In marketing, lead generation (/ˈliːd/) is the initiation of consumer interest or enquiry into products or services of a business. Leads can be created for purposes such as list building, e-newsletter list acquisition or for sales leads. The methods for generating leads typically fall under the umbrella of advertising, but may also include non-paid sources such as organic search engine results or referrals from existing customers.[1]

Let's say you take an online survey to learn more about how to take care of your car. A day or so later, you receive an email from the auto company that created the survey about how they could help you take care of your car. This process would be far less intrusive than if they'd just called you out of the blue with no knowledge of whether you even care about car maintenance, right? This is what it's like to be a lead.

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In summary, lead generation is not easy but it is a must have process for any business to survive.  Some companies survive on inbound alone. However, for many B2B companies and start-ups this is not an option. I liken lead generation to mining for gold.  You should never depend solely on one source of leads but have multiple sources for lead generation in case one vein dries up.

Odds are that about half of your visitors will never return to your site if you do not adequately capture some bit of information from them. A working email address is the best thing a marketer can ask for here, but visitors are not always willing to give this kind of personal information up. Call-to-action buttons like "Sign up here" have practically become synonymous with "We are going to spam you," which is why marketers need to find new ways to obtain this information.

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While inbound marketing is getting a lot of buzz, a well-rounded marketing mix should include both inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Inbound works for broad lead generation activities, but outbound is good to amplify your inbound efforts, and target specific opportunities. So what exactly is outbound marketing? It’s using outbound channels to introduce your message and content to your prospects, typically through rented attention, rather than making your content and messages availableon your own properties.

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You can capture leads by asking those that are interested to add their email addresses to your list or fill out a postcard. Even better, leave out a fishbowl into which visitors can drop their business cards. Hold a drawing at the end of the tradeshow to give free prizes that relate to your company, like gift certificates. Be sure to have plenty of business cards of your own handy to hand out as well.

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3. Video How To’s – If you are a subject matter expert or just passionate about your business industry, you can pop in front of a camera to record tips and best practices. This can then be pushed out through your online channels to capture potential leads. This, in particular, is a great lead generation tactic used by business owners banking on video’s popularity and media consumption.
Your website is where the magic happens. This is the place where your audience needs to convert. Whether it is encouraging prospective buyers to sign up for your newsletter or fill out a form for a demo, the key is to optimize your website for converting browsers into actual leads.  Pay attention to forms, Calls-to-Action (CTA), layout, design, and content.

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Online surveys: Consumers are asked to complete a survey, including their demographic information and product and lifestyle interests. This information is used as a sales lead for advertisers, who purchase the consumer's information if provided. The consumer may 'opt-in' to receive correspondence from the advertiser and is therefore considered a qualified lead.
Gone are the days that a marketer only relied on outbound techniques like trade shows, cold calling, and advertisements to get leads. Today’s buyer is in control. According to Forrester, buyers seek out three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece sent by a marketer, and for every one piece sent by sales.  Because of buyer self-education, your job as a marketer is to be heard through the noise and come up with new ways for leads to find you. To be a marketer in today’s world, you need a solid grasp of inbound in order to truly amplify your lead generation impact. 

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