What Is Lead Generation? (Your Trusted Lead Generation Guide)

Lead generation is the process of generating interest in a company’s brand, products, or services using inbound and outbound marketing strategies, like online advertising and email marketing. It’s an essential process for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.

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The meaning of lead generation, however, goes beyond answering, “What is lead generation?”

It also includes why lead generation is valuable, as well as what strategies companies like yours can use to attract and nurture qualified leads. That’s why this lead generation guide covers each of these topics, providing you with a complete answer to lead generation’s definition and role.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about lead generation.

Or, if you’re looking for some help with your lead generation strategy, contact us online. You can also call us at 888-601-5359 to chat one-on-one about our custom strategies and results, which include generating more than 4.6 million qualified leads for our clients in the past five years.

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What is a lead?

A lead describes any person that demonstrates interest in your product, service, or brand. People can show interest in a range of ways, including by downloading a free guide, completing a contact form, following a social media account, and more.

In almost all cases, your business will hear from a lead before a lead hears from you.

While you can initiate communication first (like by cold calling), this approach generally doesn’t perform well. That’s why many companies try to attract leads. When you bring leads to your business, they’re more likely to have a genuine interest in your products or services.

Now, you can attract four types of leads:

  1. Marketing qualified lead (MQL): MQLs come from your marketing efforts, like offering a downloadable guide. These leads often aren’t ready to connect with your sales team. They’re in the early stages of the buying funnel.
  1. Sales qualified lead (SQL): SQLs show an immediate interest in your products or services, like by submitting a quote request or a contact form. They usually want to speak to your sales team and occupy a lower stage of the buying funnel.
  1. Product qualified lead (PQL): PQLs demonstrate an interest in your products or services too, like by signing up for a free trial. They usually take action after trying your products. A PQL, for instance, may contact your sales team to ask questions and learn more about your offerings.
  1. Service qualified lead: Service qualified leads have an active interest in your products or services because they already use and pay for them. These types of leads will usually contact your sales team about making an upsell, like by choosing a different cable or Internet plan, for instance.

Understanding what leads are, as well as the types of leads, can help with lead scoring later.

What is lead generation?

Lead generation describes the process of identifying, attracting, and converting people into prospects through outbound and inbound marketing channels, as well as lead generators. Common lead generation channels include search, social media, email, and your website.

What is lead generation in digital marketing?

In digital marketing, lead generation still focuses on identifying, attracting, and converting people into prospects, but uses online channels and strategies. A few examples include running paid ads on social media, offering free product trials via a website, and launching an email campaign.

Why is lead generation important?

Lead generation matters for B2B and B2C businesses for a few reasons, including:

  • Lead generation supports healthy business growth: Without leads, your company can’t grow. While you may receive referrals, those often aren’t enough to grow your business the way you want. You need a way to attract and convert prospects, and lead generation provides that.
  • Lead generation attracts qualified leads: Next, lead generation offers a solution to finding qualified leads, versus any lead. While you can spend time cold-calling potential leads, this strategy rarely results in a lead — only unhappy people with a bad image of your brand.
  • Lead generation offers a natural transition from consumer to customer: With lead generation, your business can also provide a seamless customer journey. People can move at their own pace from consumer to customer, like by downloading an online guide or completing a contact form.

Most of all, lead generation benefits your business because it works — when done right.

Outbound lead generation vs. inbound lead generation

Before exploring five of the most successful lead generation strategies, it’s essential to explain why inbound lead generation, versus outbound lead generation, is the best approach for your business, no matter your industry.

Ok, but what is outbound lead generation and inbound lead generation?

  • Outbound lead generation: A lead generation strategy that uses outbound market channels focuses on pushing people towards your business, products, or services. It uses strategies like cold calling, advertisements, and trade shows.
  • Inbound lead generation: A lead generation strategy that uses inbound marketing channels focuses on pulling people towards your business, products, or services. It uses strategies like social media, blog posts, and videos.

No matter what your company sells, you will almost always generate the best results with inbound marketing. That’s because, when you use inbound marketing, you’re reaching potential leads when they’re looking for your business, products, or services.

They’re researching, and you’re serving as a helpful resource.

For more perspective on the performance of inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing for lead generation, consider the cost of outbound leads and the opinions of marketers.

