In an era where information sources are abundant, and competition is extreme, it’s becoming complicated for companies in any field to reach, track, and engage with potential clients. Traditional email blasts used to be enough to attract customers a decade or two ago. Nowadays, however, businesses need to implement smart lead generation strategies to attract potential customers.
But what is lead generation, and how effective is it really? As a marketing technique that focuses on stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service with the aim of developing a sales pipeline, lead generation allows companies to nurture contacts until they’re ready to make a purchase. No matter if you run a B2B company or a B2C company, you’ll find lead generation beneficial. It helps increase brand awareness, build relationships, and ultimately close important business deals.
Lead generation marketing is important for real estate, eCommerce, and many other businesses, and email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing channels. Gathering potential customers’ contact info allows the company to market to them later, even if they do not make a purchase immediately.
In online marketing, acquiring leads typically involves collecting a site visitor’s contact information (called a “lead”) via a web form. Before we dive deeper into explaining the benefits of implementing lead gen strategies and describing the process itself, let’s start by defining what a lead is and talking about different types of leads.
What Is a Lead?
In the context of sales and marketing, a person who indicates interest in a company's product or service is considered a lead. From customer referrals to digital marketing efforts, there’s a wide variety of sources that leads can come from. Whether they come through offline or online lead generation channels, leads usually learn about a business or organization after opening communication by themselves instead of receiving a random cold call from someone who purchased their contact information. This is generally done by submitting personal details while looking for a quote, trial, or subscription to a product or service.
Still, given that people have different preferences and needs, not every contact is a lead. Many businesses make the mistake of marketing their products and services to a broad audience when they should instead focus on those individuals who have already shown interest in what the company has to offer.
Finding a New Business Lead
Let's say an individual takes an online survey to learn about accounting and bookkeeping for a small business. A few days later, they receive an email from the accounting software provider who created the survey to generate leads. The information the accounting software company gathers about the prospective customers helps it personalize that opening communication to address their specific problems and challenges - and not waste time calling individuals who aren't interested in this type of business service. This process is a lot less intrusive than it would be if the accounting software company just got in touch with you out of the blue with no knowledge of whether you even run a business.
Leads are part of the lifecycle that consumers follow when they move on from the visitor to the customer stage. Still, not all leads are created equal. One of the most crucial lead generation tips we can give you is to determine whether your leads are “qualified”. So, what are qualified leads, you may wonder. Also referred to as quality leads, these are contacts who have taken a step showing they are considering a purchase. While some leads may be ready to do so right away, others may be taking a little more time to research their options.
Assuring the quality of leads you find using lead gen tools is essential. Sending the wrong message at the wrong time can waste your time and resources while ruining the relationship with a prospective customer.
Here’s an overview of several different types of qualified leads:
Marketing qualified leads: A marketing qualified lead, or MQL for short, is a contact who’s engaged with the efforts of a company’s marketing team but still isn’t ready for a sales call. Marketing leads are contacts who, for example, have stumbled upon your landing page and filled out a form to receive a downloadable guide.
Sales qualified leads: Contacts who have taken actions that show immediate interest in becoming paying customers are referred to as sales qualified leads or SQLs. A contact that fills out a form inquiring about a product or a service is an example of a SQL.
Product qualified leads: A product qualified lead (PQL) is a contact who has tested out a free or a limited version of your product. After signing up for a free trial, PQLs get in touch with your sales team to learn more about the features which are only available to paying customers.
Service qualified leads: Lastly, service qualified leads have an active interest in your offerings as they already use the products or services and pay for them. These types of leads are customers who get in touch with a service representative with a request to upgrade their current subscription.
Lead Generation and Inbound Marketing
So, what is inbound marketing, and how is lead generation related to it?
Inbound marketing is a type of marketing strategy that aims to attract customers by creating valuable content tailored to them, thus encouraging individuals to engage with the company’s brand actively. In contrast with outbound marketing which interrupts the audience with content they may or may not be interested in, inbound marketing offers solutions to problems your prospective customers already have.
Implementing an inbound marketing strategy typically involves creating digital resources or content marketing materials such as newsletters, ebooks, blog posts, and social media posts that offer value to potential customers. Most inbound marketing efforts aim to raise awareness, build trust, and manage the relationship between customers and your brand.
