Effective lead generation brings in additional revenue and curates a high-quality, loyal customer base. The process of finding high-value leads can be a time-consuming process that has multiple touchpoints. This is why countless businesses have implemented marketing automation for lead generation. 

So, exactly what is marketing automation when it comes to lead generation? Marketing automation is basically a software platform that helps a business to automate its sales process from start to finish, and it can help you put lead-generation strategies on autopilot. 

By using marketing automation and lead generation strategies together, you can free up time to improve your product, website, team, and customer service. It can also empower you to better understand and target your audience to get higher-quality leads.

Whether you run a multi-billion-dollar company or a two-person nonprofit out of your garage, learning about marketing automation lead generation strategies and tools can enable you to strengthen your marketing efforts and improve efficiency.  

What is automated lead generation? 

Automated lead generation is an automated system for locating new potential customers and encouraging them to take a specific action — such as signing up for an email newsletter — that moves them further along your sales funnel. Any strategy that generates new leads on a consistent basis without having to put extra effort in after an initial setup counts as automated lead generation. 

Creating a Facebook ad that directs people to a landing page when they click on the ad is an example of automated lead generation. You have to set up the landing page and the initial advertisement, but after that, Facebook’s algorithms work to present that advertisement to the right people and direct those people to your landing page. 

What is marketing automation for lead generation? 

Traditional marketing automation becomes marketing automation for lead generation when the purpose of your automated marketing channels is to generate new leads for your business.

Because there are so many types of marketing automation, using it for lead generation can look different depending on what your company looks like.

Some may lean heavily into email marketing automation, especially if they’re trying to nurture a lot of leads or they have a great story to tell. For example, one great ecommerce marketing automation strategy is to send abandoned cart emails to remind prospective customers to complete their purchases. Other brands trying to establish thought leadership can benefit more from web form automation that promotes educational content like white papers and case studies. 

Usually, companies can benefit from using a variety of marketing automation techniques to bolster their lead-generation efforts. 

Why use lead generation automation?

Whether you’re using marketing automation for manufacturing, professional services, or education, the main goal is to automate routine tasks. Doing this frees your team up to tackle other tasks, like improving workplace morale or nurturing customer relationships, that take more creativity or critical thinking. 

It’s like using a Crock-Pot in the kitchen: there’s a little extra work to get everything set up, but then you can walk away and come home hours later to a fully cooked meal.

Additionally, by combining automation and personalization, you can provide your customers with a better experience than they received pre-automation. Instead of generic emails, they can receive emails with content based on their shopping habits. More relevant emails or advertisements can make your brand seem more relevant as well. 

Additionally, customizable templates can help you create a rich omnichannel engagement strategy, meaning that your brand’s presence looks the same whether customers are engaging with you online, in person, or on the phone. Omnichannel engagement helps leads recognize your brand at a glance and get the most out of your automated lead-generation strategies. 

How does marketing automation generate quality leads?

Marketing automation generates quality leads by helping you define your target audience. 

When you create a Facebook advertisement, for example, you’re encouraged to segment who that advertisement is shown to by demographic data, like age or gender, as well as more nuanced data, like what their hobbies or interests are. 

If you don’t define your target audience when setting up your automation processes, you pay more money for fewer qualified leads. Analytics attached to marketing automation efforts help you further narrow down your target audience, while tools like automated emails make reaching out to that audience second nature. 

Marketing automation also generates quality leads by sending out messaging at appropriate times. For example, automated welcome email series — emails that go out automatically when new users sign up for your newsletter — can generate quality leads by engaging and providing resources to potential customers when you’re at the top of their minds.

Where do leads come from? 

In business terms, a lead is a potential future client who has expressed interest in your brand — whether it comes in the form of signing up for an email series or adding one of your products to their virtual wish list. This sends a signal to your company that if you put in some work to nurture that relationship, you have a good chance of transforming that potential customer, or lead, into an actual paying customer. 