On average, outbound leads cost almost 40% more than inbound leads. Not to mention, only 16% of marketers feel outbound marketing brings in the highest quality of leads. Inbound marketing offers better costs and results, which is why most lead generation strategies focus on inbound channels.

5 of the most successful lead generation strategies

Now that you know the answer to “What is lead generation?”, are you ready to build your strategy?

Get a preview of how your business can generate leads online with these five lead generation strategies:


Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most powerful inbound marketing tactics for lead generation. With SEO, your business can reach users as they search on Google, Bing, and other search engines, and quickly become their trusted resource and company of choice.

What is search engine optimization?

SEO is a digital marketing strategy that optimizes your website for search engines, like Google, and the people that use them. When you optimize your site according to SEO best practices, your website can appear at the top of search results, versus on page two.

For example, search for “best dash cam reviews.”

A search result example for lead generation

If your company offers dash cams, you want a top spot in that search result. Even if your business doesn’t appear in that search result, you can use other SEO tactics, like outreach, to help earn press and exposure for your product.

How can I use search engine optimization for lead generation?

You can use search engine optimization for lead generation a few ways, including the following:

  • Attract bottom-of-the-funnel leads with optimized product and service pages
  • Reach middle-of-the-funnel leads with optimized blog posts, articles, and more

Optimizing your website for search engines and users offers another benefit: Outranking your competition. If your online competitors don’t use SEO, your company can earn a top spot in search results with ease because these organizations aren’t optimizing their site.

When you earn a top spot in search results, you provide your business with direct access to leads.

For perspective on the value of this position, consider the following research: The first three search results on Google get 75% of all clicks. Not to mention, only 25% of users go to the second page of search results. They usually stick to the first page.


Paid advertising is another useful lead generation approach that can act as an inbound or outbound strategy. That’s because your business can advertise across search results, websites, social media, and more, whether you’re looking to generate manufacturing leads or insurance leads.

What is paid advertising?

Paid advertising describes the use of paid ads, like pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements, to attract potential prospects and customers to your business, products, or services. While you can use traditional advertising formats, like billboards, digital ad formats tend to offer more value and flexibility.

A paid ad example for lead generation

You can see paid ads across several online channels, including:

  • Search
  • Social
  • Websites

The advantage of paid advertising for lead generation is that your company will usually pay on a per-click or cost-per-click (CPC) payment model. What does that mean? Your business will only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

You can also, depending on your ad settings, pay for an ad based on views or conversions.

Even better, paid advertising includes advanced targeting options.

With these options, your business can create hyper-targeted ads that focus on the most valuable leads for your business. Plus, your ads can reach users when they want to hear from your business, like by searching for something related to your company, product, or services.

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How can I use paid advertising for lead generation?

You can use paid advertising for lead generation to accomplish a few goals, including:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Generate MQLs
  • Connect with SQLs
  • And more

The following features a few examples of how you can use paid ads to generate leads:

  • Launch search ads promoting a free, downloadable guide
  • Create social media ads highlighting a sale, social post, or guide
  • Build remarketing ads offering a limited-time offer to MQLs

You can also take advantage of your paid advertising data to improve your sales and marketing teams' understanding of your target market and customer journey. This data can help all your lead generation efforts, from your ads to your emails.


Email marketing is one of the most common lead generation strategies, with 78% of organizations using email to attract, nurture, and convert qualified leads. With email, your business can take a personalized and long-term approach to growing your company and its relationship with potential clients.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing offers an all-in-one solution for communicating with prospects, as well as clients. With email marketing, your business can create various audience segments and email campaigns to send users content tailored to their interests, concerns, and more.

An email example for lead generation

Companies across industries use email marketing because of its effectiveness, as well as return on investment (ROI). In fact, businesses see an average ROI of $44 for every $1 invested in this top lead generation strategy.

How can I use email marketing for lead generation?

You can use email marketing for lead generation a few ways, including:

  • Build a relationship with MQLs, like by highlighting informational content
  • Provide follow-up bottom-of-the-funnel content to SQLs
  • Offer updates, offers, and more to current clients with the potential for upsells

For the best results with email marketing, ensure your company offers valuable content.

While you may want to send content that highlights your services or products, remember to think about your users. Give them something valuable. Otherwise, they will unsubscribe from your emails or not even read them.


While considered one of the most challenging lead generation strategies by almost 50% of marketers, social media offers immense opportunity for companies that can master networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

What is social media marketing and advertising?

