Lead generation guide that will take you from Dummy to Pro! [+INFOGRAPHIC]

Lead generation serves a vital function in business – it helps acquire clients. There is no academical theory backing it, all we know about generating leads comes from practice. Thus, approaches may vary from source to source.

This guide summarizes main principles of lead generation that help getting more clients right away. It will clear up what is what in lead generation and how to use with max efficiency.




What is a lead?

A lead is a person or a company that shows a certain level of willingness to buy from you.

The important part here is showing the willingness to buy. This distinguishes leads from contacts gathered for marketing/sales purposes and prospects. Leads are actually prospects and contacts, but on the later stage of their customer journey – when there is a certain level of certainty that they will buy from you. “A certain level” – because you cannot be 100 % sure about it before the contract is signed/purchase is made.

Same about inquiries. Not all the people contact you because they want to buy from you. There might be plenty of random inquiries: people looking for a job, searching for sponsors, doing competitive research, gathering info for a school assignment after all. Unless inquiries come to you through the website buttons “I want to buy this”, “Order it now”, “Request a demo”or something like that – there is no sense to pitch them right away.

So it’s better to check intention of contacts, prospects, inquiries before putting them into the leads box. The term “lead” should be kind of a label that indicates potential client’s “readiness” to be contacted by salespeople.

Usually companies set up criteria that help them to define when a prospect (contact/inquiry) becomes a lead and, thus, should be sent to sales department. Such criteria should be created in cooperation with sales and marketing teams, be clear and simple for them.

Checking whether a prospect meets these criteria is called lead qualification. Lead qualification can be organised in different ways. It can be salespeople responsible for that, or there can be specially hired pre-sales people doing that. It all depends how big is your company, what capacity it has and how many leads you’re aiming at.

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What is lead generation and why is it important?

The process of attracting people/companies to what you do and converting them into leads is called lead generation. It helps companies attract strangers and pull them closer to the point when they decide to buy.

describe the process of generation leads

Effective lead generation is essential for every business. Lead generation allows sales reps to focus on more probable opportunities, rather than waste time on checking and qualifying all the prospects. And productive sales mean more deals and more cash eventually.

Lead generation plays an important role in B2B. B2B products and services are more expensive than in B2C. So B2B clients bring much more cash.

Since big money is involved, the whole purchase journey in B2B is much longer: executives need to justify the expenditure, analyze all other options, approve the decision and so on. It’s not as simple as picking tomato in the supermarket. As a result decision makers in B2B require much more information about what they intent to buy. This makes investing in B2B lead generation worth the trouble – the ROI can be really high.

Besides with lead generation it’s possible to target even niche audience, reach top management, strategically handle the customer journey. This is also crucial in B2B where sales are focused on not many but higher value leads and building long-term relationships with them.

The marketing department should be the one responsible for generating leads. If marketers’ work seems to be abstract and hard to measure, it’s a good idea to implement lead generation mindset there. With this mindset marketers switch their focus from designing t-shirts to creating more opportunities for business.

Lead generation is based on direct communication with potential customers: either they contact you, or you initiate a conversation. That’s why it’s easy to track the results. In the end it’s all about number of people you get that meet your lead criteria.

A bit of history

In 19th -20th centuries newspapers, radio, and TV introduced mass communication, which made attracting potential customers more controllable. This was the beginning of lead generation as the concept.

During those times sellers customer acquisition looked pretty agressive: sellers were sending out one-way messages to broad audience. But customers could not speak back, nor they could get alternative (independent) information about products.

When the Internet appeared, marketers switched paper catalogs, snail mails, TV commercials to bulk emails and internet ads. It also became possible to track customers’ purchase behaviors online.

But the Internet also gave customers the leverage over controlling the purchase process, made purchase decisions more conscious and consumers more self-educated about the market.

Future of lead generation belongs to those who listen to customers, know what they want, are open for conversations and ready to provide real value to them.




Nowadays there are plenty of ways to generate leads. Depending on the logic behind and the expected effect, we can classify them into outbound, inbound and referral.

Outbound lead generation

Outbound lead generation is based on approaching prospects directly and starting conversations with them.
Initiative lies on you here, so you can decide when, how and whom to approach.

Here are the most popular outbound lead generation tactics:

  1. Ads
    Advertising is basically showing the visual or written messages through specific public channels to a broad audience.
    These days it’s possible to make ads targeted and personalized. This so called contextual advertising.
    Pros: possibility to reach many people in a short period of time; you as a marketer have total control of when, where and what message to send.
    Cons: high costs; effective if repeated (so even more pricy).

  2. PPC (pay-per-click)
    At additional charge the search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.) will show your messages/website to users searching for related keywords. You’ll need to pay for each click that your message receives. This is why this tactic is called so.
    Pros: can bring immediate result; highly effective if well targeted and personalized.
    Cons: high costs; can fail because of adblock; doesn’t work without website optimization.

  3. Cold emailing
    Cold emailing is sending witty and personalized emails to target customers that you’ve previously had no contact with.
    Pros: possibility to reach high executives (who are not that often on the web) and explore new markets; it’s one of the most personal tactics; quickest way to grab somebody’s attention; you can get referral or feedback if not a deal; relatively cheap, high ROI (can reach 40 to 1 from what we’ve experienced).
    Cons: time-consuming; need to iterate many times to get results (not only send an email, but follow up a lot); requires good copywriting skills; finding emails of the target requires research.

  4. Events
    You can generate leads by making contacts at various events: expos, conferences, seminars, trade shows, networking and so on.
    Pros: building authority and expertise.
    Cons: high level events are expensive and inexpensive ones attract mostly opportunity searchers; it requires preparation, thus – time, certain skills (public speaking, networking) and strategical approach; overall low success rate.

