There’s a reason inbound lead generation is prized by commercial organizations everywhere. After all, without leads, you don’t have a business.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get right. If you’ve ever wondered what key factors contribute to successfully attracting hot leads, you’ve come to the right place. This article explores six vital elements of successful inbound lead generation that are crucial to master.
What are Inbound Leads?
Admit it: you don’t like being cold-called, do you? It’s an intrusive and irritating practice. The good news is that companies know this, too, and most have no interest in trying to annoy potential customers. This is why inbound lead generation has become one of the most popular marketing strategies for modern business.
Inbound leads are potential customers who find you without you reaching out to them directly. Instead, you attract them using alternative techniques so that when the time is right, they engage with your offering themselves.
Types of Inbound Leads
Your inbound leads are categorized by what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re currently at.
Information qualified lead (IQL): This is someone who is just dipping their toe into the sales funnel. It could be that they’ve been searching for information on how to solve their problem and have come across your business while doing so.
Marketing qualified lead (MQL): An MQL has engaged with some of your organization’s marketing but hasn’t yet committed to purchasing anything. This could mean they’ve signed up for an email list or started following one of your social media accounts.
Sales qualified lead (SQL): These are your hottest prospects. A sales-qualified lead has expressed a definite interest in buying from you. You can hand SQLs to your outbound sales team with all the information you know about them to give you the best chance of converting.
At this point, you may be thinking that all this sounds a little complicated and unnecessary. It’s worth taking a moment to contemplate why inbound lead generation is so crucial for success.
Why is Inbound Lead Generation Important?
Today’s business environment is perhaps the most competitive in history. The blossoming of the online space has meant that, in many cases, borders have become nebulous—especially for businesses with a digital-first offering.
The truth is that consumers are spoiled for choice, and you need to work hard to engage them. The visual merchandising principles that worked for brick-and-mortar stores to attract passing customers simply aren’t appropriate for the Internet.
But funnily enough, you could argue that inbound lead generation is the modern analog to those old techniques. That’s because, at its core, it’s all about displaying what you have to offer in such a way that it hooks people and draws them in.
So, how do you actually achieve that in practice?
Inbound Lead Generation—the Six Essentials
Here are six elements that you should put in place to maximize your inbound leads. Think of these as the foundational pillars of lead generation upon which you will build your business’s broader strategy.
At the top of the list comes engaging content. Without this, you have nothing.
Now, it can take many forms—blog articles, video explainers, ebooks, white papers, document templates—but the key point is that it should be valuable to your potential customers. Note that your content shouldn’t be overly salesy—you’ve got your product pages for that. Instead, it should focus on being genuinely helpful.
This means, of course, that you need to understand what your customers’ pain points are. What information do they want to access? What problems do they have, and how can you help solve them? When they go looking for an answer, you need to be able to provide it.
Content marketing is an opportunity to showcase not only your expertise but also your digital branding. The goal is to get the prospect to look through your website and be so impressed by what they find that you will be front of mind when they are ready to buy.
Naturally, even the best content will fall flat if nobody can find it. That’s why getting your SEO strategy right is vital.
According to HubSpot, 27% of web traffic came from organic search in 2022. That means over a quarter of all site visits started with someone typing a query into a search engine. By some distance, it was the biggest route, with direct access languishing in second place at 22%. Paid search fared even worse (9%).
Many factors contribute to success in SEO, and the full details go well beyond the scope of this article. Just remember that you need a multifaceted approach that pays due attention to:
- Security and accessibility of your website
- Page loading speed
- Logical site structure
- Optimized content
- Robust backlinks
- User experience on multiple devices
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you don’t have sufficient SEO expertise in-house, it’s definitely worth reaching out to third-party experts for help.
The key to using social media to generate inbound leads is, once again, knowing your customer. Social platforms have proliferated over the past decade, which means you need to be strategic about which ones you decide to be present on. It’s much better to use a few platforms effectively than be mediocre on all of them.
Consider the nature of your business. For instance, a tech enterprise that wants to market legacy system migration services is unlikely to benefit much from using Instagram since it’s very visually oriented. On the other hand, starting a YouTube channel and uploading explainer videos about how to upgrade old tech infrastructure will probably yield good results.
Screenshot from the Burnt Smokehouse Instagram channel
The great thing about social media is that it gives you a massive reach. Get creative with it, and remember the most important principle: be interesting. Don’t forget that most users’ everyday experience of social media is pretty ephemeral. That means you need to capture your prospect’s attention and give them an immediate opportunity to convert.
Not all inbound leads happen as a result of online searches. It’s important to remember the opportunities for face-to-face marketing that happen in the physical world. If you have the chance to go to live events for your industry, it can be a great way of attracting interest and inviting people to start making their way down the sales funnel.
Assuming you have the resources, why not set up your own stall to display your offering? The big advantage of doing this is that a large number of people from your target audience will have voluntarily assembled in the same room. They will be actively receptive to your messaging.
Another route that can be exceptionally effective for generating inbound leads is referral marketing. The idea is that you reach out to your satisfied customers and ask them to recommend your products or services to family and friends.
It’s another method for getting your offering in front of new pairs of eyes. Additionally, it has the benefit that the referral in itself acts as a kind of positive recommendation. In essence, it harnesses the traditional power of word-of-mouth marketing and directs it where you want it to go.
Pick your moment well. Modern CRM tools have plenty of features that help you understand your existing customers, so use them to their full advantage. Ideally, you want to make the request when you think your customer has a net positive view of your business. That could be after they:
- Made a repurchase
- Engaged on social media
- Renewed a contract
- Upgraded to a premium service
Have a clear CTA, and make sure you direct the new leads to a dedicated referral landing page for the best effect.
There are so many tools available to help with lead generation that it can be difficult to cut through the clutter. From software that lets your sales team track lead engagement through their mobile devices wherever they are to full-on specialized lead-generation platforms—the choice can seem overwhelming.
The truth is you can see significant increases in lead generation using just a few well-chosen platforms. You’ll need software that helps you create a high-performing website, a way of capturing insights into your customers’ behavior, and a method for developing the content you want to publish. A typical, basic inbound lead-focused tech stack might look like this:
- Content management system
- Customer data platform
- Marketing automation platform
- Customer relationship management software
- Analytics tools
These should be enough to get you started. If you want to refine your strategy further, you could add some of these:
It really depends on how big your business is and what you’re trying to achieve. The important thing is to keep your strategy customer-focused at all times.
Note that it can take time for all of your inbound lead generation efforts to bear fruit. For one thing, building up a content library doesn’t happen overnight. Additionally, sales cycles vary. If you run a B2B business, for example, your clients will tend to deliberate for a long time before committing to a purchase.
Don’t get disheartened if you don’t see results in two weeks flat. Have confidence that if you focus on the six essentials set out in this article, those leads will come.