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S4 #12: What is Inbound Lead Generation?

Reading Time: 9 minutes


“Don’t build links. Build relationships.”

— Rand Fishkin, CEO & co-founder of SEOmoz

Inbound lead generation is the development of engaging content campaigns that bring in website visitors and convert them into leads. Skimmable, valuable content makes your brand more discoverable in search engines and social media platforms — wherever your target audience is spending time. Shelby Crawford and Whitney Cole shared their inbound lead generation expertise on their Mission Marketing podcast.

In essence, inbound lead generation is a simple information exchange — their contact information in return for your expertise. It’s the beginning of an ongoing relationship during which your content offers gradually build trust with your future customers or patients.

Inbound lead generation prospects discover you when the timing is right for them via the channel they prefer. You should always be innovating unique ways to attract people to your business. Provide them with enough obligation-free up-front value and they’ll naturally become interested in your company — and eventually warm up to your brand enough to want to hear from you.

When a stranger initiates a relationship with you by showing an organic interest in your business, the transition from stranger to customer is much more organic. This way, getting them on the path to purchase always feels like their idea. Inbound lead generation is vital for every business. But what good is a marketing strategy if it generates leads that never translate into sales?

What Inbound Lead Generation Can Help You Accomplish

There are many strategies and content styles to test and deploy; here are some of the benefits of inbound lead generation:

  • Get Discovered in Organic Searches: You only produce your content once, yet it can attract the attention of thousands for months (and even years in some cases) of evergreen content.
  • Generate More Qualified Leads: People who are already interested in your specialty and your style of practice will not need to be screened and questioned by cold-calling sales reps — they’re qualified by virtue of seeking out your content.
  • Generate More Sales: Qualified leads are more likely to buy and buy sooner, as they’re already educated about your product or service and trusting of your expertise.
  • Boost Revenue: You invest in content development once, yet it remains an ongoing business asset to your company; it continues to generate sales and boost your revenue.
  • Build Brand Awareness: Some searchers will discover your content before they discover your physical presence or service. They think of you as a research source. That’s an optimal brand identity since it’s always valuable to the prospect — not just during appointments or purchases.
  • Generate Reader Trust: When you establish yourself as their trusted expert, your prospects will look forward to checking in with you whenever they need answers to questions in your area of expertise.
  • Improve ROI: The ROI for inbound will be much higher than it would be for a paid advertising campaign or a paid media campaign in more traditional publications. And that’s the thing I love most because I love data. I love seeing that things are working. Inbound helps you get the precise measurements you need to determine the effectiveness of your efforts.
  • Save Time: Inbound lead generation can save your sales team time, as your customers are already thoroughly informed by the time they get to the sales process. So a lot of their questions have been answered ahead of time — which makes it easier for them to close the deal.
  • Allow Precise Measurements: When you track results in your CRM, you learn immediately what’s working and can adjust your content accordingly.

Inbound lead generation is very effective, but it’s even more powerful when implemented in conjunction with outbound lead generation.

Inbound Lead Generation vs. Outbound Lead Generation

Most marketers who increase their revenue growth and outpace their competition leverage an inbound strategy in tandem with sales enablement tactics.

Outbound lead generation is the act of sending messages out to a target audience, regardless of whether they have asked for it or expressed an interest in the content. In this scenario, it is you, not the prospect, who chooses the time and place of the interaction — hence the term “interruption marketing.” You have no knowledge of the prospect’s readiness.

It’s important to note that in order to create a comprehensive, holistic marketing strategy, you should include both inbound and outbound. Why limit your options? Diversifying your plan of attack for lead generation can yield higher quality results.

