Almost no other approach offers so many opportunities to B2B and B2C companies as lead generation. Still, the question "What is a lead?" finds no easy answer. This is partially due to the fact that marketing and sales teams often take it for granted that everyone has a clear understanding of the lead's meaning.
Here's the problem: while sales teams want quality leads, marketing teams do their best to generate the highest possible number of leads. In reality, both departments have a common objective, namely the acquisition of new clients, independent of the technical term associated with it. Yet, to expand the client base over the long term, it is necessary to create a common understanding of what a funnel actually is.
In this first part dedicated to lead generation, we explore a lead's nature and clarify the kinds of existing leads. In the second part, we'll show you how to generate leads and which strategies to apply.
What is a lead?
It's impossible not to encounter the term "lead" when you deal with digital commerce. As we said, there are different interpretations and utilisations with reference to leads, and all this can obviously cause confusion.
At DevInterface, when we talk about a lead, we mean a person or a company that has shown a concrete interest in a product and/or service. The detailed criteria for defining a lead are always specified by the various teams dealing with it and we will see this in detail in the section on lead types.
Let's start in a more generic way by giving the example of a website. Whoever visits a website isn't a lead yet, they are users. Only when a user expresses themselves with an action, for example by compiling a form, writing an email, or making a call, does a user become a real lead. This means that they have to actively get closer to our company. It's an important point because the visitor is not as important as the person who searches for contact with us. As a consequence, the huge number of those who are considered leads shrinks massively.
What types of leads exist?
Some organisations speak of cold, hot and very hot leads, attributing to the various heat phases the state of interest on the part of a potential customer in a product/service. Let us therefore take a closer look at what these are.
Cold leads are all those profiles of ideal clients that haven't been contacted directly but for whom it was possible to find contact information. Therefore, these are people who do not expect to be contacted, who do not necessarily know your brand and whom you have to seek out and convince about the validity of your product and/or service. In this phase, the conversion probability is clearly at its lowest, as there has not been any demonstrated form of interest.
Instead, warm leads are people who autonomously found the company and gladly shared their contact information, for example, by subscribing to a newsletter after reading a blog. Therefore, unlike cold leads, we are dealing with a higher conversion chance as there has been contact between the company and these people showing interest.
At this stage, we find prospects who are highly interested in and involved with the company's product or service. These leads show a strong interest, perhaps by asking for a demo, a quote, or making an action that indicates a strong purchase intent, and, consequently, have an even higher conversion probability.
Even within a company, the way in which a lead is defined changes, especially if there's a marketing and sales department, as they have different roles in the process of attracting and converting prospects. In fact, the lead division between marketing and sales teams is based on their roles and responsibilities in the customer acquisition path.
Marketing Accepted Lead (MAL)
A Marketing Accepted Lead (MAL) is a lead that satisfies the basic criteria established by the marketing team for being considered a prospect. These criteria can include demographics, business and other data. In this phase, the lead is still in the initial stages of the lead qualifying process and has not yet been completely examined by the sales team.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead that has been further evaluated by the marketing team and that has shown a higher level of interest and engagement in the company's marketing activities. The defined criteria in this case can include behavioural factors such as specific page views, email engagement or the achievement of a lead score threshold based on their activities.
Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)
A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is a lead that has already been accepted and pre-qualified by the sales department. Therefore, we know that the visitor is interested and also what their needs are, why they occur, and how we can eventually move to the offer phase. At this stage, the sales team takes ownership of the lead and begins the engagement process with the prospect to determine their specific needs and a possible product or service adaptation.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
Then there's another level, that of the Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). At this stage the contact is ready to enter the offer process because it meets the criteria set by the sales team to be considered a high-potential opportunity for conversion into a paying customer. It has already received a concrete offer and is now negotiating.
So we have seen that the term 'lead' has different interpretations and is understood differently within an organisation by different people or in different roles. It is therefore advisable for your organisation to have a common understanding of what a sales lead, a marketing lead or a lead in general is in order to formulate a good strategy and avoid future misunderstandings. In the second part we go into detail on what lead generation is and which strategies to apply.