Learn Generating Leads for Your Business

 You can't just sit back and think customers will find you on their own. With an effective customer acquisition process, you can raise awareness, attract potential customers, drive traffic to your site and show people why they should buy from you.
If you don't have in-depth marketing knowledge, the customer acquisition process can seem challenging to understand and implement. Fortunately, you can follow proven best practices to increase your customer base and sales.
Learning the basics of an effective lead acquisition process is one of the most important things you can do as a business professional. Every company must have a healthy pipeline and a steady flow of leads. You can't leave lead generation to chance.
Lead Generation: a Beginner's Guide
What is a lead?
A lead is any potential customer who shows interest or is interested in your company's products or services. Some companies consider leads to be those potential customers with a higher probability of conversion, while others consider any contact with a salesperson to be a leader. You should decide on the accepted definition of «lead» for your company. This way, you will avoid confusion among stakeholders and be able to measure your success in acquiring new leads. There are different types of leads depending on their status:
1. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): This type of lead came through your inbound marketing efforts, such as paid or organic search, content marketing or social advertising. They showed interest in your business by signing up for an email newsletter, filling out a survey, or taking another action. However, these contacts have not yet interacted with your sales team. 
2. sales-qualified leads (SQL): This category includes potential customers who have been screened by a sales professional. Often, SQL includes potential customers who meet specific minimum criteria that increase the likelihood that they will become customers of your business. You may also hear this potential customer referred to as a «lead accepted for sale.»
3. product-qualified lead (PQL): This type of lead includes those who have tried a free version of a product (such as software) and now want to become a paid customer.
4. Service Qualified Lead (SQL): Here, we find potential customers who have expressed interest in the service and are now ready to talk to the sales team and turn into paying customers.
2. What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the process you use to attract people to your business, get them interested in your company's products or services, and encourage them to purchase.
You can use many online and offline strategies to attract new customers, such as social media marketing, blog posts, cold calls, or live events.
Lead generation is a multi-step process encompassing more than just informing people about your company. You can think of it as consisting of three main steps:
Generating traffic: First, you try to help people learn about the existence of your business and draw them to your site to learn about what you do. The more traffic you attract to your site, the more opportunities you have to turn those visitors into leads. Companies often use search engine optimization (SEO), social advertising, directory listings, or guest blogging to increase website traffic. 
Converting visitors into potential customers: Once you've attracted people to your site, you want to get some information from them — such as their email addresses. That way, you can start actively sharing your message with them. At that point, the visitor officially becomes a lead.
Turn Leads into Customers: Now, you can focus on motivating your leads to buy. Perhaps you'll use content marketing to explain why they should choose to do business with you. Or you can offer discounts and promotions via email to provoke a sale. These are just a few of the many tactics for attracting new customers.
Why is attracting new customers important to a business?
You'll have difficulty expanding your business if you don't regularly attract new customers. Here are a few of the benefits of attracting new customers to your company:
  • People learn about your business.
  • Creates a healthy channel for attracting new customers
  • Increases sales and profit margins
  • Targets desirable and purchase-prone customers
  • Gathers information about potential customers
  • Helps potential customers do research before they buy
  • Allows you to identify potential customers who are not a good fit for your business
  • Allows you to focus your marketing budget on highly profitable customer acquisition tactics.
The Lead Generation Process
Here are eight steps to more effective lead generation:
  • Identify your potential customer's pain points. To generate the best quality leads for your business, you want to understand everything you can about the people who will decide to buy from you. You need to know the pain points of your audience — what they care about, what needs they're trying to meet, and what motivates them to make a purchase. Start by looking at your site's analytics. You'll have access to demographic information, as well as the sources and search terms that draw people to your site. You can also get information from current or past customers. Look at survey data, study their comments on social media, or contact customers to get their opinions. Or ask your customer service and sales teams about feedback trends they've observed. If you're just starting out, you may not have a lot of web or customer data at your fingertips. In such cases, research your competitors' customer types to understand buyer motivation.
  • Alignment with sales and customer service. Effective lead generation requires a close relationship between sales, marketing, and customer service, which must work together to meet mutually agreed upon service level agreements (SLAs)-commitments by the parties to achieve a common goal. Here are a few areas where your sales, marketing, and service teams should be aligned: definitions of key terms, standardized sales processes, performance metrics, and reporting.
  • Align content with the sales stage of your prospective customer. It's important to remember that when generating leads, you need to find ways to stay on your prospects' radar if you want them to become customers. Creating, publishing, and distributing content regularly is a great way to stay in touch with your potential customers. To create compelling content, consider your customers' points of view. What types of information do they need at different buying cycle stages to help them move to the next step? As mentioned earlier, you can create content tailored to each marketing funnel stage to drive customers to purchase. In the earlier stages, focus on education and provide content related to your offerings when people are already close to conversion. 
  • Build your email list by offering a free eBook. A steady stream of content will move potential customers through the funnel. If you don't know where to start, offering a few ebooks to download in exchange for email contact information is a great way to build your list of leads. An ebook is a digital content designed to be read on computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Remember that ebooks don't have to be long; even 2-3 thousand words on an attention-grabbing topic can attract potential customers. 
