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What is Inbound Lead Generation?

Inbound lead generation is a method of attracting customers to your brand. It’s when a company puts out targeted content to appeal to its ideal customer. This content aims to push the prospect into action - starting a two-way relationship that eventually results in a sale.

As a B2B lead generation technique, it has grown in popularity in the last decade. This is because B2B customers prefer to do their own research into products and services before they engage with salespeople. With inbound lead generation, they get to choose how and when they interact with the selling company.

In this article, we’ll explore everything inbound. Scroll 👇 or use the menu to get started.

What is an inbound lead?

An inbound lead is any B2B prospect who responds to a piece of content that’s part of an inbound lead generation strategy.

For example, a response could be:

  • Downloading an eBook.
  • Filling in a survey.
  • Calling the sales team after reading an article.

Not all inbound leads are equal. B2B companies score leads based on their responses and likelihood of becoming customers.

There are two types of inbound leads:

  • A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is someone who has engaged with your content but is still undecided and not yet ready to engage with your sales team directly.
  • A sales qualified lead (SQL) is someone who has explicitly stated that they’re interested in purchasing your product and is ready to engage with your sales team.

How does inbound lead generation work?

Inbound lead generation starts with your marketing team. Your marketers formulate a strategy for generating inbound leads. Then, they create the content and operate the channels to distribute it.

It’s the opposite of outbound lead generation, where the company initiates contact with a prospect it believes should buy its product. Examples of outbound strategies are cold calling, cold email, telemarketing and trade shows/events.

However, in the best lead generation companies, the sales and marketing teams will work on inbound lead generation projects together. The sales team knows how many target customers they need to achieve their goals at current conversion rates. Salespeople also have a good idea of who to target and what their current customers are saying.

Discover the differences between inbound and outbound lead generation - press ▶️ to watch our tutorial!

12 types of lead generation strategies

There are many different techniques out there to generate leads, with new ideas being pioneered all the time.

Here are 12 of the most popular inbound strategies:

1. Content marketing

This is the driving force behind a great inbound campaign. Blogs, eBooks, and videos are a few types of content you can use to educate, inform and delight your prospects.

If your content marketing provides value, prospects will stay engaged, supporting the growth of your brand and driving more opportunities.

2. SEO

Creating valuable content is important, but one aspect of lead generation that tends to get overlooked is SEO. Articles or blogs (like the one you’re reading now!) are a great way to get your brand found on search engines and position yourself as an authority in your industry.

Using SEO, you can attract and convert more inbound prospects without any extra lead generation costs.

Our top tips for SEO are:

  1. Write blogs with your ideal customer in mind - this means you’ll create relevant content.
  2. Ensure your blogs are optimised for search intent - this means that searchers will easily find your content.
  3. Reach out to thought leaders in your industry and ask them to contribute—this will help you quickly grow an engaged audience.

3. Social media

The best lead generation companies build brands and B2B marketing campaigns on social media. These companies constantly monitor and optimise campaigns across lead sources while building a brand. If you want to follow in their footsteps, then social media marketing is a must for any inbound lead generation strategy.

One platform to jump on is YouTube. It’s the second most popular search engine in the world after Google. Simply create videos that answer the questions your ideal customers are asking and include strong calls to action at the end of your videos.

4. Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the best ways to generate leads. Once you have a prospecting list of email addresses, you can send them content and start a conversation.

Consider email marketing campaigns such as newsletters, promotions, product updates, and educational content.

If you find this inbound lead generation process too time-consuming, consider using automation software to streamline your email campaigns.

5. Content upgrades and lead magnets

To encourage a potential customer to give you their email address, give them something in return, like an eBook or whitepaper, or have them sign up for a webinar or company newsletter.

These incentives capture leads and nurture them through the sales funnel.

6. Webinars and online events

Host webinars, virtual workshops, or online events on topics that your audience cares about.

These events provide an opportunity to showcase your expertise, engage with prospects, and collect leads.

7. Interactive content

This type of content engages visits and allows you to collect valuable lead generation data. It also tends to be more shareable and memorable.

Quizzes, assessments, calculators and interactive infographics are all good inbound content marketing ideas to try.

Cognism’s TAM calculator is one such example.

8. Referral programs

Offer incentives such as discounts, rewards, or exclusive access to content or services.

They encourage satisfied customers to refer their friends and colleagues to your business.

9. Optimised landing pages

Design dedicated landing pages for specific campaigns or offers.

Ensure they’re optimised for conversions - use compelling headlines, clear CTAs, and persuasive copy to encourage visitors to take action.

10. Guest blogging and influencer partnerships

Collaborate with B2B influencers or contribute guest blog posts to reputable websites in your niche.

This content strategy expands your reach, builds credibility, and attracts qualified leads.

11. Chatbots and live chat

Implement chatbots or live chat support on your website. This software engages visitors in real-time. It answers their questions and moves them along the sales funnel, turning visitors into leads.

Automated B2B chatbots easily slot into the sales process, qualifying leads and routing them to the appropriate sales department or support team.

