Lead generation and customer acquisition: what’s the difference and which one is better?

What good is having a great product (or services) and investing in all of that marketing if your prospective customers are then stopping abruptly at your shop window? A business lead is great, but customer acquisition is what contributes to the bottom line.


If you agree that having leads and converting them into actual customers is a loop or cycle that cannot exist without one another, then you understand the importance of aligning your lead generation and customer acquisition strategies to make sure that they are effective.


Leads and customers are the lifelines of a business after all, and without them, a business cannot survive. 


That being said, lead generation vs customer acquisition are two very closely related terms and are often considered the same thing, so it’s important to clear the confusion. 


Let’s take a look at these two terms with practical definitions to truly understand them.


What is lead generation?

Lead generation is typically defined as a marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in your product or services for the purpose of developing a sales pipeline. In practice, a lead generation process can encompass three stages, which in turn are at the beginning of the sales funnel with the desired end result being customer acquisition. 


Image: Selling Signals


Let’s dissect the above lead generation process across the segmented three stages.


Stage 1: Your prospective customers are strangers who became aware of your business as a potential solution and look for your business through one of your marketing channels. This could be platforms such as your website or even social media pages.

Stage 2:  No longer estranged from your product or services, these touchpoint visitors are now interested and may take the next step on your call to action.

Stage 3: They leave their contact information or express interest by signing up and in turn, become leads at this point.

There are several ways through which you can generate new leads, and these include:

  • The company, business or product blog
  • Social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn)
  • Chatbots
  • Free trials
  • Search ads


What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition, on the other hand, is when prospective leads are then converted into actual customers. A customer acquisition strategy looks into identifying the best leads and developing ways to convert them into customers. 

Some examples of customer acquisition approaches range from email marketing to personalised offers to specific subsets of audiences derived from a database of sales-qualified leads (SQL), where your sales team will focus on converting them into active customers.


Image: Shane Barker


There are a few customer acquisition tactics that you can use to turn your prospects into customers, and these include:

  • Tailoring content for middle and bottom of the funnel prospects
  • Crafting email marketing sequences
  • Implementing direct sales 


Lead generation vs customer acquisition: which one is better?

After getting to know the difference between lead generation and customer acquisition, you might think that it would be much better for your company or business to focus on and optimise lead generation. This opinion is, of course, understandable. 

After all, you might argue that if there aren’t enough leads or prospective customers coming into the top of the funnel, you won’t be able to nurture them into customers.

While that may be true to an extent, there is always a high chance that most of your leads may not be the best prospects for your business and they won’t qualify as SQLs as they wouldn’t be interested in following you through the buyer’s journey. 

Following this, you might ask: would it be better to focus on customer acquisition then? Sure, but you’ll still need a proper lead generation process in place in order for you to be able to nurture and engage your prospects and successfully turn them into satisfied customers. 


So, what’s a good marketer to do? 

Image: Pexels


Understand that lead generation and customer acquisition are better together, of course! 

The right way to look at this isn’t as separate approaches of lead generation vs customer acquisition. Both are part of the same model, with lead generation at the top of the funnel, converting awareness into interest, and customer acquisition turning the interest and consideration into active customers of your business.

To effectively generate a high-performing overall sales and marketing strategy, the methodologies you implement need to be seamless. Once you’ve mastered the art of optimising both approaches, you’ll not only be making a lot of sales but also drawing in more customers by the minute! 


Boost your business’ lead generation and customer acquisition with SalesWorks


Optimising lead generation and customer acquisition strategies can be very taxing, especially if you’re doing it on your own, so it’s important that you seek the support that your business or brand needs. 

SalesWorks Asia can be the right partner to help you succeed there, as we are a trusted activation agency in the industry with more than 25 years of track record in helping businesses across Asia operate and expand.

With expertise in both lead generation and professional customer acquisition, we work closely with you from strategy to implementation to sales, and we are driven by extensive market insights and a database with clear performance indicators in your return on investment.


Get in touch with our team so we can have a conversation with you to understand your business and priorities better.