What is a Lead, what are they for and how get them

What is Leads Important Lead Marketing
What is Leads Important Lead Marketing

Generating leads is one of the objectives most sought after by marketers trying to achieve conversions and increase their profits. To begin with, do you know what a lead is or what exactly does it mean in the field of marketing? You may know it, and yet those leads don’t end up being customers.

In this article you will know in detail what leads are, why they are so important to get more sales and what is the way to generate qualified leads in digital marketing. Shall we start?

What is a lead in online marketing?

There are different ways of understanding what a lead, contact or registration is, depending on the moment of the marketing campaign in which we find ourselves, the user’s own purchase process or the level of involvement that the user has shown with the brand. That is why even within the field of online marketing itself, a certain ambiguity is usually created when talking about leads. 

Well, we will start with the most basic concept so that you understand it.

A lead is a user who has given their data to a company  and, as a consequence, becomes a record in its database with which the organization can interact. This registration can be done physically, with paper and pen, or online, through a form.

In this step there is a key transaction in which the user gives the company their personal data in exchange for getting something, such as access to specialized content, a technical sheet, a product catalog for other companies, etc. 

For its part, the company can reach the user almost as if it were a two-way communication, only in a non-intrusive way and in a way that the user practically does not perceive it. So that? Well, for the company to have “permission” to interact with this user: send him communications, share content that may be interesting to him due to the phase of the purchase cycle in which he is and, even, make commercial offers, but to that already we will arrive. This process will be done through automated marketing techniques.

The fundamental idea is that, thanks to the conversion to lead, we can contact this person, who is no longer a mere unknown and nameless visit, to offer them content related to our product or service.

To treat a user as a lead, it is essential that this person has accepted the company’s privacy policy. This authorization is even more important since the new European GDPR legislation came out to regulate the processing of personal data and the correct use of cookies.

This is the definition with which we feel identified in AdMirror. But we reiterate, it is not an exact science: depending on the sector and the objectives of each company, and also depending on the point of the marketing funnel at which it is captured, a lead will be defined in one way or another

How to generate a lead?

A lead can be generated by any offline channel through physical forms, at an event, at a professional fair, to access a raffle or a discount in the store, by phone, etc.

In a typical inbound project, most of the leads tend to be online. That is why in this article we will focus on the leads that arrive through the online channel, which, in turn, can be obtained in multiple ways (by organic search, social media, by direct traffic, etc.) and in a thousand ways different, depending on the actions we take and the strategy to be developed in each case.

How does this happen in inbound marketing?

Typically, users see attractive content, want to download it, and fill out a form with their details. But it really could be by any means. The important thing is that valuable content is offered through a form that will be specially developed to encourage conversion. This will be found embedded in a landing page, web page, blog article, Facebook Lead Ads campaign, etc.

Therefore, to start generating leads for your company, it is necessary to create interesting and quality content for your target audience and enable its download through different forms. Take a look at the following example!

If you already know well what a lead is, what types of leads exist and what can be done with them.

Why are leads important for a company?

As you may well know by now, a lead is the person who is interested in your company and who could become a customer, even though they may not yet be at the point where they are interested in our products or services. This is why leads are the basis of an inbound marketing strategy. A strategy in which, little by little, we have to convince them that our products or services interest them and are effective in solving their concerns or needs. Relax, that time will come. Almost all of these strategies are aimed at getting customers, but for that you have to go a more or less long way.

How do we do it?

To achieve this we attract traffic to our content and then we use content offers, or what we call lead magnets, to capture these leads or registrations. ‘Magnet’ means ‘magnet’ in English, and that magnet will be our awesome deal! An incentive that we will use as bait for users to obtain a downloadable pdf, access to a course, etc. If they “bite”, those will be qualified leads.

Now, if they don’t, we will have failed, since we will have reached users who are not really interested in us. Maybe because we have been considered spam.

That is why in inbound marketing we implement lead nurturing & lead scoring techniques to accompany these prospective users throughout this educational process so that they end up buying. This process is key so that the user receives that star-magnet offer we are talking about when he is ready for it and accepts it.

In short: most of the people who are going to reach us are in the initial stages of the purchase process, so we are not interested in attracting only those who are about to buy. Our mission is to reach these people in the initial phase and accompany them throughout the process.

As we like to say, we do it by delivering the right content at the right time.

