Driving Growth: A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine

Struggling with lead gen? Follow these 11 steps to set up a lead generation machine that powers sales.


Successful businesses are more than their products or services. They thrive because of a solid lead generation strategy that drives consistent sales. But for many companies, building an effective lead gen engine can feel overwhelming.

We'll walk through a step-by-step framework for setting up a lead generation machine tailored for your business. Whether you want to get started with lead gen or optimize existing efforts, follow these steps to unlock growth.

What Is Lead Generation?

A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine, What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is identifying, cultivating, and advancing new potential customers throughout the sales funnel — turning strangers into customers. It’s the essential process that fills your sales pipeline.

There are two main types of lead generation:

1. Inbound Lead Generation

  • Inbound focuses on attracting potential customers through content, SEO, and marketing. Lead gen is more passive.
  • The goal is to build brand awareness and be found by interested prospects.

2. Outbound Lead Generation

  • Outbound takes a more active approach to directly identifying and engaging with potential customers.
  • It utilizes tactics like cold calling, email, advertising, and trade shows.
  • Outreach is more targeted, persistent, and tracked.

Effective lead generation combines inbound and outbound tactics to widen the top of your funnel. It delivers lead volume and quality prospects that fit your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

11 Steps to Start Your Lead Generation Engine

Getting a lead generation engine up and running takes research, planning, and execution. Here are the initial steps to kickstart your efforts:

1. Determine Your Strategy: Account-Based vs. Volume-Based

The foundation of any high-performing lead generation engine is a clearly defined strategy tailored to your business goals and resources. 

Will you pursue a laser-focused account-based approach? Or does a broader volume-based model better align with your objectives?

First, let’s discuss the difference between these strategies:

Account-Based Lead Gen

This targeted method concentrates sales and marketing efforts on engaging specific high-value accounts primed for your solutions. 

By focusing on valuable prospects, you can deliver hyper-personalized campaigns that resonate. 

An account-based strategy is ideal for enterprises selling complex, big-ticket offerings to targeted lists of identified accounts.

Here are some of this strategy’s benefits:

  • It ensures that you’re targeting only high-quality leads.
  • It lets you hyper-personalize your messaging and content to align with your target accounts’ needs and goals.
  • You can allocate your resources more efficiently by focusing on a specific number of accounts.

Volume-Based Lead Gen

Rather than an account-level focus, this method maximizes your lead gen to attract and nurture a dense volume of leads. 

Since it focuses on volume, this strategy’s tactics involve enhanced automation to send outreach messages or display ads for as many leads as possible.

However, its consistent flow of prospects should still match your buyer profiles. 

Volume-based lead gen suits businesses with more straightforward offerings marketed to a broader pool of potential customers.

Here are its advantages:

  • You can reach a more extensive audience.
  • It also emphasizes quality by analyzing data to identify the best lead sources.
  • It’s highly scalable and can quickly adapt to your business’s growth.  

How to Choose the Right Strategy

The optimal strategy depends on your unique business model, average deal size, sales cycle, and available resources. 

Account-based excels for high-consideration purchases requiring personalized insight, while volume-based look toward more transactional processes. 

Many businesses leverage a hybrid model — using account-based for strategic targets while maintaining volume-based programs to penetrate their core market.

Make sure your lead gen efforts align with your overall sales process. Understand the typical steps your potential customers go through in purchasing and how your sales team reaches out to and interacts with prospects. 

2. Protect Your Domain from Spam

Driving Growth: A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine, Protect Your Domain from Spam

You must preserve a pristine sender reputation for successful email outreach and nurturing campaigns. Even a minor slip can land your messages in the dreaded spam folder, crippling deliverability and undermining your lead-generation efforts.

Avoid this by protecting your domain reputation. Domain reputation measures your email’s trustworthiness based on its contents, sender authentication, and email history.

If your domain reputation is high, leads trust emails from you. So they’re more likely to open, read, and respond to your email.

Here’s how you can safeguard your domain's integrity:

  • Implement robust email authentication protocols with Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), etc.
  • Send relevant emails that provide value to leads.
  • Consistently monitor your domain’s health through dedicated tools and services to have an early warning system for reputation issues.
  • Comply with email regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and CAN-SPAM Act.

