Skip to content

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 as B2B customers prefer to do their own research into products and services before they engage with salespeople, and they get 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.

In this article, we’re doing a deep dive into everything inbound. Scroll to get started 👇 or use the menu to skip to a section.

What is an inbound lead? | How does inbound prospecting work? | What are the top inbound lead generation strategies? | Free inbound marketing guide | B2B data and inbound prospecting | Inbound or outbound? | Find out how to get inbound leads 

What is an inbound lead?

An inbound lead is any B2B prospect who responds to a piece of content that is 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 will score leads based on how they respond and how likely they are to become customers.

There are two types of inbound leads: 

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

How does inbound prospecting work?

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 lead generation companies, 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 prospect 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.

4 types of lead generation strategies

There are many different techniques out there to get lead generation data, with new ideas being pioneered all the time. Here are three of the most popular inbound strategies:

1. Content marketing

Content inbound leads marketing 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 provides value, prospects will stay engaged, supporting the growth of your brand and driving more opportunities. 

Tip: Here’s an interesting article explaining more about using content to generate inbound marketing leads.

2. SEO

Creating valuable content is important, but one aspect of lead generation that tends to fall to the wayside is SEO. 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. 

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

3. Social media

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

Tip: here are three articles you might find valuable when building your inbound marketing campaigns: 

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. 

If you feel like this lead generation process might be too time-consuming, you can use automation software to streamline each campaign. To encourage a prospect 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.

Click 👇 for a free template to help you build an email nurture funnel for more marketing leads:

Click 👇 for a free template to help you build an email nurture funnel for more marketing leads. Download it here.

Build a successful inbound marketing machine

Starting building your inbound marketing machine with The No Fluff Guide to Inbound Marketing. In this guide, Cognism shares the secrets to inbound success with you - uncovering the processes, tactics, and resources we used to predictably grow revenue from $2.5M to over $20M ARR in a year.

Click 👇 to download.

Inbound Marketing Guide

Data and B2B lead generation inbound marketing

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

Have your inbound lead generation specialist look at your current marketing data and identify new business opportunities. Keep an eye out for common attributes amongst your customer base and use them to build your ideal customer profile. The 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. Then, split-test small changes to your content for continuous improvement.

Tip! If you're in SaaS sales, read our guide on generating leads for software companies.

Closing thoughts

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 is always working for you. 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.

Ideally, you’ll use a combination of the two. Many B2B companies find success by merging their sales and marketing funnels together.

All in all, many B2B companies have found success by merging their sales and marketing funnels together and using both inbound and outbound lead generation together.

Get inspired - watch this 6-minute video explaining the top B2B lead generation strategies for both inbound and outbound 👇

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.

Want a test drive? Click 👇 to book your demo.

Cognism can support your inbound lead gen. Click to book a demo