5 Successful Online Lead Generation Techniques

Online Lead Generation done right with these 5 techniques

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Every business owner should know about online lead generation. In this guide, we explain what online lead generation is and how you can make it happen for your business. We will cover all the marketing that is needed, but focus on real and tangible things you can do right now to get leads.

Online Lead Generation Basics

This section covers everything you need to know about marketing to do online lead generation effectively. If you know about leads, prospects, and funnels feel free to move ahead to the next section.

What is a Lead?

A lead is a person or business that has some interest in your company, product, service, or whatever you are selling. However, that is not enough to be a lead: in order for a person to be a lead, you – as the selling business – need to know about her.

So, a lead is a person who expressed some interest in your company, so that you are aware of such interest. How can someone express interest in your product or service? There are many examples, most of which apply directly to online lead generation: signing up for the newsletter, registering an account on your website, downloading free material, registering a card to get discounts at the supermarket, and so on.

The Funnel: From Lead to Customer

Having leads is not enough, and it is not the purpose of your company. You generally want to have paying customers, but not all leads will turn into customers. As time passes (and you take some actions), some leads will just exit the scene, while other will become closer and closer to you until they become customers. We call this process customer journey, or funnel.

We start with the leads at the beginning of the process, people who express interest. Not all of those are qualified buyers: some will not need your product and are just showing a general interest, others will need your product but won’t have the budget for it, others may not have the authority to make the purchasing decision, and so on. You want to understand who, among the leads, is truly a potential buyer.

A funnel is a key item in online lead generation
Funnels are a key concept in online lead generation.

Finding potential buyers among leads is called prospecting, or lead qualification, and it is typically done by a human asking questions on the phone, although not necessarily. Leads that pass this screen are called prospects (or qualified leads). Now, your marketing agents can work with them and dedicate them time so they can ultimately make the purchasing decision. Once they do, they become customers.

Don’t Waste Your Unqualified Leads!

Unqualified leads are those that, for one reason or another, are not going to become customers in the near term. It does not mean that they are not worth any of your time! For example, if a lead has really a need but has no purchasing authority in his organization, ask him if you can speak with someone who has that authority.

Yet, most of the time, unqualified leads are just that: unqualified. People start to gather information about a product so early that when they make contact with you they are far away from the purchasing decision. For example, my website making business receives several requests by people who plan to start a business and would like to know how much it will cost to make a website. They don’t even have a business yet! Even those carry some value for you, as you have some value for them.

For those leads that won’t become prospects now but might qualify in the future, you want to do lead nurturing. This simply means keeping them engaged over time so that they remain aware of your brand and develop a sense of trust. You want to do it in a way that is automatic so that it can scale and do not clog your time: nurturing 1 lead or 1 million leads should be exactly the same. A good approach here is having a newsletter, a blog, or some free content that people can use while they get accustomed to you. When the time of a purchase comes, they will refer to you!

How To do Online Lead Generation

Why Online Lead Generation?

Let’s start with the basics, a definition of online lead generation:

Online lead generation means getting more lead for your business from online platforms, like social media, blogs, search engines etc.

Why do all that? You want to generate leads because that is what your business needs to grow. You want to have more customers, and this is achieved by getting more leads first. Then, you will convert some of those to prospects, and then to customers, and your business will grow. You want to do it online because that is where you will find most people, have reliable tools and metrics to track your performance, and be quick to experiment. Running a digital ad takes a click, running a physical ad on a billboard takes printing the ad on paper and have someone install it on the billboard.

Online lead generation is the quickest way to find new customers for your business, and often the cheapest. That depends on the business, of course, but it is true for most. You need to be aware if your business is something not catering to people who typically look online.

Now, we can cover several techniques that you can use to generate leads online.

Paid Online Lead Generation

This is the quickest way to get new leads, because you pay exactly for each lead you get. Want more leads? Simply pay more. You do this via Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

SEM is not fancy as people may make it look like. In truth, it is relatively simple. As always, start with your customer in mind and work backward: what is your customer searching? What keywords is she using to do that search? Identify a set of searches that people may do on Google (or your favorite search engine) that likely indicate they are prospects, not even leads.

For example, if you sell professionally designed websites, “professional website quote” is a great keyword, because someone looking for a quote already has some intention to make some purchase. Instead, “how to make a website” or “website” are not, because they do not show interest in buying services from someone who makes websites. How to know which keywords people use? Use Google Keyword Planner!

Once you find some keywords, create a webpage on your website that specifically addresses that question and does not allow the visitor to wander away onto the rest of your website. That page should do just one thing: address the query posed by the visitor, and then lead them to some action, typically making a call, sending a message, asking to be re-contacted, or making a purchase. Plain and simple. Only those two things, and nothing else.

