Lead Generation:
A Complete Beginner’s Guide

Your business growth heavily depends on a permanent acquisition of new customers. And you can achieve it by building a seamlessly working lead generation process.


This guide will cover the basic components, strategies, techniques, tools and ways to improve your company’s lead gen.

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead gen is a very complex process that is also a part of various business operations. That’s why there are plenty of ways to define it. For example, it is the first of many stages of a sales process, and arguably the most important one. 


Or: It is the activity that aims to feed your business with customers. Or: it is an inalienable part of a marketing team’s effort. Or: It is the process of turning individuals/businesses into leads. Or:

Lead generation is systematically creating awareness and evoking interest of potential buyers in your product or services.


In our opinion, this definition is the closest to the very essence of lead gen. We’d like to point out several keywords in it. 


1. Potential buyers, also known as target audience. Not all individuals or businesses are in equal need of your product and service. That’s why it’s crucially important to address the target audience.

2. Awareness and interest. A business needs to inform and draw attention of potential buyers, as well as make them “care.”

3. Creating. Some experts would use the word gaining. In our opinion, “create” reflects a more active position of business in this process.

4. Systematically. A company needs consistent strategy, aligned operation of several departments, and regular activities to make this process work and bring results.

What businesses need to generate leads and why?

There’s a popular quote: if your business doesn’t grow it dies (even if it doesn’t seem so on the surface). So, the simplest answer to this question is “all businesses.”

Benefits of lead gen:

1. Sustainability. Customer churn is inevitable. So your business can’t survive on retention alone.

2. Growth. Your business can’t expand without extra resources, above all money. You can only gain it through new buyers.

3. Expansion. When a business creates a new product/service or decides to expand to a new market, they need to build a new customer base there.

4. Influence. The more new businesses you attract, the more referrals you can potentially get, and the more brands you can add to your customer base.

5. Keeping potential. Certain products or services have longer sales cycles and the purchase heavily depends on a customer’s budget. Some leads might remain “dormant” for months or even years until they are ready for the next stage of their buying journey. That’s when they can recall your outreach.

Let’s take a closer look why different types of businesses need to generate:

1. Startups are rapidly growing businesses. That’s why they need a lot of money to invest in that growth.

2. Small businesses are often heavily dependent on day-to-day income. They need constant feed of potential customers for sustainability. 

3. Medium companies are in a safer position when it comes to sustainability than small businesses. Often they would want to grow through expansion to new markets or promotion of new products.

4. Enterprises. It might seem that these types of companies are established businesses with brand, reputation, and solid client base. However, enterprises are vulnerable to stagnation, followed by decline. That’s why they shouldn’t stop the demand generation.

How to Generate Leads in the Digital Era

In the past, businesses mostly attracted leads through advertisements, networking, and direct outreach to potential clients. 


Advertisers used any type of media available, from printed journals to TV, to banners, to aviation. In many cases, they would give false information and promises. It was hard if not impossible for their customers to find credible data about the products/services they were buying.


Networking included getting referrals from existing customers and for B2B – meeting your potential buyers at various events.

Direct outreach started with door-to-door sales and purchase offer send outs. Then it expanded to cold calls.


The internet changed sales and marketing processes dramatically. Let’s take a look at the key changes of the digital era:


  1. 1. Access to information within seconds empowers buyers who can now check any data you provide to them.
  2. 2. The buyer journey has changed. Buyers can take a more active role in the buying process. In many cases, they contact your sales team after having done substantial research online and know much about the market.
  3. 3. The rise of IT makes the presence on the Internet the must-have for any business. It also gives businesses more tools to influence buyers, e.g. through different types of content.
  4. 4. The abundance of information makes the buying process (especially B2B) much harder for buyers. Businesses that help potential customers to process this information through education efforts win at the end of the day.

Lead Generation Strategies and Tactics

Let’s take a look at types of lead generation strategies


Outbound Marketing
It is an active pursuit of potential clients, i.e. direct outreach.