But if we only attract traffic, the person consumes the content and leaves the web, we are not having an impact that can last over time. That is why we must convert these anonymous visitors into leads (not all convert, only a% that can be around 1-5% approximately).

So we can continue with the interaction and keep in touch with them.

Getting a lead is the key moment in which the person goes from being anonymous on our website to knowing a little more who they are, where to contact them, what needs they may have and how we can help them in the best way with content, products, services, formations, etc.

Building a database made up of these leads is crucial in inbound marketing.
It is one of the assets that we generate and necessary to be able to carry out the most complex phases of the strategy: lead nurturing and lead scoring.

Marketing and sales issues about lead quality

The biggest dilemma between the marketing and sales departments arises when there are continuous complaints or “disagreements” about the quality of leads that have come from the database to make commercial offers. While online marketers are proud of the large number of leads they have generated, the commercial department is frustrated by the continued rejection of those potential customers who were ultimately not interested.

This is how those who looked like potential customers end up turning into low-quality leads; therefore, the blame rests with the marketing department.

What types of leads are there?

To begin, we must know the following differentiation:

Cold leads vs. hot leads

The one we have seen is the definition of lead from the marketing point of view, a person potentially interested in the company. So much so that when a user is considered a lead, they can be included in different categories based on:

  • Similarity to the buyer persona.
  • Phase of  the purchase process in which you are.
  • Engagement you have with the brand.

So the lead is interested in your sector, it could be a client, maybe it is not ready yet, it may not be. But if you ask a sales department, they will tell you that a lead is a potential customer, a person directly interested in what we sell.

At AdMirror, when we talk about leads we mean marketing leads, sometimes we call them ‘records’.

The theory is that someone who downloads content is a cold lead, not ready to buy. It is a person who is starting a research or learning process to find out how to solve a need or problem (a pain point).

Actually (this is not told by many sources of information), perhaps you are prepared to speak to sales, but we have not detected it.

After a cold lead, we have warm leads, that is, those people who cannot fully consider a cold lead (they have already done some research and have clearer options to solve their need), but it is not hot either. Perhaps you are evaluating different possible solutions, with their pros and cons, budgeting, reading forums, or researching how it has worked for other people.

Finally, what we call a ‘hot lead’ is what sales usually refer to when talking about leads: people prepared and willing to talk to a salesperson.

Taking this into account, there is a lot of confusion: is a lead always a sales opportunity?

No, far from it. In some companies, a lead is a person who requests commercial information, but the definition that we understand concludes that it is a person who has left the data, since they have shown interest in something. You may be interested in our content but not in what we sell. Nothing happens and it is completely normal.

Phases that we distinguish in the purchase process

Continuing with the types of leads and taking into account the graph that we have just represented, we find different leads depending on the phase they are in and their level of maturity, distinguishing the following terms:

  • Lead: is the user who has filled out a form to download content, register for a webinar, etc. In this form you have provided your basic information (at least the email) and have accepted the legal notice. It is still far from the final transaction, so it would amount to a cold lead.
  • A MQL or qualified lead for marketing (in English, ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’) is generated by marketing, usually automatically through lead nurturing and lead scoring. He has already shown, on several occasions, an interest in the company’s content, so he is in a more advanced phase of the buying cycle and fits in with the buyer persona.

It is usually uncovered by asking for more information on the forms. This information is used to discover if it really is a valuable business opportunity or not. If yes, you are considered a qualified lead for marketing. 

  • An SQL, or qualified lead for sale (in English, ‘Sales Qualified Lead’) is a lead that is in the most advanced phase of the purchase process and, therefore, they are ready to purchase. They are people who, generally, have been advancing in the marketing funnel and respond to an offer much closer to the product or service that the company offers (for example, a demonstration, a trial, a commercial phone call …). They are also usually the leads who have downloaded more content or more advanced content and, as a consequence, the organization has more information about them.

So how is MQL different from SQL?

To understand what is the step of a qualified lead for marketing and one qualified for sales, you have to know that there may be different levels between the two. Not everything will depend on our sector, but also on the type of user, since a lead that we think is not ready for sale may be (and the seller will not be able to let him lose interest). This is why you have to analyze which category you are in using the lead scoring technique that you will find below.