The last leg of SEM is to hook that page, which is the landing page, to an ad: you are simply telling the search engine to show a result linking to your page when a user searches for a specific keyword or another. Of course, you can customize how this search result will show up, what text to use and even add some images. Now, you are ready to start.

Search Engines will charge you a fee for every click on the ad. Over time, they optimize to show your ad to the people who are more likely to click on it. If you implement conversion tracking, that is you inform the search engine whenever a visitor does your desired action (purchase, calling you etc.), they optimize for the people who are most likely to make that action, saving you money (you get more bangs for clicks, and thus for your bucks).

What can you do right now for online lead generation?

  • Create a landing page (or website with landing page, if you don’t have a website yet)
  • Explore Google Keyword Planner
  • Register an account on Google Ads

Social Media Marketing

SEM has the big advantage that targets people that are in the sweet spot right before a purchase. This cannot be done easily for all business, especially for those where purchasing intentions are not clear well in advance. In those cases, making the potential customer aware of your brand right on time for the purchase (as you do with SEM) may not be an option.

Social Media Marketing is a good approach for online lead generation
Social Media can be used to generate leads.

Instead, you want people to be aware, familiar and trust your brand in advance, so that when it comes to make a purchase, they will want to come to you. You can do this with various platforms, but social media is a great one for online lead generation.

Social Media Marketing, or also Social Media Management are a way to do that. Your brand establishes a presence on social media platform and starts to engage with the user. This engagement must be genuine, you need to truly care about what your potential customers and audience in general need, and be capable to provide them with value – for free. Only if you do that they will start to build loyalty toward you.

The difference between Social Media Marketing and Social Media Management is a semantic one. Marketing is about sponsored content, paying Facebook, TikTok, YouTube or whatever to make your content appear on the feed of otherwise unaware people. Management is a more holistic approach, and it is about managing social media profiles including posting non-sponsored content, replying to comments, engage with other businesses or influencers, replying to direct messages and so on. For online lead generation, marketing and sponsored content are part of Social Media Management.

What can you do right now on social media to start online lead generation?

  • Open an Instagram or LinkedIn account for your business if you haven’t already (those two are the easiest platforms to manage, pick the one that best fits your customers)
  • Make 2 posts per week and see how it goes
  • Engage with other content creators by commenting at least 30 posts per week

Blogging for Online Lead Generation

Blogging is another nurturing technique that is great for lead generation. As with all nurturing techniques, it will need some time to show tangible results, and it will be hard to track progress: how much people are effectively aware of your brand after they read your article?

The approach here is simple: create a website and start writing on that, regularly if possible. To be most effective, you want to write about topics that your potential customers effectively search for. Specifically, you want to solve some of their pain points so that they feel relieved after reading your article. In general, provide valuable content consistently and over time people will start to be loyal to your brand.

This can be tricky to accomplish and does not always apply to every brand. For example, if your target customers are not searching for anything that can be addressed in a blog or article, then blogging might not be the best way to go.

Of course, blogging alone will never work because it does not retain interest people, so it is not a great online generation tool by itself. It needs to be paired with something else, and the most popular way to go here is a newsletter.

What can you do right now?

  • Create a website
  • Commit to write at least one article every two week
  • Before writing an article, look on Google Keyword Planner for what keywords people are searching for, then see what results are showing up for such keywords

Newsletter for Online Lead Generation

At the end of a blog post, you can entice people to sign up for your newsletter by immediately providing them with some valuable free content they are eager to read or consume. Newsletters are a way to retain potential leads and nurture them until they are ready to step up and become prospects.

Now, creating a newsletter is relatively easy because there are many plug-and-play tools you can find online, such as MailChimp, Mail Poet, or, if you are more into technical stuff, Amazon Simple Email Service (SES). The hard part is picking the proper content and maintaining readers engaged.

Newsletters for Online Lead Generation
If you send a newsletter, send something people will actually want to read.

Most brands fail with newsletters because they write about themselves, and not about the customers. Let’s face it: people do not want unsolicited discount offers. They want to receive something that provides value by itself: they want to feel good after they read your email. So, write content that provides such value, and only that. Don’t write much, once a month is more than enough.

If you think some technical knowledge or learning is a barrier for your leads to become prospects or customers, the newsletter can do just that and provide the needed learning. If you truly care about your customers, online lead generation will happen by itself.

What you can do right now:

  • Add a subscribe to newsletter form at the end of each your blog post
  • Prepare some free content you can deliver to your new subscribers immediately, like a video or PDF
  • Think what unqualified leads would likely want to read

Online Lead Generation Done Right

All in all, there are so many tools for online lead generation, and for sure one will work for your business. Yet, no matter the tool, there is one concept you should keep in mind: provide value for your leads, prospects, and customers with every single interaction. If you do that, online lead generation will happen by itself.

If you want to do online lead generation restricted to a geographic area, you can check our article on local online marketing to find all the answers you need.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio


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