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What Is Lead Generation? A Guide for Marketers

Fortunately, the days of picking up the phone and cold-calling your way through the yellow pages are gone. 

Modern-day lead generation gives you a lot more sales opportunities from high-quality prospects. And if you make the most of them, you’ll see your revenue soar. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Lead generation definition and its importance
  • How it works in practice
  • Tips on optimizing lead generation funnel

What is lead generation in marketing?

Lead generation is the process of generating consumer interest in your product or service to convert that interest into a sale. You can generate leads by capturing visitors’ contact information (called leads) via different channels, e.g., web forms on landing pages.

For many companies lead generation is the initial stage of the sales funnel

In B2B marketing, leads are potential customers who share their contact information to learn more about your products or services. Generating them allows B2B businesses to market to the right type of customers and take them closer to making a purchase.

No time to read?

Watch our explainer video defining lead generation in under a minute.


Why is lead gen important?

Lead generation is crucial for any business growth. By focusing on generating high-quality leads, you provide sales teams with a contact base of consumers that match your ideal customer profile. This, in turn, increases revenue from conversions.

Lead generation is also important for building your brand’s visibility and trust in your target audience. Even though not all of them are ready to buy your product when they first learn about it, you can nurture them via a B2B marketing funnel until they eventually become sales-qualified leads

It means they are less likely to give your sales team a cold shoulder when they reach out to close the deal.

How does lead generation work?

It can be a tricky business. First off, lead generation costs money to work. Secondly, it takes time to pay off. How much you spend and what return on investment you’ll see, depends on lead generation strategies and channels you choose.

To cut a long story short—

Lead gen works best if you create an omni-channel lead generation strategy that targets the right audience with the right messaging. It allows customers to engage with your company in ways that work for them. 

To improve the effectiveness of your campaigns, make sure to include a compelling call to action. It should be clear what benefit the lead is getting from sharing their contact details.

What if it doesn't work?

The most common lead generation problems involve low-quality leads that sales find hard to convert. In that case, go back to the sales leads qualification criteria and see if it needs to be narrowed down. Also, analyze what channel poor leads come from and what their characteristics are. Next, you will be able to adjust your strategy.

Instead of adding extra fields in the capture form (and potentially reducing conversions), you can opt for an extra layer of sales intelligence. Platforms, like Cognism, offer up-to-date information about leads who filled in your form. 

💡 Find out how companies get rid of long forms to collect contact data

What are the types of lead generation?

There are two main lead generation types. Discover which ones can make the biggest impact on your business:

Online lead generation involves attracting traffic to your website and persuading visitors to exchange their contact details with you. Most businesses start their search on Google, so it makes sense to capitalize on this channel. 

According to HubSpot's 2021 ROI report, the majority of companies use inbound lead generation methods, such as blogging and SEO. As many as 84% of them report it takes seven months to increase targeted leads. And only 42% of them increase lead-to-sale conversion rate.


B2B companies can leverage outbound marketing methods to generate more leads. They require finding and actively engaging customers that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). They have especially big potential to fill in lead funnels in a niche or specialized businesses.  

While the days of excessive cold-calling are gone, it isn’t dead. To the contrary—

According to HubSpot’s 2021 State of Marketing report, 18% of marketers think that outbound practices provide the highest-quality sales leads. Here are the best ways in which to achieve it.


What is the lead generation process?

recent survey of B2B marketing decision-makers in the U.S. revealed what makes lead gen difficult:

  • As many as 35% of marketers complained that buyers don't understand the value of their offering. 
  • Close to 33% of them found it difficult to reach a niche audience.
  • Nearly 32% of lead gen specialists struggled to get in touch with decision-makers.

These challenges are universal regardless of lead generation strategies you might be implementing. Here’s how to address them.

1. Define your leads

First of all, define your ideal customer profile (in B2B) or buyer persona (in B2C) and how to identify a qualified lead. Use demographic or firmographic data about your leads or prospects to find out their goals and specific pain points. You’ll be able to address them later in your offer.

Tip! If you’re a SaaS company, learn what technographic data is and how to use this data for your business's benefit.

2. Tailor your content 

Whether it is a landing page or a sales pitch, personalize your offer to your target audience. Make sure you create compelling content that speaks to buyer challenges. Next, check if it’s easy to grasp the benefits of it. You can try it out on a friend who is not familiar with your offering. 

3. Invest in lead intelligence

Premium sales intelligence allows you to get relevant customer information in bulk. It pulls information about leads from various sources to educate you about them before you contact them directly. It’s one of the reasons why 40% of B2B marketers said that one-to-one outreach was the main factor behind effective lead generation. 

4. Align sales and marketing teams

On one hand, you may want to bring in a high volume of leads to keep lead generation goals. On the other hand, if you’re not reaching your target audiences, your sales team will struggle with closing deals. 

The main challenge here is to agree on what a good lead is and when to pass them on to the sales team. Even warm leads may feel put off when contacted too soon. A good tactic to try is account based marketing, where sales and marketing work together to create personalised ABM campaigns.

5. Evaluate your audience regularly

If you notice that your existing lead generation program loses traction, it can mean a couple of things. You can circle back to the beginning and check if your buyer's needs, priorities, or journey changed. 

If it fails or you don’t want to wait too long for qualified leads, you can use lead generation companies. They help you identify those that are most likely to buy and generate B2B data.

6. Use tools appropriate for the channel

Automating routine processes saves your time and budget for more complex lead generation programs. While CRM software is a must, you can find other tools to support your teams on channels you use for lead sourcing.

For example, you can perform A/B tests of your landing page, or use call recording software to monitor telemarketing lead generation. Listening to real conversations with leads is a great way of learning their goals and obstacles that prevent them from making a purchase.

7. Measure the success of lead gen programs 

No matter how advanced your lead generation systems are, it’s important to track your efforts. It allows your company to identify the best lead generation channels and room for improvement. Except for ROI, you can track various lead generation metrics to get a full picture of your strategy.

Key takeaways 

  • Leads are your potential customers who can be nurtured and guided through the sales pipeline.
  • Lead generation means creating interest in your products and services by collecting customers’ contact information. It is useful in any type of business.
  • You can for example create landing pages, blogs, forms, online content, offer discounts and coupons. You can use online and offline channels depending on your business model and resources.
  • Focusing on lead generation quality rather than volume is more profitable so it’s key to calculate cost per lead per campaign, sales team closing rates, and compare it against your profit.

Cognism is the world’s best B2B lead generation solution. Get a snapshot of what our technology can do for your business - we’re offering 25 new leads, all for free!

Discover your next best customers today - simply click below to register.

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