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 as it fits in with the way business customers prefer to buy. This is because prospects prefer to do their own research into products and services before they engage with salespeople. With inbound lead generation, the prospect gets to choose how and when they interact with the selling company.
It’s the opposite of outbound lead generation, where the company initiates contact with a prospect they believe should buy their product.
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What are inbound leads? | Who conducts inbound lead generation? | What are the top inbound lead generation strategies? | How does data impact inbound lead generation? | What’s the difference between inbound and outbound lead generation? | What method is best for B2B? | The ultimate guide to B2B lead generation | Book your demo with Cognism
An inbound lead is any B2B prospect who responds to a piece of content that is part of an inbound lead generation strategy. A response could be, for example:
Not all inbound leads are equal. B2B companies will score their leads based on how they respond and how likely they are to become customers. Examples of inbound lead stages include:
A lead that has engaged with a piece of content, but their interest is still tentative. They’re not ready for a sales call yet, but you can send them more content.
A lead that has explicitly stated that they’re interested in purchasing your product. It’s time to engage your sales team.
Inbound lead generation starts with your B2B marketing team. It is your marketers who formulate a strategy for bringing in inbound leads. Then, they will create the content and operate the channels to distribute it.
However, in the best B2B organisations, the sales and marketing teams will work on inbound lead generation projects together. The B2B sales team will have a better handle on how many leads are needed to achieve their targets at current conversion rates. Salespeople will also have a good idea of who to target and what their current customers are saying.
There are many different inbound lead generation strategies out there, with new ideas being pioneered all the time. Here are three of the most popular:
Once you have a prospect’s email address, you can send them content and start a conversation. To get a prospect to give you their email address, give them something in return, like an eBook, whitepaper or webinar.
Articles (or blogs), like the one you’re reading now, are a great way to get your brand found on search engines, then position yourself as an authority in your industry. Write with your ideal customer in mind and bring value. Reach out to thought leaders in your industry and ask them to contribute - this will help grow your audience quickly.
YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world after Google. Create videos that answer the questions your ideal customers are asking. Include strong calls to action at the end of your videos.
When you let data drive your inbound lead generation strategies, you instantly make them more effective. Data takes the guesswork out of inbound lead generation.
Use your current customer data to identify new business opportunities. Look for common attributes amongst your customer base and use them to build your ideal customer profile. The more narrower you can get, the easier it is to craft content that will resonate with them.
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.
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. Split test small changes to your content for continuous improvement.
Outbound lead generation is when you make the first move. You initiate contact with the prospect directly and try to get them interested in purchasing your product.
It’s the traditional method of lead generation that B2B companies have been using for years. It involves cold calling, cold emailing and sending LinkedIn DMs to someone you don’t know.
While many prospects don’t appreciate the interruption to their day that a cold call or email brings, outbound lead generation can still work exceptionally well when you do it correctly.
Both approaches, inbound and outbound lead generation, have their advantages and disadvantages.
Inbound lead generation is good for the long-term, as evergreen content is always working for you. It’s also cost-effective. You can also argue that inbound lead generation leads to better quality leads, as it builds trust between you and the prospect.
Outbound lead generation, on the other hand, is fast. You call up a prospect, and you know then and there whether they’re interested or not. When you target your outreach well, and your salespeople take the right approaches with your prospects, it can be exceptionally effective. If you need to make sales now – and you can’t wait for someone to see your content, respond and join your email list – outbound is the way to go.
Ideally, you’ll use a combination of the two. Many B2B companies find success by merging their sales and marketing funnels together.
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