How to Automate Lead Generation: Tools, Tips, and Best Practices
- Automated lead generation combines technology and marketing tactics to generate leads online with minimal human involvement.
- Strategies for automating lead generation include cold email outreach, custom chat messages, automated inbound marketing, automated advertising.
- Ensure that you regularly clean up the gathered data, segment leads based on interest, and create buyer personas.
Not all marketing is about lead generation, and not all lead generation is about pure marketing. However, in the age of data-driven business decisions where every step of the customer journey can be tracked, marketing and lead generation go hand in hand.
According to HubSpot, 27% of marketers say they prioritize lead generation in their efforts. This may not seem like a lot, but when you take a closer look at the data, you will see 40% of marketers say they prioritize sales; 29% prioritize conversion rates (both of which are metrics closely related to lead generation as well).
Automated lead generation can help you supercharge your marketing efforts with minimal effort. Still, automation shouldn’t be seen as a magic trick—nor should it be taken as a one-size-fits-all solution.
How can you automate your lead generation efficiently, and what specific tactics should you employ to ensure success?
Let’s look at a few strategies you can employ.
What is automated lead generation?
Automated lead generation is the practice of using a combination of technology and marketing tactics to generate leads online. This practice revolves around the idea that automated systems can help businesses identify, reach out to, and convert potential customers easier than manual processes.
How does automated lead generation work?
The way lead generation automation works depends on the specific tactics employed. Generally, most automated lead generation systems employ a combination of email marketing, website analytics and tracking, content marketing, social media marketing, and advertising—all on a more or less autopilot that requires less human involvement than manual lead generation.
It is worth noting that lead generation and inbound marketing for agencies are not one and the same (although some may use them interchangeably). As you will see later on in this article, there are perfectly efficient outbound automated lead generation tactics, just as there are inbound and advertising tactics.
Pros and cons of automated lead generation
There’s a a long list of pros when it comes to this strategy—and some cons you should be aware of too.
Advantages of automated lead generation
Automated lead generation allows you to reach out to hundreds of potential customers with minimal effort. Instead of spending time to outreach 100 leads every day, your team will focus on the leads most likely to actually convert. This, in turn, is determined based on how they interact with your content, emails, and brand.
You can also collect just the right amount of leads so that your sales team is able to focus on what they do best: selling, as opposed to sifting through endless lists of prospects.
In most cases, lead generation that is automated is more cost-effective than manual processes. This means that you can get a better ROI on your investment and don’t need a lot of money or resources to get started.
Better customer experience
People don’t like being sold to. This is not to say they don’t want expert help when they are ready to buy. But pushing a product or service into their face is not going to convince anyone if they are not already primed to make an actual purchase.
Automated lead generation gives you the opportunity to take your time to provide potential customers with helpful content, advice, and resources. They’ll gradually warm up to your solution and feel like they’re in control, as opposed to being manipulated or forced into buying something from you.
Reach a wider audience
By using automation features, you can easily reach people outside your local market, which can help you promote and sell your product globally. You don’t even need subsidiaries on every continent, massive sales rep teams, or expensive international marketing campaigns.
Learn more about your ideal customer
The more data you collect, the more you can narrow down who your ideal customer is and what type of content and tactics work best for them. Automate your lead generation in order to do this more quickly and easily than ever before.
Disadvantages of lead generation
Exposure to technical risks
Automation requires a fair amount of technical expertise and know-how. Without it, you are exposed to the risks that come with your chosen tools and services. Common risks include data breaches, platform downtime, and software bugs.
Data security and privacy
As mentioned before, technical risks can bring along data breaches—which can be a major issue in most industries. Before you decide to settle on automatic lead generation, make sure your chosen tool is compliant with data privacy regulations and that all the necessary measures are taken to ensure the security of the data you collect.
Additionally, as more and more people are concerned with data privacy and how their information is being collected, handled, and used, you need to be transparent about this process.
Loss of trust and authenticity
As the world leans towards an increasing preference for personalization, simply automating everything may not be enough. It is important to complement it with some human touchpoints in order to ensure a more authentic customer experience. Otherwise, you risk losing your customers’ trust and loyalty because they will feel like just another number in an automated system.
Data overload and automation fatigue
The sheer amount of data generated by lead generation running on autopilot can be overwhelming, and it may take you some time to adjust. Additionally, automation fatigue can set in if you rely too much on it. This means that people may become bored and disengaged with your content, emails, and brand if they feel like there is no human connection.
None of these matters are insurmountable—there are solutions to each of them, from how you build your automation to how you provide a human touch. But it is important to be aware of the potential risks and challenges that come with automated lead generation so that you can preempt them before they become actual issues for you.
15 ways to automate lead generation in 2023
If you’re keen to automate lead generation for your business, here are some tactics you may want to consider.
Cold email outreach
Cold email outreach refers to the practice of sending unsolicited emails to people or businesses that you think may be interested in your product or service. Although many argue that cold email is dead, the truth is that it can definitely work, especially for some types of industries.
The secret to running successful cold email outreach is to focus on building relationships and expanding your network, rather than on selling to people. As mentioned before, people are wary of any salesperson knocking on their door (even if it’s just a digital door). So if you want to succeed at cold email outreach, you need to focus on building relationships first.
Also, do keep in mind that you only run cold email outreach with lists of emails you are allowed to access, as sending unsolicited emails is in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR regulations (both of which protect users and fine businesses that don’t comply).
