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Lead Marketing: A Detailed Overview

What is Lead Marketing?

No matter the kind of company you own or run, and no matter the product or service you sell, leads are critical to your success. You won't sell a single product without them, making lead marketing indispensable. Lead marketing, aka lead generation marketing, is any marketing process or method you use to generate consumer interest in your product or service and, more importantly, convince those consumers to purchase your products or services.

Lead marketing aims to communicate with potential customers before they make a purchase while they're still in the searching stage for the product or service they need. By communicating with consumers (i.e., leads), you can discover what they're looking for, what they desire, and what they need, and then respond to them in kind. Doing so accomplishes the most important aspect of lead marketing; converting a lead into a client or customer who purchases what you're selling. By the way, that goes for everything, from a $5.00 Lego set to a $420 million 747-8 Intercontinental jetliner.

Why is Lead Marketing Important?

Here's a fact; a company, any company, lives and dies by its ability to sell whatever it is they manufacture or create. This axiom holds for a massive, multi-national corporation all the way down to an entrepreneur bootstrapping a business from their garage. Some of the most important inventions in human history would never have gotten off the ground if nobody had bought them. More importantly, the reason consumers did buy them was the company manufacturing and selling those products was engaged in, you guessed it, lead marketing.

Here's the thing; unless yours is a well-known and beloved company, it likely won't generate enough sales or have a consumer base big enough to be successful without lead generation. It's simply not possible, especially in today's overly crowded marketplace. More than that, you need a steady stream of new leads coming in all the time. Without new leads, very few, if any, companies would survive. Think about it this way; Apple, one of the biggest and most beloved electronics companies on planet Earth, with millions of loyal fans, is involved in lead marketing constantly. You'll find their marketing everywhere you look because, like every company, they need to generate new leads 24/7, 365!

You can be sure that if a massive company like Apple needs to generate a multitude of new leads, a small business or startup should focus on lead generation as if their life depended on it. (Because, frankly, it does.) Using another example, did you know that the Microsoft Tablet was launched by Bill gates in 2000? Probably not because the lead generation for the device was awful. A decade later, however, when Steve Jobs introduced the Apple iPad in 2010, it was a huge success because the lead generation (led by Steve Jobs) was on-point!

A Quick History of Lead Marketing

Lead marketing has changed significantly in the last few decades. What used to be as simple as putting a sign out in front of your shop first morphed into print, radio, and television. Indeed, advertising on TV and radio was seen for several decades as the best form of lead marketing, with TV being the ultimate place to promote your company, capture leads, and convince consumers to purchase your products or services. It was this way for several decades, especially during the "Golden age of advertising," as gloriously depicted in the TV show Madmen.

Since 1983, however, lead generation has changed remarkably. That's when the Internet was born, and the entire process of marketing and generating leads transformed. With the advent of the contemporary Internet, every company has access to many lead generation methods, technologies, and sources. Even better, the cost of lead generation dropped significantly as the Internet more or less leveled the playing field. With the advent of mobile devices and social media, lead generation tactics have evolved even further, to the point where TV and radio are now seen as almost unnecessary for generating enough leads to be successful.

What are the Different Types of Leads?

There are 7 different types of leads in the business world. They all have similarities as well as some subtle and not-too-subtle differences also. Some businesses will be more successful with some types of leads than others, but all 7 should be considered when developing a lead generation strategy. Before putting together a lead generation strategy, a company must determine exactly who their ideal customer or client is, which takes time, effort, and due diligence. The 7 different types of leads include:

Cold Leads

As the name suggests, a cold lead is a consumer (or another company if you're a B2C) that hasn't shown any interest in your products or services. Unfortunately, while cold leads are the most difficult to convert into customers, they also happen to be the most common lead type. That means your communication with cold leads must be focused, persistent but not too persistent, and address their "pain points" perfectly.

Warm Leads

Warm leads are a step above cold leads because, in one way or another, they are already familiar with your brand, services, or products. For example, a warm lead can be a consumer who "followed" your company's social media account, landed on your website and gave you their email address, or watched one of your videos on YouTube, etc. In other words, they've seen some of your marketing and online content and know some basics about what you do. Because they are already familiar with your brand, converting a warm lead into a customer is a bit less difficult than a cold lead.

