“Lead Generation” is a loaded term.

The latest research suggests that while more than 78 percent of companies have lead generation programs in place, only 17 percent are happy with the results. Why?

The answer is misaligned expectations.

In-house lead generation is time consuming and difficult to scale. As much as 20% of salespeople’s time is spent researching prospects themselves. That’s a full workday every week. When these same companies explore outside lead generation services, they are disappointed by the quality and scope of what is being billed as “lead generation.”

When you look at what lead generation companies actually do, it covers quite a wide range of services. For example, some lead generation companies take your existing contact database and try to warm up leads with cold calling, also called “lead nurturing.” Other companies do the exact opposite: they give you a list of cold contacts and expect you to sell to an industry-generic list.

Quality lead generation not only saves you time at the top of the funnel, it makes the entire sales process more efficient. Know what to expect when people use the term “lead generation.” It’s not always what you have in mind.

What Do You Mean When You Say “Lead Generation?”

Here are several definitions of and approaches to lead generation that have emerged from various lead generation companies, industry influencers and media outlets.


“A lead is a person who has in some way, shape, or form indicated interest in your company’s product or service.


“Lead generation describes the marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing sales pipeline. Lead generation often uses digital channels, and has been undergoing substantial changes in recent years from the rise of new online and social techniques. In particular, the abundance of information readily available online has led to the rise of the “self-directed buyer” and the emergence of new techniques to develop and qualify potential leads before passing them to sales.

Jim Keenan, Forbes

“Leads in today’s world, generated from Twitter or any other social platform can come from people who don’t even know they need anything. Putting it differently, they are lead and don’t even know it.”


“Generating leads is not simply a case of procuring a list of potential clients and calling them with your company message; it’s a systematic strategy that includes:

  • Brand awareness and brand management
  • Personalizing messages to potential prospects and existing clients
  • Utilizing technology to provide various ways of targeting potential clients
  • Identifying genuine interest and qualifying opportunities
  • Relationship management and tracking of business potential
  • Ongoing management to maximize and validate sales pipelines”

Anum Hussain, Growth Marketer at Sidekick

“I work on finding unique ways to attract people to my business….That’s exactly what lead generation is. It’s a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually buying.”

B2B Lead Blog

“BANT stands for Budget Authority Need Timeline (or Timeframe). This is a lead qualification and scoring methodology originally developed by IBM, but now commonly used. You can instantly see how this would be helpful for a sales force, and where it takes place in the sales-marketing continuum can vary by organization.”


“Lead generation consists of two sales for each individual sale – setting an appointment with the lead and following up on the lead….The completion of the first sale does not complete the process — making the actual sale is the vital conclusion that ultimately drives company success.”


“The discipline of lead generation has fundamentally changed. It used to be that B2B marketing departments would focus mostly on awareness and branding activities, while a telephone-based group would contact prospects and identify those who were ready for a conversation with Sales. The modern lead generation process begins much earlier in the buying cycle than it used to. Through social media and sharing, educational webinars and web searches, marketers seek to be found wherever their prospective buyers may be looking for relevant information on the business challenges that the marketer’s solutions can solve.”


“Lead Generation is not a new form of gaining new business, but it now has a new approach. Rather than sitting at a trade show table for hours on end, or sitting up a display in hopes that targeted consumers will complete a form, you can have leads generated and sent to you using the technology of the Internet.”


“The discipline of lead generation has fundamentally changed. It used to be that B2B marketingdepartments would focus mostly on awareness and branding activities, while a telephone-based group would contact prospects and identify those who were ready for a conversation with Sales. But now that prospects typically have access to all the product and solution information they need, things are different.”

Integrate, Scott Vaughn, CMO

“The top of the funnel — search, display, programmatic advertising — that’s been automated. At the bottom of the funnel, you have Oracle, Salesforce, your website, CRM, marketing automation, and content management. But in the middle, between your automated marketing and your marketing cloud … is a very, very manual and fragmented set of processes to drive demand generation and performance.”


Lead Generation for the Next Generation

Few doubt the value of “lead generation,” it’s just that not everyone is on the same page about what that means.

“While the rules and technologies for lead generation have changed, Forrester and other experts still see it as the most effective way for businesses with limited budgets to maximize their return on marketing investment (ROMI).” – Entrepreneur.com

Though marketing and sales automation software such as HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho and Marketo make it easier than ever to stimulate and track interest, consistently finding accurate, actionable customer data is still a challenge for most companies. All the information you need is out there, but finding the right customers in a cost-effective manner requires a thorough understanding of the latest search technology, access to the right data, and the manpower to execute. Efficiency is the key to any lead generation program.


What does the term “lead generation” mean to you? Where does lead generation stop, and sales and marketing begin?