Custom chat messages
Have you ever navigated a website and seen a popup message inviting you to ask any questions or get help? That’s what custom chat messages are. They’re automated messages that invite people to discuss more about specific features.
The best custom chat messages are automated to fit the specific content on the page they’re triggered on. For example, if you’re in the market for a new SaaS tool and you’re looking at the page where the seller describes their pricing, the pop-up message will likely include something along the lines of “Do you have any questions about our pricing?”
This way, you can turn a potential lead into an actual customer by inviting them to have a conversation and ask all questions they may have. This kind of approach builds rapport and trust, making it more likely that a person will buy from you.
Building a pipeline of leads with specialized tools
Tools like Leadfeeder allow B2B businesses to build a pipeline of leads by tracking website visits and other data, even if they don’t leave their contact details. Anonymous website visitors are basically turned into company profiles, thus allowing you to reach out to decision makers in those organizations and open a discussion about your product.
Automated inbound marketing
Inbound marketing for agencies is, in itself, an automated way to attract potential customers, convert them into marketing qualified leads (or MQLs), and then nurture them to become sales qualified leads. Most often, inbound marketing uses SEO, content marketing, and social media campaigns to drive traffic to websites.
With the help of marketing automation tools, such as Hubspot or Marketo, businesses can automate a large part of the process. They can easily create marketing campaigns, track their effectiveness, and adjust content to make sure it’s optimized for lead generation.
Grow your industry knowledge
Inbound marketing works by attracting people interested in your category or the information you offer, encouraging them to leave their contact details, and then continuously nurturing them until they are ready to buy. For instance, if you sell design services, you could write content that answers search queries in your area of expertise, optimize it for search engines, and encourage people who land on your pages to stay in touch by subscribing to a newsletter and/or downloading an eBook, whitepaper, report, or template. Once they give you their contact information, you can start nurturing them and eventually convert them into customers.
Sometimes, inbound marketing doesn’t even rely on gating content to collect email addresses. The more modern school of thought believes that if you keep offering good information to people, they will keep you at the top of their mind for when they’re ready to buy. This is, of course, a long-term game, but it can be very efficient at building genuine relationships with your target audience.
Automated advertising refers to the process of using algorithms to buy, place, and optimize digital ads. This can be done with a variety of different channels: Google, Facebook, TikTok, or various programmatic channels.
Advertisers can, for instance, create a campaign in Google Ads and set up automated bidding strategies that take into account the user behavior, search history, demographics, and the pages they’ve already visited. Likewise, advertisers can also automate a campaign to target people who have already visited your website (or a specific page on it—such as the pricing page, for example).
Top tools to use for automated lead generation
There are a lot of tools to automate lead generation, but some of the best ones include:
Customer Relationship Management tools: Hubspot, Zendesk, and Salesforce
Email marketing tools: Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, and Klaviyo
Marketing automation platforms: Marketo, Pardot, and Hubspot
Social media tools: Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social
Lead generation software: Leadfeeder, Leadpages, and noCRM.io
Form builders for lead capture forms: Service Provider Pro’s white label form builder
Content management systems: WordPress, Drupal, and Squarespace Analytics software
Data collection: Sales Navigator, Phantombuster, LinkedHelper
Appointment management: Calendly, Chili Piper, Zoho Bookings
Some tools cover for pretty much every need you may have in automating lead generation. HubSpot, for example, can be a CRM, a marketing automation platform, a social media scheduler, it can allow you to build forms, manage your content, and even manage appointments. This allows you to save time and resources and make sure both your support, sales and marketing teams are all on the same page.
Automated lead generation best practices
All the lead generation tools in the world can’t save bad strategy, a faulty funnel, a landing page that doesn’t address key concerns, or poor data collection practices. Therefore, when automating your lead generation efforts, it’s important to keep the following practices in mind.
Regular data analysis
Analyze data regularly to understand which channels and campaigns work best for you. This can help you adjust your strategy to maximize lead generation and optimize ROI.
Furthermore, remember to maintain data hygiene for all the information you collect from your website visitors. Lead nurturing is only as powerful as your data is clean and well-segmented.
Segment your leads according to their interests and behavior. This way, you can personalize run email automation content and offers that’s personalized to their experience, their needs and wants, and, ultimately, to what makes them most likely to buy from you.
Create buyer personas
Take some time to study your target audience: who are they? What are their needs, wants, and interests? What is likely to make them tick? Creating buyer personas allows you to build marketing campaigns and automated sales outreach campaigns that feel personal and human (which is precisely what most target audiences respond best to).
Craft a good lead magnet
If you choose to gate content for lead generation, ensure your lead magnet is attractive, useful, and specific to your target audience. Content that helps solve problems or provide valuable insights will be more likely to convert. Long gone are the days when you could get away with a lackluster PDF lead gen asset. To receive anything from your prospects, you need to give them everything you can—again, and again.
Done right, automated lead generation can save time and maximize ROI. However, it’s neither a magic spell, not a way to replace your entire marketing and sales team. You can automate almost every stage of the lead generation process, for sure—but remember that your target audience is made of humans.
And just as you may find it annoying when a robot answers the phone and asks you to press buttons to get information, so does your audience. Make sure your automation efforts support your humans, and not the other way around. In a world crowded by overly transactional emails and robotic messages, personalization and empathy are precious commodities and major differentiators.