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Connected, not competing: How lead generation and customer acquisition work together

Lead generation and customer acquisition are different pieces of the same puzzle. But how exactly do they work together? Learn more about how to harness the power of both to create a seamless customer (and data) journey.

Imagine riding your bike on a sunny summer day, pedaling furiously up steep hills, hair blowing in the wind. You're probably not thinking about the mechanics of your bike or how they all work together to propel you forward.

But without your pedaling, the bike wouldn't move. Or, if the tires were missing, you'd be stuck. Everything needs to work in unison for you to ride your bike. The same goes for lead generation and customer acquisition.

Without leads to convert into customers, your customer acquisition efforts stall (just like your bike). Lead gen is the fuel that powers customer acquisition. We're breaking down how both function independently and the connection between the two, plus a foolproof strategy for converting leads into loyal customers.

What is lead generation?

HubSpot defines lead gen as "the process of attracting prospects to your business and increasing their interest through nurturing, all with the end goal of converting them into a customer."

Organizations often use gated content—like industry reports or white papers—discounts, and online content (like blogs) to bring in leads. Once you have a lead, you can warm them up with email campaigns to build awareness and drive home your product or service as the solution to their problem.

What is customer acquisition?

Like lead generation, customer acquisition has the same end goal: to get more customers. But they're not the same—they work together.

According to HubSpot, customer acquisition involves getting potential customers to buy your products. It typically includes lead gen, nurture sequences, and eventually turning leads into paying customers.

Lead gen, then customer acquisition

Simply put, there is no customer without lead generation. Every customer starts as a lead—someone who attended a webinar, heard about you from a friend, or followed you on social media and then joined your email list.

No leads, no nurturing them, no converting them into customers. It's that simple.

Start with data

Lead generation isn’t the first step in the customer acquisition process. Collecting data that turns a casual visitor into a hot lead is. Many companies leverage marketing efforts to gather that data, like requiring an email address to register for a webinar or get their results from your product quiz.

But why is data so important? When you have high-quality data, you get to know your leads on a deeper level. You understand their preferences, who they are, and how to more effectively nurture them into eventual customers.

Data gives you the power to design more personalized experiences—something we know customers want and expect from you. 

Our research shows that 71% of customers expect brands to personalize their experience.

Types of data

While zero-party data—data straight from your customers—is the most trustworthy data you can get, it's not the only kind. Leverage a mix of zero, first, second, and third-party data to collect as much information as possible on your leads.

Data shortage or data silo?

While it sometimes feels like we're missing the data we need to understand our customers fully or prove return on investment (ROI), the truth is that there's no shortage of data. Most organizations collect vast amounts of it.

What's really going on is your data is living in silos across teams and tools.

Sales may collect data in a CRM like HubSpot. Your customer support team's data may live in Zendesk. And your marketing team may have data in Hotjar, Google Analytics, and many other tools.

And none of your tools talk to each other.

When you have dozens of tools in your tech stack that don't communicate with each other, you create data silos that make it impossible to paint a clear picture of your lead. And when you don't understand your leads, you can't create the personalized outreach necessary to drive your customer acquisition process.

Personalized experiences for every lead

You already know data is crucial in building better, more personalized experiences for your leads and customers. But that's only one part of the puzzle.

Leads engage with your company in a thousand ways before becoming customers. This means they also likely interact with different teams at touchpoints along their journey to becoming a customer.

But your leads expect a single seamless experience, whether they're talking to your sales team, filling out a product quiz, or contacting customer support. Everyone across your organization needs to align on what that experience looks like and how you can make sure every lead's experience is personalized.

Customer acquisition and lead generation strategies

While lead generation and customer acquisition are both part of the same process, they each require their own strategy.

Think of your lead gen strategy as creating a neverending pipeline of leads to be nurtured over time. While every business will take a different approach, there are a few basic strategies any team can implement, like:

  • Creating high-quality content that builds brand awareness and trust with leads. Once you give them a reason to keep coming back, they'll likely sign up for your email newsletter so you can nurture them.

  • Optimizing lead magnets to collect enough information without overwhelming potential leads. Someone earlier in the customer journey may not be willing to provide extra details like job title, organization, or company size.

  • Focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) to drive organic traffic to your site, especially to lead generation landing pages.

  • Using giveaways, contests, or product quizzes like this to get people to share their contact information with you.

  • Offering free trials, a freemium version of your product, or free tools in exchange for their email addresses. Again, to send tailored marketing campaigns that nurture them into customers over time.

There are so many things to consider when building your lead generation strategy, but the single most important thing you need to remember is that you need to provide something just as valuable as your leads' email addresses in return.

So, you've got leads coming in. Now what? Customer acquisition. And just like with lead gen, you need a solid strategy to convert leads. Here are a few things to consider:

  • What channels will you use? There's a plethora of ways to convert customers—your website, social channels, blog, ads, and more. Which makes the most sense for your organization?

  • Where are your leads in their buying journey? Lead qualification will help you understand where leads are and the content or actions that will move them closer to becoming a customer.

  • What's the most effective way to nurture our leads? While email marketing is an effective option, ask yourself how else you can keep your leads engaged.

  • Can we offer free trials or a free self-serve product offering? Think of these as previews of your product and what leads will get (and more) when they become paying customers.

  • How can we incentivize existing customers to refer more customers? Loyalty and affiliate programs can bring in more leads... and customers.

Again, customer acquisition isn't just spamming leads with sales content or marketing emails. It's about providing value and proving that your product or service can help them.

It's all about knowing your audience

Both lead gen and customer acquisition require you to know your future customers, and doing so requires data. That data helps you understand what leads are interested in so you can create compelling lead magnets. It also makes for more effective targeting by meeting leads where they are, whether it's on social, in the inbox, or at events.

But data also paints a complete picture of your leads to create personalized experiences. A McKinsey study shows why it matters:

  • 76% of consumers are more likely to consider purchasing from brands that use personalization

  • 78% of consumers are more likely to buy again from brands that use personalization

  • 78% of consumers are more likely to refer friends and family to brands that personalize experiences

So, what's the best way to get data on your leads and customers? Get data straight from them.

Try Typeform—for free—to start collecting more and better data directly from your leads to fuel your lead generation and customer acquisition strategies.

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