3. Define Your ICPs and Buyer Personas

Before effectively attracting and nurturing leads, you should have an intimate understanding of your ideal customers and what motivates their purchasing decisions. It forms the foundation for tailoring your messaging, content, and outreach strategies.

Through comprehensive market research and data analysis, define your ICPs — the specific characteristics and firmographic criteria that identify the accounts most primed for your solutions. Ask yourself:

  • What industry does my ideal customer belong to?
  • How large is their company?
  • What’s their specific role or title?

But don't stop there. Delve deeper by mapping out detailed buyer personas that bring these profiles to life:

  • What are their roles, challenges, goals, and priorities? 
  • How do they consume information and prefer to interact? 
  • What motivates them to buy products/services?

The more vivid the persona, the better equipped you'll craft messaging that genuinely resonates.

4. Build Your Initial Lead Lists

Driving Growth: A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine, Build Your Initial Lead Lists

With your ICPs and buyer personas solidified, it's time to identify and segment the specific accounts and contacts that will fill your lead generation engine's intake.

You can do this through a few different methods, including:

1. Building Internally

The least costly way is by building your lead list internally. It’s most suitable for those who are just beginning their lead-gen efforts and don’t want to invest in costly alternatives.

You can build your list by leveraging your professional network.

Explore your executive team’s connections or platforms like LinkedIn that enable hyper-targeted searches aligned with your defined criteria. Export and organize these identified contacts into structured lists ready for outreach.

An alternative is asking your customers for introductions to those in their network who may need your solution.

2. Buying Lead Lists.

Buying lists is the most popular method. It can be costly, but it gives you immediate access to a high volume of leads that match your ICP.

Paid tools like ZoomInfo provide large databases of B2B leads but may emphasize quantity over quality. To get the most value when buying lead lists:

  • Carefully evaluate providers on the accuracy and enrichment of their data
  • Prioritize leads with direct contact info like email and phone
  • Only pay for fresh, recently updated contacts
  • Inspect sample data quality before licensing entire lists
  • Start small to test response rates before committing to big purchases 

Lastly, avoid treating these initial lists as a permanent resource. Your lead lists should be living datasets. Continuously update and enrich them through research.

5. Prioritize and Segment Leads

Next, you should prioritize and segment these prospects strategically. 

Not all leads are created equal, and tailoring your engagement approach based on fit, intent signals, lead source, and potential value will dramatically enhance efficiency and results.

Implement a lead scoring model that assigns qualifying criteria and numerical values to each contact.

Here are a few examples of lead-scoring models you can use:

  • Demographic Scoring - Groups profiles with similar industries, roles, locations, etc.
  • Behavioral Scoring - Tracks lead's site activity and behaviors.
  • Lead source scoring - Differentiates leads based on origination.
  • Email Engagement Scoring - Matches leads with similar email open and click rates.
  • Content Engagement Scoring - Measures leads with the same content consumption.

Use these scores to group prospects into tiers with varying nurture cadences and sales touchpoints.

Your highest-scoring "hot" tier can have accelerated handoff to sales teams for immediate opportunity exploration. 

Conversely, cooler tiers may need extended, multi-touch nurturing through automated marketing workflows before escalation. 

And your very lowest-scoring contacts? Recycle them for periodic light-touch remarketing, but don't waste valuable sales resources pursuing ill-fits.

6. Build Your Value Proposition

Driving Growth: A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine, Build Your Value PropositionDriving Growth: A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine, Build Your Value Proposition

Now, you can craft the messaging backbone to convey your unique value proposition.

Deeply analyze your offerings, competitors, and target personas. You should distinctly and succinctly articulate the specific problems you solve and the key differentiators that elevate you above alternatives. 

Why should a prospect choose your solution over others vying for their business? Your value proposition messaging must persuasively answer this make-or-break question.

Frame your value prop in their language and context for maximum impact.

With this value narrative, your messaging aligns across channels to guide prospects toward the inescapable conclusion that your offering is their solution.

7. Set Your Targets with Funnel Math

You should now set quantifiable targets that will fuel your lead generation engine's performance using funnel math.

Begin by outlining your monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue goals based on your business's income requirements. You can reverse-calculate the prospecting activity levels and conversion metrics you need from these targets.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to do funnel math:

1. Set monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue goals based on business needs. For example, your monthly goal is $50,000.