Although closely related, lead generation techniques and inbound marketing aren’t the same. In fact, lead generation is a part of a broader marketing strategy. While the process of creating leads helps bring more interested people to your company, inbound marketing efforts aim to nurture those prospective clients and turn them into paying customers that will eventually come back for more. In short, a synchronized implementation of the two practices ensures a sustainable approach to digital marketing.
The Importance of Lead Generation Strategies
When an individual shows interest in your company’s offerings without getting contacted first, the steps they take towards making a purchase seem more natural to them. After all, you’ve just helped them fulfill a need or solve a problem.
On the other hand, if people show no interest in the products or services you provide yet you still try to convert them into customers, they may feel like they are being forced to spend their money on something they don’t need. This could ultimately hurt your brand’s reputation, which is far worse than losing a couple of leads.
Using inbound lead generation techniques to find your target audience helps ensure that your brand is matched with the right customers in the right markets. Here’s an overview of some additional lead generation benefits :
Increased awareness: Lead generation can be beneficial when it comes to building brand awareness and reputation.
Collecting prospect information: Another advantage of this practice is that it can gather vital marketing information from prospects. Being aware of your customers’ needs, wants, and preferences can prove invaluable when it comes to adjusting your product or service to suit your audience.
Brand loyalty: A strong lead generation strategy can assist you in building larger communities of like-minded customers, thus improving overall customer loyalty.
The Process of Lead Generation
Now that we’ve pointed out the importance of lead generation and explained how it fits into a company’s inbound marketing strategy, it’s time to walk through the actual process of generating leads online:
First, a visitor discovers your business through your website, blog, social media page, or another social media channel.
In the next step of the lead generation process, the potential customer clicks on your call-to-action (CTA), which can be in the form of an image, button, or message that encourages website visitors to engage with your brand.
After that, the visitor will be taken to a landing page - a web page designed to capture lead information in exchange for an offer (an ebook, a course, etc.) that visitors must perceive as valuable enough to submit their personal information in exchange.
Once on the landing page, your prospective client takes the final step of filling out a form in exchange for the offer. That’s it - as long as you’re following the lead-capture form best practices, you should have a new lead in your CRM system.
The process of generating leads is quite straightforward. Still, if you want to make sure that your efforts are rewarded with guaranteed success, here are a few more pieces of advice we suggest you follow:
Know your target audience: You won’t be able to target and market your product effectively unless you make sure to define your audience first. Skip this step, and you’ll find it much more difficult to engage with potential customers.
Provide value to users: As a part of an inbound marketing strategy, business lead generation is all about attracting potential clients to your company. To achieve that, you must be able to offer something valuable and helpful to them - free of charge. Depending on your target audience, options may include everything from free trials to freemium subscriptions, blog posts, and white papers.
Define your lead magnet: Take some time to figure out what types of content or free products resonate the most with your target audience. Conduct A/B testing and make sure to experiment as much as you can with different lead magnets. Don’t forget to ask for feedback. After gathering all the needed information, focus on developing content that appeals to your target audience the most to improve your lead generation campaign.
Develop relationships using newsletters: Once potential customers decide to share their contact information with you, remember to use that data wisely. Use email marketing to keep prospective customers aware of your brand and entice them to convert to paying clients. It is also an excellent tool for nurturing existing customer relationships.
Be present on social media: Similarly to email marketing, you can use social media marketing strategies to your advantage. Not only will your presence on social media make it more difficult for a potential customer to forget about your brand, but it will also allow you to connect and engage with your target audience in real-time.
Common Problems Lead Generating Practices Can Solve
By now, you’re probably aware that a simple batch and blast approach to advertising doesn’t appeal to most customers. However, having a solid lead generation system in place can help you navigate the complexities of finding prospective clients in today’s crowded market. Let’s take a look at a few common problems the concept of lead generation can help solve.
Problem: You need to generate a high volume of leads.
Solution: What is lead generation good for? Generating lots of leads, of course. The great thing about it is that you can use this practice just as effectively if you’re just starting out or an experienced marketer with a thriving business. If you’re at the beginning, a lead generation program can result in increased brand awareness, improved relationships with your audience, higher quality leads, and, ultimately, more sales. If you’re looking to optimize an existing inbound marketing strategy, we suggest reevaluating your audience profiles, buyer journey roadmap, marketing tactics, and communication channels.