Inbound lead generation tactics and strategies

  • Content Offers: When your readers can download flyers, charts, e-books, and interactive checklists or calculators, they will have your brand alongside them even when they’re not on your website.
  • Email: According to Campaign Monitor, healthcare industry open rates are among the highest — 23.4%. If you’re continually visiting their inbox, recipients will think of you immediately when a need arises.
  • Ads and Retargeting: Sometimes seeing an ad can remind a busy future patient that they’ve been meaning to address an issue like migraines or hormone imbalance but keep putting it off. An impactful ad depicting a woman or man struggling to manage menopause or andropause can inspire an immediate call to a hormone replacement specialist.
  • Blog Posts: Informing people about the latest research and trends in your specialty can really pay off. Blog posts describing the evidence-based benefits of vitamin D to bolster the immune system have been circulating and inspiring appointments with nutritionists for years.
  • Podcasts: Having a top-five podcast on the Apple Store — like Uhuru’s podcast, Mission Marketing, hosted by Whitney Cole and Shelby Crawford — can garner a lot of attention. Metabolism experts who host podcasts have converted thousands of patients to come into their clinics for full panels and consults.
  • Social Media Updates: According to Our World in Data, the largest social media platform in the world, Facebook, has 2.4 billion users. Other social media platforms including Youtube and Whatsapp have more than one billion users each. A dermatologist can teach thousands of people about skincare basics on these platforms, reminding them where to go if they develop a more serious skin condition.
  • Product Trials: All consumers want to prevent tooth decay and cavities — so handing out branded toothbrushes and toothpaste could be a huge opportunity for dentists and orthodontists to get their brand into hundreds of bathrooms.
  • Referral Marketing: Like consumers, referring physicians value transparency when considering a health system. It’s their reputation on the line along with yours, so take every opportunity to pull back the curtain on how your brand’s values translate into service standards. Some specialists even boost their referral rates by inviting general practitioners to walk through a patient care simulation during a private guided tour.

Inbound Lead Generation Strategies by Channel

A True North study found that 100% of healthcare marketers leverage social media, primarily to generate brand awareness and consumer engagement.

Whether you’re marketing to patients and customers (B2C) or to other healthcare companies (B2B) maintain a daily presence on these channels to stay top-of-mind and bolster your online reputation:

  • Facebook: According to the study mentioned above, 92% of healthcare marketers use Facebook. So find your target audience and remind them of the value you bring.
  • Twitter: 76% of healthcare marketers use Twitter — it’s a great place to stay in touch and update your target audience about your services and victories.
  • LinkedIn: More of a B2B channel, LinkedIn is a platform where you can post deep-dive research about your specialty or your industry. That’s why 76% of healthcare marketers use LinkedIn to share with and learn from their peers.
  • PPC: Deploying pay-per-click campaigns on Google or Facebook can expand your reach to larger audiences and provide immediacy.

Defining and Qualifying Leads

Successful inbound lead generation requires defining and qualifying each individual prospect so you can provide them with what they need at their stage in the buyer’s journey. Make sure you’re clear as to whether you’re messaging a marketing-qualified lead or a sales-qualified lead.

  • Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs): Marketing-qualified leads are contacts who’ve engaged with your messaging, demonstrated some curiosity, but aren’t yet ready for a sales call. An example of an MQL is a contact who fills out a landing page form and downloads a content offer like a research-laden ebook, a handy template, or an educational webinar course. These leads usually live at the top or middle of the funnel, so provide content that addresses those stages.
  • Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs): Sales-qualified leads are contacts who’ve taken actions that indicate they’re ready to buy. A contact who fills out a form to ask a question about your product or service is an SQL. On Uhuru’s website, for example, when someone fills out a form to schedule a strategy consultation, they’re indicating that they’re ready to talk and decide.

Inbound Lead Generation Best Practices

Whether you’re producing a B2B or B2C campaign, following these best practices will save your team time, money, and frustration:

Use the Right Lead Generation Tools

Effective inbound strategy requires understanding and properly leveraging these tools:

Email Marketing tools: When it comes to online lead generation, you can’t beat email marketing. The stats show that most people welcome emails (even cold emails if they’re done right and follow the rules) from the companies they want to connect with.

Prospecting and Outreach Tools: Building a predictable lead generation machine is quite a feat. Once you figure out which tools and systems work for your team, you’ll scale up faster. Automated lead generation tools will help turn more of those contacts into leads and sales — and will allow you to be more selective with them.

CRM Tools: You can’t do a roundup of lead generation software without a customer relationship management tool (CRM) that helps you connect and keep track of prospects and sales leads throughout the sales pipeline.

Create Stage-Specific Inbound Lead Generation Offers

Another way to improve conversion rates is to strategically place offers across your website on a variety of pages that align with each stage of your prospects’ buyer journey: awareness, consideration, and decision-making.

