While reportedly first being coined in 2006 by HubSpot, you can find examples of inbound marketing through history, even before the emergence of the internet. The common thread that linked all of these different marketing initiatives was that they worked to pull customers to the organization, not push the organization’s offering upon the customer. With the immense popularity of the inbound methodology today, the results should really speak for themselves with regards to the efficacy of an inbound approach. But, how do you implement the inbound methodology with regards to lead generation? In today’s digital world, how do you as a B2B company attract customers to your organization?
These are a few of the questions that this article will be tackling. It will be going through four essential steps that you need to follow to build an inbound lead generation engine that constantly feeds top-quality leads to your sales team. These four steps will ensure that you’re attracting relevant visitors and converting them into productive leads. But, first, let’s cover the basics.
What is inbound lead generation?
Inbound lead generation refers to marketing activities that result in potential customers visiting your website and converting into leads. The emphasis here is on the fact that the potential customers find and come to you, not the other way around. Based on that definition, inbound lead generation can, in broad strokes, be modeled as having two interconnected parts:
- Getting visitors to your website
- Converting visitors into leads
Inbound lead generation refers to marketing activities that result in potential customers visiting your website and converting into leads.
How does it work?
When considering different organizational processes, it is important to have in mind that, in general terms, the only factor that differentiates inbound and outbound is the initiator. Opposed to outbound processes, such as sales prospecting, which involve the organization proactively reaching out to potential customers to initiate contact, inbound processes involve the potential customer initiating contact with the organization on their own accord. As a result, this distinction will manifest itself in sales teams being tasked with outbound processes, and inbound processes falling on the shoulders of marketers.
As previously stated, the primary goal of lead generation in general is fostering the emergence of new leads. Inbound initiatives should place the emphasis on discoverability—potential customers have to be able to find you after all! Today, building your organization’s online presence via digital channels, such as search engines and social media platforms, is a good way to achieve this. The obvious follow-up question: how do you build an organization’s online presence? By creating content.
Inbound initiatives should place the emphasis on discoverability—potential customers have to be able to find you after all!
Let's take an example. Your organization offers marketing automation software, and your goal as a part of the marketing team is to generate more leads from organic search—leads who are, ideally, actually in need of your services. So, how do you get more of those leads using inbound strategies? Thankfully, the process itself isn’t terribly complex.
- Define your ideal customers
- Companies that do not currently utilize marketing automation software
- Identify issues your customers may be experiencing
- Low conversion rates
- Create content centered around solving those issues
- “How you can increase your conversion rate with marketing automation”
- Convert visitors into leads
- Webinar on how marketing automation works in practice
How to build your inbound lead generation process
Step 1: Define your customers
While your offering may very well benefit everyone, with your total addressable market being enormous, there’s likely to be a group of companies that would benefit from it more than others. As they are more likely to benefit significantly from your product or service, they’re also the customer group that is least likely to churn and bring in the most revenue for your organization.
Furthermore, with time being a scarce resource, your organization has to be effective when it comes to generating customers, which is why it makes sense to spend time on the potential customers that are not only the most likely to convert, but also the ones that will be the happiest and will become champions for your brand. For that reason, defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) is a crucial step. If you want to get started right away, feel free to download our free ICP template, which will walk you through the entire process.
...it makes sense to spend time on the potential customers that are not only the most likely to convert, but also the ones that will be the happiest and will become champions for your brand.
Step 2: Identify issues your customers may be experiencing
A good place to start when it comes to brainstorming the types of content you ought to create is looking at your current customers: what problems were they experiencing that your company helped them solve? Obviously, that approach will have its limitations, but it will give you valuable insight and help you figure out what topics you should ideally cover.
For example, early in the Vainu history, as a result of our customer analysis, we found that a significant majority of our customers had had problems with finding relevant potential customers. In fact, this issue was the primary reason why many of them ended up being Vainu customers. By providing access to a comprehensive assortment of company data, Vainu was able to help those companies solve their issues and help them find their best-fit companies.
...it’s highly likely that there are still many companies out there experiencing similar problems that your current customers experienced. A problem that you can help them solve.
With that information in hand, we brave marketers at Vainu were well-equipped to create compelling and productive content that showcased how Vainu could help companies that were experiencing similar difficulties. In short, it’s highly likely that there are still many companies out there experiencing similar problems that your current customers experienced. A problem that you can help them solve.
