Lead generation and lead acquisition are two phrases that fall under the customer acquisition category. They are often conflated and used interchangeably, but these two terms have different meanings; each describes another part of the customer acquisition process.

The term lead is used in many ways but in this case, a lead is a consumer who has filled out an online form requesting to be contacted about products or services. They can be a consumer requesting contact from a salesperson, a newsletter subscriber, or someone downloading advertising content in exchange for the contact information. These are also referred to as web or internet leads.

In this context, lead generation encourages people to fill in a form with their contact information, while lead acquisition refers to acquiring leads from different lead generation sources. Intrigued? Read on to learn more about lead generation vs customer acquisition, including the way to go.

What does lead generation involve?

Lead generation involves buying media and converting internet traffic into a lead. For example, you can generate leads by buying search traffic on Google to convince site visitors to fill in and submit a form. Lead generation is a slow, complicated, intricate process involving buying media, targeting users and optimizing landing pages. It is a distinct business practice that requires individuals specialized in roles such as affiliate marketing, display media buyers, and conversion rate optimization.

What does lead acquisition involve?

As mentioned earlier, lead acquisition happens once a lead has submitted their contact information. The lead acquisition process covers capturing, filtering, enhancing, and delivering leads to different systems. For example, this may be buying leads from 3rd party lead vendors. Instead of going through the intricate lead generation process, you can buy a lead from a company that generated the lead. That way, you give the heavy lifting over to individuals who do the legwork for you so that you can focus on other business areas that require your attention.

Knowing the following aspect will help further clarify the difference between lead generation and lead acquisition.


Lead generation is concerned with different metrics that lead acquisition, so sometimes, the same terminology is used with different meanings. Below are examples:

  • Conversion rates. The percentage of website visitors that submit a lead defines the conversion rate in lead generation. But in lead acquisition, the conversion rate is expressed as the percentage of leads that turn into a customer.
  • Lead source. In lead generation, the lead source is the media channel or traffic source that generates the lead. Usually, attribution is a major challenge since you can’t always establish the source that drove the lead. In lead acquisition, the lead source is typically the website or landing page that captured the lead or the vendor that provided it. You can distinguish these two by differentiating between traffic and lead sources.

Which one is the right choice?

Many businesses choose lead acquisition over manually generating leads for the following reasons.

You only pay for a qualified lead

When generating leads, you pay per lead, whether or not the lead turns into a customer. But with lead acquisition, you only pay for qualified leads with the right engagement and fit your purposes. Additionally, lead acquisition increases your return on investment since it is a much less expensive option than lead generation.

Stronger opportunities for lead development

A basic click you’d get when generating leads may only last a few seconds. But an acquired lead can potentially stay with your organization for years. During this time, your sales and marketing department can learn the lead and most likely convert them into a client.

More control

Acquired leads give you more control since you can filter your target groups and choose a specific demographic. When you acquire leads, you have the liberty to decide the number you are interested in at the time. Also, you can choose from the sources you want and find leads that are valuable and relevant to you.

The main difference between lead acquisition and lead generation is whether you manually generate the leads or buy them from a third party. If you want to jumpstart your marketing efforts while skipping over the entire planning, designing, building, hosting, and maintaining a website, lead acquisition may be what you need.