by starting with a new product or service provider. Help them over the initial hesitation by offering free setup or migration from their existing solution.

You can adapt this strategy and offer free webinars or workshops showing how easy it is to start.

17. Provide a Service Upgrade

Another way to get more leads is to provide a free service upgrade in return for giving their email or signing up for a trial.

This strategy costs very little as you will only upgrade paying customers.

While numerous lead generation strategies exist, it’s crucial to emphasize the significance of A/B testing.

This approach allows businesses to pinpoint what truly resonates with their audience, ensuring that efforts are effective and optimized.

By consistently testing and refining, you can ensure that your lead generation tactics yield the best possible results.

OptinMonster – Your Best Bet on Lead Generation

optinmonster homepage

OptinMonster is the best lead generation tool for easily converting website visitors into leads and customers.

OptinMonster, a SaaS, lets your marketing team create on-site lead generation campaigns like popups, slide-in toasters, floating bars, spin-to-win wheels, and more.

Even better? You can do it without needing a coder or graphic designer using our drag-and-drop editor and one of 500+ templates. Or, design it yourself using our Canvas templates.

But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.

OptinMonster’s personalization and targeting display rules put your campaigns in front of the right people at the right time. We have almost 100 different ways to choose where, when, and for whom your campaigns will appear.

I’m most fond of our query-parameter condition because it lets you align your PPC campaigns with your onsite lead generation.

Another feature I appreciate about OptinMonster is our Playbooks. Playbooks are fully pre-configured campaigns, eliminating the guesswork involved in launching a lead generation campaign.

OptinMonster is how AtHoc sales team increased sales qualified leads by 141% and how SnackNation adds 1200 segmented leads weekly. And it’s not just these two companies who have seen success with our lead generator.

OptinMonster has published dozens of lead gen case studies proving we deserve to be #1.

OptinMonster pricing starts at $9/month for our Basic plan, $19/month for Plus, $29/month for Pro (our most popular plan), and $49/month for Growth.

Get Started With OptinMonster Today!

BONUS: Done-For-You Campaign Setup ($297 value) Our conversion rate experts will design 1 free campaign for you to get maximum results – absolutely FREE! Click here to get started →

Want to learn more about lead generation? Check out these guides, reviews, comparisons, and top lists!

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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