12. Customer reviews and testimonials

With this inbound method, you showcase positive customer reviews, testimonials, case studies, and user-generated content.

The goal is to build trust and credibility with your potential customers.

How to manage inbound leads

Managing inbound leads effectively is crucial for converting prospects into customers and maximising your ROI.

Here are the best strategies for managing inbound leads:

1. Implement lead scoring

Develop a lead scoring system to prioritise and qualify inbound leads.

Score them on:

  • Their demographics and their suitability for your product/service.
  • How they’ve engaged with your website/content.

Assign scores to different actions such as website visits, email opens, content downloads, and form submissions.

This way, you’ll identify hot leads ready for sales follow-up.

2. Use a CRM system

Invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system; it’ll help you centralise lead data, track interactions, and manage the sales pipeline.

CRM software allows you to capture lead information, automate follow-up tasks, set reminders, and analyse performance metrics.

3. Segmentation and personalisation

Segment your leads based on criteria such as industry, company size, location, interests, or buying stage.

Tailor your communication and content to each segment’s specific needs and preferences. By doing this, you’ll increase engagement and conversion rates.

4. Follow-up promptly

This is a crucial piece of an inbound marketing strategy.

Respond to inbound leads promptly! You must maintain their interest and stop them from losing momentum.

Set up automated email workflows or use chatbots to:

  • Acknowledge inquiries.
  • Provide relevant information.
  • Schedule follow-up conversations with sales representatives.

5. Lead nurturing campaigns

Develop lead nurturing campaigns to educate and guide prospects through the buying journey.

Send targeted emails, content, and offers based on their interests and behaviour. In lead nurturing, the aim is to build trust, address objections, and move potential customers closer to a purchasing decision.

6. Align sales and marketing teams

Foster collaboration and alignment between your sales and marketing teams. This will ensure seamless lead handoff and follow-up.

Here are some alignment tips:

  • Establish clear communication channels - why not have a combined sales and marketing Slack channel?
  • Share sales goals between sales and marketing.
  • Define the buying process - what do good lead qualification, distribution, and feedback look like? It’s vital that both teams agree on this.

7. Track and analyse performance

Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as lead conversion rate, time to contact, engagement metrics, and revenue generated from inbound leads.

Use data analytics to identify trends, optimise strategies, and allocate resources effectively.

8. Automate routine tasks

It’s a great idea to streamline lead management processes.

You can do this by automating repetitive tasks such as lead scoring, email follow-ups, appointment scheduling, and data entry.

This frees up your team’s time; you want them to focus on high-value activities like personalised outreach and relationship-building.

9. Provide sales enablement resources

Equip your sales team with the necessary tools, resources, and training to effectively engage and convert inbound leads. This inbound method is often called sales enablement.

The following resources are proven to facilitate meaningful conversations and drive conversions:

Customer insights, competitive intelligence, sales collateral, and objection-handling materials.

10. Continuous optimisation

Review and optimise your lead management processes, workflows, and communication strategies regularly. Base your decisions on feedback, performance data, and market dynamics.

Experiment with different approaches and test new tactics. Iterate to improve results over time.

Build a successful inbound marketing machine

Start building your inbound marketing machine with Cognism’s Demand Generation Playbook!

Across 8 video modules, you’ll learn how to do marketing the Cognism way, from content and SEO to capturing demand on LinkedIn, Google, Bing and more! 

Access the free resource below 👇 

Cognism Demand Generation Playbook

Data and B2B inbound lead generation

When you let data drive your inbound lead generation strategies, you instantly make them more effective. You also take the guesswork out of the way you manage your inbound leads.

Here are some steps for effective data management in inbound lead generation:

  1. Have your inbound lead generation specialist look at your current marketing data and identify new business opportunities.
  2. Look for common attributes among your customer base. Use these insights to build your ideal customer profile. The narrower you can get, the easier it is to craft content that will resonate with them.
  3. Take a data-driven approach to scoring your inbound leads. Assign points for the various responses prospects can make, such as downloading a lead magnet or visiting your site after reading an article. That way, you’ll know exactly how interested individual prospects are and when it’s time to send in the sales team.
  4. Finally, collect as much B2B data as you can from your inbound lead generation activities. Use previously successful campaigns as benchmarks; this will help you judge what’s working and what isn’t.
  5. Then, split-test small changes to your content for continuous improvement.

Inbound lead generation: key takeaway

If you’re on the fence and you’re not sure which you should choose when it comes to inbound vs outbound, then consider this:

Inbound sales lead generation is good for the long term, as evergreen content always works. It’s also cost-effective. One can also argue that inbound lead generation leads to better quality leads, as it builds trust between you and the prospect.

However, for best results, combine inbound and outbound. Many B2B companies succeed by merging their sales and marketing funnels.

Looking for more inbound lead generation guides? Check out these online resources:

Support your online lead generation with Cognism

If you’re looking for an inbound lead solution, consider Cognism - a global prospecting tool that supports your B2B inbound lead generation with compliant, quality data and the most phone-verified mobile numbers in the market.

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