Hot Leads

A hot lead, as you might have already guessed, is a lead that's ready to make a purchase and has shown interest in your brand and what it offers. A good example of a hot lead is someone who has called your company to talk about what you offer or ask questions about a product. They might have filled in a questionnaire and watched a demo, also. One crucial note about hot leads is that, since they are very close to making a purchase decision (in most cases), they require immediate attention from you or your staff. If you've ever heard the phrase "strike while the iron is hot," it refers to hot leads.

Information Qualified Leads (IQLs)

The most successful companies have a plethora of information at the ready for when consumers ask for it or need it. When one does, they become an information-qualified lead or IQL. An IQL is a consumer who has just started searching for a product, service, or solution to their specific problem but isn't ready to make a purchase just yet. The IQL has often asked for some information, whether a white paper, eBook, or report. They may have also attended an in-person or online seminar to gather information. Whatever the case, this type of lead now has information about your company, and, more importantly, you know that they have an interest or need that requires filling.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

A marketing qualified lead or MQL is very similar to an IQL in that they have requested information at the start of their customer journey. The difference is that an MQL is further down the sales road, so to speak, and actively searching for a solution, product, or service they need very soon. An MQL has typically seen several videos, requested a lot of information, and attended at least one seminar or webinar. Like a warm lead, turning an MQL into a customer is easier than doing the same with an IQL.

Sales Ready Leads (SRLs)

A sales ready lead or SRL is typically the decision maker, whether a private consumer or the head of a large corporation looking for a solution or service. As the name suggests, they are considered "ready" to make a purchase, although the definition of "ready" can change from one company to the next. When determining whether a lead is an SRL, it's helpful to use the BANT method, which is as follows:

• Budget- Is the customer ready to spend the money on your product or service?

• Authority- Is the customer who's communicating with your company the same one who will make the purchase decision?

• Need- Is there a specific need or "pain point" that the potential customer has that your product or service fills?

• Timing- The prospective customer needs the solution you're selling sometime soon.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

The biggest difference between a sales qualified lead (SQL) and the rest on this list is that an SQL is so ready to purchase that they have contacted your company, big or small, and let you know in no uncertain terms that they want to make a purchase. Like a "hot" lead, SQLs are usually a straightforward sale that requires little or no effort. (You've already put in all the effort to get them to this point!)

One important note about the 7 different types of leads is that the first 3, cold, warm and hot leads, are usually seen in B2C sales. The last four types of leads are usually seen with B2B companies, although there is some sharing of the two types.

How Important is Lead Quality?

An aphorism in sales says, "all leads are good leads; they just need to be managed properly." However, there is often a big difference between one lead and another that can end up costing you a lot of time and money. Let's take a look at the automobile industry for a good example.

In the auto industry, anyone who needs a car and will purchase one in the future is considered a lead. However, the quality of the lead comes into play when you look at the difference between cars. For example, if your car dealership sells high-end automobiles like Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Volvo, and the like, a high-quality lead would be a customer who not only needs a car but can afford to purchase the car you're selling. Let's face it, anyone can want a Mercedes Benz S-Class, but far fewer consumers can afford one. If all the leads your Mercedes dealership generates are people who can only afford to buy a Chevy Spark, those leads would be considered low-quality and a waste of your lead generation efforts.

On the other hand, if your company manufactures mayonnaise, almost any lead can be considered a high-quality lead, as mayonnaise is the #1 condiment in the United States and is very affordable, even for people who have a very low income.

In other words, the quality of the lead depends on what you're selling and, more importantly, what the consumer needs and can afford. That's why a well-designed lead generation program is necessary. It helps your company determine what a high-quality lead looks like and, more importantly, guides you in creating lead generation programs that attract them.

How to Generate Leads

There are a variety of methods available today to generate leads thanks to the Internet, as well as the traditional TV, print, radio, and word-of-mouth. We'll take a look at today's modern lead generation methods, however, as the vast majority of companies use those.

The top lead generation methods include:

• Create high-quality, engaging content to post on your website, blog, YouTube channel, etc.

• Become a trusted information source online.

• Online networking via LinkedIn and other channels

• Social media pages, especially Facebook and Instagram

• Networking offline, especially if you have a locally based business.

• Ask existing customers for referrals.

• Answer consumer questions in online forums.

• Give away helpful information on how to do something. (A "lead magnet." More on this below.)