  • Attend to existing and new potential customers. Once you have the basic information about your potential customers, promote them through the funnel. Do ongoing outreach to keep in touch and tell them more details about your offerings. Email marketing is an excellent option for nurturing leads. You can send out regular emails, such as newsletters and targeted promotions, to make sure you don't lose sight of your potential customers. Invite them to fill out preference forms or take surveys to learn more about their interests and needs and to support the qualification process. 
  • Evaluate each potential customer. Once you have some insight into your potential customers, use possible customer evaluation models to assess their willingness to buy. Establish a threshold that determines when a potential customer can become a buyer and use more proactive and personalized follow-up approaches. Lower-performing leads should remain on your list for further development in order to improve their performance and guide them further down the funnel.
  • Refer leads to the sales team to close the sale. When you identify higher-performing leads, pass them on to the sales team, which can use approaches such as demos, free trials, face-to-face meetings, or discounts to close the deal. This is a crucial step — and you need to make sure you don't pass on leads too early. Also, make sure your sales team has all the materials and resources they need to be successful. 
  • Evaluate the lead generation process. It's always a good idea to regularly evaluate your lead generation process. As audiences or offers change, you may need to fine-tune your approach to attracting, nurturing, evaluating, and closing leads. You'll also need to determine if you need new messaging or types of content to increase sales. Treat lead acquisition as an ongoing learning process and make adjustments over time.
Lead Generation Marketing
If you run a small business, you may not have a significant budget to devote to lead generation marketing. The good news is that you can choose cost-effective lead generation marketing strategies that provide high returns. You can even explore a zero-cost strategy to build a healthy pipeline for your business.
Apply SEO basics: There are a few simple things you can do to strengthen your online presence. First, claim and optimize your listings on Google My Business, Yelp, and other directories. Make your web pages SEO-friendly with elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, and title tags.
Start a blog: Create a content calendar and start publishing blog posts regularly. Use this content to improve your site's SEO and distribute it through email or social channels. 
Create a social presence: Choose the social channels that work best for your business and focus on developing them before moving on to other networks. 
Explore digital advertising: Digital advertising can be a highly effective and cost-effective way to get the word out about your company to thousands of people.
Build referrals: Partner with companies whose services and products complement yours. For example, a wedding photographer can team up with venues, caterers, bakers, and florists to refer potential clients to each other.
Hold events: Through events, you can showcase your expertise and products or give potential clients a glimpse into your business. Host in-person or digital events yourself or look for opportunities to be a speaker or attendee at events hosted by others.
Use email marketing: Email marketing is another customer engagement tactic that can be extremely affordable and highly effective. Choose solutions tailored to the needs of your small business and create engaging emails to stay in touch with your audience.
Think about the full buying cycle and use approaches that meet your customers' needs at every stage. Early in the journey, you can focus on awareness and education using informative assets such as blog posts, ebooks, and events. As you move down the funnel, help them make decisions with product-focused and evidence-based content such as case studies or testimonials.
What can you do to push potential customers to the finish line and help them become customers? Customized tips and discounts can do wonders for ready-to-buy customers who need to be nudged into buying. 
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to what types of customer engagement you should try. Here are the top seven customer engagement marketing trends for 2022:

Influencer marketing: Many brands turn to social media influencers to attract audiences in their niche. The best influencers have earned loyal followers' trust, ranging in number from thousands to millions. When influencers cover your products and services, they can positively influence subscribers and drive sales.
Video marketing: People like to watch videos online, including fast-paced social media clips and longer-form content on YouTube. You can capitalize on the trends by creating videos for your social pages, emails or channels.
Email Marketing: Email remains one of the most popular and cost-effective marketing channels. With email newsletters and promotions, you can educate your audience and keep your brand in the spotlight.
Interactive Content: Any type of content that asks people to take action can get a lot of attention. Often, interactive content can offer fun and entertainment that can help people form positive attitudes about your business. Create tools such as surveys, calculators, quizzes, interactive infographics, emails and videos to inspire people to interact with you. 
Voice Search: People often turn to voice assistants like Siri and Alexa to quickly find information online. Smart brands take this trend into account and make their content easy to find with voice search.
Content Marketing: As mentioned earlier, creating content is a great way to build awareness, gather data on potential customers, and guide them through the sales funnel. Every company can use a variety of content tools, such as blog posts, ebooks, podcasts, and webinars, as well as apply SEO techniques to help audiences find content online.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Artificial intelligence solutions can help optimize critical tasks and make lead generation more efficient. For example, you can use AI tools to identify targets, find potential customers and create direct content, such as social posts, to keep your audience engaged. 
You can use some or all of these marketing strategies as part of your lead generation program. If you need help prioritizing, a marketing consultant or customer engagement strategy can be your primary source of information. 
Bottom Line
No matter your business type, you must consistently develop strategies to attract new customers. You need to know the basics of lead generation in order to create a healthy pipeline full of leads. If you don't focus on attracting new customers, your revenue could stagnate, hindering your innovation and moving forward.
You'll likely find that digital marketing will play a significant role in your efforts to attract customers. Today's digital approaches are easy to manage, well-measured, and can be highly cost-effective. 
Lead generation can be time and effort-consuming, but it's an important function that can't be ignored. While you can handle lead generation yourself, you can also benefit from outsourcing this critical task to a consultant. Undoubtedly, taking a professional approach to lead generation will help your business grow and thrive in the years to come.