Learn How to Generate Quality Leads the Right Way

Learn how to generate leads through valuable inbound, outbound, B2B, and B2C methods in an effort to optimize your sales pipeline.

There are two broad types of lead generation: online lead generation via inbound lead generation or outbound sales prospecting via direct outreach. But, the one you choose may be dependent on your product and industry. Therefore, in addition to discussing inbound and outbound lead generation, we’ll also touch on lead generation for both B2B and B2C businesses.

Here are the basics of the four main types of lead generation:

  • Inbound (Online) Lead Generation: Attracting leads to your business by running online campaigns and posting content. Read more below.
  • Outbound Sales Prospecting: Hunting for leads for your business through direct outreach, such as calling or emailing. Read more below.
  • B2B Lead Generation: When businesses find and attract other businesses to their product or service. Read more below.
  • B2C Lead Generation: When businesses find and attract individual consumers to their product or service. Read more below.

Before honing in on one, it helps to get an overview of each. Consider this your entry-level lead generation article on how to generate leads. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of each lead generation method. From there, choose which one is right for you and read more about it with our detailed article on each; you may even choose multiple methods to try.

Online Lead Generation

Inbound — or online — lead generation focuses on creating online lead generation campaigns that attract quality prospects to your website or social media. Once there, lead magnets incentivize them to exchange contact information via a lead form or something similar. Examples include a discount offer, ebook, or webinar. If you’ve ever given your email address to access a free piece of content or receive an offer, you’ve been a lead in someone’s inbound strategy.

Online Lead Generation Process

Your main goal when using an online strategy is to create desirable lead magnets, drive traffic to them, and capture their contact information with lead capture software. But there’s a lot more to it. First, you must get your potential buyers’ attention, nurture them with free content, and get them to trust your brand. Also, it’s critical to attract quality leads who’ll actually buy your solution.

To successfully generate online leads, use this six-step process:

1. Create Your Customer Persona

Your customer persona describes the demographics and personality traits of the customer you want to attract to your business. This description influences the type of content and lead magnets you create.

Example customer persona from SmartBug Media
Example customer persona from SmartBug Media

2. Map Your Lead Generation Funnel

A lead generation funnel outlines the steps you will take to nurture and convert a lead after they submit their contact information. For more information, you can read our entire article on creating and optimizing an online lead generation funnel.

3. Create & Share Free Content

You must build trust and brand familiarity with your potential leads before they will hand over their contact information. Do this by creating and sharing blog posts, videos, webinars, and other free and valuable content across social media, over email, and through Google search.

4. Create a Lead Magnet

Lead magnets are gated resources. Visitors can access the resource only if they submit their contact information. When they do, these visitors officially become leads. Your lead magnet should live on a free piece of content and relate directly to the topic as an upgrade.

Example lead magnet
Example lead magnet

5. Choose Your Lead Capture Method

Decide where you want to capture this contact information. This is usually done either on a lead generation website equipped with lead capture software or directly on social media with lead ads.

6. Drive Traffic to Your Lead Magnet

If your lead magnet lives on your website, drive traffic to it through social media, organic SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, or other marketing methods.

It’s a powerful feeling to have customers come to you, filling up your inbox with requests to learn more. Next, we’ll dive into the main strategies for making this a reality.

Online Lead Generation Strategies

Now that you understand the overall inbound process, let’s go over some online lead generation strategies that can help you build an audience, drive traffic to your lead magnets, and generate as many high-quality leads as possible.

Try Content Marketing

Content marketing is when you write or produce content, such as articles or videos, that answer your potential leads’ questions. This is a great way to drive organic traffic to your website and build a trusting audience by sharing on social media or ranking within Google search for related terms.

Leverage Social Media

Social media marketing can allow you to build a following from which you can find leads. With the exception of LinkedIn, which is mainly for B2B sellers, all salespeople can find success on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can also run targeted ads on the networks.

Example Facebook ad
Example Facebook ad

Run Google PPC Ads

You bid to have your website rank on Google for specific queries related to your product or service. When users click the ad, you pay a small fee. Running PPC ads on Google is a great way to meet customers when they are in the buying mood.

Example PPC Google ad
Example PPC Google ad

Use Facebook or LinkedIn Lead Ads

LinkedIn lead gen forms and Facebook lead ads come with embedded forms that capture a user’s contact information right on the platform instead of sending them to a landing page. This reduces friction for the lead, which increases the likelihood that they’ll provide their information.

Create a Lead Generation Website

A lead generation website is a page dedicated to turning visitors into leads by using effective sales copy and layout that directs them to a lead capture form facilitated by lead capture software.

