What Is Lead Generation? The 2020 Guide To Generating Leads

Post by
Sonia Osinski
Minute Read
April 10, 2020
Last Updated:
October 19, 2020

If you were able to travel five years into the future, chances are you’d probably understand how to manage offline marketing similarly to how you were already doing it. But chances are, you probably couldn't say the same about the online world. (Or will they just be treated the same?)

Marketing has always been heavily impacted by technology changes. The constant trends of increased digital adspend are the reflection of it. New apps and softwares are coming out every day to help you better sell, and reach your target audience.

Businesses realize the incredible benefits of using digital marketing to reach customers and generate leads: not only can they cut down costs in marketing and advertising but they can reach more customers with better targeting than they could with traditional marketing.

Nevertheless, just like any worthwhile skill and strategy, starting out in the digital marketing space can be overwhelming. So here’s a full-packed resource where we explain to you what lead generation is today and how you can use it in 2020 to start growing your business.

Getting Started With Lead Generation in 2020

According to Wikipedia, lead generation is the initiation of consumer interest or enquiry into products or services of a business. From a marketing approach, lead generation is the process of putting your business out there to make people aware that your products or services exist and getting those people into your buying cycle. It is the process of enticing them to take the action you suggest on your website, email, or social media page.

Through lead generation, you can learn more about your prospects, interact with them, engage them and get them hooked until they are ready to buy, and then make them come back for more.

Although there are so many benefits and advantages to lead generation, some business owners put it off because they feel like it takes a lot of time and effort; they feel they can’t learn it fast enough or may not see the ROI right away. 

Types of lead generation

There are two primary types of lead generation— outbound lead generation and inbound lead generation

inbound marketing vs outbound marketing for lead generation

Outbound lead generation is the process of pushing the product or service to a list of prospects, before they have reached out to you. This tactic is usually used in the launch or reminder phase of the marketing process. It is considered to be more aggressive and may yield paying customers but the number of people ignoring or even marking the offer as spam is higher.

Some examples of outbound approaches are: social media outreach, cold emailing software, outbound cold calling, outbound print advertising, trade shows, etc.

Inbound lead generation is the process of attracting people to your business and bringing awareness by offering potential customers something that will bring them value: inviting interested people to take a certain action to receive something in return. Some of these may be: learning material, giving away discounts, classes, etc. In modern inbound generation, the first goal is almost always to receive customer data that may enable you to continue to have a personalized conversation based on their needs and readiness to buy.

Generate & Qualify Leads With Inbound Content and Marketing Automation

Some examples of inbound approaches are: web page optimization (SEO), email marketing, lead nurturing, blogging platforms, social media, offering ebooks, guides, tools and resources, webinars, training videos,etc.

inbound marketing funnel vs outbound marketing funnel
Most businesses can’t survive on inbound alone at first since content takes so long to develop, publish, and distribute, and rank in search. This is why many companies turn to outbound marketing to feed the top of the funnel while they build their inbound marketing funnel over time. 

Outbound and inbound marketing “feed off” each other: they need one another to grow. Think of it this way: you´ve made great ads, emails and direct messages that people respond to (outbound), but you have an out of date website, or don’t give them enough value with your content so they have a reason to come back (inbound). And you may need to keep doing sponsored ads to stay in your lead´s mind, resulting in a very expensive client with a low return on investment. There are studies that suggest that you need as many as 8 touchpoints to get a person to purchase!  

But most businesses can't survive on inbound alone either, and need outbound in order to get a more predictable flow of leads. For example: you may have an amazing blog with a great email marketing strategy that´ll give your potential customers the added value they're looking for (inbound marketing strategy). But with no traffic reaching their blog, the content is not being seen and Google doesn't show it in the first page of the search results.

Inbound leads from content marketing can be sporadic, and vary from day to day unless you are buying paid ads with consistent quality traffic; where you know your conversion rate and can control the amount of traffic and quality of leads you recieve. Inbound marketing takes time to start getting results, and the ROI is more difficult to measure with content marketing compared to digital ads spend where there are many variables to analyze and so much is trackable.

