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“Just keep throwing money at it; that’ll do the trick!”

Would it shock you to know that this is how some people think about growing their business? We get it; when numbers aren’t moving in the right direction, you need to do something about it – and spending money on bringing in new leads is a logical play.

Or is it?

If I say the words “organic lead generation,” what comes to mind? Many people will think it’s a long-term play – that it will take too long to see results – but what if it’s a more profitable way to attract quality leads?

This article will look at organic and paid lead generation and which is the better play for growth, so you can make an informed decision and drive growth in your business.

To simplify the situation, organic leads are a good choice if you’re looking for steady, scalable, and profitable growth. On the other hand, you might need a quick influx of leads or want to target a hyper-specific audience, and paid leads might be your best bet.

Naturally, both options have upsides and downsides, which we’ll explore shortly. Before we do, consider mixing both options. Is it possible to ensure sustainable growth and reap the benefits of paid lead generation? Let’s find out!

What are Organic Leads?

When people search for symptoms of a problem they’re experiencing on search engines, they might stumble upon your website. If your website shows them you can solve their symptoms with your incredible product or service, they're an organic lead. They also might have found you through social media or word of mouth.

It’s more likely these potential customers are genuinely interested in your brand because they discover you organically.

Benefits of Organic Leads

Organic leads are generally more cost-effective. You don’t need to pay to get their attention; they found you. If they’re interested in what you offer and convert into a marketing-qualified lead, you have a potential customer who is engaged and ready to nurture.

Related: 4 Proven Tactics for Filling The Sales Pipeline with Qualified Leads

Because organic leads come from trustworthy sources – Google, Bing, or referrals – your business has a level of credibility in the mind of potential customers. Organic leads will read your content and perhaps even share it with their network, increasing brand awareness and trust.

With paid leads, once you switch off the tap, leads will dry up. On the other hand, a robust organic lead generation strategy will produce leads consistently, giving you the edge over competitors who only use paid advertising.

Strategies for Generating Organic Leads

Because you want potential customers to find you, not just the other way around, you need strategies that make you visible.

Optimize for SEO 

Optimize your website and content for search engines by targeting relevant, high-value keywords that your potential customers might search for. If you know who your ideal client is, you should know the potential problems they experience. Create high-quality content that answers their questions, addresses their needs, and offers value.

SEO optimization also includes improving the technical aspects of your website, including speed, mobile-friendliness, and proper meta tags.

Create Helpful, Shareable Content

If your content resonates with your ideal client, they’ll share it with their peers, friends, and anyone interested in solving the same issues they have. Blog posts, videos, whitepapers, and infographics are all potential formats to consider. Shared media increases your reach and helps attract organic leads.

Pro tip: Create content for each stage of the buyer journey. For example:

  • In the awareness stage, create blog articles and infographics that help readers understand their problems. Share valuable insights and start to build trust.
  • In the consideration stage, show readers why they should trust you and help them navigate their problems. At this stage, you are in the running to win their business. Use email marketing and direct them to demo videos, free trials, and case studies.
  • In the decision stage, potential customers are ready to choose who they work with. Align your marketing and sales teams; what do sales need from you to ensure prospects have the information they need that will make the sale easier?

Encourage Word-of-Mouth Referrals

When you provide exceptional experiences and customer service, your customers will be willing to refer your business to their peers, friends, and family. You can motivate your customers to spread the word by offering discounts or exclusive offers. A strong brand image and reputation can also help you generate organic leads.

Other Ways to Drive Organic Leads

  • Engage with your audience on social media. LinkedIn is especially good for B2B conversations.
  • Host webinars to educate and connect with your audience. Even better? Partner with another business in your industry and host a webinar. You’ll get your product or service in front of their audience and show your expertise to the broader industry.
  • If you’re creative and your product or service comes across better visually, create videos to entertain, educate, and inspire your audience.

What are Paid Leads?

Paid leads are potential customers you attract through advertising and promotional efforts requiring investment. In other words, you're shelling out some cash to get your brand in front of these folks. 

You’ll use platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, or even hire an influencer to give your product a shout-out. If you want to expand quickly, launch a new brand and want fast results, or target specific customer segments, paid ads are a good play.

Related: 6 Reasons Why You Should and Shouldn't Use Paid Search

Benefits of Paid Leads

When you invest in paid ads, you should see various benefits (providing you work with a reputable company). 

With enough investment, you can reach the top of search results for your chosen keywords, quickly boosting traffic and conversions and reaching a broader audience, helping you stand out in competitive markets.

You’ll also have advanced targeting capabilities to narrow your audience based on demographics, firmographics, and online behaviors. If you want to reach the right people and use your advertising budget efficiently, paid ads can help.