Pro Tip:

Don’t forget to network with other players in your industry. Just because inbound is mostly online doesn’t mean you can’t talk with some managers of industry publications, trade shows, or websites in your niche. If you form relationships with the managers of these channels, you can do things like sponsor an event or write a guest post on a blog that your audience follows, thereby tapping into the marketing channel and growing your brand awareness.

Online Lead Generation Best Practices

No matter which specific strategies you enact, there are some best practices to follow if you want to run a successful inbound lead generation program. 

  • Make Your Free Content Educational: Sharing educational content is often the best way to show your followers that you are an expert in the field, and people buy from experts. Solve their little problems for free and they’ll pay you to solve the big ones. 
  • Create Helpful Lead Magnets: A helpful lead magnet could be a checklist that makes a tedious process like planning a wedding easier or a video course that teaches them a skill they want to acquire. 
  • Analyze Lead Data: Continue to learn more about your audience by analyzing the traits of your leads. Most lead capture software offers this function.
  • Use a Lead Capture Software or Build a Landing Page: Lead capture software provides the form that you use to capture contact information on your website. Or build a landing page: a web page for facilitating a transaction of payment or contact information.

Using these best practices and strategies above, you should be able to create an effective lead generation strategy. Next, let’s discuss sales prospecting for outbound lead generation, including who should do it.


Additional Reading:

For a complete article that dives deep into online lead generation, including the full six-step process and more best practices, check out our article on how to generate online leads the right way.

Outbound Sales Prospecting

Outbound lead generation via sales prospecting is the act of using direct outreach to contact potential buyers and turn them into leads. A B2C example is a financial advisor calling on households of a certain income level. A B2B example is a real estate company’s sales rep cold emailing property management businesses. Each outbound strategy focuses on sparking interest in a potential buyer by following a three-step process, which we cover below.

Outbound Lead Generation Process

The most effective outbound lead generation strategies — cold calling, cold emailing, social selling, referrals, networking, and cold canvassing — follow the same three-step process. 

  1. Put Together a List of Leads: Using a lead generation tool or manual research, put together a list of individuals or companies that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). Prioritize finding their email addresses and phone numbers, which are critical for the next step.
  2. Attempt to Contact Them: Through a strategic approach (e.g., cold calling), reach out to the leads to initiate a sales conversation. 
  3. Mark Interested Leads as Prospects: If during your conversation they express interest in your product or service and are a good business fit, mark them as a prospect and continue nurturing the relationship to close.

It’s important to prioritize going after the most promising potential leads — those who fit snugly into your ICP’s criteria. Since the leads who fit will be similar to one another, you can use the same pain points and elevator pitches for each outreach. This repeatability leads to confidence on your end and predictable revenue for your business.

Outbound Lead Generation Strategies

Now that you know the process, let’s go over some of the time-tested strategies for outbound lead generation. Keep in mind that it’s best to use more than one for each potential lead. Everyone has a different answer for how they prefer to be reached.

Cold Calling

In cold calling, you are calling potential leads on your list, introducing yourself and your company, mentioning the pain points you solve, and trying your best to get them interested in learning more. Read this article to learn how to make a cold call that actually piques a buyer’s interest.

Cold Emailing

In cold emailing, you send sales emails to potential leads. These emails should be short, focused on the recipient and the benefits you offer them, and ending in a CTA. Read this article to learn how to write the perfect cold email.

Social Selling

This is when you use platforms like LinkedIn (which is best for B2B sellers) or Twitter to connect with potential buyers. Generating leads on LinkedIn and other networks is effective because it focuses on building relationships before making a CTA.

Example personalized LinkedIn outreach
Example personalized LinkedIn outreach

Business Referrals

Business referrals are when one of your customers recommends you to another potential client. You can be proactive and ask your happiest clients for introductions or be passive and create a referral program.

Business Networking

This is when you attend trade shows, events, conferences, or meetups with people in your industry to talk shop and generate new leads. Before attending these events, build a list of attendees that you want to meet. Most conferences and trade shows provide this information.

Door-to-Door Sales

In door-to-door sales, or cold canvassing, you physically go from door to door of businesses or households and pitch your product or service. To do so, define your customer and physical territory, and then set a door-knocking goal and get to work. For more information, check out our article on cold canvassing.

Pro Tip:

To keep yourself from losing steam from fielding the rejections that naturally occur in outbound sales prospecting, try creating a “funniest rejections” email chain or Slack channel where you and your team share your greatest outbound sales mishaps. Keeping a light attitude will lend you the mindset to continue pushing onward through failure to profitable successes.

Outbound Lead Generation Best Practices

Regardless of the direct outreach methods you’re using, there are some overarching best practices for engaging in outbound lead generation. Follow them to make your customers feel excited about your outreach. 

