Lead generation process — from goal setting, to content, to reporting, and more

A marketing professional defining a lead generation funnel

While lead generation is one of the most important functions of the marketing department, the details can still be somewhat of a mystery. Many marketers experiment with different tactics, observe what strategies work for them, and stick with those tactics. However, the lack of a larger structure can overlook high-quality prospects and miss a lot of revenue.

A distinct lead generation process can ensure direct communication with your target audience. It’ll also allow you to frame your value proposition to attract and retain loyal customers.

This guide offers a tangible nine-step process to help you successfully execute a lead generation campaign.

  1. Analyze and plan
  2. Research
  3. Create your message
  4. Promote content to pre-target leads
  5. Create landing pages
  6. Send emails and make phone calls
  7. Score leads and pass along to sales
  8. Evaluate results and create reports
  9. Analyze and plan… again

We’ll also cover:

What is lead generation and why is it important?

Lead generation is the process of finding potential customers for your business and nurturing them until they become paid customers. Lead generation, or lead gen, specifically focuses on individuals with a high intent to purchase.

To generate high quality leads, marketers need to frame their messaging to appeal to ideal customers. Marketing to the qualified prospects on the right channels can boost brand visibility and trust among your target audiences.

Lead generation steps

Sales lead generation process

Lead generation is more thorough — and less likely to miss opportunities — when there’s a clear process to follow. Once a healthy lead generation pattern is established, it’ll be difficult to run out of customers.

1. Analyze and plan

Defining your goals is the first step to generating leads. List the outcomes you want to achieve and the KPIs you’ll use to measure progress. For example, you can work backwards from sales quotas to determine how many leads are needed per month and set your budget accordingly.

Decide who will be responsible for which tasks. Lead generation involves writing, research, and analysis, so you may assign a few roles, such as:

You’ll also need to create an ideal customer profile (ICP). ICPs serve as a map for finding leads that match the typical demographic, firmographic, and technographic characteristics of your best customers, like the industry they operate in, business maturity, and the tools they use for their everyday work.

A customer profile in Adobe Experience Platform

ICPs should not be confused with buyer personas. The latter is the person who will actually purchase your product or service. The ICP could be considered the person who convinces the buyer to follow through.

2. Research

Research is crucial in the lead generation process. You need to understand where your best leads are coming from and how to find more. Pay attention to patterns that might emerge, like recurring pain points or use cases and then figure out how to position your product as a solution.

The more effectively you map your product’s value to prospects’ needs, the more useful and engaging your content will be. Target the right people by building workflows to track incoming leads and setting up dashboards to show which ones progress through the sales cycle.

3. Create your message

Potential leads should feel like your content is speaking directly to them regardless of where they find it. Blog posts, ads, social media, infographics, and eBooks should be catered to customer needs, and landing pages should be optimized with powerful copy and strong CTAs to help increase conversion rates.

Be strategic about what content you deliver at each funnel stage. Earlier stages should focus on building awareness with SEO-optimized blog posts and social media content. As leads get warmer, highlight your value proposition and prompt conversion with highly tailored emails that reference relevant PDFs, case studies, or testimonials.

In direct communication like email or LinkedIn messages, explain how your product or service can solve each lead’s specific problem. This will take time and effort. Allocate up to 15 minutes to research each lead and up to 30 minutes to write a personalized message that will increase response rates. Conclude with a CTA that links to a landing page with the details to answer the lead’s questions.

4. Promote content to pre-target leads

Pre-targeting is a form of online advertising designed to foster brand familiarity within a specific audience and it targets consumers based on their previous behavior. It’s used by brands to warm up leads and prepare them for more in-depth sales pitches. Leads are more likely to click on your ads or respond to an email or call when they’re already familiar with your product or service.

If you don’t already have organic search rankings, consider running Google ads campaigns. Paid ads won’t necessarily target the best leads, but they still provide visibility and traffic to your website from search.

Social media marketing is another effective method to gain traction. Post content and pay for ads on platforms frequented by your ICP. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok are good platforms that can increase brand recognition.

