The age of mindless advertising has come to an end. As marketers turn away from traditional outbound marketing, they look for ways to attract prospects organically.
Inbound lead generation is all about creating valuable content and building trust long before you even mention your product or service. By the time you’ve finished reading this guide, you’ll be ready to set up your first inbound lead generation campaign.
But you can’t build a house on sand. Before you can run your own inbound marketing campaign, you must first familiarize yourself with some basic concepts.
If you’re already familiar with the basics and want to jump straight to the action, skip to Part 3.
Part 1: First Things First
Part 2: Targeting the Right Audience
Part 3: Setting Up a Successful Inbound Lead Generation Campaign
Part 1: First Things First
Here, we discuss some basic concepts you need to know if your goal is to set up your own successful inbound lead marketing campaign.
What Is Inbound Lead Generation?
When was the last time you came across an annoying ad while checking your email and thought: Wow, I wonder what will happen if I click this? This kind of aggressive advertising—which is part of outbound marketing—is falling out of favor. According to HubSpot, less than one-fifth of marketers think outbound practices provide valuable leads.
Instead, marketers are now focusing their efforts on creating unique and valuable content. This approach, which is known as outbound marketing, aims to bring prospects to businesses organically.
What does that mean? Well, you create great content (e.g., through blogging) that your target audience enjoys. As a result, Google rewards you with a higher ranking and increased visibility.
In the last decade, there's been a shift from traditional paid media to earned media and organic ranking. Brands that can embrace content marketing in the new digital marketing era do much better overall.
Inbound Lead Generation vs. Outbound Lead Generation
In outbound marketing, the marketer is the one who initiates the interaction. Think of representatives who offer tastings at your local supermarket. As you’re blissfully cruising along the aisle with your favourite snacks, a young lady offers a taste of these new, avocado-flavoured nachos. You actually hate nachos, so you politely refuse and move on.
This kind of marketing—which is also known as interruptive marketing—is all about getting into your prospect’s face and hoping that with enough exposure, your product will sell.
In inbound marketing, the prospect is the one who decides when and how they will interact with a business. Think of that beauty website you’ve been following for months now. It’s all about keeping your skin young and fresh, using only safe, DIY treatments. The same guys just released a brand-new vegan cream that promises to make your skin look even better. What do you do? Because you trust them, you’re much more likely to buy their new product.
This kind of marketing is all about establishing your brand’s authority and then naturally attracting the right people.
Why Is Inbound Better?
Don’t get us wrong. When done right, outbound marketing can still work; it’s just outdated. Here are some reasons why inbound marketing works better:
- It’s cheaper — 61% cheaper than outbound marketing, in fact. If people share your content and talk about your brand, you don’t have to spend as much on ads.
- It’s up to 10x more effective. With an inbound lead generation strategy, you’re not casting as wide of a net. Prospects who eventually make it to your website will be more interested in your brand and, thus, more likely to convert.
- There’s a higher ROI. Direct email campaigns take a lot of time, effort, and resources. Digital content marketing is not easy either, but it has long-lasting results.
- There’s a better alignment between sales, content, and marketing teams. Without disjointed marketing efforts that feel out of place, teams work better together.
Can’t inbound and outbound lead generation strategies co-exist? Certainly, but when starting out, it’s better to just focus on building your brand and crafting authoritative content to help you rank higher on Google. Both goals align perfectly with inbound marketing and inbound lead generation strategies.
Part 2: Targeting the Right Audience
You can’t create exceptional content if you don’t know whom you’re writing for. To be successful, you need to stand out and rise above the competition.
What Is a Niche Market?
We define a niche market as a particular segment of a larger market. For example, if you’re selling vegan face creams, you’re targeting a distinct niche market within the face cream industry.
Establishing your expertise and authority by leading a niche market is much easier than dominating a larger market. That’s because there’s less competition in the vegan face cream niche market than in the face cream market.
You should aim to be the best at what you do. Being a jack of all trades is usually a bad idea, especially if you’re running a small business.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
Think of buyer personas as your ideal customers. These are the people you want to reach. Naturally, you’ll want to create content for them and around them.
The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be to come up with content ideas that will bring the right traffic to your website. 90% of companies utilizing buyer personas have created a clearer understanding of their buyers.
Remember to research your niche to ensure you’re targeting the right people. Monitor the competition closely and gather research data as you go.
What Is the Buyer’s Journey?
People don’t just magically show up on your website ready to buy your product. They go through a process known as the buyer’s journey. This process can be broken down into three stages:
- Awareness: The buyer identifies a specific problem.
- Consideration: The buyer is weighing her options.
- Decision: The buyer decides by choosing a solution.
