What is lead generation and how does it work?

Content Marketing

Lead generation involves marketing tactics designed to capture personal data from potential customers to convert awareness and interest into eventual purchases.

Prospective customers become leads when they provide their details in exchange for access to information – for example, signing up for a newsletter.

When you collect their information, you can use it to identify customers who are ready to buy from you (known as qualified leads) and shepherd them along that journey.

The process involves capturing leads then nurturing them until they convert and generate revenue.

Lead generation practices

People can be wary of giving out their personal information, and rightly so. If nothing else, most of the stuff we give our email addresses for, isn’t worth it.

To generate leads, you must create incentives for them to hand over their contact details.

This means advertising content that will benefit the audience, such as guides on how to save money with your product or service, but only making it accessible to people who sign up for it.

Common lead generation activities include:

  • Newsletters
  • Special offers
  • Free trials
  • Landing page forms
  • Social media posts
  • Live events
  • Webinars
  • Paid advertising


Lead generation content

While there may not be a financial fee involved, lead generation requires premium content to be hidden behind forms.

They’re used to collect information like a potential customer’s name, business name, email or phone number.

If you’re doing B2C marketing, you basically need their name and email.

If it’s B2B, add job title, business type, responsibility or problems they’re facing to that list.

Types of lead generation content include:

  • Whitepapers
  • eBooks
  • Case studies
  • Templates
  • Checklists
  • Email subscriptions
  • Product demonstrations
  • Educational courses
  • Downloadable PDFs
  • Viral social media contests

Of course, this content needs to be of the highest quality to make signing up worth it and encourage further interactions. 


How does lead generation work?

Lead generation involves gathering data to gain insights into consumer behaviour and nudge potential customers further towards a finalised sale.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to offer high-value content and resources behind a data capture form.

Creating exclusive content is the most common customer marketing tactic.

It needs to be unique in-depth information that you know they’re looking for and they won’t find anywhere else.

Conduct competitor research or consumer surveys to get a better idea of how you can seal the deal.

Once visitors start providing their information, you can use lead generation tools to track their habits and identify a specific segment of your audience that’s ready to be guided along the buyer’s journey.

Before you can nurture leads, you need to create gated content to capture them.

Content upgrades

Since gated content is a major lead generation tactic, it makes sense to offer content upgrades for people who provide their information.

The upgrades must be better than the free content available for demand generation to make people want to exchange their details for access to it.

This could mean offering PDF downloads of posts or providing information in a more preferable format such as a checklist guide or even video or audio.

For example, if you have a free post about a product or service, you could encourage readers to provide their details to get a trial or access demonstration videos.

Ebooks and whitepapers

A lot of work goes into more extreme longform content like ebooks and whitepapers, so people may be more willing to give up their personal data to access this in-depth expert information.

Since they offer condensed valuable information they might not find anywhere else, up to 80% of people would provide their email address to access an ebook or whitepaper.

The size of something like an ebook means it can cover a broad range of industry topics, so you can promote it in multiple places.

While a free blog post might discuss a particular aspect of a product or service and get people thinking about it, an ebook or whitepaper can cover all relevant areas in much greater depth.

Providing an ebook or whitepaper shows you have expert knowledge to share, and the content itself helps the potential customer towards the decision-making stage of the sales cycle.

Cheat sheets

A cheat sheet is a quick and simple version of content that people will want to use, such as a checklist or template.

Making these available for download only if the person signs up to access them is an easy way to collect customer information.

Similar to content upgrades, information in a simplified step-by-step guide or even infographic form is desirable enough for people to sacrifice their email address to download it.

Cheat sheets are also useful promotional tools if you link to them through social media posts.


Events and webinars are the most effective lead generation strategies, with events at 68% and webinars close behind at 61%.

Digital live events offering unique content are another enticing option to get people to provide their details in exchange for attendance.

These can be open to access freely as part of demand generation, but they offer a great opportunity to secure viewer data.

Offer valuable educational content through an exclusive presentation, panel, or Q&A (it’s a bonus if the Q&A is live and interactive with the online audience).

Try to get relevant industry experts and/or high profile public figures as guests to encourage more people from their respective audiences to sign up.

Record these events and upload them to your site afterwards so people can continue to sign up to view them after the live event has happened.

Optimised landing pages

It’s important to optimise landing pages on your website so they aren’t cluttered with multiple demands for action or marketing offers.

Landing pages with a single offer generate 266% more leads than those with multiple offers, so choose one thing to direct visitors towards.

Streamline landing pages with clear information and provide one primary requirement for readers to enter their information.

For example, this could be a pop-up or link inviting them to enter their email address to subscribe to your blog or newsletter.

This could include one marketing offer, such as a promotion for a discount code received by email when you sign up, or access to otherwise exclusive content.

Landing pages also provide the opportunity to include video content; using a video on a landing page can increase conversion by up to 86%.

Promotion of gated content

How do you drive potential customers towards your gated content?

Pretty much in the same way you’d promote regular content, really.

Paid ads, networking with industry experts and influencers, including links in newsletters and social media posts, etc.

Social media is a good place to promote because even if they aren’t ready to hand over their personal details yet, someone might follow your account and eventually be persuaded to do it later.

If you have a blog subscriber list or email newsletter subscriber list, you can still mine them for more than just their email addresses by sending personalised emails promoting your content.

It’s important to have software for analysing user engagement so you can identify visitors to target with lead generation campaigns like retargeting ads.


When to use lead generation

Looking for a sales tool to put your products directly in front of people? 

Lead generation is the way to go if you’re ready to make stronger calls to action and target the members of your audience most likely to make a sale.

Invest in lead generation if you want more resources for collecting leads and turning them into paying customers. 

If you already have demand generation efforts going but aren’t capturing contact information, turn your focus to lead generation by creating gated content.

When your website already has high amounts of traffic, you can move from raising brand awareness to curating leads.

If some leads aren’t converting, they can go back into the cycle of demand generation content and remarketing.

Realistically, 79% of leads won’t ever convert, mainly because of unsuccessful lead nurturing.

Think of the two strategies as existing within a loop rather than linear, and always have demand generation tactics ready to pick up the leftovers from lead generation and start on them again.


Get help with your content marketing for lead generation

Interested in doing content marketing for lead generation but think you might need a bit more help?

Get in touch and one of our content marketing consultants can help you come up with a plan and start getting you more leads for your business.


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