In marketing, lead generation is the initiation of consumer interest or enquiry into products or services of a business. A lead is the contact information and in some cases, demographic information of a customer who is interested in a specific product or service.
Leads may come from various sources or activities, for example, digitally via the Internet, through personal referrals, through telephone calls either by the company or telemarketers, through advertisements, and events.
In 2014, a study found that direct traffic, search engines, and web referrals were the three most popular online channels for lead generation, accounting for 93% of leads.
In 2018, Chief Marketer found that B2B marketers favored email, live events, and content marketing as their top three.
After the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Gartner identified increases in social and search engine optimization for B2B marketers, while B2C marketers favored digital advertising.
Lead generation is often paired with lead management to move leads through the purchase funnel. This combination of activities is referred to as pipeline marketing, which is often broken into a marketing and a sales pipeline.