What is a lead and why is it important for your business?

Oct 8, 2021 | Digital Marketing

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Every business must sell if it wants to succeed. And generating leads is one of the objectives that marketers pursue on a daily basis. But, to begin with, do you know what a lead is, what it means in digital marketing? And how to generate more leads?  

In this article we will explain this topic and show you the way to generate qualified leads.

What is a lead?

A lead is a user who accepts to give his data to a company (accepting the data processing policy) in exchange for a content that he has considered of value. In this way, this lead becomes part of a database, which we can contact, nurture, educate and accompany to generate potential customers.

infographic of a lead

The fundamental idea of lead generation is to transform strangers into a database that generates potential business opportunities. 

Why are leads key in Inbound marketing?

In Inbound marketing, transforming traffic from our channels into valuable contacts is fundamental. After an effort to organically attract our audience, we look for these visitors, who have shown interest in our product or service, to become potential customers.

Lead generation is within the second stage of the Inbound marketing methodology.

infographic inbound methodology d57

This lead generation starts with the creation of content that resonates with your audience. Ebooks, whitepapers, newsletters, demos, brochures... there are many types of content that you can generate and that will allow you to capture data to strengthen your contact base, with which you can interact and, thus, generate more possibilities of getting customers.

Types of leads

Now that we know what a lead is, we must bear in mind that not all are the same and, consequently, not all are ready to be contacted by sales. Therefore, depending on where they are in the buying process, we can classify that database. This step is crucial, since the efforts of the sales department must be focused on the best prospects.

Information Qualified Lead (IQL)

Information Qualified Lead (IQL), also known as cold leads, are those who give us their contact information for valuable content such as an ebook or whitepaper. These leads are usually in a research process to solve a problem, which does not mean they are quality leads.

Some of them will not fit what you have established as your ideal buyer persona, as they may be users who are simply researching a topic; however, others may be potential customers. 

How to filter quality leads?

You must have a lead scoring and lead nurturing strategy to filter those leads that can be passed to the sales department.  

The use of automation tools is key to make the process fast and effective. You can send them information related to what they have downloaded and determine the quality of the lead.

It is essential that, from the first download, we invite the IQL to learn more about the company and the solutions available for the problem he/she has expressed interest in.

What content is ideal for taking IQLs to the next stage?

Many IQL will download the information, but will not continue to the next stage of the funnel, this is normal and is part of the lead scoring process of your strategy. To filter quality leads you can offer content type:

  • Webinars
  • Case studies
  • Free trials
  • Product brochures or catalogs

If you determine that a cold lead is not a potential customer, you can still maintain contact with them through a newsletter; but based on their actions, IQLs are not a priority for your sales department.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Let's imagine that an IQL, interested in how your company can solve the problem for which he has been researching, decides to download a demo of your product. Well, congratulations, you now have an MQL.

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are leads that have advanced in the process, but are not yet ready to buy. Therefore, it is important to deploy an automated flow to nurture them with content that takes them to the next stage of the journey: the decision.

To advance your MQLs, you can offer them content such as

  • Demos
  • Free inquiries, quotes, quotations or coupons

If the MQL is interested and advances to the decision stage, you will have a SQL

difference between MQL and SQL

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Sales qualified leads (SQL) are hot leads. They are contacts that have already taken action and expressed interest in becoming customers.

And although there are many studies that talk about the speed at which the sales area should contact these leads, there are actually several factors that must be taken into account, such as the sector your industry is dedicated to and the resources your company has: a multinational with a large sales department is not the same as a startup.

However, regardless of whether you are a large, medium or small business, it is important to have a plan and a flow in place so that efforts are not diluted by mismanagement.

Understanding what a lead is and its importance is the first step, but you must generate actions (mostly automated). Relying on specialized software, making the necessary integrations that connect this database of qualified leads with your sales department is part of any marketing strategy. 

infographics qualified lead for sale

Why are leads important for your business?

At this point you may already have a better understanding of what a lead is and its importance in an inbound strategy; but what do they mean for your business? 

No matter how solid your ideas are or whether you have the desire to bring a disruptive service or product to market, running a successful business will always require a steady stream of revenue. And yes, generating revenue will depend a lot on the industry you are in, but there is one thing that every business shares: lead generation.

photo of people looking up

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    How to generate more leads?

    Leads can be obtained through different channels: organic search, social networks, direct traffic..., the strategy can focus on one channel or several, however, there is something fundamental: quality content.

    In inbound, users usually see an attractive content and fill out a form to download it. So, here we want to help you with some keys for your lead capture forms

    5 keys in the creation of forms

    1. Associate your form to a CRM

    CRM is software that allows you to collect information from your users. It is the key tool to develop your automation processes.

    2. Make sure your forms comply with the data processing policy.

    The user must give their explicit consent for you to contact them and for them to be part of your database. Omitting this step can generate legal problems and fines to your business. 

    3. Do A/B testing

    What is the best CTA or design that converts the most. Performing A/B tests is a mandatory step in your digital marketing actions. 

    4. Long and short formats

    Having 3 or 4 fields is ideal for generating leads, they work very well with new audiences. Whereas longer forms work better with custom audiences, with leads that already know you. Long forms will give you quality leads, while short forms can generate more volume of leads that you can nurture in a later step. 

    sample forms

    How to generate more revenue with leads?

    We've already covered what a lead is and you probably already understand its importance, but how do you generate more quality leads that can grow your business? There are a wide range of ways to optimize your efforts.


    If you already have valuable customers who have fallen in love with your product or service, why not make them promoters, ambassadors of your brand? Referrals are an excellent way to generate new business opportunities. 

    When a customer endorses your company, it transfers support and trust, and there's nothing more reassuring than that when it comes to doing business. Establishing a marketing plan with your current customers can make finding quality leads easier.

    Social Media

    Social media is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reach an audience. Having a strong presence on social media will expose your brand to a wide audience and potential customers. Don't skimp in this area; today, virtually every business, large or small, has social media.

    Search engine optimization

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a fundamental part of getting new customers. And companies that invest in quality SEO copywriters can have better conversion rates.

    If you target your potential customers with attractive language, quality content that responds to your audience's search intent and is optimized for search engine algorithms, you are constantly and organically driving the opportunity to generate new customers and potential revenue for your company.

    Yes, SEO is a medium to long term strategy and yes you will have to invest time in creating and optimizing content, but SEO will make your site visits grow exponentially.

    Lead magnet

    Lead magnets are valuable content that you can offer to your audience in exchange for a name and email address and can be of various formats.

    • A downloadable PDF
    • Templates
    • Mini courses
    • ...

    If you want to know how to boost your strategy with lead magnets then we recommend you to learn more here. 

    Time to experiment

    Now that you know what a lead is, it's time to experiment with your content and capture more prospects. The way to generate more sales begins by analyzing and setting objectives. Learn about some of Digital 57's success stories in capturing leads from different industries such as education, NGOs or the retail sector.

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