Lead generation is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges for sales and marketing professionals, thanks to today’s more empowered buyers and the large increase in market competitiveness.

In fact, the 2014 Black Report by 360 Leads, which surveyed B2B sales lead generation practices with C-levels, sales leadership and marketing executives from six continents, found that lead generation is the most pressing sales and marketing challenge facing 58% of companies. What’s more, the study found that although 78% of companies have launched comprehensive lead generation programs over the past 12 months, only 17% are meeting their projected sales lead generation target.

So as a marketer, you might be feeling really confident about the high volume of leads you’re currently generating, but don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Let’s be honest, not all leads are created equal.

It’s your responsibility as a marketer to generate interest from leads that actually need the products and services you sell. After all, gathering leads that don’t fit your target audience and aren’t sales-ready doesn’t do you or your sales team any good.

Below are four marketing tactics that are known to help generate high-quality leads.

1. Tradeshows

Although tradeshows can be expensive, they are considered to be one of the most effective lead generation tactics. According to research from Software Advice, 77% of marketers say tradeshows generate a "somewhat" or "very high" quantity of leads, and 82% say they generate leads of "good" or "excellent" quality. Typically, buyers who attend industry tradeshows do so with the intent of purchasing a product or service, meaning they tend to be already sales-ready.

2. Referral Marketing

Referral marketing comes in as the second most effective strategy in generating high-quality leads. Referral marketing—also known as word-of-mouth marketing—works because people trust the opinions of their friends, peers, and influencers they respect. What’s more, it’s highly targeted, as these people are in need of the product or service that you provide.

3. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing — which encompasses several different tactics, including paid search and search engine optimization (SEO) — is another effective lead generation strategy that gathers high-quality leads. By optimizing content for keywords in which your target audience is already searching, you have the ability to get in front of consumers who need the products and services that you sell.

4. Email Marketing

Although it’s not the most cutting edge marketing strategy, email marketing is still an effective tactic in gathering high-quality leads. Not only are people familiar and comfortable with email, but prospects also spend most of their time in their inboxes. What’s more, marketers are able to precisely target consumers with segmentation tactics and highly relevant content, increasing their chance for conversion.

Contrary to what many people want to think, it’s not about the amount of leads that you generate. It’s the quality of leads that you gather that’s important. Use the four lead generation tactics above to help improve your ability to generate high quality leads that fit your target market and help increase your conversion rates.

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