I remember the first web site we built for ADP (payroll company) and how we reported on the number of visitors - aka eyeballs. Management was thrilled when we had a hundred visitors to our on-line brochure. That didn't last long. Management then asked how we can make money - and lead generation was born.
For ADP, the actual payroll service had to be sold and setup by a trained "feet-on-street" sales person, so our sites were design to obtain qualified leads. In other words, you submit your name and contact information and a sales person followed up. The concept of Lead ggeneration has not changed much - yet the tactics have, becoming an intense struggle to obtain the highest number of leads for the lowest possible costs (Cost per lead - CPL).
There are two segments to a lead generation program. The first - the strategy of attracting the attention of qualified people for the service. The second - the process of getting the person to convert to a lead.
Google is a typical tool used to find qualified people. If you are searching for a new loan, you might enter this in Google : Home Equity Loans in NJ. It is then up to you to have a strong (yet brief) ad that drives the person to "click". Banner ads, email and other tactics exist - all to entice the click over to your "landing page"
The next step is the landing page. This is where I believe many campaigns fail. The landing page, a specialized web page, should be highly relevant to the keyword and campaign that the person searched upon. In the home equity loans example - driving the person to a generic web site about all your loan products Will certainly lead to defections (leaving your site without taking any positive action). Ideally your page should be all about Home Equity Loans - and even better -about NJ loans!
Then - where I have seen campaigns fail - make it very easy for me to sign up - with a brief form right on the landing page. Don't make me click around... make it simple.
There is much more - which I will write about - including landing page optimization leveraging multi-variant testing...which did not exist when we creating our first ADP campaigns. The goal remains the same - how lead generation is managed has changed... significantly.