When developing a lead generation network, make sure to keep your goals, challenges, and customer concerns in mind at all times. That way, you’ll be able to create and deliver content that solves your target audience’s problems.
Problem: You don’t know how to generate higher-quality leads.
Solution: There are several ways to explain why your sales team is struggling to convert leads into customers. Your sales and marketing teams should work together on planning lead generation strategies and agree on what constitutes a qualified lead. If the sales team approaches prospective clients too soon, they may feel put off. When it comes to sales lead generation, lead quality is of utmost importance, so we advise patience.
Problem: You’ve figured out how to bring in leads but don’t know what to do next.
Solution: The act of generating customer leads is just one part of lead generation. Once you bring these contacts in, you must use lead scoring and nurturing to qualify leads before your sales team can step in and do their job. In other words, the best way to generate leads is to let your prospective buyers gather some information about your products or services on their own first.
Problem: Your lead generation program isn’t bringing results anymore.
Solution: If your lead generation efforts have yet to catch up to the age of the self-directed buyer, it’s time to rethink the whole strategy. Statistics reveal that companies using CRM successfully improve their sales by 29%. Why are we mentioning this?
Let’s say you’re a real estate agent who uses a CRM software solution to collect and track buyer and seller data. Did you know that your CRM tool can be very useful as a sales lead generator? The insights these programs provide can help you choose the most effective way to nurture your leads. Focus on increasing the brand visibility of your brokerage but also look to capture leads’ interest with informational content. You can focus on topics such as home staging, applying for a mortgage, relocating to a different part of the county, and more.
By Milica Milenkovic ·
To run a successful business and transform leads into customers, you’ll really need to be taking advantage of your sales pipeline. So what is a sales pipeline? In short, this is a visual snapshot of every stage in the sales process that tells you at a glance whether you’re going to reach your goals. If used properly, it can have a positive impact on your growth. Our guide dives into more details, outlining the different stages, benefits, and ways to create and manage a pipeline.
The sales process involves many different stages, including identifying potential customers, contacting them, pitching the product or service, negotiating, and, of course, closing. The ultimate goal is to gain and retain loyal customers. Having a visual representation of this journey can help you make revenue forecasts, get insight into buyers’ trends, and keep track of sales prospects. So what does a pipeline mean in sales? Simply put, this is a breakdown of the whole sales process into smaller and trackable pieces.
Pipeline analysis enables you to track the evolution of sales opportunities into shopping orders as they move through several stages. The entire process is backed by recording and storing relevant data and activities. The pipeline helps you gain better insight into your deals and shows you the possible trajectory of your business. If you’re running a small business, using reliable CRM software that can generate a fully customizable pipeline can boost your profits.
The Shapes of Success: Pipeline and Funnel
Many people make the mistake of confusing a sales pipeline with a funnel. But these are two entirely different things. While the sales pipeline is a representation of the actual sales process or closing the deal, the sales funnel is all about leads and the process they undergo to become regular customers.
In other words, the sales pipeline is brand-focused and outlines steps that your marketing and sales team need to go through in order to gain and retain customers. On the other hand, a funnel is customer-focused and offers a representation of the buyers’ journey, starting from brand awareness to buying a product and staying with the company.
This clear distinction also expands on our original question: what is a sales pipeline? In short, the pipeline showcases the seller’s actions throughout the sales process, whereas the funnel tells you about the percentage of leads that advanced through each stage of the pipeline.
Benefits of Sales Pipeline
Having deciphered the sales pipeline, it’s time to look at some of the perks of using this strategic tool.
Insight into deals: For starters, using a pipeline to track your sales process gives you insight into your teams’ progress and helps you identify areas for improvement. A sales pipeline, by definition, keeps track of your business’s financial metrics, so you’ll know which deals you’re most likely to close and which processes are ineffective and need to be removed. Sales pipeline analysis quickly exposes the weaknesses with certain deals and helps you plot a course of action to boost sales.
Measure team performance: Selling a product or a service requires teamwork, and if one link in the chain performs poorly, the whole process will suffer. Optimizing the sales pipeline allows you to monitor sales representatives and if they’re hitting their targets. Thanks to sales pipeline reporting, you’ll be able to identify the weak links and improve the number of leads transitioning into sales.
