Inbound lead generation – everything you need to know in 2021

13 minutes to read • Published 12 July 2021 • Digital strategy, Marketing

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    Doing business is all about generating leads. It’s critical to lavish attention on existing and loyal customers. Such clients are up to five times as profitable as new users. Nothing lasts forever, though, and there will invariably be churn in your audience. Those that move on will need replacing, and a business should always be looking to grow.

    When it comes to generating leads, inbound marketing is a strong strategy. This approach places emphasis on quality over quantity. You may not gain as many leads through an inbound process, and they may take longer to become profitable. Once this happens, however, you will have a dedicated new customer that actively engages with your business.

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    What is inbound lead generation?

    Generating leads is comparable to fishing at sea. Picture yourself in a boat on the ocean, looking to catch some aquatic wildlife. You have two methods to consider. You could toss a net in the water and rummage through your catches. Alternatively, you could bait a hook, attach this to a rod, and wait for fish to come to you.

    Inbound marketing takes the latter approach. The essence of inbound marketing is creating content and experiences that your target audience is looking for and letting them approach your business to discuss them. These are known as inbound marketing leads. When these leads get in touch, it’s because they are aware of your business offering. As a result, a CTA on your website will pique their curiosity.

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    Popular examples of inbound marketing include:

    SEO-rich blogs that garner the attention of your audience, discussing particular topics and pain points
    Social media campaigns – text and video-based alike – engineered to go viral and increase your brand awareness
    Giveaways, such as free eBooks or white papers in exchange for customer data
    Webinars and TED Talks that demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of what your audience is looking for
    Examples of inbound lead generation

    If you cast your net wide with cold calling or email campaigns, known as outbound marketing, you’ll still develop some leads. Alas, to return to our sea fishing metaphor, you’ll also pull in a lot of useless debris at the same time. 

    Outbound marketing still has its place, but it can be labour-intensive to sort genuine leads from unsuitable parties. You’ll need to eradicate leads that misunderstood your offering, are not prepared to meet your asking price or are simply incompatible with your business model. Inbound marketing eliminates this step.

    Let’s be clear, though – inbound lead generation is not the same as money in the bank. Leads are just that. Your business stands a better chance of turning an inbound lead into a customer than approaching a stranger, though.

    What are the business benefits of an inbound lead generation strategy?

    As discussed above, the most significant advantage of inbound lead generation for any business is finding the right leads. By adopting this strategy, potential clients will be coming to you. Much of the heavy lifting has already occurred, and the path to conversion will offer minimal resistance.

    Let’s imagine that your business model is an ecommerce website specialising in high-end designer clothing for women. Attempting to market your products to men or women with limited disposable income is often a waste of time. You may pique curiosity, but these consumers are unlikely or unable to convert and become customers. 

    However, if somebody is investigating designer women’s clothing and finds your website, you will have their attention. Such a user is a viable lead. You can then convince them to convert using the content of your website.

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    Inbound lead generation also appeals to consumers, as it places them in the driving seat. In the 21st Century, hard-selling products or services is outdated. Your target audience does not want evangelical preaching about how your business can change their life, if only they hand over their credit card details without delay. Modern consumers want to feel heard and understood and to forge a bond with their brands of choice

    This is where inbound lead generation excels. You will often appear on the radar of your target audience through other means, such as a Google search or targeted social media campaigns. If a user likes what you have to say, they will seek your business out for more information.

    Above all, inbound lead generation is often cost-effective. You will not be spending money on print or online advertising campaigns. There will be no need to hire a small army of temporary staff to cold call prospective leads. You will not need to enter auctions for paid keyword marketing on Google or Facebook.

    What types of inbound lead generation service are there?

    A business can obtain inbound marketing leads in a variety of ways. Let’s review some of the most popular options.

    Type of inbound lead generationWhat is it?
    Obtaining email addressesFirst-party data is the true currency of the digital world. Use inbound marketing to grow your email list, such as exchanging materials or discounts for contact information. This way, your newsletters will be reaching the inbox of users that have already expressed interest in your offering
    BloggingNew ideas and industry insights will always have a place in the business world. Consumers love in-depth blogs, too. Use blogs to build your online reputation as empathetic experts on your chosen subject, earning the trust and brand loyalty of potential consumers
    PodcastingPodcasting is an addition to, or even instead of, written prose. Over 15 million people in the UK regularly listen to podcasts, and that number is projected to increase annually. Recording a fireside chat is a great way to humanise your business
    Create Video ContentVideos – whether for marketing purposes or simply to explain a product or service – are eminently reusable. YouTube attracts millions of viewers daily, and you can also share videos to other social media channels
    SEONever neglect the impact that organic search engine traffic can have on your business. If you get your SEO strategy right, users will find your service when researching particular terms. Just ensure your keywords are not too broad
    ChatbotsChatbots are growing increasingly popular on a variety of websites, for a good reason. Chatbots can act as your first contact with potential consumers, asking questions that sift out any unsuitable users and forwarding solid leads to your team for human interaction 

    Inbound lead generation – do it yourself, or pay for a service?

    Any business faces the eternal dilemma of whether to tackle lead generation themselves or hire help from a third party. Ultimately, this depends on how skilled your in-house team are in the art of marketing. 

    See also →  Content marketing KPIs: getting started and how to track them

    If you have previously hired a freelance marketer or an agency, consider the results. Did this act reap financial rewards? If so, can you spare the budget to enlist external services again? Alternatively, do you feel that you now know enough about marketing to handle a new approach yourself?

    See also →  How to get started with customer journey mapping

    At Creative.onl, we always err on the side of seeking professional assistance. Leads are the bread and butter of any business, so it’s best not to take any chances. At the very least, consider investing in an SEO package to increase your likelihood of generating leads through organic traffic.

