What is lead generation in digital marketing?

Published by Sarah Warren

In simple terms, lead generation in digital marketing are the activities a business executes to generate leads.

As a marketing agency we are continually evaluating and evolving the answer to the question “what is lead generation in digital marketing”?  This article shares our approach to digital marketing lead gen based on years of experience working in the digital marketing space.

OnBrand’s Lead Gen Solution.

Lead gen in digital marketing involves 3 clear distinct practices.


Generate interest:

Find, reach and connect with your target audience which becomes your pool of potential leads. To do this you should understand who your target audience is and the behaviour of your existing customers including the sources existing customers came from and their journey to get there(a Google search, social media, paid social ad, google ad etc etc). Assuming you have factored in these things then:

Execute marketing that reaches your target audience and brings them to your online places, your website and your social channels.

Determine your best foot forward marketing plan which is likely to include a combination of activities including; SEO, content marketing, paid and organic social, email marketing, display advertising and other PPC

Your marketing efforts will get these visitors interested in your business and a percentage of them will be potential leads and in turn customers.


Nurture the interest:

Turn these interested visitors (potential leads) into leads through proven lead gen methods including;

    • Retargeting (you may be interested in our article “How to do retargeting on LinkedIn
    • Keep marketing – Keep pushing out quality content across a variety of channels to keep those visitors who now know about you engaged and interested.

Capture the interest:

Turn these visitors (potential leads) into leads through proven lead gen tactics including:

    • Lead gen tactics (offers, promotions, chat bots, surveys, CTA’s, sign ups, downloads, trials, demos)

First off we’ll cover off some definitions

Term Definition
Lead A lead is someone who shows an interest in what your business has to sell.
Lead generation The activities you undertake to generate new leads
Retargeting Retargeting is about moving not-yet customers down the purchase path.  It usually involves placing an online ad in front of someone who has either previously visited your website (by the use of cookies) or by using a particular platforms in-built retargeting parameters.
Conversion rate optimisation Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the practice of improving the effectiveness of your website and the tactics you employ to convert more visitors to your website into MQL’s (marketing qualified leads) or SQL’s (sales qualified leads) by getting them to perform a desired action on your website.


Full proof lead generation plan.


Phase 1: attract visitors (AKA potential leads) to you.

Be that your website, landing pages, social media profiles or of course a physical place if you have one through digital marketing activities. Devise campaigns and use the right channels and activities to draw your defined target audience through to your website based on the stage they might be of their buying journey.


How to attract visitors AKA potential leads?

    1. Identify the channels you are going to use to reach your target audience utlilising online channels such as organic search, PPC, organic social, paid social media ads to reach your audience.
    2. Define lead generation campaigns
    3. Produce messaging, creatives and or content marketing types that will resonate with and attract your target audience like our fab TikTok video (if we do say so ourselves!)


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Attract visitors top tip #1.

  • Ensure your content marketing mix is engaging enough be that for social media posts or the information and detail you have placed on a landing page.


Attract visitors top tip #2.

Clearly defining your target audience and establishing target personas alongside understanding the most critical elements relevant to your business proposition will be key to knowing

  • what social media platforms you should be focusing your efforts on? It could be TikTok, Facebook or LinkedIn and YouTube
  • what types of content they like to engage with is it text, images, infographics, blogs, reports?
  • what they are searching for on Google?
  • what messaging and tone and voice makes them pay attention?


Attract visitors top tip #3.

Attracting leads that are ready to buy what you sell or considering buying what you sell – hands you potential leads that are further down their buying journey.  Getting in front of these people is what you want to do.

CONSIDERING BUYING – Those in the research and information gathering stage will need more touchpoints than those who are ready to buy

READY TO BUY NOWThose who already know and need they are after what your company has to sell and are actively searching with an intent to buy immediately or soon.


Takeaway on attracting visitors (aka potential leads).

Assuming you have a viable business proposition and your marketing strategy has been developed to attract your defined target audience then these visitors to your business can all be considered potential leads.


Phase 2: How to turn visitors (AKA potential leads) into LEADS?

Lead generation in digital marketing is the strategy and plan you have in place to convert visitors into leads by getting them to perform a particular action which demonstrates they have an interest in what your business is selling.


Lead generation tactics.

We split out our lead generation tactics based on how ready a potential lead is to buy.  The list in the table is not exhaustive and each business must select the most suitable lead generation tactics pertinent to their business.

Note: of course any of the lead gen tactics listed below might be relevant to an individual at any stage but the purpose of the table is to highlight a variety of examples and the ones most likely to influence someone to take the next action to become lead or even customer if they are ready to buy!

Lead generation tactics Ready to buy Considering buying Not considered buying
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Lead gen top tip #1.

Lead generation tactics must be presented to any visitor in order to get them to convert to a lead.  Your website and its landing pages and your social channels and social posts must be constructed and laid out in the best way possible to get this conversion from visitor to lead.


Lead gen top tip #2.

Lead generation campaigns on social media must be engaging and have a clear call to action that allows you to capture their contact details

Here is an example of one of our own ad creatives we developed for a lead gen campaign.

lead gen ad creative

Lead gen top tip #3.

Strategies can be used to increase the chances of converting visitors into leads.  Before someone becomes a lead and then in turn a paying customer they are likely to need some key things:

  1. Touchpoints: To be touched by you more than once! In fact probably a minimum of 6 times. Creating touchpoints (usually across a mix of channels) is crucial to successful lead generation and also conversion of lead to customer.
  2. USP: To see you are offering something different to your competitors
  3. Website conversion rate optimsation: To see the primary things of importance to them relative to how ready they are to buy. If they are on your website then what’s important to them? Is it product specifications? the credentials of the team? white papers? Blogs? high quality photos? Videos? Infographics? trust signals? the website style and image and it being aligned and appealing to the visitor? N.B Product versus service type businesses are likely to have very different lists of what’s most important.


Lead gen top tip #4.

Trust signals & social proofs: Trust signal and social proofs are vital to take someone from visitor to lead. The table lists out some examples based on how ready they are to buy. NB. this list is not exhaustive and not all examples will be relevant or as important to your business than others. This table is most relevant to professional service companies.

Trust signals and social proof Ready to buy Considering buying Not considered buying
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Summary on Lead Gen.

  1. Generate targeted visitors to your website and or social channels.
  2. Nurture visitors into leads
  3. Make sure your website and or social channels are on point and set up to have the best chance of converting these visitors into leads

Time to change up how you generate leads?

Get in touch [email protected]

Sarah Warren

Digital Account Director