It's up to businesses to understand and decide how they want to distribute their marketing efforts depending on their product or service, their stage in the marketing funnel and their marketing spend, to get the most out of their leads and traffic; knowing their pros and cons to each type of communication:

a.) Investing in paid ads: it requires a larger budget, huge overhead cost and risk involved, lots of testing and wasted budget before you get it right.


b.) Investing in cold emailing, cold outreach via social media to get appointments and leads quicker. It's not about spamming people, it's about targeting a very specific list of people with a very specific message targeted at their pain points to engage them in conversation and build a relationship that leads to doing business together.

In all reality, many businesses in the early growth stages need both hunting (outbound marketing) to put food on the table and survive, and farming (inbound marketing) to thrive and gain long-term sustainable lead flow and pipeline growth.

How Do I Generate Leads In 2020?

Gone are the days when people’s attention could be bought. Today, businesses have to earn people’s attention and trust. This is one of the reasons inbound marketing/inbound lead generation is more effective than outbound lead generation. People will analyze multiple issues at the moment of purchase besides price: what is their response like? Has the information been clear? Are they proactive?

Here’s how you succeed in the game of lead generation:

Generate leads with email marketing

Some say email is dead, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! If it was true, then why ask for prospects’ email addresses?

Email marketing can be used effectively and in different forms. Through email marketing you can send out e-newsletters, set up autoresponders and drip campaigns, offer coupons and more to nurture leads and keep them moving through your funnel.

The important thing to remember when creating content for your email marketing campaigns is value. Never trade value and relevance of content. It’s better to send out a well-written email once a week than send out daily emails that contain nothing but fluff.

To get leads through your email:

Always start with the subject line. If you can’t craft a subject line that gets people to open your emails, the rest is a waste of time.

Make everything about the prospect and their needs, and not about yourself or your company.

Again, your email content should stay relevant and valuable to your recipients. Otherwise, they will mark your emails as spam or delete themselves from your mailing list. If your email content is useful, they will not hesitate to click on the link that leads to your offer page.

Use email tools that allow you to add sharing buttons.

Add social media buttons to your email campaign for your recipients to share your email via email or any of the social media networks you choose: by adding the ability to share your email, you increase your reach when one or more of your recipients share the email.

In your email content, encourage your recipients to respond to your email if they have additional insights or questions: this will give them the confidence to ask you questions and advice on something related to what you wrote. This is a great way to engage and nurture relationships.

If you're looking to improve your results with email marketing, checkout this article:

Redefining Your Marketing Funnel - 4 Strategies To Boost Your Email Marketing

Generate leads with blogging

Another investment in lead generation that goes a long way is blogging. If you’re not into blogging, then it is time you consider it. A website without a blog is extremely limited in the amount of visitors it can attract. But one that has a blog lets the same visitor come back again and again to read new blog posts.

Visitors who keep coming back to your blog will likely become leads and then eventually become customers. They are also likely to spread the word about your website to people they know.

So how do you utilize blogging for lead generation purposes?

Write relevant and quality content that people are looking for. Your readers will expect to read something related to the industry you represent. Use the insights given by your sales enablement team, your software systems, social listening and sites like quora to research what your clients and leads most common questions are. If you maintain relevance and quality in your content, you´ll build credibility and expertise in the eyes of your readers. Combined with SEO best practices, this will also help you rank higher in organic searches and reach audiences without having to invest in paid ads.

Take advantage of cross-promotion. Cross-promoting your blog posts means linking relevant posts together with anchor text and links, sharing them in other marketing channels such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and promoting them in emails. This allows you to maximize the number of people who see your content, and improves SEO when people engage with it and reshare it.

Write and post regularly. “Regularly” may not be the same for everyone. Your regular blog posting may be three times a week while others may be every day or even twice a day. But the idea is to be consistent with your chosen schedule. If you choose to post once per day, be consistent with that schedule. Why?When you post daily, for example, your audience will get used to reading something new every day. It will disappoint them when suddenly, they’ll only have one new post per week to read. But it may excite them even more when they can read two posts instead of one per day. If you’re not sure you can commit to posting daily, then start with maybe two or three posts per week. Then increase as you are able to.