  • Awareness (Top of the Funnel): This is where you inform and invite your prospects to get comfortable with your brand. If you include a Contact Us call to action on an awareness page, the conversion rate is going to be very low because the people on that page aren’t yet ready to talk.
  • Consideration (Middle of the Funnel): Here’s where your prospects are aware of their problem and considering solutions but not quite sure which is best for them. Provide more information to help them decide via blog posts, white papers, downloadable guides and charts, or podcasts that cover their pain points and possible solutions.
  • Decision (Bottom of the Funnel): “Request a Demo” or “Free Trial” offers should be saved for the bottom-of-the-funnel (decision-making) stage. Don’t use generic CTAs for your offers if you want more sales-ready leads. For example, if you’re a health system company, you want to communicate to your target audience exactly how clicking on your CTA will help them effectively service patients.

Keep Inbound Lead Generation Messaging Consistent

The highest-converting lead gen campaigns are the ones that deliver on what they promise and create a seamless transition from ad copy and design to the deliverable itself. Make sure that you’re presenting a consistent message throughout the process and providing value to everyone that engages with your lead capture.

Link Your CTA to a Dedicated Landing Page

So many marketers don’t create dedicated landing pages for their content offers. Call-to-action buttons are meant to send visitors to a landing page where they can receive a specific offer — not to your homepage where they’re first introduced to your brand.

Even if your CTA promotes your brand or product, you should still be sending visitors to a targeted landing page that’s relevant to what they’re seeking and includes an opt-in form. Send them to a page that will convert them into a lead.

Align Sales With Marketing Teams

Your inbound lead generation strategy won’t work without your sales team’s input — aligning your sales and marketing teams is critical. Your sales reps convert leads into actual customers once the marketing team has attracted them to your business and warmed them up.

Make sure your sales and marketing teams are collaborating to define what will qualify as a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and a sales-qualified lead (SQL). Clearly define the process of moving a lead from MQL to SQL before you begin to capture leads.

Use Social Media Strategically

While marketers typically think of social media as best for top-of-the-funnel marketing, it can still be a helpful and low-cost source for lead generation. The key is using social media strategically for lead generation.

Start by adding links directly to the landing pages of high-performing offers within your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media posts. Set expectations up front — tell visitors that you’re sending them to a landing page.

To optimize social media and drive more visitors to your website, engage your followers in the conversation. This means asking questions, getting opinions, and coming up with creative campaigns that take full advantage of the sharing potential built into social media platforms.

Pro tip: leverage organic social media traffic to educate your audience — give, give, give. Especially if you are in a B2B healthcare field, organic social media content like video can help drive leads to your virtual door.

Be Flexible

A successful lead generation strategy is dynamic — as are the people it’s targeting. Trends change, behaviors shift, opinions morph — so should your inbound lead generation approach. Get in the habit of regularly A/B split testing to discover which CTAs perform, which landing pages convert, and which copy captures your target audience most effectively.

Experiment with layout, design, UX, topics and subject matter experts, copy tone and voice, as well as advertising channels until you find what works.

Deploy Off-Page SEO Tactics

Off-page SEO covers all optimization tactics outside of your own website. It’s a good way to find prospects who are online visiting similar sites, communities, or groups and reading blogs, emails, and content from related providers. Remember, 90% of people get the information they need to make a purchase decision from online research. Your content has to be available, easy to access, engaging, and impactful enough to make them remember your brand.

Optimize High-Traffic Landing Pages

Getting visitors to your site is half the battle — ultimately, you need to find a way to convert traffic into leads. What’s your key metric? Improve conversion rate and you’ll improve your leads.

Start by targeting high-traffic landing pages. Through a series of optimization exercises, you can double, or in some cases triple your conversion rate on the most popular pages. This is the fastest, easiest, most effective way to improve lead generation, especially if your site already has a good number of visitors.

Start Building Your Inbound Lead Generation Strategy

Are you thinking: “Easier said than done”? Reading about best practices is one thing, but creating a successful inbound lead generation strategy takes lots of trial and error. Learn from a decade of Uhuru’s trial and error — without which we never could have achieved the success we enjoy today. Reach out to us and schedule a complimentary consultation — let us help you get started and reach new heights.

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