We've all been through it. You know: the moment you're about to dig into the best darn pile of spaghetti and meatballs you've ever seen.
Just as you twist your fork in the pasta, spear a mouth-watering meatball, and go in for the first savory bite ... the phone rings. "May I speak to Lindsay Kow-low-witch?" asks the telemarketer on the other end. "This is an important message regarding your oven preferences."
This frustrating interruption is exactly why we're here to discuss inbound lead generation. What is inbound lead generation? Exclusive Leads Agency says it's a solution that can save your business or organization from being that annoying, disruptive cold caller who is ruining spaghetti nights for pasta lovers all over the world.
What is a lead?
A lead is any person who indicates interest in a company's product or service in some way, shape, or form.
Leads typically hear from a business or organization after opening communication (by submitting personal information for an offer, trial, or subscription) … instead of getting a random cold call from someone who purchased their contact information.
Let's say you take an online survey to learn more about how to take care of your car. A day or so later, you receive an email from the auto company that created the survey about how they could help you take care of your car. This process would be far less intrusive than if they'd just called you out of the blue with no knowledge of whether you even care about car maintenance, right? This is what it's like to be a lead.
And from a business perspective, the information the auto company collects about you from your survey responses helps them personalize that opening communication to address your existing problems — and not waste time calling leads who aren't at all interested in auto services.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
Marketing qualified leads are contacts who've engaged with your marketing team's efforts but aren't ready to receive a sales call. An example of an MQL is a contact who fills out a landing page form for an offer (like in our lead generation process scenario below).
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Sales qualified leads are contacts who've taken actions that expressly indicate their interest in becoming a paying customer. An example of an SQL is a contact who fills out a form to ask a question about your product or service.
Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
Product qualified leads are contacts who've used your product and taken actions that indicate interest in becoming a paying customer. PQLs typically exist for companies who offer a product trial or a free or limited version of their product (like HubSpot!) with options to upgrade, which is where your sales team comes in. An example of a PQL is a customer who uses your free version but engages or asks about features that are only available upon payment.
Service Qualified Lead
Service qualified leads are contacts or customers who've indicated to your service team that they're interested in becoming a paying customer. An example of an service qualified lead is a customer who tells their customer service representative that they'd like to upgrade their product subscription; at this time, the customer service representative would up-level this customer to the appropriate sales team or representative.
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company's product or service. Some examples of lead generators are job applications, blog posts, coupons, live events, and online content.
These lead generators are just a few examples of lead generation strategies you can use to attract potential customers and guide them towards your offers. (We talk about more strategies later.)
Whenever someone outside the marketing world asks me what I do, I can't simply say, "I create content for lead generation." It'd be totally lost on them, and I'd get some really confused looks.
So instead, I say, "I work on finding unique ways to attract people to my business. I want to provide them with enough goodies to get them naturally interested in my company so they eventually warm up to the brand enough to want to hear from us!"
That usually resonates better, and that's exactly what lead generation is: It's a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually making a purchase.
Why do you need lead generation?
When a stranger initiates a relationship with you by showing an organic interest in your business, the transition from stranger to customer is much more natural.
Lead generation falls within the second stage of the inbound marketing methodology. It occurs after you've attracted an audience and are ready to convert those visitors into leads for your sales team (namely sales-qualified leads).
As you can see in the diagram below, generating leads is a fundamental point in an individual's journey to becoming a delighted customer.