Leads can come from a lot of different places. Host a booth at a trade event, for example, and you’re likely to come away with a clipboard of names and email addresses. You can also get leads from referrals, website traffic, social media, and online advertising.

Defining quality leads for your brand

The higher quality of your leads, the more likely you are to be able to move them along your sales funnel and build your base of loyal customers. So, one of your first steps needs to be defining what a quality lead looks like for your brand. 

When defining what a quality lead looks like for your brand, consider things like: 

  • Demographic data and interests: Start by creating a detailed profile of your ideal customer, including demographic information, interests, and pain points. This will help you identify the characteristics of a quality lead that is likely to convert into a paying customer. If you sell beard oil, you should be targeting men. If you sell baby dolls, you need to appeal to kids and their parents. 
  • Past customers’ data: Analyze data from past customers to identify common characteristics that can help you identify high-quality leads. For example, you might find that customers with a certain budget are more likely to convert.
  • Engagement frequency: Leads that have engaged with your brand multiple times and shown interest in your products or services are likely to be higher-quality leads.
  • How much they know about your brand: Be prepared to introduce yourself and your mission — succinctly — every time you advertise your brand. Just because you live and breathe your mission statement doesn’t mean your future customers know anything about it. 
  • The industry they work in: Knowing where your shoppers work can give you insight into how much they might already know about a topic, which hours they’re most likely to be online and even which products they’re most likely to buy. 

Once you have a working definition of the types of leads you want your automation tools to target, you can begin establishing effective marketing automation lead-generation strategies. 

How do I generate leads automatically?

You can generate leads automatically using website notifications, pop-ups, chat boxes, automated email sequences, social media advertisements, and landing pages. The key is to create systems that attract new customers, direct them to more information about your company, and encourage them to take action. 

Let’s go back to the example of Facebook ads. Anyone can create a Facebook advertisement, and that advertisement might generate some leads for your brand. But you can take this automated marketing lead generation strategy further by identifying your target audience and controlling which people Facebook presents your ads to. 

Then, instead of having the clicked advertisement direct consumers to your website’s home page, you can direct users to a landing page that caters to the interests of the target audience interests you’ve defined. With a little prep work ahead of time, you can create a high-conversion landing page that informs users about your company and directs them to take an action — like signing up for your email list. 

How marketing automation and lead generation can work together

Collecting emails at a networking event is a lead-generation strategy. But suppose you input those emails into your database and sift them all into your “new lead” email list. 

You can then use an automated welcome series to nurture these new leads. Each of the emails in your welcome series should educate customers about your brand and your values, showcase how your products or services can improve their lives, and provide useful content. The goal is to transform the people on your “new lead” list into high-quality, qualified leads ready to take the next step. After this step, you can transfer them into a “long-term leads” list. 

You can combine marketing automation and lead generation in the other direction as well. For example, scheduling social media ahead of time is a form of marketing automation. But if some of that content then directs viewers to an automated landing page with a call to action (CTA) to sign up for your email list, that marketing automation strategy suddenly pulls double-duty as a lead generation strategy. Not only are customers learning about your company via marketing automation but they’re also being moved along your sales funnel and nurtured into stronger, more viable future leads. 

Insurance agency marketing automation, for example, might include click segmentation, which automatically segments audience members into groups based on where they click in an email about different types of insurance. On its own, this is just a form of marketing automation. But if you combine this with a survey question asking how likely a customer is to purchase insurance in the next year, this becomes a powerful tool that can help insurance teams identify the customers most likely to purchase insurance soon. 

Marketing automation lead generation tools

The best marketing automation tools for your company may look different from the best for another company. But while there may always be nuances between brands, you can break lead generation marketing automation tools up into two broad categories: B2B, or business to business, and B2C, or business to customer, leads.  

What’s the best marketing automation tool for B2B lead generation?

