What Is Lead Generation? And How to Get Started

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how lead generation can improve your business and take action to get the most out of a lead generation strategy.

[Featured image] A sales development representative working on lead generation shakes hands with a potential client.

Lead generation is the process of attracting people to your business so that you can:

  • Nurture their interest in your products and services

  • Convert them into paying customers. 

A good lead generation system can facilitate your business's growth. You can gain exposure, attract aligned prospects, and easily guide them toward a purchase while freeing up more time and energy to envision the next best version of your business.  

Different types of leads

Before we go into how to generate leads, it’s important to have a firm understanding of what a lead is and the different types of leads your business may attract. That way, you can meet leads where they are and provide support and experiences at each point in their journey toward becoming customers. 

Although cold leads have yet to express interest in your products and services, based on their demographic and psychographic details, they match your ideal customer profile (explored in the next section). 

Warm leads are people familiar with your business and may even engage with the content or other aspects of your customer experience but have yet to purchase. Engagement might include following you on social media, subscribing to your blog or newsletter, or attending events. 

Hot leads are people who have expressed interest in your products and services by reaching out directly to ask questions or booking a meeting to learn more. With hot leads, there is more urgency around responding to their needs and leading them to purchase.

Qualified leads

One important goal is to qualify your leads to ensure they are the right fit for your business and the products and services you offer. Use these four types to examine qualified leads in your business: 

[Image] An glossary describes the types of qualified leads.
  • An information qualified lead researches solutions to a problem and may share information about themselves with your business, such as by filling out a contact form.

  • A marketing qualified lead is highly likely to become a customer based on their activity and engagement with a business, such as by downloading free lead magnets, visiting certain site pages, and interacting with certain social posts. 

  • A sales qualified lead is likely ready to advance from engagement with a business to the sales process.

  • A qualified product lead has used a product or benefitted from a service, perhaps with a free trial, and is now exhibiting signs of being ready to purchase.

Did you know?

Statista reports that digital ad spend for the UK in the first half of 2022 reached £12.52 billion [1].


How to generate leads for your business  

You can use the strategies below to attract new potential customers and generate leads.

1. Identify your business objectives. 

Review your business plan and reflect on the following questions to clarify your objectives:

  • What would your business look like in the next quarter, six months, and year?

  • What specific things need to change for this growth to happen?

  • What current or new offers do you want to sell?

  • How many sales do you need to make to reach your goals?

  • How many leads do you need to convert into customers?

2. Create an ideal customer profile. 

To be able to generate leads and guide them to make a purchase, you’ll need to know your ideal customer. That way, you can focus on attracting people most likely to buy from you, become loyal customers, and even recommend your products and services to others.

Whether you serve individual consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B), an ideal customer profile is a hypothetical representation of the kinds of customers you can best serve. 

Here are a few basic questions for building an ideal customer profile:

  • What kinds of individual consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B) most need your products and services? Who can benefit the most from them?

  • What are their demographics (for example, the age and geographical location of consumers, or the industry, company size, and annual revenue of other businesses)

  • What are their psychographics, including values and beliefs, goals and desires, and challenges and roadblocks?

Based on your answers to the above questions, write a story about the problem your ideal customer experiences, what they want to experience instead, and how your product or service can meet their needs. 

3. Investigate lead generation strategies in your industry. 

This section covers common lead-generation strategies businesses use to turn prospects into paying customers. Consider which will work best for your business goals, your industry, and the ideal customer you want to serve. Use any combination of them to collect leads’ contact information so that you can follow up with them in a nurturing sequence.   

Go offline.

Even in the digital age, offline lead generation can still be effective, especially in B2B. Here are three examples of offline lead generation: 

  • Attend networking events to meet potential customers face-to-face, discuss their needs and goals, share information about your business, and exchange contact information. 

  • Sponsor other organisations’ events to position your brand in front of attendees who may be interested in your projects and services.

  • Ask your satisfied customers for referrals to leverage the power of social proof. Potential customers are more likely to buy from you when their contacts recommend your brand. 