  • Do Your Research Before Reaching Out: People are bombarded with sales messages these days. To stand out, show them you did your homework and your offer is relevant to them and their specific needs. 
  • Be Personable: If during the first minute of your cold call, they mention their son’s basketball tournament, ask about it. Don’t bulldoze past it into your agenda. Make them feel comfortable with you by taking interest in their lives and sharing stories about yours.
  • Ask a Lot of Questions: Open-ended questions that get them talking are effective both for building rapport and for figuring out if they have a need you can solve. 
  • Be Persistent: Even if they say “not interested” initially, that doesn’t mean they won’t come around in the future. If you feel they’re a perfect fit, keep providing value and nurturing the relationship until they feel the time is right to check out your solution.

Outbound lead generation is a great exercise for self-reliance. How many leads you generate is determined mainly by your level of skill and the time you give to the endeavor. Also, the relationships and experiences you gather along your journey can be very fulfilling, not to mention entertaining.


Additional Reading:

If you feel like outbound lead generation is for you, read our detailed article on the six most effective sales prospecting strategies. In it, we help you decide which of the six strategies is right for you and explain how to do each one.

B2B Lead Generation

B2B lead generation refers to salespeople who look for decision makers in other businesses in which to sell their products and services. You can conduct B2B lead generation through inbound or outbound methods, sometimes with the help of a marketing person or team. Ultimately, B2B lead generation is a blend of online marketing and direct sales prospecting methods, like cold calling or networking. Regardless of your chosen methods, B2B lead gen follows a typical process.

B2B Lead Generation Process

First off, know who to target. Create an ICP that describes the companies that will best respond to your offer. This will help you not only find ideal companies to pitch, but also craft relevant sales messaging and content. Second, create a buyer persona, which describes the decision makers or influencers within those ideal companies.

Once you know who to connect with, follow this four-step B2B lead generation process: 

  1. Compile a List of Ideal Companies: Using a B2B database like ZoomInfo or your own manual research (which often involves googling specific types of businesses), compile a list of companies that match your ICP. 
  2. Build a List of Potential Decision Makers Within Those Companies: Go through the companies in your list and mark down the people you want to reach out to. Pick two in each company, as it’s often hard to be certain about who is the decision maker. 
  3. Attract Decision Makers to Your Business: Using outbound methods like cold calling or inbound ones like content marketing attract these business professionals to your website or offerings. 
  4. Mark Interested Individuals as Prospects: If a qualified individual takes an action that expresses their interest in your business, such as signing up for a demo, mark them as a prospect and start growing the relationship.

Unlike in B2C lead generation, where buyers tend to make impulsive choices based on emotions, B2B buyers are more hesitant and analytical in their decisions. Money and esteem are on the line, and the purchases tend to be pricey. Therefore, it’s crucial to build trusting relationships with these buyers, and lead generation usually ends with a call.

B2B Lead Generation Strategies

There are countless B2B lead generation strategies, both inbound and outbound, for attracting quality leads to your business. These include networking, earning referrals, and hosting events. For time’s sake, let’s go over five of the main ones to give you a basic sense of the field.

Use Content Marketing

Business professionals are eager to learn about how to succeed in their positions. Content marketing in the form of ebooks and how-to articles can satisfy this yearning while also introducing them to your brand and offerings.

Example blog post marketing
Example blog post marketing

Host Webinars

Invite potential buyers to your webinars, teach them something valuable, and then follow up to see if they’d be interested in discussing your solution. Better yet, gate the webinar so that visitors have to give you their email addresses to reserve their spot.

Pay for Social Ads

Run ads on social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, and pull professionals to your lead generation website, where they can sign up for a demo or consultation.

Example video Facebook ad
Example video Facebook ad

Social Sell on LinkedIn

Connect with potential leads on LinkedIn. Join groups relevant to your industry. Write and share articles. Comment on decision makers’ posts. Then, when the time’s right, ask these decision makers to take an action such as scheduling a call with you.

Cold Call & Email

These age-old methods are essential for connecting with your potential leads. They are scalable and get results quickly, especially when used in tandem. Often, they are the quickest way to initiate a relationship with a business executive.

Here’s a peek at a unique lead generation strategy similar to the ones you’ll see in our article.

“After having a large in-person meeting at a client's office, I'll hold ‘office hours’ and invite attendees to bring in colleagues from their team and other departments that may have questions or would just be good folks to meet. You'll need to be patient and let them come to you (like fishing!) but almost every time, someone that I meet in this fashion will surface something that could be a great use case for establishing a partnership through that department and will lead to working on a project together.”

Will Exline
Senior Partner, Sports Partnerships at Twitter

B2B Lead Generation Best Practices

When forming your B2B lead generation plan, take into account these best practices that will increase your chances of creating a lead generating machine. 