Add outbound and inbound links to your blog posts. By adding inbound links, you help Google recognize your site and index your blog posts according to the most relevant keywords you’ve chosen. Inbound links will also give your readers the option to click to learn more about the highlighted word or phrase. Outbound links will also help attract new readers but limit these to relevant links only.

Allow comments below your blog posts. Your readers may want to ask questions about what you’ve written in the blog post. By allowing comments, you encourage them to interact with you. Encourage them to leave a comment when you conclude your blog post and take time to respond to the comments. But be sure to check these regularly and set up spam detectors, you may end up with spam or complaints in your webpage!

Add share buttons on each blog post. There are plugins that allow you to do that on your website. With share buttons readily available, you are telling your readers to share the blog post by selecting their desired platform. Again, this will increase your reach and visibility. The more your business becomes visible, the more leads you attract.

Become a guest writer and allow guest posting on your site. When you guest blog for someone’s website, you get the opportunity to share links to your blog posts and to your website where interested people can find you. Guest writing is another way of gaining new visitors to your website. It works the same way when you allow guest writers to submit posts for your blog. But when you do this, make sure the content they submit is still relevant to your niche. Remember, you represent whatever is published on your website.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what actions you want users to do

Every asset or content created for your brand has a goal in mind; and every goal has sets of actions that rely on it. These assets, contents and actions all correspond to different stages in the lead's lifecycle.  That's why it's important to be clear as to what goals each asset or content has, and limit them to only one or two calls to action (CTA) to make sure the lead gets a clear message.

Here’s an example of a relevant CTA to generate leads from inbound marketing:

essential guide to inbound marketing

Blog post CTAs.

Besides cross-promoting different content, you may also add a sidebar or a subtle popup that tells your readers to sign up to receive new blog posts right in their inbox. Once they’re on your email list, you´ll be able to implement marketing campaigns.

Optimize your writing

Create compelling titles, get your readers hooked with interesting writing and leave questions for them to think about. Include links that lead to other websites or landing pages. Make sure to link information with other relevant content to keep your readers engaged. Internal and external indexing also helps search engines understand and optimize traffic. Below you can read more about this.

Create landing pages with specific goals in mind.

A landing page is another lead generation tool that captures leads right into your email list or sales funnel. In most cases, these landing pages are created with one goal in mind: capture leads by offering valuable download content, in the form of e-books, guides, videos, tools, resources and more. Intelus, and many other companies offer a full resource library like this:

What can you do with a landing page?

  • Allow prospects to sign up for a live video (webinar, training, or tutorial) where you'll discuss interesting topics related to your niche.
  • Create a free report or 5-day email course that can be accessed after they’ve provided their email addresses.
  • Offer to give discounts on specific products for a certain number of people who sign up to your newsletter before an expiration date.

There are many offers you can create and tactics you can use for a landing page. But as great as the offer is, make sure your landing page is also well-designed, well-written, easy to navigate and follows Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rules as well as possible. If you can't afford an agency or a programmer to do your design, you can always check landing page software available online.

Need help improving your landing pages?

Download our Landing Page Go Guide

Generate leads with Social Media Marketing

Many marketers say that social media platforms are where they find some of their best leads. Depending on the market you´re selling to, these channels may even be essential to your business. Channels like Linkedin and Twitter are typically better for B2B lead generation, and channels like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are typically better for generating B2C leads.

percentage of traffic ffrom Linkedin

Like any type of inbound lead generation, social media marketing requires time, commitment, and effort. You need to create compelling content that will attract your target audience. Once you grab their attention, then you go to the next stage—nurturing. Nurturing will be the process you take to convert those leads into sales/paying customers.

There’s actually no specific “best” social media tool because each platform has its purpose and audience. So choosing the platform to use for your lead generation really depends on where your target audience is and what your goals are.

Before using social media marketing as your method for generating leads, you need to prepare your social media presence. Here are the important steps you must take:

Improve your profile so it´s professional to prospect customers.

In almost all social media platforms, you can configure your profile to have an overview of your business, like the option to add a link to your website, a short introduction about you or your business, and an email address section or phone number. Optimize your profile to also include a call to action.

Be sure to check out our Linkedin Profile Optimizer to learn more about how to get the best results.

Use paid/sponsored ads or lead ads.