Predict profits: Crunching the data tells you where each sales representative stands in the sales process and how close they are to inking the deal. By seeing the number and percentage of deals that are likely to be closed and their value, you can easily make accurate forecasts regarding revenue.
Help increase sales and profit: Building a sales pipeline won’t only assist you with monitoring and organizing your sales team. It’s also a useful tool for making projections by identifying the number of deals that your business needs to close in order to meet the targets and increase profits. Moreover, it helps you zero in on the steps that speed up the deal-making process and thus increase profits.
Step by Step: Pipeline Stages
Just like every industry and every individual business, sales pipelines are unique. Instead of simply copying one of the many templates, try to invest some time and effort into building pipelines with well-defined sales pipeline stages and adjusting them to fit your company’s needs. Consider employing CRM software to generate a pipeline, as statistics show that using it increases customer retention and satisfaction rates by 47%.
When setting up your own pipeline management system, think about sales targets, prospects, and the number of steps in the process. Make sure to have somewhere between five to eight stages that hinge on identifying prospects, evaluating their needs, convincing them to buy your product, closing the deal, and retaining them as customers through regular follow-ups.
Remember to tailor the different stages to the relevant industry. For instance, real estate’s customer relationship management strategy must include a house-viewing stage. In another sales pipeline example, a car salesman should probably include a test drive stage.
Lead generation. Prospecting new leads interested in your product is the very start of every sales process. Raising brand awareness and reaching out to potential customers can come in different shapes. Some companies might use downloadable content, phone, emails, and ads on social networks. Others might go on the hunt for cold leads, and some might even hire lead generation companies to do the leg work. Whatever your chosen method, make sure to consolidate all new leads and follow them throughout the process.
Lead qualification: To define a sales pipeline strategy, the next step should focus on identifying the potential buyers by researching their shopping preferences. Skipping this vital step can lead to sales reps losing a lot of time on cold leads. Sorting them from hot ones might be a game-changer and lead to successful closures.From the moment they enter the sales pipeline, contacts need to be researched. Conducting a phone survey or another questionnaire can help you determine whether the lead has the budget to afford the product if they need it and whether they’re ready to purchase it. If you’re wondering, what is a healthy sales pipeline, the answer is simple: it’s the one with hot leads. If the answer to the aforementioned questions is “no”, the lead should go down the drain; otherwise, it might clog your pipeline.
Initiate contact: Those who make it through the sieve should immediately be contacted by sales reps. Leads that reach these stages of the sales process are interested in closing a deal with your company. That’s why you can safely ask them if they are eager to buy your product and present all the perks of purchasing it. Make sure to engage with the lead by sending a series of emails that educate them about the product.
Schedule meeting or demo: What is a sales pipeline without an actual pitch? This is the part where you make your proposal. It can be done in person, via phone, e-mail, or even social media. Make sure to track and record conversations because searching through old emails can be time-consuming. Also, be well-prepared for meetings and demos because these brief moments can transform prospects into clients.
Negotiation: If the lead expresses interest in buying your product or service, it’s time to start more strategic discussions. This usually involves the unveiling of the price and the terms and conditions of the contract. If you’re wondering how to get to this stage and what is the best process for a sales pipeline, always remember to align sales and marketing. This is a great strategy for getting to the negotiations stage.
Closing the deal: From the very moment a lead enters the sales pipeline, the only desirable outcome is closing the deal. Once negotiations are completed, you can sign the contract, and you officially have a new customer. If you never make it to this stage, you were either trying to sell to the wrong person, or the sales rep failed to create/build value. So what do you do if a deal is lost in the sales pipeline? In these situations, it’s important to keep the conversation going and reconnect with lost prospects. Of course, the customers you gained shouldn’t be neglected either. Provide them with a good service during the onboarding process, inform them about upgrades and fresh promotions, ask them for referrals, and make sure they’re satisfied with the product.
Sales Pipeline Management
Understanding the pulse of the industry and adequately managing your sales pipeline is crucial for running a company in today’s digital world. Having access to a wealth of information and analyzing it enables you to use the numbers for strategic goals and boosting sales. That’s why we’ve answered the ultimate question: what is a sales pipeline, and how do you use it? Now it’s time to focus more closely on each stage of the process.