2. Work backward to determine how many new leads and sales are required to meet goals.

  • If the average deal size is $2,000, you need 25 monthly deals to hit the $50k goal.
  • If the conversion rate from lead to closed sale is 10%, you need 250 new monthly leads to get 25 closes. 

3. Define conversion rates for each sales stage — from lead to qualified lead to closed sale. For example:

  • Lead to qualified lead: 25%
  • Qualified lead to opportunity: 50%
  • Opportunity to close sale: 80%

5. Use goals and conversion rates to set activity quotas and metrics for each stage — email outreach for SDRs, demos for sales reps, etc.

For instance, if SDR does 50 cold emails per day, and the email conversion rate is 2%, then SDR needs to do 250 emails daily to generate five new qualified leads and hit the monthly goal of 250 new leads.

8. Prepare Your Collateral

Next, you're ready to develop your collaterals. These are content assets and campaigns that fuel your lead generation engine's performance.

These must span your prospects' entire buyer's journey — from top-of-funnel educational content establishing credibility and framing challenges to assessments and product overviews showcasing your unique ability to solve pain points.

Each asset and campaign experience should resonate with distinct personas' roles, objectives, and consumption preferences.

For instance, ROI calculators and pricing sheets appeal to CFOs’ and Finance Managers’ budget considerations. 

Map your content distribution to nurture contacts through awareness, evaluation, and justification stages. Each piece within an interconnected content architecture guides the prospect toward deeper engagement.

9. Write Outreach Sequences

It's time to craft the messaging sequences to breathe life into your lead-generation campaigns. You should tailor your outreach to each persona and their specific funnel stage and mindset. 

Early-stage contacts prefer educational paths that showcase your expertise and establish trust. Use an intelligent mix of thought leadership content, value proposition hints, and ripe calls to action to propel them toward deeper consideration.

As you progress to more qualified, sales-ready leads, your sequences must convey urgency through relevant messaging articulating how you can solve their pain points. Guide them towards actionable next steps like meetings, demos, or assessments.

Most importantly, integrate perpetual optimization into your methodology. Continually refine your sequences based on granular performance data and behavioral signals. Which subject lines, value props, and CTAs resonate best? Which channels deliver peak engagement? 

Adapt as prospect preferences evolve to maximize resonance.

10. Determine Outreach Channels

Driving Growth: A Guide to Building Your Lead Generation Engine, Determine Outreach Channels

Now, determine outreach channels to penetrate each persona's reality and amplify your messaging's reach and velocity. There are many channels to use:

  • Webinars - Appeal during the research phase
  • Email campaigns - Appeal during the nurturing phase
  • Paid search ads - Appeal during the late consideration phase
  • Social media posts - Appeal during the awareness phase
  • Cold calling - Appeal during the active evaluation phase
  • SEM/SEO - Appeal during ongoing research

Rather than spreading efforts thinly across many channels, strategically focus on a mix of tactics that drive the most value based on testing and data.

When testing channels, ensure you can directly attribute leads and sales to each. Does the channel reach your target customers? What is the cost per acquired customer? How many potential customers can you reach through the channel?

Then, determine the optimal mix of channels for each buyer persona based on analysis of their content consumption habits and research preferences during their journey.

11. Set Up Your Tools and Execute

Finally, with everything done, you can activate your lead generation engine and initiate outbound execution. 

First, integrate and synchronize the core technologies powering your programs — CRM, sales tools, databases — so all your prospect data and workflows are seamless. 

Upload contact data, nurture sequences, and workflow automation into the appropriate platforms. Your CRM will serve as command central, consolidating all prospect data and engagement history.

Then, execute — launch those outreach sequences and saturate your market.

Establish processes for continuous data hygiene, adding fresh contacts into your nurturing sequences as you identify new targets.

As always, keep a close eye on the numbers with analytics. Track open rates, response metrics, etc., to determine if your strategies are hitting the mark.

Get Started Building Your Lead Gen Engine

Implementing a structured lead generation engine takes work — but you’ll see results in your sales pipeline and revenue growth.

Following the step-by-step framework outlined, you can implement the core components to generate and qualify more leads. Focus on aligning your personas, offers, and messaging while executing campaigns with persistence.

The key is combining strategy with automation and consistency. Nurture your leads through each stage while continuously optimizing performance. With the proper execution, your lead gen engine will produce a steady supply of sales opportunities.

Deepen your lead gen knowledge with these related blog posts:

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