You can track metrics all day, but if you want to grow your business, there’s only one that really matters.
Traffic, keyword trends, social followers, and email subscribers are all popular data points to monitor —but nothing is a better predictor of your sales than leads.
The more you can increase leads, the more money you’ll make and the more successful your business will become.
But that’s not an easy feat. In fact, according to a HubSpot survey, 63% of marketers responded that generating traffic and leads was one of their top marketing challenges.
Today, you’ll learn exactly what a sales lead is, what makes a great lead, and how and where to find leads who are eager to buy what you’re selling.
By the end, you’ll be an expert at finding and qualifying new customers.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Sales Lead?
Let’s start with the basics. What is a sales lead exactly?
Well, the answer is a bit more complicated than you might expect. You see, “sales lead” isn’t necessarily a technical term. Most places online would simply define it as a “lead,” so we’ll start there.
A lead is the first stage in the purchasing process. It represents a potential buyer who is interested in the product or service you have to offer.
In this article, we’ll focus on business-to-consumer, or B2C, and refer to the lead as a person.
But do keep in mind that business-to-business, or B2B, sales teams usually consider businesses as leads. While the contact at the company might change, the business itself is still a potential buyer.
Typically, a lead is more than just a random individual, though. If you’re selling custom guitars, marketing to anyone walking down the street or browsing Facebook would be a surefire way to waste money.
These people aren’t leads — they’re strangers.
A lead has shown some attribute that marks them as someone with the potential to buy from you. That might be based on demographics, self-reported interest, prior purchases, shopping habits, or a host of other factors.
To save time when you’re building a marketing strategy, you’ll want to start by sorting through your leads for the most qualified ones, according to recommendations by Foundr.
Make sure they’re able to buy, interested in buying, and aware of what you have to offer.
Typically, here’s how you should score the quality of your leads:
- Demographic information is the weakest indicator.
- Personal preferences are stronger.
- Previous buying habits are the gold standard.
Going back to our custom guitar example, those attributes might look something like this:
Demographics tell us that men aged 25-45 are most likely to buy a custom guitar. Clearly, there are a lot of men in that age range who can’t or wouldn’t buy, but it gives us a general guideline.
A personal preference might be people interested in playing guitar, listening to rock music, or collecting valuable instruments. Clearly, this is a much more focused group, but we can go one layer further.
The absolute best type of lead for our fictional guitar shop? People who have bought custom guitars in the past. This is a group that’s proven they’re willing to spend money on high-quality instruments, and our shop owner would probably have the most success targeting them.
Before I get into more details, though, I should explain the two types of leads you’ll find in B2C sales.
B2C Sales Leads: Marketing-Qualified and Sales-Qualified
There are two types of sales leads: marketing-qualified and sales-qualified.
Marketing-qualified leads, or MQLs, are the category into which most leads fall. These are people who may or may not be interested in your specific product, but would likely be receptive to marketing and might eventually make a purchase.
Perhaps you’ve thought about getting a new TV in the past few months.
You’ve browsed around, but you don’t have a clear idea of what you want yet. If you were to see a marketing campaign for the perfect TV, though, you’d have a much higher chance of buying it than someone else. You’re an MQL.
This diagram from PureB2B defines the elements of a B2B marketing qualified lead, but it applies to B2C leads as well.
A sales-qualified lead, or SQL, is pure gold. This is someone who is not only an ideal match for what you have to offer, but has also expressed extreme interest and is ready to buy right now. For this type of lead, you’ll want to get them to talk with a salesperson as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours.
Instead of just generally “wanting a new TV,” maybe you already know exactly what color, brand, and screen size you want. You have the money you need, and you walk into an electronics store. You’re an SQL, and you’re ready to buy.
As you can imagine, it’s much easier to find MQLs than SQLs.
Getting real, qualified leads is harder than it might look at first. But chances are, you already knew getting leads isn’t easy.
So, what effective strategies can you use to attract them? Glad you asked!
How to Get More Sales Leads Online (Special Tips for B2C Businesses)
Next, let’s dive into the most successful strategies in 2018 and beyond for getting more sales leads online.