  • Specialize by Responsibility: If possible, try to split the inbound and outbound sides of B2B lead generation between two teams or individuals. That way, they can master their craft. 
  • Gate Your Most Valuable Content: Create content like ebooks, ultimate guides, and webinars that potential leads can access only by submitting their contact information. 
  • Personalize Your Outreach: Personalize your touches and mention things you’ve learned about your potential leads. To speed up the process, use sales engagement tools like Outreach or Salesloft that allow you to templatize your cold emails. 
  • Analyze Your Data: Consistently analyze your data. Figure out which CTAs, landing pages, ads, email subject lines, and sales messaging have the best conversion rates. Then, iterate and grow toward optimized B2B lead generation.

Additional Reading:

Read our article on B2B lead generation if you’re a B2B seller or business owner who wants to learn more about lead generation and the associated strategies, from PPC ads to networking. In it, we also include some companies and tools that can assist you in your efforts.

B2C Lead Generation

B2C lead generation is the process of converting individual consumers into leads. Through methods like content marketing, social media marketing, or direct outreach, you attempt to build trust and interest in individuals until they feel comfortable giving you their contact information. Examples include an ecommerce shoe store running Facebook ads and a traveling salesman knocking on doors selling self-help books.

B2C Lead Generation Process

Each B2C business has a different lead generation process that’s adapted to their internal processes, clients, and product type. For instance, McDonald’s lead generation strategy is likely very different from that of an insurance agent. To make things simple, here are the broad-strokes steps that most companies adhere to when generating B2C leads.  

  1. Define Your Customer Persona: Figure out the types of people who will be most interested in what you sell. Write out their characteristics, hobbies, demographics, and other information that will help you find and market to them. 
  2. Grow an Audience: Get on the radar of these ideal customers using advertising, social media, and branding tactics. A family lawyer might post their face on a giant billboard beside a highway, while a makeup store might manage an Instagram page.  
  3. Provide Them with Valuable Resources: Start giving potential leads free resources like checklists, videos, or ultimate guides that make their lives a little easier. On the direct outreach side, a painter might offer a free inspection and estimate. Build that trust.
  4. Make a Call-to-Action: This could be through a cold call asking them to schedule a follow-up meeting, or through a marketed lead magnet where you ask them to input their contact information in return for your gated resource.

Encased within this B2C lead generation process are many different strategies. Let’s go over some of the most common ones you can use to start generating new leads for your business.

B2C Lead Generation Strategies

There are plenty of ways to incentivize potential customers to give you their contact information and willingly enter your sales funnel. Below are some of the most popular in B2C lead generation.

  • Social Ads: Ads on social media platforms can drive traffic to your landing page. Some, like Facebook lead ads, come with prepopulated forms that make it easy for users to submit their information right on the platform in return for your offer.  
  • SEO: Write and publish blog posts that answer your customers’ common questions (Google searches). If your post is unique and valuable, it will rank high and attract visitors to your page. 
  • Influencer Marketing: Find and reach out to influencers in your niche. They already have a following that trusts them for their product and service recommendations. Make a deal with them that enables you to access it. This often means paying them commission.
  • Outreach: If you’re selling a higher-ticket item, such as financial packages, legal counsel, or real estate services, try using outreach methods like cold calling or networking to find new clients.

B2C Lead Generation Best Practices

To optimize your B2C lead generation process, take these best practices to heart. They will make it a whole lot easier to find leads in a cost-effective manner. 

  • Build Trust First: Before asking them to give you their information, provide value in the form of free resources. For example, in content marketing, make 80% of your content educational and free. The other 20% can be gated or include a call-to-action at the end. 
  • Niche Down: To properly allocate your sales resources and win market share, narrow your niche to a specific type of individual. For instance, a backpack store might choose to sell to hikers who hike in cold climates. They’d then create content around that niche. 
  • Treat Your Customers Well: When you offer things like refunds or free replacements of broken products, your customers will be happy. And that happiness is one of the best lead generating methods, because customers will recommend you to their friends.

For more information on B2C lead generation and a long list of associated strategies, check out Databox’s article on B2C lead generation strategy. Then, if you’d like to optimize any of the above for regional or local leads, check out our article on local lead generation.

Bottom Line: How to Generate Leads

Lead generation falls under the categories of inbound, outbound, B2B, and B2C. Each has similarities to the others. For instance, in all of the above, it’s critical to know your audience and focus on building trust with them. And while some, like B2C and B2B, are mutually exclusive, others can be used in tandem. B2B and B2C sellers can use a combined method that involves inbound and outbound lead generation. Whichever you choose, happy fishing.

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