Types of outbound marketing:

  1. 1. Cold calling
  2. 2. Cold emailing
  3. 3. Outreach via Social Media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook)
  4. 4. Networking at events (conferences, conventions)

Team and roles:

  1. 1. Lead gen manager – creates campaign strategy, manages the process.
  2. 2. Lead researcher – looks for the potential buyers and their contact information.
  3. 3. Sales Development Representative – conducts outreach.
  4. 4. Writer creates a copy for emails, calls, messages.


  1. 1. Targets buyers you want to acquire
  2. 2. Drives immediate results
  3. 3. Can catch your potential customers at the pre-awareness stage (when they understand they have a problem but don’t know about the available solution yet).
  4. 4. Human-to-human communication evokes trust and builds rapport


  1. Some buyers don’t like direct outreach.
  2. The amount of potential buyers a sales development team can reach out to is limited.

Inbound Marketing
It is a strategy of building an Internet presence.

Inbound marketing includes:

  1. 1. Website – your digital representative office.
  2. 2. SEO – promoting your website
  3. 3. Creating educational content (videos, whitepapers, benchmarks, case studies)
  4. 4. Social media presence – creating influence pages and groups
  5. 5. Ranking & reviews websites presence (G2, Capterra, Glassdoor) 
  6. 6. Getting awards (e.g., from Gartner)
  7. 7. Holding online and offline events.
  8. 8. Online advertisement.

Team and roles:

  1. 1. Head of Marketing, Head of Digital Marketing – creates strategy, manages team, and supervises the implementation.
  2. 2. Webmaster(s) – codes the website.
  3. 3. Designer – creates website design, infographics, etc.
  4. 4. Content writer and editor – creates content for the website and blog.
  5. 5. SEO specialist – builds keyword kernel for websites, tracks its performance.
  6. 6. SMM – works with pages and groups on social networking websites.
  7. 7. PPC specialist – creates and implements ads strategy.
  8. 8. Link Builder – negotiates backlinks for the website.
  9. 9. Video creators.


  1. 1. Gives your buyers a sense of control over the process.
  2. 2. Can target much larger audiences compared to sales teams.
  3. 3. The amount of time that your potential buyers can spend on your website exceeds the time they can spend talking to your sales.
  4. 4. Gives a more comprehensive educational experience through different types of content.


  1. 1. Building Internet presence takes time, business will receive results in months or even years.
  2. 2. It’s much harder to control who you target. More often than not, websites provide large organic traffic that doesn’t convert to leads.

Which type of Outreach is best?

From our own experience and experience of our clients, we know that combining Inbound and Outbound marketing is the best strategy for the business.

Here are some ideas to support this argument:


  1. 1. Your buyers would want to find you online even if you contacted them via phone. And they’ll lose trust in your business if they don’t find anything about your business.
  2. 2. Potential buyers will be more willing to respond to direct outreach after pretargeting campaigns.
  3. 3. When your marketing team can’t reach certain clients (because they’re not aware of the solutions you can offer), your sales development team can.

What Is a Lead?

Similar to lead gen, there’s no single definition of a lead. Some identify it as contact data you’ve collected about a potential customer. Others talk about an interest in your company that a certain person has demonstrated.

Sales teams, however, state that not all people who showed interest and provided their contact data are proper material for customers. We suggest the following definition:


A lead is an identified individual who became aware and showed interest in your product/service and who matches your ideal customer profile.


Let’s take a closer looks at this definition:

  1. 1. An identified individual means that you know their name, contact data, and other information relevant to your sales process.
  1. 2. Awareness and interest means that this individual has come into contact with your business either via inbound or outbound channels.
  1. 3. Matching your ideal customer profile (ICP) means that this individual possesses the features that many of your customers have.

Here’s an example: content writers often visit the websites of competitors to see the strengths and weaknesses of the copy and educate themselves. They might even provide their contact data in exchange for a gated whitepaper. They’ve shown interest in your product, however, they don’t match your ICP. Therefore they cannot be considered leads.

This brings us to two important topics: lead quality and qualification.