With careful sales pipeline management, you’ll be able to track and then evaluate all stages, identify bottlenecks, better understand the weaknesses and strengths of your deals, and thus predict and prepare for potential plunges or sudden growth.
The pipeline management process is made possible by six key characteristics: metrics, maintenance, optimization, sales team management, sales forecasting, and tool integration.
So, what is a good sales pipeline size? The truth is size doesn’t matter. You can add as many stages as you think are needed, but what matters the most is good pipeline management. So let’s dive deeper and explain the details.
Sales pipeline metrics: Analyzing the sales process wouldn’t be possible without a wide variety of metrics to show you where your business stands. Pay close attention to the number of deals in your sales pipeline, their average size, the average percentage of closed deals (deal close rate), and the average lifetime of a deal before it’s closed (sales velocity). A common question entrepreneurs ask is: what is a good conversion rate for my sales pipeline? In the beginning, the percentage of opportunities that turn into leads should be around 50% to 60%. However, as time goes by and you get a better insight into the flaws and merits of your sales process, a pipeline report should show a conversion rate of around 80% to 90%. Make sure to track the data on a weekly basis so that you can predict future sales trends.
Unhealthy measurements monitoring: Pipeline health spot-checks can show you bottlenecks, such as dead leads or too many unresolved deals that cause stagnation. Improving these metrics is crucial for boosting your revenue. So, what is a quota in the sales pipeline competition? This is an essential question for every entrepreneur. Keeping an eye on target sales your reps have for a certain period can help you understand them better. According to MarketingProfs research, 67% of sales representatives do not meet their individual quotas. That’s why regularly checking up on your sales pipeline report and keeping it organized is crucial. These are the steps for unclogging your pipeline: - Pinpoint sluggish leads - Decide what to do with them - Get in touch and reevaluate their interest
Update your sales pipeline stages: When trying to figure out how to build a sales pipeline, the first thing to consider is your individual business preferences. But over time, some of the steps that you thought were initially important may become inconsequential. Some cycles might become too lengthy and time-consuming, while some can be too cumbersome. Consider removing them because pipelines that are too long risk having prospects fall through the cracks or change their mind. The sales cycle length is an important factor, so keep it short and effective but do not cut out the critical stages to achieve that. While building a sales pipeline, keep in mind that including a follow-up stage is a must and that a precise prospecting stage means more closed deals. After all, what is a pipeline management strategy without adding extra stages? Keep an eye on new trends in the market and adapt to them accordingly by implementing additional steps in the sales process.
Coach your sales team: By assisting the sales representatives and coaching them on pipeline management, you’ll empower them to get more control over their targets. Working with your team will help them better understand the amount of time that leads need to spend at each stage and use it to their own advantage. Another thing to pay attention to is teaching the sales reps how to clean pipelines effectively. Being a good pipelines manager also means knowing the answer to the question: what is a pipeline report? Instruct your sales reps to monitor sales pipeline metrics and generate reports on the gathered data to get the most from the numbers.
Bottom Line: Being a Good Plumber
Knowing how to be a good plumber to your sales pipeline, how to unclog the bottlenecks, and regularly clean and maintain it is a skill worth mastering. A healthy sales pipeline is the beating heart of a business. It can show you and your team members where your company stands, how many deals are closed, how many prospects turned into customers, where the process is stagnating, and which elements need to be removed.
If you can answer the question: what is a pipeline in business, you’re probably all too familiar with the difference between closed deals and cold leads. The visual snapshot shows the trajectory of your prospects on their buying journey and can provide you with helpful insight into the metrics and boost your sales.
By Danica Djokic ·
As technology evolves, our ways of working and running a business change rapidly in an everlasting push for more efficiency and productivity. When you apply that principle to customer relations - a key factor for most businesses - you get Customer Relationship Management tools. As your business grows, adding customer data manually to sheets, or worse, notepads, will inevitably become futile. That’s where CRM tools come in to save the day.
Let’s Get Started: A CRM tutorial
Not all CRM systems are the same, so having a clear picture of the different types of CRM can help you choose the best way of managing vital customer, prospect, and lead data. Congrats on deciding to use one in the first place! A good CRM can make a difference in your relationships with customers, boost your CLV (Customer Lifetime Value), and promote business growth.
