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What Are Inbound Leads? How to Leverage Your CRM to Better Manage Them

When it comes to getting leads from your business, the possibilities are many. There are those whom you met at a networking event. There are those who were referred by current or existing customers. Then there are those who find you organically after conducting a Google search. They clicked on one of your links and got information they needed. Now they’re aware of your existence. They know you have something they may need. They are seeking you out, without you having to convince them with ads or marketing emails. This is how it all works in the world of inbound leads. 

What Is Inbound Lead Generation?

When you were a kid, you probably found out about businesses during commercial breaks. There were also newspaper and magazine ads, billboards, and mail in marketing materials. Businesses everywhere spreading the word about their goods and services. That’s what outbound marketing is about. It increases brand awareness and can often generate fast results. You were hungry. You watched a pizza commercial. You had one delivered. Everybody wins. 

However, while sometimes effective, that type of marketing is not ideal in every circumstance. Sometimes it reaches an audience that’s simply not interested. Think of all the times now you skip YouTube commercials and fast forward through them while watching a show on Hulu. And think about all the marketing materials you get in the mail and throw in the recycling bin without even reading them. Why is that? 

For one, they may be irrelevant. Those roofers who love to send you pamphlets may truly provide an outstanding service, but if you don’t need a new roof, they’re wasting their time and money sending materials to you. Then there’s also the fact that it can be disruptive. If you’re about to find out who kidnapped Olivia Pope on Scandal and a commercial pops up, you’re just going to be annoyed; not make a purchase. 

So what’s a business to do? Inbound marketing, that’s what. At the end of the day, it’s what’s going to provide you with inbound leads — who more often than not, are interested in eventually making a purchase. 

What Are Inbound Leads?

An inbound lead is a person whom you attracted organically. Let’s say you have a B2B business offering a SaaS product that enables more efficient product management. So you start a blog on your website educating visitors about the industry. Some topics you may write about may include:

  • How To Provide Your Team With The Tools They Need To Succeed in Their Job Roles
  • How To Manage Clients’ Expectations When Working On a Large Project
  • How To Foster Collaboration Between Your Design and Content Teams

What’s important here is that you’re putting yourself in the shoes of your buyer persona. What are some of the questions they may have? Common concerns? Pain points? Apprehensions? Issues that need answers right now. And you’re providing them. They find your blog, they like what they read, and they keep coming back to your website for more. 

In essence, your content strategy is acting like a magnet, and your target audience is coming to you voluntarily. They start to see you as an industry expert. You’re providing educational and helpful information that’s relevant to them. These are your inbound leads. 

Types of Leads

Ok. So now that you’re clear on what is an inbound lead, let’s take a closer look at the different types that may be on your radar: 

Cold Leads

The term cold leads refers to individuals who haven’t shown any interest in doing business with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will never make a purchase from you. Maybe they won’t. But it’s also possible that they are at the very top of the sales funnel. If they’ve just become aware of a pain point — or aren’t even aware of the extent of it — they’re not gonna be reaching for their wallets any time soon.  

Warm Leads

Warm leads are people who still aren’t ready to make a purchase, but they’re still interested in finding more about your goods or services. They may open your lead nurturing emails every now and then, click through to your site, or are regular readers of your blogs.

A good way to keep them interested and to guide them in their buyer’s journey is to create content for each step of the way. This way, you’re not coming across as a pushy salesperson; but actually providing them with useful information they can use right now.   

Information Qualified Leads

An information qualified lead (IQLs) is someone who entered their contact information into one of your landing pages. But they didn’t do so just for fits and giggles. They wanted access to gated content, such as lead magnets. Or maybe they just really wanted that discount code you dangled in front of them in exchange for their email address. 

Marketing Qualified Leads

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) show more interest in your services. They have expressed this by visiting your website repeatedly, downloading your content, enrolling in webinars, requesting a demo, putting items or services in their virtual shopping cart, and/or filling out website forms to request additional information. 

While they may not be quite ready to close that finish line yet, they are certainly open to scheduling a call with you to hear your pitch. 