More about event and how to use them effectively – here.

Inbound lead generation

Inbound lead generation is about attracting potential customers with the help of valuable content, social media, website and so on. So if outbound approach is pretty straightforward, inbound – is trying to “hypnotize” the audience and make them come to you.

Inbound tactics are vital nowadays. The Internet allows customers research what they want to buy (both for online or offline purchases) and make decisions on their own – and you don’t want these things slide. With inbound lead generation it’s a prospect who decides when, how and with what suggestion/question to reach a company.

Here are the most popular inbound lead generation tactics:

  • Website/landing pages
    It’s the first place where people interested in what you do come to learn more about you.Nowadays a website serves as the online face for your business, your business card.
    And a website can bring leads to if it’s optimized for conversions, look appealing and user-friendly. There are no pros and cons here. Every business simply must have it.
    And it should be the first thing to focus on, since all other lead generation tactics will work only if backed with proper web-presence.


  1. Content marketing
    The list of possible content that you can do is endless: blog, case study, ebook, infographics, podcasts, slideshare, webinar, videos, templates, kits, checklists, cheat sheets, visual content etc.
    The main rule – chose topics your potential leads are interested in, use channels and formats they’d prefer.
    Pros: long-term results; leads nurturing; brand awareness; relatively low cost.
    Cons: only quality content brings results; no immediate effect.

  2. SEO & keywords
    Website and content marketing are useless if potential customers cannot find them.
    SEO helps to get higher ranking in the search engines and thus – give more chances to be found in the wilds of the Internet.
    Pros: most effective internet tactic if done properly;
    Cons: it’s getting harder and harder to do that; Google dictates the rules – risk to be filtered out; time-taking (expect some effect after 3-6 months only).

  3. Social media
    Social media works well in combination with content marketing. It can be used for distribution the content, reaching more prospects, encouraging people to talk to you.
    Pros: low cost; you can start doing it right now.
    Cons: requires a strategic approach.

  4. Newsletter
    You can collect people’s emails by putting opt-in form on your website, and send regular newsletters to subscribers.
    Pros: a subscriber list is a great asset that can guarantee traffic for a website; low cost.
    Cons: requires quality copywriting and design; no immediate results; having subscribers doesn’t guarantee having leads.

Referral lead generation

With this tactic leads come through recommendations and word-of-mouth. We don’t include referral lead generation to inbound, nor to outbound. This is because referral leads can come both ways: they can approach you on their own when somebody recommended you to them (similar to inbound); you can ask for references and reach them out (similar to outbound).

Referral leads might come in a natural way. This happens when a company offers a great product that people start talking about and recommending it to each other.
It’s also possible to take control over this process by organizing referral programmes, offering discounts or other perks in exchange for references and so on.

Which lead generation tactic to choose?

There is no golden rule what tactics to use to guarantee successful lead generation flow.
The same tactic may work very well or ineffectually for companies operating on the same market.
Results depend greatly on how a tactic is executed.

There is some statistics that shows effectiveness of certain tactics which is worth considering (but not following blindly):

Statistics of strategies

For all-round effect it’s better to use a mix of different tactics (inbound/outbound/referral), individually chosen based on the ideal customer profile, the market a company operates in, competitors’ strategies and so on.

If you’re a beginner in lead generation, start with outbound tactics for faster results, while building inbound platform for long-term results.
If you have some inbound platform already – keep it going, but consider boosting your inbound results with the help of outbound shot.

Remember to focus on those tactics you’re good at. If you have great copywriters – write a blog, ebook, cold emails. If you are a creative agency, design company – use your creativity to launch an outstanding website which can serve as portfolio. If you have people with great presentation/public speaking skills – send them to events. And so on.

The only thing – there is no place for chaos in lead generation. Whatever path you choose, do it with a strategy in mind.




Leads are different and should be treated accordingly.

Outbound leads

It’s the most challenging type of leads, but also one of the most rewarding.

When dealing with them remember that they probably never heard about you. In fact, you’re a stranger for them and there is no reason why they should listen to you. Unless you prove the opposite.

To do that – make your messages maximum personalized and customer-centric. Mention the facts you know about your contacts, appreciate things they do, be a good listener, show how you both can benefit from your offer.

Inbound leads

Since these leads initiate a conversation with you on their own, you can assume they need a product like yours. Most probably they did some research about your company and have some knowledge about it and what it does.

So when replying them, there is no need to start with unnecessary introductions – go straight to the point.

Remember, that the fact they contact you usually means they need a product soon. So the rule of thumb here – be fast with answering (before they go to somebody else) and don’t hesitate to start selling right away.

Referral leads

Referral leads are the most effective ones. They need a product like yours, they heard positive things about you from people they trust, they are ready to talk to you – so use this opportunity.

Referral leads are friends of your friends. So you need to talk to them as to friends (but avoid familiarity, of course) and deliver value as you would for your friends. Referral lead generation can turn to absolutely wrong direction if you fail to meet the expectations of these people.




Lead generation makes marketing efforts predictable and easy to track. But it’s easy to get lost in all the metrics. So better concentrate on the most essential ones:

Conversion rate
How many of your website visitors actually performed some actions (signed up for updates, filled in a contact form, replied positively on your cold email) that will potentially turn them into leads).

Total number of leads
How many leads you deliver to sales department. This one shows how effective your all efforts devoted to lead generation are.

Leads per channel/campaign/tactic
Where your leads are coming from. With this metric you can evaluate efficiency of different channels, campaign, tactics and so on.

ROI (return on investment)
What monetary effect your spending on certain lead generation tactic brings. Truly vital to know.



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For more B2B lead generation and sales tips – stay tuned with our blog.

P.S.: Credits for visual elements go to Freepik: cheat sheet base ; farm elements; sun & cloud.

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