    Inbound lead generation tools – what do businesses use?

    The use of software for lead generation is a matter of personal preference. Some businesses will trust their content to do the work for them. Others will be keen to gain any advantage possible. Some software packages that you may wish to consider include:

    • Leadfeeder, which tells you who has been visiting your website – perfect for building a profile of your target audience
    • Mobile Monkey, which will create automated conversations across multiple platforms. As discussed previously, this can be a great way to generate inbound leads
    • Quora is a free Q&A platform – a Yahoo Answers for 2021. Build a reputation as expect on Quora by offering helpful responses to questions that lack answers
    • Yoast offers advice on how to maximise the impact of your SEO, providing the greatest chance of gaining organic traffic
    • HubSpot is akin to having an experienced team of content creators on tap to build and bolster your online presence

    No software can outright replace quality content and a finely honed marketing strategy for inbound lead generation. There is never any harm in gaining additional help, though. 

    How are inbound leads qualified?

    We previously mentioned that a lead is not always a guarantee of a sale. Inbound leads are likely to result in conversions, but nothing in this world is inevitable. To ensure that your inbound lead strategy is paying dividends, you’ll need to measure performance.

    There are many ways to measure inbound lead generation beyond simply reviewing your bottom line. 

    Build an ideal consumer profile for your target audience. Do your inbound leads fit this template?
    Review how your inbound leads interact with your business, especially online. Do you arrive on the landing page and bounce? Do they click around and navigate the site? Do they show any interest in interacting with your business, such as joining a mailing list or filling in a query form?
    Arrange a quick and easy way to assess how likely the lead is to become a customer. Have an automated email ready to go, asking some key questions and subtly encouraging the user to take the next step on a sales filter
    Compare your inbound lead results to any impact of your outbound marketing. If cold calling is more successful, you may need to make your inbound lead generation strategy a little more compelling
    How to qualify inbound leads

    Of course, the financial results are what really matter. Sooner or later, your inbound lead generation strategy needs to start improving your profit margins. Boosts to your account are unlikely to happen overnight, though. Qualify your inbound leads using these metrics in the meantime. 

    How much does inbound lead generation cost?

    On paper, inbound lead generation is the cheapest marketing strategy of all. If you have a talented team of communicators on your staff, you can attract new business at minimal outlay. Even if you need external help, inbound lead generation is often cheaper than outbound marketing, especially if you hire an agency.

    Costs for inbound marketing communication vary depending on your level of need. As a baseline, consider these figures.

    Component of lead generationHow much might it cost?
    Market researchInbound marketing will only be effective if you understand your target audience inside out. Expect to pay anywhere between £100 and £1,000 for market research before preparing a strategy
    Website hosting and maintenanceYou will already pay monthly hosting and maintenance fees for your website. If you do not need any additional support, this may be all you need to invest in your inbound lead generation strategy
    Content creationContent could be free, or it could be costly – it depends if your in-house team have the strong communication skills required for inbound lead generation. Set aside a budget for freelance writers or a content creation agency if this is necessary
    Defining lead qualityFollow the steps that we discussed previously to assess the quality of your inbound leads, setting aside the cost of external experts if necessary. Alternatively, subscribe to software like TruLead from OptinMonster
    Costs of inbound lead generation

    If you’d like a quote from Creative.onl for inbound lead generation, we would be delighted to discuss your business needs.

    How does inbound lead generation compare to other types of sales strategies?

    While there are plenty of marketing options available to any business, inbound and outbound lead generation are the two most prominent. This table explains the core differences between these approaches.

    Inbound lead generationOutbound lead generation
    Can create evergreen marketing campaigns that retain relevanceTypically have a shelf life and must be regularly refreshed
    Price is highly variable, depending on how much external help you requireOften expensive, and thus brief – nobody wants to swallow prolonged expense on an unsuccessful marketing campaign
    Traffic and attention are gained organicallyTraffic and engagement come with a price tag
    Can be completed without ever directly interacting with a userWill require some level of pitching and selling your product, service or brand
    Often takes time to see real financial resultsCan provide an immediate ROI if you catch the right leads
    Frequently results in an ongoing relationship with consumersLikelier to be a “one and done” transaction – you convinced somebody to make a purchase, rather than leaving the decision to them
    Will be utterly ineffective if poorly executed – all ducks must be in a rowEven poor outbound campaigns can see some results, albeit not those hoped for
    Requires careful tracking and review to assign value to leadsEasy to track performance – any sale is a win

    There is room at the table for both inbound and outbound lead generation. Just ensure you never sleep on inbound lead generation. It’s potentially a cost-effective, lucrative and reliable way to build a dedicated consumer base.

    FAQ

    What is inbound lead generation?

    Inbound lead generation is the art of attracting new business through content and brand awareness, not outright sales tactics. Rather than advertising your business, or cold calling potential customers, inbound lead generation involves building a reputation. This way, users will approach your business with a baseline awareness of what you can offer.

    What is an inbound lead?

    An inbound lead is a potential client or customer that approaches your business, not the other way around. Such a user may have read a blog published on your website, followed your social media campaigns, or read your newsletter and decided that your offering will benefit them in some way.

    How much does inbound lead generation cost?

    That depends on what you need. Suppose you can handle your own content creation and already understand your audience. In that case, inbound lead generation is essentially free – all it will cost is the monthly maintenance bills linked to your website. If you need external help from freelancers of agencies, this expense may run into the thousands. 

    What is the best inbound lead generation company?

    The best company for your needs depends entirely on what you need. Find a business that understands your industry and target audience and with whom you enjoy personal chemistry. If you’d like to learn more about how Creative.onl can help with inbound lead generation, please just get in touch.

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