Sales Qualified Leads

A sales qualified lead (SQL) has already done their research on your products, as well as competitors; and are now ready to begin the sales process. By this stage in the game, you really need to be on your toes to make the transaction as seamless as possible. For example, you’ll want to know what their exact pain points are, what their interactions with your business have been, and how you can best meet — or even exceed — their expectations. 

You don’t need to be a mind reader to do this effectively; but you would greatly benefit from having a customer relationship management (CRM) software that has all relevant information right in front of you as you get ready to close that sale. 

What Does It Mean to Close the Loop On a Lead? 

Closing the loop on a lead means to strategically follow up with them. The most effective way to do this is to gather all information that’s relevant to them — their pain points, common challenges, apprehensions, budget, job role, who are the decision makers at their company, etc…. 

This is crucial to provide them with personalized communications that are more likely to get them to engage with you. If you’re not quite within their budget, don’t drop them like it’s hot. Take the time to still provide them with some helpful information. This will show them that you’re not crossing them off a list. You’re helping them in whatever way you can, planting that little seed of hope that someday they might be able to afford you. 

When speaking with someone who’s at the bottom of the sales funnel, you should provide them with a detailed proposal. List every single item and how they address a pain point. Include timelines, information about your confidentiality policies, item descriptions, and price breakdown. 

One more thing: If your sales team hears the same objections or concerns coming up repeatedly, have them meet with your marketing team to discuss them. This will enable your content marketers to incorporate solutions to them into their inbound marketing and lead nurturing efforts. 

How a CRM Platform Helps You Manage Inbound Leads

By now, it’s clear that inbound marketing is an effective tool to generate leads. And while I briefly mentioned having a good CRM to help you on your quest to growing your business, it’s good to look at the individual components that help you reach those goals, including:

Improved Lead Management

When you get a lot of website visitors – whether first-timers or repeaters — you want to be able to track each of them. Which pages are they spending most of their time on? How often have they visited your site? Have they submitted any questions? Downloaded any content? A CRM lets you track all of this data so that no one falls through the cracks. And as you gather more information on each file, you are better positioned to provide personalized experiences. 

Personalized Experiences

That was a good segue into this point. Whenever you communicate with a lead, it behooves you to know who they are, what they need, and how you can help them — both in the short and long term. This lets them know that you’re not treating them all like fungible goods in the hopes that someone makes a purchase. You’re paying attention, and you are looking for ways to help them. 

Lead Nurturing

A good CRM enables you to segment your contacts. It also integrates seamlessly with marketing software. These two elements are crucial to nurture your leads with drip marketing campaigns. Just because someone isn’t ready to buy right now doesn’t mean they never will. If they fit your target audience, continuing to provide them with useful content will keep you top of mind. 

Automated Tasks

You’re busy. We’re busy. Everyone’s busy. And every job has pretty complex tasks that require full focus and attention. Yet, you still need to do easier ones like sending Welcome and Thank You emails. You want to follow up with leads who have reached out to you at some point. You most definitely want to send abandoned cart reminders and purchase suggestions based on a lead’s needs and interests. And a CRM will do all of this automatically. 

Shortens Sales Cycle

If you run a B2B company, you’re well aware that sales cycles are longer. This is because they require lengthy research and a significant investment. However, a CRM can help you accelerate this process by continuously sending your leads information that answers their questions and overcomes their objections. You’re taking the burden of moving heaven and earth to find answers by doing it yourself, and serving them up on a silver platter. 

Identifies Upsell/Cross-Sell Opportunities

Sometimes a customer would greatly benefit from upgrading a product or purchasing a higher service tier. Maybe they need more features. Maybe their business is growing and they have more complex requirements. If you have a CRM, these opportunities will be identified for you, making the job easier for your sales department. 

In short, a CRM will make things significantly easier for everyone involved: You, your sales and marketing teams, and your customers. Gone are the mundane data entry tasks and your leads get to interact with a company that’s truly going out of their way to find tailored solutions for them. So, get on it.

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Alejandra Zilak

Alejandra Zilak

Alejandra Zilak is a content writer, ghostwriter, blogger, and editor. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a Juris Doctor. She's licensed to practice law in four jurisdictions and worked as an attorney for almost a decade before switching careers to write full time. She loves being part of the Bluleadz team and implementing SEO best practices with her content. When not working, she loves to read, write fiction, and long distance running.