Sometimes organic lead generation can really be challenging or can take a long time to generate revenue. Particularly in Facebook, but in almost all of the social media tools, you have different types of ad formats that you can use depending on your goals, so it's really important to know what you're aiming for.

Don´t forget to install the social media´s tracking pixels on your website so you can keep track of your leads and measure the cost per lead more conveniently. This will also allow you to run retargeting ads which have a X higher conversion compared to traditional PPC.

Report, report, report!

This is something that is very well known across paid media but not so much when talking about inbound. Why? Because it's easier to track and see when you analyze how each campaign is measuring with their return of investment. But it may be more confusing when it comes to more “organic” content, where the investment is not so clear.

Setting up Key Point Indicators (KPIs) to see how each piece of content is working, and what it tells you will definitely give you more insight into how your customers think and act.

Which landing pages are working best? What are their topics? What are the keywords that are being used in them? How many times have they been shared? Have they received engagement and leads?

For more in depth information on the matter, you can read our 3 Step Process For Data-Driven Marketing Success Online. This will help you understand your current state and you plan out future strategy.

Don't assume people want to talk to you just yet

A common mistake is to see marketing and sales spending time on leads who may just be looking for information but are not ready to talk just yet. This may even make the lead annoyed and end up unsubscribing to your content just so they can take their own pace in their buying process. To avoid this, it's important to know your lead´s buying cycle, provide them with information relevant to their stage in the buying process and give them the space for them to come to you when they're ready.

Think of it this way: if you were walking into a store and every 3 minutes a salesperson was coming to talk to you and ask if you´re ready to buy, chances are you´d probably get annoyed and leave the store without buying anything.

The same thing happens in the digital world. Too much information, even if the content may be good, ends up feeling like spam. That's why it's important to really evaluate the content you´re sending out depending on the lead´s stage: do they meet the Marketing Qualified conditions (MQL)? Do they meet the conditions to be qualified by sales (SQL)?

This way, sales can also focus their efforts on the leads that match the criteria and use their time more efficiently.

Are you replying to your leads once they contact you?

Another important matter when your leads are ready to talk, is being well prepared for that conversation. You´ve spent so much time and effort to nurture them into becoming ready, that failing to contact them when they're ready to talk can be devastating.

A lot of business is lost just because sales takes too long to reply. This bad first contact already makes an important statement as to how a company may treat their clients.

interesting facts about lead nurturing and sales conversions

Follow-up Frequency Directly Affects Conversion Rate

  • 48% of salespeople never follow up with a prospect
  • 25% of salespeople make the 2nd contact and stop
  • 12% of salespeople only make 3 contacts and stop
  • Only 10% of salespeople make more than 3 contacts.

On the other hand,

  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact

Advanced Lead Generation

For companies that have been doing lead generation for several years now, most of the mentioned strategies are things they have implemented already. These are the newest strategies and tactics in the market:

Marketing automation software

Although marketing automation tools have been around for many years now, the software usually integrates marketing and sales tools in one system, gathering lead information in one place for you to understand their behaviour more in depth, in one place. Marketing automation is considered advanced because implementation can take quite some time and planning, and the learning curve can take some time. The technology is also changing quite rapidly to adapt to marketing and sales trends, so it's important to always be up to date.

Read more about this in our marketing automation playbook


These digital assistants can help you answer your visitor´s questions faster and with the added benefit of being available 24hs a day, 7 days a week. They can give you vital information regarding what people are looking for, and reduce the barrier where people don't want to interact with a salesperson in fear that they may be spammed later on.

This conversational marketing strategy is listed under advanced because even though there are many systems in the market today that don't require programming knowledge, this setup can take some time to build and update until you understand what the client is looking for. A good place to start for chatbot messaging is by speaking with your sales and marketing teams to uncover the most common and important questions buyers are asking.

Final words

By now you may have a more clear understanding of what lead generation is and how to reach your goals by using different techniques, now it's up to you to see which strategies you want to focus on, what you want to invest in first and how to do so. As we´ve stated before, there is no definitive answer as to what works best, but for sure, there are ways that work better than others.

Feel free to reach out to us for information on how to make your marketing strategy adapt to the newest trends. We'll be happy to help.

generate leads with content and marketing automation

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