As early as 2000, lead generation (or Leads) were constantly mentioned by Sales professionals and industry leaders as a central driver of client acquisition and company growth. Most of the experts declare that lead generation is fundamental to all new businesses and that they should be directing major resources and capabilities in accomplishing a steady flow of leads. Partly, they are right – mostly they are overselling. But let’s start with defining a lead and how to label or qualify leads. We can then investigate online lead generation and the reasons why a company might need it and why inbound lead generation is exponentially more relevant and effective.
The European meaning of “a lead” is when a person indicates interest in a company’s products online. This might have been invoked through an online/offline campaign or simply by organic word of mouth. Leads in the EU are therefore typically indicating a website request through a form or other official online channel. In the US, a lead could be more broadly defined as a relevant data point that can be aligned with a company’s product or service. So, a lead in the US could mean a case where an Airline is selling specific client data to a Hotel Booking service that is relevant with the flying route – and this is broadly why data and leads are a big industry sold plentiful in the US – but almost non-existent in the EU – with strong GDPR practises.
So, leads are part of the broader lifecycle that consumers, or prospect clients, follow when they transition from a visitor status to a prospect customer status. However, not all leads are created equal and nor can they be qualified in the same way. A company must have professionals defining leads or prospects at different stages or simply define leads as relevant people requesting relevant information through the official company website. There are different types of leads based on how they are qualified and the lifecycle stage they’re in. Here is quick documentation of the core definitions we should keep in mind to ensure a balanced policy for defining and evaluating leads:
- Lead generation is the process of attracting prospects to a brand and increasing their interest through nurturing with the goal of converting them into a customer.
- Marketing qualified leads are inbound contacts who’ve engaged with a company’s marketing touch points but are not ready to receive a sales call.
- Sales qualified leads are contacts who’ve taken actions that explicitly indicate their interest in becoming a paying customer.
- Product qualified leads are contacts who’ve used a company product and taken actions that indicate interest in becoming a paying customer.
- Service qualified leads are contacts who have specifically indicated that they’re interested in learning more and probably upgrading to a paying customer.
Understanding what a lead means and how to respect any prospect client is very important for any modern business. Proper Lead Generation is the process of intelligently getting people interested in a brand and gradually moving them through a pipeline to become followers and perhaps paying customers. Unfortunately, some companies maintain the perception of lead generation as sending email blasts to paid leads and following up with pushy salespeople. There is a lot of noise and consumers are overwhelmed by new media looking for attention. This is why we have become very good at blocking out messages that don’t resonate with us or our needs. So, in the modern world of brand equity and lead generation, we need to build and nurture brands that attract people to us – that then have a chance of converting to clients. Nothing more and nothing less.