What is a lead in marketing?

Little Leonard's Encyclopedia #4

5mn   Beginner Level

Understanding lead marketing

A lead is a valuable indication that someone is considering your offers. It may be someone expressing interest for the first time (“New Business”), or an existing customer (“Renewal” or “Cross sell” or “Upsell”) exploring other products or services. This is one of the major problems of lead management as imagined at the end of the 2000s, and one which requires new rules of the game in B2B marketing, as we’ll come back to later.

Identifying and developing leads – from potential or existing customers – is essential for any company wishing to expand its customer base and increase sales.

Types of prospects: new and existing customers

  • New prospects: these are people or entities who have never had contact with your company before. Their interest can come from a variety of sources, such as an online advertisement, a message on social media or a recommendation from a friend. The key is that they are completely new to your ecosystem and represent new opportunities for growth.
  • Existing customers’ new interests: these potential customers come from your existing customer base. They may be interested in additional products or services, upgrades or renewals. These leads are particularly valuable because they come from people who already trust your brand, and are more likely to convert into regular buyers.

Inbound and outbound marketing leads

Leads can come from two types of marketing action: inbound and outbound. Each type involves different strategies and actions that encourage potential customers to express their interest.

Inbound leads:

These leads are generated when a prospect makes contact with your company. This often happens through:

  • Contact forms: filling in a form on your website to request more information or a demonstration.
  • Meeting requests: scheduling a meeting via your online reservation system.
  • Inbound calls: call your call center to inquire about products or services.
  • Trade show visits: visit your booth at a trade show and chat with your team.
  • Direct LinkedIn invitations: accept a connection request and start a conversation about your offerings.

Inbound leads are generally more qualified because they have taken the initiative to contact you, indicating a higher level of interest and intent.

Outbound leads :

These leads are generated by your company’s proactive outreach efforts. These include the following:

  • E-mail campaigns: prospects who open, click and engage with your e-mail content.
  • Website visits: prospects who visit specific web pages or landing pages after receiving a promotional e-mail or seeing an advertisement.
  • Video viewing: people who watch videos related to your products or services.
  • Content engagement: reading or downloading PDFs, white papers or other documents you’ve shared.

Outbound leads require a more strategic approach, as they come from your marketing efforts to attract attention and generate interest.

What is the minimum information required for a marketing lead?

There are no rules! Sometimes, a lead starts out very haphazardly: business cards in a bag at a trade show, a friend saying “Mr. X is going to call you, he might need your services”, an email subscription to your newsletter. These seemingly insignificant pieces of information can become valuable leads if handled correctly.

The minimum information required for a potential customer is generally as follows

  • Name: to identify the potential customer
  • Contact details: e-mail address or telephone number, for example.
  • Lead source: to understand where the lead comes from.

However, leads often come with incomplete information. It’s marketing’s role to try and qualify these leads by automatically collecting more information, enriching the profile, assessing commercial interest and deciding when to pass the lead on to the sales team.

  1. Lead enrichment: This involves collecting additional data on the prospect, such as company details, job function, industry sector and specific needs. Tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems can automatically provide this information by integrating with other data sources.
  2. Lead scoring: Using a system that assigns values to different prospect actions and characteristics (such as website visits, emails opened and job titles) enables prospects to be prioritized according to their likelihood of conversion.
  3. Qualification: Leads are qualified through interaction and data analysis to determine their potential value and suitability for sales.

The importance of lead identification

Recognizing and classifying leads accurately enables companies to adapt their marketing strategies effectively. By understanding the source and type of each lead, companies can develop targeted campaigns to nurture these leads throughout the sales funnel, and ultimately convert them into loyal customers.


In the great quest for customer acquisition, leads are the vital clues that guide marketers to potential prospects. Whether a spontaneous gesture of interest or a response to a well-crafted marketing campaign, every lead represents an opportunity to forge new relationships and extend your company’s reach.

Embrace the journey of lead management with Merlin’s wisdom, turning every spark of interest into a loyal and satisfied customer.

Posted By Sylvain

For the past 20 years, Sylvain has been choosing and assembling the best technologies for his key account clients, to help them create a successful end-to-end customer experience. Surely the Leonard of the team, he is a fan - and expert - of Marketo! He sits next to his clients, drives them forward and makes Marketing Automation projects succeed with his team.