If you’re looking for an effective B2C business marketing strategy, you’re going to love these tips. But even if you’re in the B2B market, you’ll find some valuable gems here.
These techniques can work for any type of business.
1. Landing pages
Let’s start with the linchpin for any effective online lead generation system: the landing page.
For the uninitiated, a landing page is a single website page designed to acquire a lead. A typical website will have a huge number of links, a variety of different pages, and a handful of different actions for the user to take.
A well-designed landing page has only one purpose: to turn the visitor into a lead by getting his or her contact information.
This diagram from Digital Marketing Institute shows a basic overview of a well-designed landing page.
You’ll notice there’s a prominent headline, and all of the body text supports and points back to that concept.
A great landing page will only have one action step, like signing up to receive a free report or scheduling a sales call, and it will be really obvious (notice the big orange button?).
Before you can start acquiring sales leads, you’ll need a well-designed landing page like this. But how do you attract leads to your page?
2. Participate in social networks and groups
It might seem counterintuitive, but social networks can be one of the best places to find great leads.
People aren’t just there to relax and look at memes. The truth is that social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have incredible communities eager to spend money on products and services that will help them — as long as they can trust the person or company they’re buying from.
That’s where you come in.
Work to provide value in the groups and be a genuinely helpful member. Seek first to help others, and you’ll find people asking you what you have to offer. Whatever you do, don’t promote your product first. Start by building relationships.
3. Write email pitches
Sometimes, the most effective methods are the most time-consuming, but still well worth the effort.
If you’re hoping to get great leads, you can’t discount the effectiveness of cold pitches. Simply reaching out to someone who might be interested in what you have to offer can be a great way to find new buyers if you do it correctly.
What does it mean to do it correctly?
If you like, you can also use email on the backend of your lead funnel. Create nurturing emails that deliver automatically. These can develop a cold lead into someone who’s eager to make a sale while you’re focusing on other tasks.
4. Provide help on Quora
Quora is a platform where people ask questions and experts provide in-depth answers. If you haven’t been using Quora for lead generation, it’s worth a shot!
TaskWorld has a conversion rate of 11.44 percent through Quora. They provide helpful answers to relevant business questions, while casually mentioning their product in the reply.
The secret to success on Quora (as well as most lead generation strategies) is to provide value first, not to ask for the sale upfront.
If you’re too pushy with your product or business, you’ll discourage people from making a sale and probably scare them away. Instead, focus on helping others and leads will come to you.
5. Guest blog on other websites
Want to know where your B2C leads are spending their time?
The answer is on blogs.
This is where people go to learn about new topics, get help with problems they’re struggling with, and find new experts to trust (and buy from). Of course, the problems are obvious. How do you create a blog with a huge following overnight?
Well, it’s impossible.
But there’s a little secret that lets you tap into the audiences of other large blogs without doing any of the traffic-building work that’s gone into them: guest posting.
LeadFuze analyzed a few of the different benefits of guest posting.
In addition to getting links back to your site (which helps with your search engine rankings and can bring you more leads in the future), you’ll build partnerships with the blog owners.
But most relevant for us today is that you’ll acquire new leads. Be an expert on someone else’s site, and you’ll find a new audience of leads who are eager to buy.
6. Offer a free quote
While many websites focus their efforts on getting email subscriptions, you can turn your website into a lead-generation system.
Instead of offering an email subscription, you can focus exclusively on qualifying your best leads. This is how KlientBoost has structured their home page.
The main call-to-action is “Get my free proposal.”
Clicking that link leads to a series of questions asking about the visitor’s goals and advertising platforms…
…what type of campaign he or she would like to run, and what the monthly ad spend would be.
Finally, there’s room for the visitor to enter his or her information and get a free proposal.
While this process is lengthy, it means that KlientBoost saves lots of time on the backend. Instead of going through the hassle of qualifying those leads, they have the client enter most of the qualifying information themselves.
7. Include a CTA in your email signature
Have you optimized your email signature for leads?
It might sound silly, but the truth is that every email you send is an opportunity to acquire a new lead.
