Lead Generation: Digital Strategies to Create New Sales Opportunities


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Lead generation is simply the creation of sales opportunities. Although lead generation is most often associated with acquiring net new customers, it can include developing opportunities within existing accounts in new divisions or work teams. For most organizations, digital lead generation is a scalable, cost-effective approach to generating leads for their sales teams.

In the business-to-consumer space or with high volume business-to-business solutions, digital leads are quickly converted online to a sale. In an e-commerce model, the flow is fluid and the participation of sales is typically not required.

Should sales be needed as part of the digital sales model, the sales team leverages a ranges of digital sales tools that could include: email, web chat, web or video conference. Both sales and marketing are profiting from the advances in digital tools, media and process.

…digital lead generation for the complex sale plays a large role in influencing prospects before and after initial sales contact.

With lengthy sales cycles involving multiple decision-makers, the complex B2B sales process will often start with digital lead generation. But at some point, outreach from sales is critical to address a prospect’s questions and to qualify the prospect. Because of the time lapse between the initial inquiry or lead being generation and the conversion to a sale, digital lead generation for the complex sale plays a large role in influencing prospects before and after initial sales contact.

Given the vital nature of lead generation and its position at the nexus of sales and marketing, there are a number of key processes associated with a lead.

  • The definition of a lead is agreed upon between sales and marketing;
  • Sales agrees to take specific action against a lead within a certain timeframe;
  • Disqualified, weak or unresponsive leads are recycled for lead nurture.

Why Invest in Lead Generation?

As widely acknowledged, the costs of acquisition far surpass that of retention. Seldom can an organization meet its goals based solely on retention, but clearly the first place to start is to determine whether retention goals are being maximized. Digital marketing can play a strong role in customer retention marketing and customer service.

An increase in digital lead generation is warranted should the digital marketing spend be delivering an ROI that generates new customers and dollars on a superior basis. However, the key items that should be in place prior to investing in lead generation are:

  • Understanding of buyer behavior
  • A strong house file for managing leads and for outbound digital marketing
  • A clear sales model for engaging and processing leads
  • A marketing model that is aligned with sales to generate and manage lead flow

Measuring the Return

The measurement of return on digital lead generation for online, direct sales is relatively easy in comparison to complex direct sales, or even more challenging channel sales. There are a number of ways to track the return on digital lead generation. The following is a list of measuring the return, from easiest to most difficult in a complex sale environment where a prospect may be touched by both online and offline media:

  1. Any digital marketing program that touched a prospect;
  2. The last digital marketing program that touched a prospect;
  3. The digital marketing program that prompted a prospect to buy.

Measuring a true return will involve determining the impact of digital lead generation programs by choosing amongst the three options above and then determining the revenue associated with this prospect on a one-time basis and over the lifetime of the client.

The risk in comparing your organization to others on ROI is that your business model may be very different generating very different revenues and expenses. The preferred approach is to start by using internal benchmarks and then bona fide external benchmarks.

For example, track past digital lead generation programs and look to benchmark these programs against existing digital lead generation programs. Second, use control groups in digital lead generation programs that are not targeted with digital marketing. Understand how much incremental ROI was generated versus the control group. Finally, there are research organizations that provide benchmarking data. For example, IDC and Sirius Decisions provide benchmarking data against similar organizations in the B2B technology space.

Tips for Success

Given the dynamic nature, measurability and relatively low costs associated with digital lead generation, improvement can be gained through the following:

  • Earmark resources and make time for innovation and testing;
  • Integrate and layer lead generation media and approaches;
  • Value internal lists as assets and segment your lists for more relevant digital marketing;
  • Align digital lead generation program to buyer profiles and buying cycles;
  • Mix offline media with digital media.

For more information, visit Acquiring Minds Blog, the Direct Impact Marketing web site, or contact Robert Lesser on Twitter or LinkedIn.

This article is part of a free e-book for Chief Marketing Officers:
Strategic Roadmap for Digital Marketing
Learn how to engage with customers and create value for stakeholders in a complex digital world. Covers digital channels, marketing techniques, accountability and technology. (No registration required to view/download PDF.)

Robert Lesser
I am the founder and President of Direct Impact Marketing, a provider of a sales productivity solution and consulting services to technology organizations. Prior to stepping out as an entrepreneur, I held a number of marketing positions at Dell, IBM, Reckitt Benckiser and Loblaw Companies.


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