Social media marketing and advertising revolves around marketing and advertising your business on social media networks. The marketing side focuses on making posts and content for followers, while the advertising portion encompasses creating ads to build your following.

Each of these strategies involves engaging with users, like by responding to comments.

A social media example for lead generation

For the best results, most businesses spend around six hours on social media each week. According to 66% of marketers, that amount of time tends to drive results when it comes to generating qualified leads.

How can I use social media marketing and advertising for lead generation?

You can use social media marketing and advertising to generate leads a few ways, including:

  • Launch targeted ad campaigns to drive follows, likes, and even shares
  • Post informational content to drive brand awareness and website traffic
  • Respond to comments, questions, or concerns

In most cases, social media will serve as a channel for reaching top-of-the-funnel users. While you won’t generate leads from this channel immediately, social media can help you reach people (before your competitors) that will become qualified leads.


Content marketing is another powerful lead generation channel. With original, audience-focused content, your business can support all your lead generation efforts, from search to social to email, and attract the leads you want.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing describes the creation of original, helpful content that your business hosts online, like on your website, blog, or social media profile. When you use content marketing, you aim to capture users at varying stages of the funnel and move them towards becoming a lead.

A content example for lead generation

A few examples of content include:

  • Blog posts
  • Informational articles
  • Infographics
  • Guides

In addition to creating content, you also optimize it for search engines and users. That means your content marketing efforts will include SEO, which is why businesses almost always use SEO and content marketing together.

How can I use content marketing for lead generation?

You can use content marketing for lead generation a few ways, including:

  • Publish free, downloadable online guides
  • Write informative blog posts for users in the early stages of the buying funnel
  • Create viral content, like infographics, to earn fast exposure
  • Build resource libraries for supporting your sales teams

You should cover lots of different information from different angles with content marketing. You can even use site content to address common questions or concerns that you hear from leads you’ve already generated from previous marketing campaigns.

For example, a dental practice looking to attract leads may use its website to answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) about certain procedures. They could cover questions related to the recovery time, as well as procedure costs, to help potential patients.

The more quality information you provide, the more likely you’ll be to generate leads on your site.

3 tips for making your lead generation campaign a success

If you’re looking to make the most of your lead generation strategy and campaigns, follow these tips:

1. Get insight from your sales team

The success of lead generation often depends on your sales team for a few reasons. They connect with your leads one-on-one, which allows them to offer unparalleled insight into the questions of potential clients.

Collaborate with your sales team by asking about their experience with leads and learning:

  • What leads want to know
  • What leads desire in a product or service
  • What leads expect from a product or service provider

Understand your leads better, and your team can develop a better lead generation strategy. You can adapt your content marketing initiative, for example, to cover a frequently asked question among leads or tweak your social media network usage to reach your ideal lead.

2. Develop consistent messages

While you may use a range of channels and techniques to reach potential leads, you want to create a consistent experience. If you don’t, users may not recognize your business, products, or services when seeing them again, like via a paid ad.

Consistent messaging and branding also makes it easier for users to transition from stranger to prospect. They feel confident that they’re working with the same company, for example, when moving from your social media profile to your website.

3. Provide every user a unique offer

When it comes to lead generation, companies can struggle to create compelling offers for users in the earlier stages of the buying funnel. While it’s easy to offer a free trial or obligation-free quote to bottom-of-the-funnel users, that kind of offer doesn’t work on users still researching and considering.

An example of an offer for generating leads

Take the time to research potential offers for every stage of the funnel. A few examples include:

  • A free guide
  • A coupon
  • A free trial
  • A free consultation

Monitor your social media for ideas too. Sometimes, users may comment and express interest in what they’d like to receive. You can even browse industry forums to see what users want or expect when working with service or product providers.

With these tips and strategies, you can launch a top-notch campaign.

WebFX is a professional lead generation firm

WebFX has worked with lead generation campaigns for years. We have clients who came to us with the exclusive goal of bringing in more leads to their sales reps so they could close more deals and earn more revenue.

With our award-winning web designers and high-quality writers, we’ve helped our clients achieve that goal so they can achieve new levels of success.

Now, we’ll do the same for you!

Do you want to earn new leads for your business? Contact us today to create a lead generation campaign that’s perfect for you!