What is Online Lead Generation? Definition, Process and Techniques

What is Online Lead Generation?


Online lead generation is defined as the marketing process of generating sales-ready business queries for an organization. The leads are then sent to the sales team for processing and closure.


Online lead generation is a process that typically pertains to B2B businesses or high value B2C customers, as is the case with any lead generation. This is because lead generation itself requires investment in educating and converting the customers, which is feasible and profitable when the deal size is big enough, which happens only in B2B, and in some high-value B2C products like automobiles, TV, smartphones etc. 


Examples of online lead generation channels are social media, traffic from search engine (organic), attendees of webinars and online workshops etc. Lead generation across any channel requires content hosting on your website at the most fundamental level. This content can then be marketed across various channels to generate prospective leads. The only exception is when your marketing platform itself can be used for conversions as well, as is in the case of ecommerce businesses who may directly sell on Facebook or Instagram for instance. 


Once a lead is acquired, it is then sent to be processed to check if they qualify for direct contact with sales or need some pre-sales verification. Marketing teams should ideally have their own lead qualifiers to shorten the verification process, which are basically additional actions that act as filter to verify intent of purchase:


  • These actions typically include downloading an asset, which is easy to organize - a landing page, the actual ebook/ document and a call-to-action button.
  • Other methods for online lead qualification may include browsing a particular article on the site, which requires cookie tracking/ login/ site pixelation, and is more tech-intensive.
  • Another popular method is online events - which essentially require the audience to show up for free, but to show up nonetheless to a webinar or workshop. 


In other words, invariant of which channel you are tapping into for online lead generation, the final action for conversion can be a good indicator for lead qualification. 


In the post-Covid world where more and more businesses and customers are operating online, organizations are investing more than ever in online marketing and lead generation, as part of their business continuity and growth plan.


The key benefits of investing in online lead generation


Online lead generation is both, more effective and more affordable, than traditional marketing channels. Particularly for B2B businesses, who before the advent of digital marketing, had to largely rely on advertising in business magazines and work-of-mouth to grow their businesses, or if the company was very large, they could afford a TV or newspaper ad and hope they hit the B2B viewers. 


That has changed rapidly with the rise of digital media. Today, B2B businesses see a trackable, predictable and continuous source of leads from online lead generation programs.


Below are the key benefits of investing in online lead generation:



  • High cost-to-return ratio



Online lead generation channels require less investment than traditional, offline platforms. This is particularly a point of attraction for new-entry companies and startups. For example, posting on social media requires only a designer or just DIY quick-design tools. Many platforms are starting to offer native DIY design tools that enable users to post creative and visually appealing content without requiring design softwares. 


Similarly, running targeted search ads and generating clicks to your website/ product or service landing page on Google typically range between $1-$5 dollars and may go upto $20-$35 per click, based on competition. This is against thousands of dollars needed to even publish an ad on a local newspaper.



  • Lead sources are trackable



Unlike offline leads, which you simply cannot trace back with complete accuracy, an online lead can always be backtracked to their conversion page at the very least. If your company owns tracking software and tech stacks, such as site pixelation or cookie tracking, then you can trace users across the website. In case of ad spend - leads can be traced back with 100% certainty to the source ad, which is key for ROI calculation as well.



  • Lead cycles are largely predictable



Once you have run a couple of ads or taken account of your search ranking pages and the traffic they generate per month or posted on social media for a continuous period - you will arrive at a stage within 2-3 months where you can predict the average amount of leads these channels will continue to generate at a certain budget. This stems from the trackability that digital platforms provide which helps make these accurate predictions with very less margin of error when evaluated properly.



  • Is highly scalable



             Online lead generation is highly scalable once you have the processes in place. This is because most repetitive tasks in digital marketing can be automated and the team can stay focused on generating engaging and valuable content. With the harmonious merger of human resources with valuable automation tools to set up processes - such a set up can be much easily scaled, typically only requiring the input of more advertising budget. Organic means of online lead generation can similarly be scaled with the right balance in expanding software licenses and hiring the right talent.


Key Components of Online Lead Generation


The key components of generating leads online include:



  • Source channel


The source channel or platform is any digital media space which is used to run ads or post content to source users to the landing page/ website. For example, social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter; search engines such as Google and Bing; or even a website hosting platform like GoToWebinar and ON24. 



  • Website 


Your website is where you will host all your digital assets and is the central repository of brand content and product/ service information. All other sources or channels will ideally point users to content on the website for the full experience. The source channels, as mentioned above, typically serve as promotion spaces for the actual content which is hosted on the website. 



  • Landing page


A landing page is any page where a user first lands on the website to start a session. In digital campaigns, landing pages should be planned and optimized for maximum conversions. This is particularly the case for paid campaigns where a well-optimized and dedicated landing page should be used for bringing users to the site. The landing page’s content should be highly relevant to the content on the source channel, such as social media or search engine meta content.



  • Conversion funnel



A conversion funnel requires you to identify and plan the steps needed to complete a customer’s acquisition. This means planning for - marketing, audience segmentation, nurturing and lead conversion. 


3 Best Practices for Online Lead Generation


  1. Segment your email database audience

Audience segmentation is the process of identifying or estimating the stage of buying journey for a prospect. Typically based on how engaged a user is, they are classified as cold, warm or hot. This is typically effective for email marketing campaigns where you have a large audience base, but highly engaged audiences who can be targeted with promotions are usually a small fraction of the total database. Segmenting your email database into buckets, based on digital interaction and interest, allows marketing teams to have and set a realistic expectation on conversion from this channel. 


  1. Identify high organic traffic pages


When you have your blogs or articles ranking for top positions on search engines, they provide a consistent flow of users to your site. These pages can be easily identified using free tools like Google Analytics. Identifying these pages enables you to run custom promotions on these pages that are highly relevant and contextual to the readers of these content pieces, and typically should be value-addition promos, such related ebooks and downloadable assets. The download of any asset is a lead for the business. 


  1. Test, identify and upscale successful campaigns


Running online paid campaigns require the need to test them to identify the most optimal promotional content. This is done to prevent wastage of money on a single untested campaign which may not deliver the desired response. After running a few test campaigns, the marketing team needs to narrow down their remaining budget on only the most successful campaign content and upscale it.