• Affiliate marketing

Channels for Lead Generation

Lead generation channels are the specific methods you can use to generate online and offline leads. There are two main types of lead generation channels, outbound and inbound. Outbound lead generation is anything you send out into the world to attract leads. Inbound is similar, except that the information you use is housed on a website and attracts visitors (i.e., traffic) to come "in" and get the information they seek. Below are the best examples of both inbound and outbound lead generation channels.

Inbound Lead Generation Channels

• Engaging, insightful, informative, and entertaining content. The more content and the higher quality, the better. You must give consumers something they want to read, see and use for content lead generation to be successful.

• Blog articles. There are few better inbound lead gen methods than a well-written blog article. One caveat; you need to post new blog articles very regularly.

• Product demo videos hosted on your website and your YouTube channel.

• Best practice Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so you rank high on Google.

Outbound Lead Generation Channels

• Cold-calling leads. This lead gen tactic has been around forever because it works well.

• Email. One of the best and most effective outbound lead generation channels that have ever existed, email lead generation is still used by over 80% of businesses. (Sometimes referred to as "cold email.")

• Content syndication. Content syndication is a way of getting a single piece of content out to your prospective customers in multiple ways, usually on several websites. It's cost-effective as one piece of content can generate leads from several different sources.

• Content optimized for mobile devices.

• Turn blog posts into opt-in pages. This method requires that you write (or pay to have written) engaging, influential blogs.

• Affiliate marketing. An affiliate marketing program incentivizes marketers to promote your products and services for you on their websites, social media, YouTube channels, etc.

• Direct mail advertising.

• Sponsorship of events.

• TV, radio, and print ads.

• Billboards

• Presentations at trade shows and conventions.

What is a Lead Magnet?

A lead magnet, as you might surmise, is another form of lead generation that works well at attracting leads, like a magnet attracts anything made of metal. More specifically, a lead magnet is something your company gives away for free to prospective customers to do one critical thing; get their contact information and approval to send an email. Typically, a lead magnet is some information that a potential customer will find valuable, helpful, interesting, or entertaining. (That's the "magnet" part.) Interestingly, lead magnets are often referred to as a "bribe to subscribe" offer because you're offering one thing (the magnet) as a bribe to get what you want (their contact info).

An excellent example of a lead magnet is a "free trial" of your product or service. Amazon Prime gives away a free week's subscription as their lead magnet, and it works like a charm! Smaller companies can use a wide variety of other lead magnets, including the following:

• White papers (A research-based report of some kind.)

• Trial subscriptions. (Like the Amazon Prime example.)

• Free samples of your product. (Costco is great at this!)

• Newsletters via email. (eNewsletters)

• A quiz or other fun game. (i.e., gamification)

• Customer Surveys

• Online events

• Live chatting

• Contests

• Online demonstrations

• Webinars and podcasts

• Special offers and discounts for 1st-time customers.

• Helpful templates

Lead Magnet Examples

Below are a few specific lead magnet examples you can copy or adjust to your liking (and customer profile). All of these magnets are given with the sole intent of getting the prospect's contact information, especially their email address.

1. For low-cost products, send out a free sample.

2. If you sell a service, give potential customers a free trial.

3. Offer a free evaluation to your potential client based on what your company offers.

4. If you provide website services, offer a Quiz that tells potential customers if their website is well designed, intuitive, and easy to use.

5. If you provide financial services, offer free financial resources on your website, including a "resource library." (This will work for many different types of services.)

6. If you sell pet supplies, offer an eBook about how to be an awesome pet parent.

7. Create an "ultimate guide" to your industry, product, or service.

8. If you run a moving company, provide a printable "Moving Checklist" for potential customers. (Again, this will work for many different types of services.)

9. Provide a Case Study based on one of your real clients. (Be sure to get their approval first.)

10. Offer a free template or pack if you sell graphic design services.

11. Provide an email course to help a potential client learn something new related to your product or services.


As we've seen today, many types of lead marketing methods entice consumers to purchase the products and services you're selling. We've also seen that, no matter what your company produces, the chance it will be successful is slim to none without lead marketing. At the end of the day, the lead generation methods and techniques you use must match your customer profile. More importantly, your lead generation tactics and methods should be ongoing, with few (if any) lapses. For most businesses, lead marketing is an everyday affair, built into the core of their business and structured to produce the desired results, driving loads of new leads to your business so that you can convert them into paying customers. We hope that today's article answered all of your questions and has provided you with the deep knowledge of lead marketing you were looking for and examples of how to create a lead marketing program for your business.


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