According to HubSpot, we could analyze the following categories to see if we could classify a prospect as MQL or SQL:

  • Lead not interested and not suitable for your company: this is the case of people who are investigating their own competition or, for other reasons, offer false data and have no interest in what you offer.
  • Lead very interested, but inadequate: although he has shown interest in your content, it does not meet the characteristics of your buyer persona. For example, we know that you are a minor, do not have enough purchasing power or are not the person in charge of making decisions. Even so, we would like to maintain engagement.
  • Lead suitable for your company, but less interested: it needs to mature and we have to continue nurturing it.
  • Lead suitable for your company and very interested: it is ready to be SQL!

On the other hand, we must also take into account a previous phase, the subscribers (subscribers).

Is a lead the same as a subscriber?

We must not confuse leads with subscribers or, to be more exact, we must not confuse lead nurturing with sending the newsletter, in which we include our weekly offer.

A user who is in an initial phase of the purchase cycle is usually considered a lead, but there is still a previous phase that should not be underestimated: the subscribers.

Subscribers are those users who have shown interest in our company and ask us to keep in touch with us, have signed up for a newsletter or subscribed to a blog. Although they only provide us with their email (or other contact information), they can also be indirectly offered downloadable content to transform into leads.

Is a subscriber less ready to sell or less interested?

According to HubSpot’s theory and what is normally explained, the answer is yes, but most of the leads will be people who find one of our content on the internet, download it and never hear from them again. Instead, a subscriber wants to receive information from us on a recurring basis, which is what he has subscribed to, so we should not underestimate it.

You may think that, in an ideal strategy, all the leads we get should be qualified. But it is inevitable that people will come to us who do not fit our buyer persona and who are not going to buy. We do not have to try to avoid getting unqualified leads, it is impossible.

Capturing leads that are not our buyer persona is good for us, we can have a community of people who follow us and read everything we publish. They help us to spread the content, they share it, they leave us likes on social networks, they read our emails, etc.

Lead capture techniques: how do you get them?

To generate quality leads, what we do in inbound is create valuable content, which we offer on a landing page. In the landing, the user has to fill out a form to access them, leaving their data and becoming a lead. This is the classic way, but we also explore different ways of getting leads, for example, through chatbots, with social login, content upgrades, etc.

The consumer is in a process of research and discovery, so the content we offer has to be of great value and be aligned with the purchase process. And it must be valuable enough to “pay the price” for leaving your data to the company.

The promise of value has to be fulfilled with the quality of the content, otherwise, we will be capturing the data but we will generate mistrust, and this person will not want to continue knowing about us.

To get people to reach these contents, you have to carry out traffic attraction actions.

Users reach the landing page through a CTA , which we place in areas of the web with high traffic and visibility. In an inbound marketing strategy, it is usually the blog (by creating a lot of content, we can get a lot of traffic), but it can also be in sections of the web, in emails, through social networks, online advertising ads, etc.

What can be done with leads?

We accompany the consumer throughout the purchase process. As you could see at the beginning, through lead nurturing and lead scoring.

There are two possible ways to implement both techniques, it is the same but in a different order:

  • Option 1: first, implement a lead nurturing strategy to mature leads, then scoring to value them.
  • Option 2: start a lead scoring technique to assess all leads, then we mature them differentially with lead nurturing.

You can see it in more detail below:

  • Lead nurturing:  as you have seen throughout the article, it has the objective of “maturing” the leads, that is, making them advance through their purchase process until the final transaction. We usually do it through automated contacts with the person, for example, through automated email chains. But you can also maintain that contact with personalized content on the web, retargeting campaigns, etc. The goal is to deliver that appropriate content at the right time to “educate” the person or teach them how to solve their pain point, while positioning ourselves as benchmarks and experts in the sector.
  • Lead scoring: this technique allows you to classify leads according to the buyer persona with which they fit, their needs, behavior and the moment of the purchase process in which they are. In other words, through a series of pre-established rules, this technique automatically grants a numerical score to each of the leads in a database  according to the characteristics and actions carried out in relation to the company and its contents. . Obviously, it is impossible to know all this information with 100% certainty, but we can make a good approximation. The more you resemble the buyer persona and the more you interact with the page and the more advanced content (more oriented to the purchase), the higher the score. It could be considered as a ranking of business opportunities.

With leads classified according to their score, a company can more easily implement personalized actions for each of the groups. It is also very useful to detect business opportunities and to know which leads can already be passed on to the sales department and which ones cannot.