Inbound leads! They’re convenient, effective, and easy to qualify.
But ... and there’s always a “but”... you need a complete inbound lead generation strategy.
Old-fashioned outbound sales and outbound marketing have a bad reputation because they usually consist of just two steps: 1. Spray and 2. Pray.
Outbound sales teams try to cover a huge number of prospects without necessarily doing research to determine if they’re qualified, uncover their potential objections, and customize the messaging. This leads to conversations that are unproductive at best and adversarial at worst.
Inbound marketing flips the script: It assumes the best leads can be inspired to come to you.
To understand how to build your strategy, we first have to understand what leads are all about.
That means taking a peek at the three-stage buyer journey that drives all inbound marketing.
The Buyer Journey Explains Who Inbound Leads Are and What They Want
There are three phases inbound leads go through as they make a buying decision:
Inbound leads make contact with your brand when they are doing research in your area of expertise. Often, they have new business problems or burning questions they’ve only just learned about. They need basic information to help them understand the situation.
Once they grasp the basics, your inbound leads move on. They know they have a dilemma and they know it can be solved. Now, they need to establish buying criteria that will help them compare the range of potential solutions they have at their disposal.
The big moment arrives. The buyer has an array of potential solutions on the table. All of them will work, but which will work best for that specific buyer at that specific time? Once they dig into the details, the buyer will make a final selection.
Ideally, your brand will catch inbound leads at the very beginning during the Awareness phase. Doing so gives you the opportunity to establish rapport and foster trust from the start. In effect, your expertise on the subject becomes the standard all others are measured by.
Of course, you can – and many times, will – develop a productive relationship with a lead in the Consideration phase. Still, it’s vital to design your inbound lead generation strategy with the assumption that you’ll be ready to serve leads during all three stages.
Building an Inbound Lead Generation Strategy that Works
The Awareness Phase: Meet Your Ideal Buyer and Create Awesome Content.
The Awareness Phase of your plan hinges on understanding your customer.
Web content is the magnet that will draw inbound leads to you. To make its magic, however, that content needs to be informative, helpful, and useful.
Only your leads themselves can tell you what’s useful to them.
So, any good inbound lead generation strategy starts with learning as much as you can about your ideal customer. You might ask yourself questions like:
- What industry does the buyer work in and what is the typical enterprise size?
- What specific business challenges or opportunities does the buyer deal with?
- What publications or online platforms do they use to research B2B solutions?
- What background factors shape their decision, such as region or education?
Once you have these answers in mind, you synthesize them into a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a sort of handy guideline that helps you summarize what you know about a type of buyer: In effect, it represents one specific “use case” for your product and the person associated with it.
Buyer personas clarify your thinking and equip you to craft content someone will seek out and use. With your persona in mind, you can take the next step: Discovering the specific questions that your would-be buyer is using to search, also known as keywords.
Keywords are the search queries someone types into Google (or another search engine) when they have a question to answer or a problem to solve. Before you can write stellar content for your leads, you have to know exactly what’s on their minds.
Keywords are raw queries like:
- how to change a flat tire
- what is bitcoin
- forex trading for beginners
You start to hook inbound leads by translating raw keywords into relatable, valuable blog posts. As you share these posts online and entice influencers to link back to your website, your site will become more visible in search engines. That’s a huge win for both you and your leads.
The Consideration Phase: Build on the Relationship and Drill Down Deeper.
With snappy blog posts and a promotional strategy, you’ll start getting traffic.
As we all know, though, traffic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. To make a difference in the bottom line, that traffic needs to convert. You can think of conversion as any action that brings leads closer to becoming paying customers, including the sale itself and its follow-on sales.
The problem: In their first rodeo, many marketers try to jump straight to that big sale.
The reality: Less than 20% of leads will be interested in making a purchase when they first come across your website. Until then, you need a way to maintain your position as a trusted source of advice. How do you keep your brand “top of mind” and continue cultivating those leads?
The answer: Focus your conversion efforts on getting email subscribers.
Email marketing is a huge plank in any successful inbound lead generation strategy. Without it, you’ll be chasing after an immediate decision that’s very unlikely to take place. With it, you have the chance to furnish your leads with targeted content throughout the Consideration phase.
Getting your leads to invite you into their inbox is easier than it looks, too.
All you need is a lead magnet: A piece of sophisticated content that provides a deep view of some issue of interest to your lead. A how-to video series, ebook, or interactive assessment are all good examples: The lead gets the magnet for free simply by agreeing to join your list.
Once leads are on the list, you can continue serving them with detailed content. That content should focus on the steps they need to take to make the buying process successful for them.
Leads won’t always choose you, but this helps ensure they will trust you.
The Decision Phase: Take the Relationship Offline and Go “One on One."
The Decision phase is when the rubber meets the road. Your sales team finally has the chance to meet up with a lead. A discovery session takes place – through video-conferencing, phone, or in person – where you learn about the lead’s deepest desires and aim to customize a solution.
Since everything else has led up to it, this is the shortest phase. If your lead is truly qualified to make a buy and likes what you have to say, you walk away with the sale. Then, it’s time to start all over again by strengthening the newly minted customer relationship.
As a marketer, you’ll architect inbound lead generation strategies over and over. There’s much more to know about the process, but this basic outline will never lead you astray. To dive into the fun details, just check out our other posts here on Bluleadz!