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What is a lead? How to classify and acquire leads

Lead generation is something that 68% of businesses struggle with. Yet customers are the lifeblood of an organization, no matter what industry. Attracting new customers is one of the primary objectives of any business and vast amounts of resources are dedicated to that area.

To survive and thrive, your ecommerce business needs people who are interested in your products or services –  not just web scrollers. But how do you ensure that’s the case? The answer revolves around leads. Read on for the 101.

What Is a Lead?

A lead is a person who has shown an interest in your company’s products or services. They have provided at least some basic info suggesting potential interest in buying from you. For example, they may have shared their contact information, interacted with your website, or subscribed to your blog.

People have different preferences and needs, so not everyone will be a lead for all businesses. Similarly, not all leads are of equal quality. For instance, according to Marketo, around 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to purchase.

Enter lead generation.

Classifying and Acquiring Leads

Lead generation is critical to your business processes. It helps achieve sustained growth and success. Generally, generating leads is the first step in the sales process. It involves attracting, nurturing, and convincing potential customers to buy from you.

A sales prospect on the other hand is a lead who has engaged with you. For example, you’re having a two-way conversation with them, and the signs are there that there’s real potential.

To achieve lead generation in the first place, various methods can be used including content marketing and email marketing.

Content marketing includes blog posts, case studies, infographics, ebooks, videos, and social media. While types of email marketing comprise newsletters, lead nurturing emails, and brand story emails.

Other methods include talking directly to potential leads, contests and giveaways, paid ads, and referrals. And don’t forget SEO, as well.

With more markets moving to the digital space and tighter competition, all these strategies have become more important. For example, 70% of marketers actively invest in content marketing.

To help marketers visualize and influence the customer’s journey, the lead generation funnel was introduced.

1. Top of the funnel (TOFU).

Here, it’s all about building awareness. This is your first interaction with the potential customer, so the aim is to establish trust and educate.

2. Middle of the funnel (MOFU).

At this stage, the potential customer has realized they need to address a certain problem and are exploring their options. To help, you can offer a suitable solution or provide them with something of value to move them towards conversion.

3. Bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

When a lead reaches this point, you can call them a prospect. Here, they’re considering a purchase. That means your focus should be on selling. To facilitate that, send them demos, case studies, and pricing comparisons. The aim is to make them certain you’re the right choice.

Acquiring leads can be further divided into inbound lead generation and outbound lead generation.

Inbound Lead Generation

This customer-centric strategy is used to engage people who themselves seek you out. Providing valuable content is key to that. The idea is to capture and nurture them through the funnel, with the end result being a purchase.

Outbound Lead Generation

Here, instead of the customer coming to you, you go to them – a proactive approach. For example, you make the first move by sending out targeted emails. Or you cold call potential customers.

That’s the opposite of inbound calls. What does inbound calls mean? When a lead or a customer initiates contact with your business.

To get started with lead generation – regardless of your strategy – there are four steps to take:

  1. Build a buyer persona

  2. Define your goals

  3. Pick the right marketing channels

  4. Create a segmented database

It’s important to think about these points when creating a lead generation strategy, and factoring that plan into your process vs procedure manual.

Qualifying Leads

And now, just a quick note on lead qualification. Once you’ve acquired leads, that doesn’t mean a sale is in the bag. Qualification helps determine the likelihood of the lead purchasing. To do that, think about the following:

  • If your lead is a B2B company, analyze the profile of the organization.

  • Consider the BANT method: The lead’s budget, authority, need, and time frame.

  • Compare the profile of the lead to that of your ideal buyer.

  • Lead scoring: Assign a score relating to how much the lead interacts with your marketing assets.

Along the way, you’ll be able to streamline parts of the lead management process via automation or even a hyperautomation platform.


Attracting new customers is a challenge every business faces. And it doesn’t end there. You then need to qualify people who have shown an interest in your company.

The lead generation funnel helps you track the process. And the leads themselves can be generated by inbound and outbound means. There are many marketing strategies available to you, including targeted emails, newsletters, blog posts, and social media. Is your business ready to capture leads?

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