Lead Generation — The Lead Lifecycle and Types of Leads

Lead Generation — The Lead Lifecycle and Types of Leads

To better understand lead generation, let’s start off with understanding what a lead is or what qualifies as one. A lead is a prospect that has indicated an interest in a product or service in some particular way. Leads generally receive a call or an email from a company after initiating communication themselves.

For instance, an individual who may have opted in for a study fair organized by an educational consultancy qualifies as a lead. Once the study fair is conducted, the educational consultancy Meri out to the individual via a call or an email to understand how they could help that individual.

Individuals consider this method of lead generation far less intrusive and interruptive than a cold call from a sales representative, regarding a product or service that they haven’t necessarily demonstrated an interest in. From a business perspective, lead generation is the information collected from the study fair about the individual, which helps the consultancy in personalizing communication to address the individual’s problems. Additionally, businesses save on time by contacting only those leads that are interested in their services or products.

Lead Generation

The process of attracting and converting prospects into individuals who are interested in a company’s product or service is known as lead generation. In simpler terms, lead generation can be defined as the process that requires the identification of potential customers for a brand’s product or service.

Lead generation is a complicated process that is more than cold-calling or running mass email campaigns and requires multiple strategies to be effective. The main purpose of lead generation is to develop a sales pipeline, often accomplished by making use of digital channels due to the abundance of readily available online information.

How Lead Generation Works?

Lead generation comprises two primary parts: Driving traffic to a website and collecting contact information.

Step 1

In the first step of the lead generation process, brands must work toward creating an effective method to attract traffic to their websites. The various methods of driving traffic to websites are as follows.

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

This involves optimizing the website for search engine algorithms to make the website appear higher up the list in organic search results; marking the beginning of the lead generation.

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

This is a form of online advertisement and requires payment to search engines to display advertisements in search results to improve lead generation processes.

  • Display Advertisements

This type of advertisement can come in multiple forms such as images, videos, text, or audio. Brands can purchase these advertisement spaces on relevant websites to drive traffic to their own website and increase lead generation.

  • Social Media

Social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook are great for lead generation as they are popular and have been recognized as major sources of online traffic. Brands post content on social media platforms to drive traffic to their websites or advertise on these platforms by paying for it.

Step 2

Once a website records traffic, it is important to convert this traffic into leads by getting people to share their contact information. The most common methods that businesses make use of for lead generation are as follows.

  • Content Creation

Brands provide high-quality content such as white papers, case studies, infographics, or exclusive videos in exchange for contact information (vital for lead generation). This requires brands to entice prospects from the target audience with relevant content to provide their contact information to access the content.

  • Live Demos

A live demo or webinar can be conducted to attract visitors and get them to participate in it. These demos provide valuable information about a specific topic and can also be used to educate the target audience about a product or service. The interactive nature of webinars is a great way of lead generation and determining leads.

  • Landing Page

For brands that have products that are compelling, landing page optimization is a must. The best lead generation tool for any brand is the product or service they offer. Visitors will readily provide contact information without the need for incentives if the product or service is compelling enough. Since the product or service solves major pain points, it is important to present it in the most attractive way on landing and sales pages.

Typical Sales Funnel for Lead Lifecycle

The lifecycle stage of leads is broken down into six main parts, which are as follows.

Lead Generation - Typical Sales Funnel for Lead Lifecycle

  • Visitors

Probably self-explanatory; a visitor is anybody who views (visits) a website.

  • Leads

When visitors express an interest in a brand by providing their information, leads are formed.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

When brands confirm a lead as a good fit and market to them, that lead is termed as a marketing qualified lead.

  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

A marketing qualified lead is characterized as a sales qualified lead when sales and marketing departments come to a mutual understanding that a contact act is interested enough to initiate a sales conversation.

  • Opportunities

A sales qualified lead is termed as an opportunity when that lead confirms that a brand can provide viable solutions for their problems and besides to go for the down the sales process by exploring products and services in a detailed manner.

  • Customers

Opportunities become customers once a deal is signed.

Types of Leads

A lead can also be defined as a website visitor who is interested in a brand’s offerings. However, not every lead is as interested as the other, and are segregated into different categories based on their qualification and lifecycle stage. Lead generation comprises three main types of leads, each of which are mentioned below.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

A marketing qualified lead is a contact who has engaged with the marketing efforts of a brand’s team but is not yet ready for a sales call. An MQL is a lead who is more likely to convert into a customer as compared to other leads, based on the web pages that the prospect has visited, downloads, and engagement with a brand’s content.

A marketing qualified lead is one who has intentionally engaged with an organization by either submitting contact information, adding products to an online shopping cart, opting into a program, or repeatedly visiting a particular website, among others.

MQL Actions

  • Utilizing software demos
  • Submitting online forms
  • Downloading software trial
  • Signing up for newsletters
  • Adding items to shopping carts or wishlists
  • Repeated website visits
  • Direct contact to enquire
  • Clicking on advertisements regarding your brand

While a marketing qualified lead depicts a prospect’s interest in a brand’s product or service, it does not guarantee a sale. Think of MQLs as leads that have indicated interest and are open to further information.

  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

An MQL is considered as an SQL when a sales team agrees with a marketing team that a contact has shown enough interest and is ready for a sales call to initiate a conversation. A meeting or a formal one-to-one conversation is required for a marketing qualified lead to be termed as a sales qualified lead. This meeting can be a demonstration of a product, and assessment, or a generic discovery call.

Sales qualified leads typically display a strong intent to purchase a company’s product or service and have met the company’s lead qualification criteria that determine whether the lead is the correct fit. The main point of difference between an MQL and an SQL is the readiness to purchase. The sustained interest of an MQL in a company’s product or service moves the lead closer to being deemed as an SQL.

  • High-Quality Leads

Businesses spend a considerable amount of money and time into generating leads, however, if these leads are not correctly qualified, their investment won’t yield the results that it is capable of. Targeted and timely follow-ups allow brands to leverage their marketing investment and rapidly identify qualified opportunities (high-quality leads). High quality leads help brands in increasing productivity, reducing costs, and speeding up lead lifecycle times.

HQLs are, as the name suggests, the highest quality and also, so the highest converting pay-for-performance leads. These leads allow brands to boost their sales team’s effectiveness and increase conversions. High-quality leads empower sales and marketing organizations to improve their funnel return on investment metrics significantly. These leads are a result of superior demand-generation methods that connect brands to the right buyers faster.


Lead generation is an important part of the sales process that has seen some notable changes in recent times. Today, leads are generated by attracting prospects by making use of various methods, offering useful content, and building and nurturing relationships, before evaluating the position of the lead in the sales funnel.