Lead generation software allows companies to automate the capture, segmentation and assignment of leads to improve targeted marketing communications and shorten sales cycles. Meanwhile, lead nurturing software allows companies to stay in contact with those generated leads until they are ready to commit to a purchase. A number of customer relationship management (CRM) systems provide lead generation and nurturing capabilities, and some vendors offer solutions developed specifically for these tasks.
This guide explains features commonly found within these systems, the types of buyers who will get the most use out of this software and other considerations to help buyers narrow down their choices.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
A lead is any contact—either an individual or a business—that has the potential to be converted to a customer. Leads can be collected through a variety of online and offline channels, including:
Lead generation software automates the capture and distribution of lead data from online channels. For example, a website visitor may enter their name and email address in a Web form to gain access to a piece of content. Their information is then recorded in the CRM database, and distributed to the appropriate salesperson to manage.
Screenshot of Silverpop’s Web form and landing page design tool
Lead nurturing software automates and streamlines the process of maintaining contact with prospective customers. If lead generation gets prospective customers into the sales funnel, lead nurturing helps guide those who aren't yet ready to buy through the funnel toward a purchase decision. Lead nurturing software enables companies to remain in touch with their leads, keeping them engaged (e.g., through the delivery of relevant content) until they're ready to buy.
Lead data can be very basic—name, title, phone number, company name and number of employees, for example. When visitor tracking and analytics is used, more in-depth data can be added to the lead’s profile, such as the referring website, pages viewed by the lead and other behavioral information.
After lead information is captured, the use of lead management software enables sales teams to efficiently nurture, score and track leads to increase qualification and conversion rates.
Applications vary from vendor to vendor, but a lead generation system will typically include the following types of features:
|Landing page and web form creation||Web forms embedded on landing pages are the most popular method for capturing leads. With this feature, marketers can create custom forms and landing pages—or integrate existing forms—to deploy on websites and collect leads. Some systems also support the creation of promotions, such as contests and surveys, as an additional method for generating leads.|
|CRM integration||Lead data is automatically recorded and stored in the CRM database, where it can then be utilized for a variety of marketing campaigns based on leads’ interests and behavior.|
|Social media integration||Social media is a vast data source for companies that generate leads across multiple channels. Lead generation tools that collect data from social platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, go beyond a company’s own website to deliver greater insights and increase the number and quality of opportunities for the sales team.|
|Lead segmentation||Demographics (e.g., job title and company size), referral source (e.g., organic search and paid advertising) and behavior (e.g., type of content downloaded and website path) information is used to categorize the lead. This allows it to be assigned to the appropriate sales team member for evaluation and lead scoring.|
|Lead assignment||This function routes leads to the right employee within a company based on filters users define, and alerts the sales team when a new lead is captured.|
Below is an example on one CRM vendor's landing page and Web form creation tool. Lead generation CRM applications with these types of tools make it easy to design and embed forms on websites to capture lead information.
Screenshot of Infusionsoft’s Web form and landing page design tool
Any industry can benefit from using lead generation software: from student loan providers to restaurants to software vendors to advertising agencies. Generally, however, buyer segments are broken into two categories:
B2C buyers. These buyers sell their products directly to consumers. Typically, B2C sales cycles are short, with leads turning into buyers soon after their first interaction. For example, someone might visit several online retailers shopping for a new pair of sunglasses. When that person finds a retailer offering the style they desire for the right price, they make the purchase immediately. In cases where leads don't turn into buyers right away, lead nurturing software for B2C buyers might serve up content such as discount vouchers or information about special deals to potential buyers.
B2B buyers. These buyers sell their products and services to other businesses, rather than to consumers. Because B2B purchasing decisions are often made by more than one person—or even a formal buying committee—more nurturing is required to convert a lead into a buyer than in the B2C sales cycle. Thus, lead generation and nurturing software tools are often used in conjunction to guide prospective customers through the sales funnel.
There are hundreds of lead generation applications from which to choose. Selecting the best one for your business depends on a variety of factors, including the type of lead generation campaigns you want to run, which channels you use to capture leads and what other software needs to integrate with the solution.
Even after paring down your list based on the above criteria, you’ll likely have many products to evaluate. We recently surveyed software buyers across multiple industries to determine the best tactics for selecting software. Top methods include checking vendor references, having an attorney review agreements and preparing a request for proposal (RFP).
Software Selection Methods
Quadrant indicating where selection tactics fall on the “impact” and “satisfaction” spectrum
After creating a shortlist of products that have the functionality your business requires, you can use the methods above to speed further evaluation to find the product that best meets your needs.
Companies that adopt a lead generation system can experience several benefits:
Shorter sales cycle. Because the sales team is alerted to new leads in real time, reps and managers can contact leads promptly and with the right information to close sales more quickly.
More accurate data. There is less room for data entry errors because lead data collected from online forms is automatically synced with a CRM system, rather than being collected from various mediums and manually entered by an employee.
Improved efficiency. The core benefit of automation is to reduce or eliminate manual tasks, thus saving employees many hours of time evaluating leads and performing data entry.
Companies that fail to see these benefits often do so because of:
Unoptimized landing pages. Poorly designed landing pages and Web forms may fail to motivate potential leads to take action.
Lack of training. Employees who aren’t properly trained to use the software’s complete scope of features may miss out on opportunities to capture leads.
Lack of planning. Businesses that don’t strategically plan for their business’ changing needs and growth may make poor software purchasing decisions.
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