You’ll also have access to detailed analytics and performance tracking, helping you monitor the success of your paid lead campaigns and fine-tune your strategy.

Strategies for Acquiring Paid Leads

You can invest in paid leads yourself or get companies to run your strategies. Either way, there are a few popular models and platforms.

Google Ads and PPC Campaigns

Through Google, you can bid on relevant keywords related to your business. Despite how highly organic content ranks, your ads appear in search results when people are looking for products and services like yours. Pay-per-click campaigns can be more cost effective because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

Of course, the people who click through might not be your ideal customers.

Related: Organic Search vs. Pay-per-Click

Social Media Advertising

Your ideal audience might hang out in various places. Maybe they don’t read long-form blog content. Instead, they might prefer to explore brands on social media.

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn offer advertising options that let you reach your target audience. Make your ads stand out in users' feeds and capture their attention with eye-catching visuals and engaging copy.

Each platform has its strengths. Facebook Ads allow you to target users based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. Instagram is better for visual ads on feeds and in stories, while Twitter lets you promote tweets, accounts, and trends.

With ad formats like sponsored content, sponsored InMail, and display ads, LinkedIn Ads cater to professionals and B2B marketers. Targeting users based on job titles, company size, and industry is easy, making LinkedIn great for reaching decision-makers.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing offers a unique way to connect with your target audience. Influencers in the B2B space are reputable and have loyal followings. By partnering with them, you can tap into their audience and gain exposure to a new group of potential customers.

To make the most of influencer marketing:

  • Choose influencers who share your brand values and will come across as someone who genuinely uses your product or service.
  • Define clear campaign objectives. If you invest in sponsored posts, you need to see results. Collaborate with the influencer to create relevant and engaging content.
  • On the flip side, while providing guidelines is essential, allowing influencers some creative freedom will ensure they come across as authentic.

Comparing Organic and Paid Leads

To help make your decision, let’s compare organic vs. paid leads.


Organic Leads

Paid Leads

Time Investment

You’ll need more time to build momentum and generate leads.

You’ll see quicker results, but you still need to invest time in creating quality ads.

Financial Investment

Lower financial costs, especially for the initial outlay. But you’ll need to put in consistent effort and resources.

Requires a financial investment for ad and PPC campaigns. 

Lead Quality

You’ll get higher quality leads, which are better for long-term growth and brand loyalty.

Leads can be high quality, but you may get lower engagement and loyalty.


Organic lead generation is adaptable and evolves with changing content and SEO strategies.

Depending on who you partner with, you’ll have control over ad spend, targeting, and campaign duration.


You’ll enjoy a broader reach, attracting a wider audience over time. But you can also target your ideal audience with relevant keywords and content.

You’ll employ the precise targeting of specific audience segments.

ROI Measurement

It’s more challenging to measure ROI directly, but you can see the bigger picture by focusing on the quality of leads you produce.

It’s easier to measure ROI with trackable metrics, but it depends on what your goals are. If your goal leads, that’s easy to measure. You'll need to dig deeper if your goal is to track how many leads turn into customers.

Balancing the Two

For a well-rounded marketing strategy, consider using organic and paid lead generation. Determine your long and short-term goals and decide which approach is most effective. If you need immediate results, paid ads might be the better play. Investing in organic lead generation is essential if your focus is long-term growth.

Next, consider your resources. Launching a new product or service as a bootstrapped startup might mean you need to focus on producing organic content and driving potential customers to your social media channels so you can start building an audience. You can scale lead generation as you grow.

Consider the return on investment of both options before allocating your resources.

With a reasonable budget and a solid marketing strategy, there’s no reason you can’t do both. Use organic and paid marketing channels to reach a wider audience and generate diverse leads. You can take advantage of new opportunities by adapting to changing market conditions.

Organic Leads vs. Paid Leads: Is There a Clear Winner?

At Lean Labs, we believe marketing should pay for itself. You can see massive growth if you start with an organic approach and attract ideal clients through SEO-optimized content and intelligent marketing campaigns.

Paying for leads is no good if your offer sucks and you can’t nurture leads or sell your products and services. When you have the buyer journey nailed down and a great offer, you’ll get more of the right leads on sales calls.

We’re not against paid, and in some cases, it makes sense to invest in paid advertising. But there are obvious drawbacks, including poor lead quality and costs.

Generating leads is only the first step. You need to convert leads into potential customers and opportunities to make your marketing profitable. Want to see how we turn high-quality leads into customers in volume?

Unlock the Growth Playbook today and discover how to budget for growth without getting burned.

Shaun Samonini
Post by Shaun Samonini
Sep 20, 2023
Shaun is a Growth Marketer at Lean Labs, working with deserving brands to create, implement, and optimize proven growth strategies.