When it comes to marketing, getting leads is the be-all and end-all. It’s a simple equation – no leads equals no sales equals no profit.

It’s no surprise then that most businesses say generating leads is their top marketing priority. But how is it done? What’s the best way to get high-quality potential customers into your database?

Social media has emerged as possibly the most powerful way to get high-quality leads and the front runner among these social platforms is LinkedIn. Once thought of as mostly a tool for professional networking, LinkedIn has evolved to become the leading tool for generating leads both with organic and paid campaigns.

In fact, LinkedIn beats all other social media platforms hands down – today, over 80% of B2B leads from social media originate from LinkedIn. It’s not so surprising that LinkedIn is so valuable to B2B marketers when you consider the high number of professionals and entrepreneurs that are currently members – some 612 million users from 200 countries.

So how do you turn some of these millions of members into solid leads for your business? You are asking people to part with valuable contact information, so you first need to offer them something in return. Put up high-quality content – articles that tell them something useful, infographics that explain issues or technologies and webinars that offer the thoughts of leading commentators in the industry.

This is the basis of capturing lead data and once you have a compelling offer, LinkedIn will do the leg work for you.  It does this through LinkedIn Lead Generation Forms, which automatically fills in contact data from its members who respond to your offer.

Under LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager, a simple process of selecting your type of campaign, where you want it to run and what type of people you are interested in sets your ad up to receive interest from members.

When members click your ad, they see a form that’s already filled with information from their profiles. With a single click on the form, members can send you their information instantly, with no need to type anything themselves.

As well as generating high quality leads quickly and easily, you can use LinkedIn’s campaign manager to see how well your campaign is doing – track the cost per lead, see the lead form fill rate and the number of leads from your target audiences.

A more in-depth and detailed approach is offered with LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool.

This has several key features that can supercharge your lead generation and contact activities. It allows you to find the right people and companies to get the most relevant contacts. It will also offer customized suggestions of contacts at your target accounts.

Realtime updates will tell you about your leads, with details such as job changes. You can also integrate leads with your CRM, while the InMail feature allows you to get in touch with over 500 million LinkedIn members, even if you are not connected to them.

One feature, Smart Links Presentations, allows people to see content without downloading it, while you can see who has viewed it. You can also get profile data for contacts sent to your Outlook inbox and see who’s viewed your own profile.

There are also other tools out there to help you optimize your efforts on LinkedIn further.

These include LeadIQ, a software package that makes it easier to capture and analyse LinkedIn prospects. LeadIQ allows you to capture leads easily while browsing LinkedIn, or indeed any other site, while it also offers an analytics dashboard to keep track of performance. It can also interface with other sales tools, avoiding the need to manually re-enter data from one platform to another.

If you want to look beyond LinkedIn, Discoverly could be an option. This is a browser extension that allows you to see what your prospects are doing on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Other options include Attach. Although LinkedIn InMail allows you to contact anyone on LinkedIn, it’s not possible to see if they have read your message until they actually reply to you. Attach can do this, telling you what the person read, when they read it and how long for. This could be invaluable to help you follow up with contacts and target them with the right content or offer to gain their attention.

LinkedIn is today’s top lead generation tool – use it together with some other tools to meet your specific needs and you could soon be on the way to transforming your lead generation efforts.