First, you’ll want to create a basic signature that shows up automatically at the end of each email you write. Include any basic information you’d like, such as your name and contact information.
Underneath that, you’ll want to include a link to the landing page you created earlier. Here’s an example from Mojo Marketing that shows what it can look like.
This is enough to get started, but if you want to get more advanced, you can add a custom tracking code or UTM tag to the call to action. This allows you to see how many leads you’ve acquired from your signature, and even split-test different wording to see which converts better.
8. Content marketing
Earlier, I mentioned that you can use guest posting to show a new audience your work and find new buyers. But just because it takes a while to build an audience for your own blog or other content platform doesn’t mean you should ignore that tactic entirely.
In fact, starting now can plant the seeds for bigger success later on. The content you write today can attract new leads in your sleep.
And content is key to guiding a lead from the consideration stage to the buying stage. Research done by Demand Gen Report and published by LinkedIn shows that most buyers review three to five content pieces before contacting a salesperson.
If those content pieces are part of your lead attracting strategy, you’re that much closer to closing the sale.
9. Offer a free quiz or tool
People love to learn about themselves. That’s why quizzes are so popular on sites like BuzzFeed—we all like to answer a few questions, see what our results are, and share them with friends.
The same is true when you’re selling. Some of the most effective lead-generating techniques involve offering quizzes or tools to teach people about themselves.
Here’s an example of an SEO Analyzer on NeilPatel.com. When someone types in their website URL, they’ll get a free custom report and become a lead.
This is the same type of content Ramit Sethi offers at I Will Teach You To Be Rich — a quiz to learn your true earning potential. And of course, you need to enter your email address to get your results.
Quizzes and tools can be expensive to create, but they can quickly become the most compelling features of your website.
Is It a Good Idea to Buy Sales Leads?
After reading about how much work it takes to find new leads, you might be wondering whether it’s worth it.
I mean, you can just buy leads online, after all. Is it really worth the hassle to find leads the hard way, when there’s an entire marketplace built up just to make this process irrelevant?
The answer is… it depends.
First, all purchased leads are not bad. As long as you’re buying leads legally and ethically, there’s nothing wrong with this business model. In fact, a number of successful businesses thrive in this system.
Companies like Thumbtack get information about interested buyers, then sell those leads to service providers.
For many industries, this is a lucrative model.
But for most businesses operating online, we don’t personally recommend it.
Here are two main reasons why:
- However interested a purchased lead may be, there is no personal touch when you’re working through a third party.
- Having leads invested in your message and brand is important because it shortens the sales cycle.
It’s typical for a sales cycle to take a long time, according to Ascend2.
Starting off with leads that are already interested in your product is a much faster and more effective way of converting sales. Leads who have expressed interest in the past are more likely to turn into clients and customers.
In other words, you can buy leads if you want. But organic leads will almost always outperform purchased leads, and are usually worth the extra time and effort.
So, putting it all together — what would effective sales lead generation look like?
Lead Generation Examples that Attract Sales Leads
While there is no “perfect” lead generation system, this basic example might help as a starting-off point.
First, build a nurturing system to convert leads into buyers. There’s no point in acquiring leads if you can’t convert them! Hopefully you’ve already worked through this with other clients or prospects in the past. If not, start here.
Next, you’ll want to build an entryway, so to speak, to gather information from new leads. I recommend a landing page, but depending on your market and audience, a different method might work better for you.
After that, you’ll want to direct traffic to your landing page. This is where your opportunities really open up — there are nearly an infinite number of ways to bring in new traffic. Use social, content, and paid methods to drive traffic.
But of course, this blueprint is only that — a basic template designed to be adjusted with your creativity. Constantly be looking for new ways to grow your leads and earn more prospects and customers.
Now you’re ready to get started attracting new sales leads online.
You already know the basics: what a sales lead is, how it’s different from a marketing lead, and what you can do to make sure you acquire the maximum leads possible from your online marketing efforts.
Plus, you’ve got a toolchest of techniques that work like gangbusters to acquire new leads for your B2C business. From content marketing to forums and everything in between, you can apply the best strategies in the industry to grow your sales leads every week.