  • Advertise on physical objects, billboards, or fliers through direct mail or print publications. Promote your business visually or tactically to get potential customers’ attention when they are engaged in activities that don’t involve the internet.  

Host events. 

Consider hosting events to boost your online and local lead generation. Doing so can draw potential customers to crave-worthy experiences and prime them to consider purchasing additional products and services your business offers.

Here are two examples: 

  • Offer free or low-cost experiences like classes, workshops, webinars, and conferences to educate your audience on topics related to additional paid offers. 

  • Organise performances, parties, and festivals to entertain your audience and attract them to future events, merchandise, and related products.

Event hosting tip: You can collect attendees’ contact information through event registration apps like Meetup and Eventbrite, as well as through the video conferencing app Zoom.



Build a social media following. 

Post content, including tutorial videos, blog posts from your site, images, memes, infographics, or polls, to engage followers and endear them to your brand, products, and services. 

As your content garners a following, you can generate leads in several ways, including:


  • Inviting followers to comment on posts, send you a direct message, or reach out via email  

  • Posting links to your website and/or sales pages to drive traffic there  

  • Posting irresistible lead magnet offers

  • Hosting giveaways and contests to create more buzz

  • Reposting content from your followers and showing your support 

  • Asking followers to re-post, share, or retweet content to their pages 

  • Creating a Facebook group around a specific topic or purpose to foster community 

  • Participating in other Facebook groups or online forums 

Turn your website into a lead generation machine. 

Here are a few ways to optimise your website to convert the people who land on it into leads: 


  • Curate valuable, SEO-friendly content that informs site visitors speaks to their challenges and goals, and garners interest in your products and services.

  • Offer free, “gated” content as a lead magnet, such as an ebook, video tutorial, report, quiz, or a product trial that visitors can access once they subscribe via email. 

  • Minimise the steps site visitors have to take action on a webpage to subscribe via email or make a purchase.

  • Add call-to-action buttons, such as “Sign up to join our next webinar” or “Download our ebook to get our best hacks,” to every section to encourage site visitors to take action. 

  • Create intake forms that collect new contacts' names and email addresses. Limiting forms to these two pieces of information may encourage more sign-ups.   

4. Vet lead generation services. 

Many apps can automate the lead generation process and reduce the number of tasks you have to do manually. In general, these processes can include:

  • Collecting leads from social media, landing pages, and other channels

  • Storing information about leads for sales and marketing teams to use in closing deals 

  • Delivering a nurture sequence through email

Popular lead generation software includes:

  • Unbounce, a landing page service that combines your value proposition and expertise with machine learning to boost conversion

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which allows you to search LinkedIn for leads based on job titles, cities, industries, and other demographic terms 

  • Salesforce, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that allows you to engage leads, generate revenue, and deliver your service in one platform 

Depending on your current stage of business development, enlisting a lead generation company may be a viable option.

5. Design a lead generation campaign. 

Once you know your business objectives, ideal client profile, best strategy, and app or service, the next steps are to design and execute a lead generation campaign:

  • Refine your products and services. 

  • Create a lead magnet. 

  • Set up your lead capture method using strategies like landing pages, live events, or print advertisements.

  • Set up your customer relationship management (CRM) system to organise and set up your nurture sequence to guide prospects to make a purchase. 

  • Drive traffic to your lead magnet. 

  • Analyse campaign results and refine your efforts. 

Watch this video, part of the Salesforce Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate, for more ideas on generating leads. 

Learn lead generation with Coursera.

Generating leads is an important part of a business’s success, and there are many moving parts. Don’t forget that lead generation is only one part of business growth. Getting the right training and support can help you navigate all the challenges to reach your business goals faster. 

Consider learning more about sales and lead generation with the Strategic Customer Relationship Management & Sales Technique Specialisation. Inside are five courses that cover skills such as lead management, sales enablement, inbound sales, and customer relationship management (CRM).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Article sources

  1. Statista. "Digital ad spend in the UK in first half of 2022,  https://www.statista.com/statistics/942864/uk-digital-ad-spend/." Accessed June 11, 2024.

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