Lead generation is a core part of customer acquisition strategy, making up the first part of the digital marketing funnel. Knowing which strategies are most effective at generating leads, and ultimately delivering new customers, is necessary for businesses to maintain healthy growth.
In this report, we compare the costs, benefits, drawbacks, and average ROI of the most popular digital lead generation strategies, and rank them by their overall effectiveness. We then explain how to combine the strategies for greater success than can be achieved by any individual strategy alone. Our research draws data from 130+ clients between 2017 and 2022, and consists of 85% B2B and 15% B2C businesses.
The Most Popular Digital Lead Generation Strategies, Ranked
|Thought Leadership SEO
|$7.5k – $15k per month
|Thought Leadership SEO is the practice of creating and publishing high-quality, original content written with search intent in mind. This content secures high Google search rankings, and passively converts visitors into leads.
|Delivers warmer leads than paid channels. low customer acquisition costs; augments your brand; content can also be used for email marketing and social media posts
|Requires allocating significant resources to maintain a consistent publishing schedule without sacrificing content quality.
|$3k – $30k monthly advertising budget + $1k-$3k / month management fee (if outsourced)
|The most popular strategy for digital lead generation, PPC/SEM refers to paying Google for an ad spot at the top of search results.
|Results are the fastest of any lead generation strategy, and can be easily tracked. This makes it particularly well suited for testing new markets.
|PPC becomes expensive quickly, and its low ROI makes it unsuited for being the primary source of new leads.
|$5k – $10k per month
|Webinars are online, video-based educational presentations, which occur live but are generally recorded and can be reused for video content. These are most often, these are provided in exchange for an email address or other information.
|Webinars create a more personal connection because of the video element. Effective as building trust with prospects by serving as a source of education or training.
|Creating webinars is time-intensive and requires a presenter that is knowledgeable and charismatic. Facility with video and web conferencing technology is also needed.
|$1k – $3k per month
|Email marketing is both popular and effective, although it is better suited for lead nurturing than lead generation.
|Low cost, especially when combined with Thought Leadership SEO.
|Contact lists suffer attrition over time due to changing email addresses and unsubscribes. Purchased lists result in relatively cold leads and low conversion rates.
|Paid Social Media
|$5k – $20k per month
|Paid social media ads appear either on the side of the screen or within users’ personal feeds.
|Advertisers can target specific job titles, locations, industries, and companies
|Expensive compared to Google Ads. Cannot target users based on intent to purchase.
|Organic Social Media
|$1k – $2k per month
|Organic social media must be targeted to the platforms that decision-makers use. For B2B businesses, this means Twitter and LinkedIn, while for B2C, Facebook and Instagram are most valuable.
|Keeps your company top of mind for potential customers who follow your brand on social platforms.
|Low conversion rates, instead serving as more of a reminder of your company’s existence than a lead generator. Most posts are never seen by actual prospects.
|$10k – $50k per month
|Online PR involves an individual or team, usually former journalists, crafting a message and reaching out to news websites to share that message. Most often handled by a dedicated outside agency, rather than in-house.
|People tend to trust what they read, see, or hear on news websites. Said news websites have very large audiences that allow for much greater reach than your own website.
|The best online PR firms are expensive. Quality from firm to firm varies widely, and results are unpredictable and difficult to quantify even when working with the best firms.
Combining Lead Generation Strategies
A well executed customer acquisition program will rarely rely on a single strategy listed above. Instead, businesses should combine 2-4 that will work in tandem, increasing the effectiveness of each while potentially sharing costs across multiple campaigns. Online PR, in particular, can rarely be justified on its own. Only when combined with other strategies does it shine, increasing the trust with which prospects view your business when engaging with your other lead generation channels.
One of the most effective ways to combine strategies is to use the content produced by a thought leadership campaign as a foundation for secondary email marketing, social media, and webinars. This results not only in lower overall content creation costs, thus leading to higher ROI, but also encourages the use of higher quality content than may otherwise be produced in the normal course of the secondary campaigns.
KPIs for Evaluating Digital Lead Generation
One advantage many digital lead generation strategies have over their traditional counterparts is the abundance of data available for evaluating their effectiveness, and course-correcting when necessary. This wealth of information, however, can be overwhelming when not pared down to the most essential. The below table shares the 6 we’ve identified to be the best indicators of success, as well as benchmarks for each.
|Net profit generated by a campaign divided by the total campaign cost. This is the most effective measure of overall lead generation success.
|See above for per-channel ROI
|Total # of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
|Total number of qualified leads. This should increase year over year as you refine your lead generation strategy.
|40% increase YOY
|Average Cost Per Lead (CPL)
|Total lead generation spend divided by total number of leads. A useful intermediate KPI, although it does not account for lead quality.
|See industry breakdown
|Average Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
|Total cost of marketing and sales divided by total number of customers. Better accounts for lead quality than CPL.
|LTV to CAC Ratio
|The ratio of your average customer lifetime value to your average CAC. Low ratios are a sign of poor lead quality or inefficient lead generation, while excessively high ratios indicate potential for faster growth.
|The number of conversions compared to total unique impressions, or views of your ads, emails, webpages, or social media posts. Measures the accuracy of your targeting and the quality of your content.
|See per-channel breakdown
Getting Help with Lead Generation
Many businesses will need help filling their sales pipeline while they build out the capabilities of their in-house team. An experienced lead generation agency can not only deliver leads, but also help lay the foundational structure for a sustainable, long-term system.
At First Page Sage, we have over 12 years of experience providing lead generation services via thought leadership and SEO, with a focus on delivering high ROI in complex B2B markets. If you’d like to learn more about our services, contact us here.