B2B companies offer products or services that other businesses need to make their customers happy or to make their businesses run more smoothly. B2B lead generation is slightly more challenging than B2C lead generation for a few reasons: 

  • The sales cycle tends to be longer for B2B businesses
  • Business owners are less likely to impulse buy products or services than traditional customers
  • Business owners may be savvier about the marketing techniques your company is using since they use many of those same techniques with their own customers
  • Business decision-makers may be extremely knowledgeable in their niche and may spend more time doing research on new products than traditional consumers

Keeping that information in mind, the best lead generation marketing automation tools for B2B lead generation are informational, not emotional. The top tools for B2B lead generation include: 

  • Email automation tools that message leads at the right times, like when they sign up for your email list or when there’s been a period of time since the last sales cycle 
  • Landing page automation tools that direct users to your landing pages based on specific search terms or advertisement clicks to help interested decision-makers locate more information about a product or service
  • Automated content tools that connect certain customers with webinars, blogs, white papers, and reports to provide value while showcasing your product or services in an in-depth manner

What’s the best marketing automation tool for B2C lead generation?

B2C businesses sell products or services directly to the end-users, or customers, who will benefit from them. There are many ways to entice B2C customers, who enjoy shorter sale cycles than B2B customers and may be more given to impulse spending. 

B2C customers shop with a combination of emotions and intellect. Customers need to feel good about the products or services they’re buying. A majority of customers, for example, expect the brands they shop with to be socially responsible, and half of online shoppers say that they do research before making an online purchase.  These customers may find products based on automated advertisements on social media pages or influencer marketing. As a result, your automated marketing tools need to fulfill that need for practical, responsible products that also solve real problems in their lives. 

Popular B2C lead generation tools include: 

  • Email automation to educate leads about your brand, what you stand for, and what types of products or services you offer at the right moments
  • Chat automation services to provide leads with answers to FAQs in real time
  • Landing page automation services that lead users to product reviews and other content that proves the value of your offering

Examples of marketing automation lead generation

Here are some top examples of marketing automation lead generation. We’ll break down how other companies use these strategies to entice customers and help them navigate the sales funnel. 


Pop-ups are notifications, images, or redirects that literally pop up on a page. Using them on your website can be a great way to catch your users’ attention. Automation software can track when a new customer visits your site, at which point you can have a pop-up appear prompting them to input their email address and name. This is a great, automated way to collect basic data about new leads. 

Email lead capture isn’t the only way to use pop-ups to generate leads. Old Navy’s website uses automated pop-ups to encourage customers to sign up for an Old Navy credit card.


Chatbots use AI to answer customer questions on your website. This tool can reduce the number of calls heading into your official customer service line while providing quality service to potential customers in real-time, thus saving time and improving your customer relationships. If you’re trying to turn a vaguely-interested lead into a quality lead, a chatbot can help them find the answers to their questions and trust your brand. 

Hey, look! It’s a strategy Constant Contact uses! Constant Contact’s chatbot, Constance, doesn’t pretend to be a live service representative but still provides a friendly  — and unobtrusive — level of assistance to visiting leads. 

Email collection prompts

Email collection prompts encourage users to sign up for future emails from your company. Integrating them into landing pages or blog content can take these stand-alone pages to the next level, transforming them into active — and automated — lead collection strategies. 

This is a popular strategy among bloggers, who use social media sites like Pinterest to generate buzz around free products and then use those free products to incentivize customers to sign up for email lists. Planes and Balloons uses the promise of more coloring worksheets to engage potential leads.

Simply your life by combining lead generation and marketing automation

The goal of marketing automation is to free up time and resources so you can focus on other important tasks for your company’s growth. When you combine those strategies with lead generation, you create a formidable marketing strategy with the potential to unlock new customers, grow your loyal customer base, and scale your business in new and exciting ways. 

Get started today by brainstorming all the ways your company currently generates leads. For each item on your list, consider whether marketing automation could streamline or strengthen the process in any way.