According to CRM statistics, companies that use such systems successfully have improved their sales by 29% on average. Employing such an ecosystem for customer data, along with a set of far-reaching solutions, brings a whole new dimension to company life. CRM approaches rely heavily on sales forecasting, lead management, and dashboard-based analytics. The best CRM tools for your small business can help you organize and grow your customer base. Their most important asset is that the software can turn data into valuable insights you can then translate into transformative actions for your business.
Different CRM Software
One of the uses of a CRM is benchmarking your business against the best companies out there. Still, you don’t want to use the first option you come across, as there are many types of CRM software, and their benefits vary greatly. All customer relationship management programs fall into one of the five main buckets: Operational, analytical, collaborative, campaign management, and strategic CRMs. Let’s dive into the details of each:
Operational Customer Relationship Management
If you’re running a business and both you and your staff are overwhelmed with the administration, data entry, syncing, and updates, we feel you. Workflow automatization would be a game-changer for your company: Having all the information in one place would help avoid miscommunication, and facilitate marketing, sales, and service processes. This, in turn, would take much of the manual burden off your employees’ shoulders. The hero you need is an operational CRM.
To ensure that everything goes smoothly, such CRM systems leverage the following tools:
The automatization of manual tasks frees up valuable time for much more complex tasks your employees need to tackle. For example, coordinating email campaigns, reaching out to potential customers, and distributing content can all be easily streamlined using CRM software. Different sales processes that help bring consumers on board, as well as communication with customers via live chats, email, and other customer service tools can also be delegated (partially or in full) to the right software.
Businesses that can benefit from these types of CRM products include those with more linear sales processes and those in need of help with sorting out and storing customer data. Real estate companies, in particular, can benefit from specialized operational CRM software to boost their productivity and profits.
If streamlining sales isn’t your top priority, but you’d rather focus on using customer data to understand your audience better - say, their shopping habits - then analytical CRM software might be just the thing. Gathering information about your customers can get you insight into their preferences, trends, and behavioral patterns. The crucial components are:
Using analytical CRM tools enables businesses to store customer data in a single, easily reachable place and, more importantly, track and analyze it for patterns and trends. OLP stands for Online Analytical Processes and can help you realize when, how, and where your customers reach out to your company and its platform. This information can be further applied in marketing strategies that target specific customer categories.
When choosing your fighter in an operational CRM vs. analytical CRM duel, keep in mind that the first focuses on facilitating relationship-building and maintaining tasks, whereas the latter attunes to the data you have on your customers to help you develop business strategies. Both types of CRM could benefit your company, but if you want to focus on pinpointing your audience’s needs, an analytical CRM is what you need.
Collaborative Customer Relationship Management
The third major CRM type deals with the gathered information in a different manner. Namely, this breed of CRM emphasizes collaboration and customer support services. It allows the various teams in your organization to share data and improve cooperation between departments such as marketing, sales, and support. This type of software use the following tools:
Using collaborative CRM products will help your business better cater to its customers through different channels: live chat, e-mail, phone calls, or social networks. Determining the best communication channels isn’t the only thing this CRM type can help with: Tracking interactions between the company and its customers using logs gives all relevant departments insight into the minutiae of support processes.
Keeping in mind that 33% of Americans think about changing their provider for something after only one poor customer service experience, employing this type of CRM can be crucial for companies that are still in the process of establishing a loyal base.
Campaign Management CRM
One of the five important types of CRM, useful for strategies of all kinds and yet often overlooked, is a campaign management CRM. It mixes the functionalities of operational and analytical systems in the service of sales or marketing campaigns. Running campaigns wouldn’t be possible without gathering, organizing, and analyzing data to distribute the content to the right people, and these CRMs make that process much more streamlined.
By constantly learning about its customers and adjusting to meet their needs, businesses can boost their profits and establish themselves in a given market. To that end, the main goal of strategic CRM software is to use data for forming and implementing business strategies to foster long-term customer relationships. Instead of predicting customer needs, this type of CRM lets the customer inform the business strategy.
Different types of CRM systems help businesses speed up operations, handle extensive data, share it among departments, and create and execute business strategies. They all serve the same purpose - helping your business grow and minimizing manual labor - but have different approaches to achieving that. In the ever-lasting competition between companies to win clients, choosing the right CRM software can be a game-changer.
By Danica Djokic ·