Tip: This might be obvious, but, ideally, the content that you choose to create should be something that is in some way related to your product or service. If not, it should at least be something that your buyer persona would benefit from.
Step 3: Create content centered around solving those issues
Once you’ve figured out the types of issues that your best potential customers might be experiencing, it’s time to help them solve those challenges. So, sit down and start writing some content. Although it might be tempting to start promoting your company’s offering from the get-go, remember that visitors are ultimately looking for an answer to a problem that they’re experiencing. They want to be educated and informed on that subject, they don’t want to receive a sales pitch. So, keep your content reader-centric and prioritize providing valuable, helpful information that solves their query. Obviously, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate how your solution can help at all. Just keep it low-key and adopt an “always-be-helping” approach.
Remember: content marketing isn’t product marketing. Content marketing is, at its core, brand-focused. It is meant to promote brand awareness, establish expertise, and keep the organization and its solution top-of-mind. It's meant to draw potential customers in, establish interest, and build their trust, not hit them with a sales pitch before they’re even in the door. As such, it is generally more suited for top-of-funnel marketing endeavors. It might seem counter-intuitive not to try to sell them your offering as soon as possible, but trust the process, believe in your funnel, and provide your visitors with a positive experience of your company, instead of potentially leaving them with a bad taste in their mouth due to them feeling your company is salesy and disingenuous.
...content marketing isn’t product marketing. Content marketing is, at its core, brand-focused. It is meant to promote brand awareness, establish expertise, and keep the organization and its solution top-of-mind. It's meant to draw potential customers in, establish interest, and build their trust, not hit them with a sales pitch before they’re even in the door.
Tip: An SEO tool can be incredibly helpful when it comes to trying to figure out searcher intent and specific keywords that might be worth targeting. However, it’s too easy to fall into the SEO trap and write the same content everyone’s writing about it. Never forget you’re writing for humans. Following trigger events is a phenomenal way to find great ideas that will bring your B2B blog closer to your audience.
Step 4: Convert visitors into leads
Up until now we’ve been focusing on how to create compelling content that draws relevant potential customers in. The next step is converting those visitors into leads.
A quick refresher: a lead is an individual who has expressed interest in your organization and your offering and whom you are able to initiate further communication with. In simple terms, this step is about getting a visitor to divulge their contact information so that your organization is able to nurture them into customers. How do you go about achieving that? By offering the visitor something valuable. Something that they are unable to get by themselves, or elsewhere for “free”. All you request in return is the completion of a capture form. There are a number of viable methods at your disposal:
- Gated content and resources, e.g. eBooks, whitepapers, webinars, etc.
- Subscription newsletters
- Free trials and demos
The takeaway point here is that effective visitor-to-lead conversion is about ensuring that the resource you’re offering is valuable and relevant enough that the visitor is willing to divulge their contact information. In the same way that you thought about your potential customers when deciding what to write your articles about, think about your potential customers’ pains when deciding what gated content you ought to produce. What kind of knowledge might they benefit from? What tools could they use in their working life? If you’ve thought about those things, and created some great content, leads are sure to follow.
...effective visitor-to-lead conversion is about ensuring that the resource you’re offering is valuable and relevant enough that the visitor is willing to divulge their contact information.
A general rule of thumb is to keep capture forms on the shorter side. The completion of a form can be modeled as having two major components: the motivation of the visitor to get access, and the ease with which the form can be completed. As much as we would like to assume that all of our visitors are incredibly motivated to get access to our gated content, it’s unlikely to be the case. Unfortunately, keeping forms short generally comes at the cost of valuable information about the lead that could help the lead qualification process. This is a common trade-off when it comes to forms.
Tip: By having access to a company database, such as Vainu, you would largely be able to mitigate this issue with a lead enrichment process. Vainu is able to link as little as a work email address to a company, thereby giving you complete access to heaps of data on that company. As such, the number of organizational fields that you would need to include in your forms would be limited.
Don’t forget that inbound lead generation’s purpose isn’t getting visitors to your site. Its purpose is getting relevant visitors that can convert into viable leads. But, once you start generating leads, how do you go about establishing whether a lead is actually viable? Lead qualification. There are many different ways to go about qualifying leads, which you can read more about here.
If you’ve found this article helpful and are interested in developing your marketing efforts further, you should consider downloading our marketing playbook. It’s packed full of informative tidbits that can help your marketing team perform at their best.