5. Create landing pages

Strategic landing pages provide two main opportunities for lead gen — as a link destination for CTAs on ads and in emails.

Landing pages should be designed to prompt leads into action, whether providing their contact information or scheduling a sales call. But leads won’t take action unless they’re convinced your product or service is worth it, so your landing pages must be compelling. Make sure these pages are mobile-friendly, include custom and persuasive calls to action, use high-intent keywords to communicate effectively with your audiences, and incorporate interactive experiences to catch people’s attention.

Once you’ve developed a few page options, run split tests to recognize what resonates most with your target audience.

6. Send emails and make phone calls

It could take a month, year, or longer to convert some leads into customers, but calls and emails remind them that your product or service exists. During your outreach, encourage leads to try free samples, download a product trial, or make another purchase that aligns with their history.

Some tips for sending emails and making calls:

7. Score leads and pass along to sales

When a lead is ready to buy, they often need the kind of individual attention that sales team members specialize in. However, sending too many leads to sales too early causes bottlenecks. Not every lead will be interested enough to invest and contacting them too soon can push them away.

Collaborate with sales on a lead scoring process to ensure the right leads are passed off to sales at the right time. Work with the sales team to develop a scoring framework that takes into account a lead’s intent, demographics, past purchases, and more. Marketing intelligence tools can accelerate this process by surfacing leads with the highest engagement and interaction across all your brand channels.

8. Evaluate results and create reports

Tracking KPIs at each stage of the lead generation process is necessary but reporting is especially crucial after you’ve passed leads to the sales team. Following the lead’s journey will help you refine your strategy over time.

Start by creating reports that show the number of emails sent, emails opened, and unsubscribe requests. Try to pinpoint where leads go cold and how to change your messaging to keep their interest longer.

Take time to identify lost leads and think of ways to recapture them with retargeting ads, promotions, and discounts. This analysis can be challenging if you’re tracking leads in a spreadsheet so consider using a robust marketing platform. Look for a system that can alert you to new buyer priorities and reveal other areas of opportunity like new target audiences or other lucrative lead generation channels.

9. Analyze and plan — again

Analyzing and planning should bookend the lead generation process. While this step might seem easy, it shouldn’t be overlooked or rushed. It helps you learn from what happened in the previous cycle and prepare for the next one.

Take stock of your marketing and sales KPIs, strategies that worked or didn’t work, and brainstorm ways to improve.

How to manage the lead generation process

Lead generation involves many manual processes that can become repetitive. Software can automate these tasks and keep you organized, saving time and budget for other marketing activities.

CRM software is essential for any successful marketing department. It helps track leads and centralize information that’s been collected about those leads. A good CRM can also track how long leads are in each stage and can notify certain parties when handoffs occur.

Some companies also invest in project management software to streamline lead gen processes. Tasks are assigned to specific stakeholders and reminders are set to check KPIs and share monthly reports. Everyone remains aligned and pivots when necessary to create seamless communication — which is the ultimate key to successful lead generation.

Many companies also use call recording software to help polish their messaging. Marketers can monitor real conversations to uncover the end goals of leads. This could reveal what’s preventing a lead from making a purchase.

Start your lead generation campaign and connect with the right customers

Lead generation is about connecting with potential customers, nurturing them into the sales funnel, and giving them compelling reasons to return to your product or service. But a strategic lead generation process is necessary to ensure you’re not missing opportunities.

When you’re ready to get started, analyze and define your goals. Ask what revenue or sales quota needs to be achieved in the year or quarter, and work the metrics backwards to determine how many leads you need to introduce to the funnel to make that happen.

Then, empower your marketing and sales teams with Adobe Marketo Engage and streamline your lead generation from acquisition to advocacy. Marketo Engage is a complete solution for lead management that tracks every prospect engagement, providing insight into trending search terms, high-performing landing pages, social media sentiment, and more.

Watch the overview video or take an interactive product tour to learn how you can take advantage of advanced lead scoring features and automatically notify sales when a lead is ready to talk.