March 17

Lead Generation 101: How to get started in demand generation

Lead Generation


How do you get started in lead generation? Any tips? Do you have any advice on how to effectively get leads and qualify them? Or what’s the best way to generate leads?

I’ve heard these questions so frequently from people who are working in a small business or just getting started that I put together this guide.

This is a beginner’s for lead generation with links to many additional resources so you can dive deeper where you would like to. I’ll focus on some fundamental questions you should answer as you craft your demand generation program.

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Question #1. What do your potential customers want?

Getting leads isn’t as easy as it sounds if it sounds easy at all. No potential customer wants to wake up in the morning and become a lead for your company.

So first, you must understand what your customers want. To figure this out, you have to answer two big questions that result in an infinite amount of more specific questions:

What are their pain points?

  • What keeps them awake at night?
  • What could get them fired?
  • What do they want to avoid so bad that they would dedicate 15 minutes in their busy day to learn how to avoid it? An hour? Pay $100 to know how to avoid out of their own pocket? $10,000 out of their budget?
  • What is the bad outcome they are trying to avoid?
  • What are the three questions they’re worried their boss or client will ask them?
  • And on and on

What are their goals?

  • What could get them a promotion?
  • What excites them about their job?
  • What do they want to brag to colleagues about? Their boss?
  • And on and on

There are many ways to learn this – surveys, social media monitoring, interviews with current customers, A/B testing, conversations with Sales, Services and Customer Support …

But the reason this is the longest section of the blog post is that the lead gen journey begins (and sometimes ends) here – what do customers want?

Helpful resources on finding out what customers want

Why Empathetic Marketing Matters and 7 Steps to Achieve It

Value Proposition: How to use social media to help discover why customers buy from you

Search Marketing: Can your marketing team identify your buyer personas?

Marketing Research Chart: Top tactics in developing buyer personae

B2B Social Media: 4 steps to get your listening dashboard started

Question #2. What value can your company deliver?

Your customers may want unicorns. But unless you run a unicorn factory, that information isn’t going to be very helpful.

What we’re getting to here is this: What promises can you make to potential customers and actually deliver on. What is your company’s value proposition?


Helpful resources on value

Value Proposition: A free worksheet to help you win arguments in any meeting

Powerful Value Propositions: How to Optimize this Critical Marketing Element – and Lift Your Results

Value Proposition: Why do customers act?

Digital Marketing: How to craft a value proposition in 5 simple steps

3 Factors that Connect Value Prop to Prospects

check listQuestion #3. What is a qualified lead?

Is it an email address that you buy from a list? Probably not. Is it someone who provides a phone number for a white paper download?

Or is it someone who raises their hand and asks for more information about your company and product? Is it someone who has a big enough budget and the proper authority to buy your product?

Before you can really generate a “lead,” you should create a universal lead definition and make sure all the key players in your company (this usually includes Sales) to agree on what you’re actually trying to get.

Keep in mind, there is an implicit trade-off here. If you want to generate higher-quality leads, you will likely get a lower quantity (and vice versa) or have to invest more resources to get the leads.

On the flip side, if you’re generating a lot of low-quality leads, the cost will probably get you when you send them to Sales, in both man hours and the relationship between Sales and Marketing, because Sales tends to involve more human resources.

Marketing, on the other hand,  tends to involve less human touch, whether that’s due to marketing automation or the simple fact that a print ad can reach many more people at a much lower cost than a salesperson.

Getting this step right can also help your Sales-Marketing alignment. In other words, making sure everyone involved in serving the customer before a purchase agrees on the strategy and processes to do that.

Helpful resources

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop

Intro to Lead Generation: How to determine if a lead is qualified

B2B Marketing: Why Marketing shouldn’t promise BANT qualified leads for Sales

Lead Gen: A proposed replacement for BANT

Lead Generation: Balancing lead quality and lead quantity

Sales-Marketing Alignment: 8 tactics from a marketer who has worn both hats

Question #4. How will we get leads?

This usually comes from some mix of content marketing, paid advertising, sponsorships and even affiliate programs.

This is, essentially, what most beginners think of as lead generation – the campaigns you run to engage potential buyers with your company.

This, like all these topics really, is a much bigger topic than a simple section of a blog post. But here are a few things to get you started.

Additional resources

Marketing Research Chart: SEO most effective tactic for lead gen, but also among the most difficult

Content Marketing 101: 8 steps to B2B success

Marketing 101: What is conversion?

Orphan Forms: Marketing 101 change drives 32% increase in form completions

Inbound Marketing 101: 5 steps to help you get started

Social Media Marketing: 4 basic tips for getting started

Content Marketing: 3 tips for how to get started

Web Analytics: 3 basic insights to get you started

Lead Generation: 3 basic tips for webinar newbies

Question #5. Did we get leads?

Once prospects start responding to your campaigns, you have to determine if you really have leads. Question #3 will play a big factor in this determination. This is commonly known as lead qualification.

Helpful resources

On Lead Qualification: Steps to Convert Inquiries into Viable Sales Leads

Lead Qualification: Stop generating leads and start generating revenue

Why Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) Create Confusion

Marketing Automation: Lessons from 4 case studies

Question #6. What do we do with the lead?

The answer to this question probably seems fairly simple – send it to Sales.

But what you may find through this process (as you can see, one question informs another) is that what you have received through your campaigns aren’t really leads.

In the work you’ve done answering these questions with Sales, you may find that this is what Marketing would determine is a lead (Marketing-Qualified Lead) but not what Sales would consider a lead (a Sales-Qualified lead).

Lead nurturing is the process to move the prospects you’ve gathered through the funnel (or buying process) to the point they are ready to talk to a sales rep. The best definition I’ve ever heard of lead nurturing is from my colleague at MECLABS, Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale: Lead nurturing is helping prospects whether they buy from you or not.

Helpful resources

How to Do Lead Management That Improves Conversion

Lead Nurturing: Build trust, win more deals by helping prospects – not selling them

What IS and ISN’T Lead Nurturing

Lead Nurturing: How a social business strategy can help you move from selling to helping your prospects

How lead nurturing improves lead generation ROI

Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content

16 Proven Ways to Get Better Opportunities Now

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

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