Do you see why inbound lead marketing is so important? Traditional outbound marketing efforts only target prospects who find themselves in the decision or consideration stage.
Placing ads to reach prospects in all three stages isn’t a viable solution—unless you have plenty of cash to spare. In the research stage, Pardot reports that 72% of buyers turn to Google. Inbound lead marketing can take care of all three stages for a fraction of the cost when done right.
Part 3: Setting Up a Successful Inbound Lead Generation Campaign
Now that you know what inbound lead generation is all about, it’s time to design your own successful campaign. We take you through the process step-by-step, using the fictional Bookster booking tool as an example.
Inbound Lead Generation in Practice
The best way to demonstrate inbound lead marketing is by using an example. Let’s say you’ve just launched a brand new website to promote your revolutionary booking tool, Bookster.
Bookster is unique because it doesn’t charge businesses a flat percentage fee for every booking made through the platform. Instead, it operates on a multi-tiered, subscription-based model. Different tiers come with a range of extra services (e.g., Google paid advertising, SEO) that customers can take advantage of.
The first thing you have to do is identify your target audience and outline the buyer’s journey. What businesses would want to subscribe to Bookster, and why? What are their pain points, and how does Bookster address them?
Here are two ideal prospects:
- Sam: 39-year-old owner of a local restaurant. He thinks that the current platform he uses charges way too much and is looking for cheap alternatives. He also wants to advertise and promote his business online but doesn’t know where to start.
- Larry: 67-year-old owner of a small hotel. He doesn’t know much about digital marketing, but he’s looking for novel ways to promote his business.
What would you do to ensure Sam and Larry learn about Bookster? How would you turn them into customers?
Write Relevant Blog Posts
The first step would be to get Sam and Larry on your website. Did you know that 3 out of 4 internet users read blogs regularly? By creating appropriate content and taking advantage of SEO opportunities, chances are qualified leads will eventually make it to you. After all, content marketing is three times more effective than paid search advertising.
Here are some content ideas specific to Bookster:
- What are the best booking tools for small businesses?
- How to successfully market your small business online.
- 5 things you didn’t know about paid search advertising.
When targeting prospects in the awareness stage, you can even write about topics that are not directly related to your product or service—but are still relevant to your audience. For example:
- 10 things that will keep people coming back to your restaurant.
- How to keep your hotel rooms/kitchen clean during an outbreak.
- How to use digital marketing to do business during COVID.
These are examples of valuable content that Sam and Larry are likely to find interesting. At the end of every post, add relevant CTAs that point back to other useful posts.
Don’t forget your landing pages! These, too, should contain precise, optimized copy with links to specific products and services.
With your business in mind, aim to create content that will help you build trust and authority.
Create a Lead Magnet
Getting people to read your content is not enough. Once people know enough about your service, you need to start pointing them toward a purchase—the decision stage. How do you do that? With lead magnets, of course. Great lead magnets can increase the opt-in rate by 85%.
For Bookster, a lead magnet could come in the form of a free 7-day trial. After browsing your website for a while, Sam and Larry encounter a pop-up that describes the offer. They have to enter their email address to receive their unique code.
You can now use their emails to design targeted email marketing campaigns. For example, after the trial period has ended, you can send an offer email that grants full access to your top-tier yearly subscription for half the price.
Free ebooks, guides, and quizzes all work as great lead magnets. Do some testing and use those magnets that make the most sense for your business.
Find Your Prospects on Social Media
Did you know that almost half of the world’s population uses social media? If you want to make sure your content reaches as many qualified leads as possible, find out where your prospects are on social media.
For example, if research showed that Sam and Larry spend a lot of time on Facebook, it would be a good idea to create a Bookster page on Facebook and share updates and new content there.
Not only does social media presence improve your visibility, but it also provides your prospects and customers with an open communication channel.
Experiment with Other Types of Content
In 2014, CMI reported that 93% of B2B marketers in North America used content marketing. Today, this number is undoubtedly nearing 100%. According to SEMRush, 77% of businesses all over the world have a clear content marketing strategy.
But content marketing doesn’t end with blog posts. There are several more types of content that you can experiment with. All of the following can help build authority and attract more qualified leads:
- White papers
- Case studies
- User-generated content
For Bookster, it would make sense to publish video reviews of people who have used the service and benefited from it. Once data is available, a case study with statistics that show precisely how Bookster has helped drive growth would be ideal. Cornerstone content about digital marketing could be repurposed into an Ebook that will serve as a future lead magnet. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
Take Advantage of Search Engine Optimization
There’s a reason why 64% of marketers actively invest time in search engine optimization. However, even though keyword research and competitive analysis are important, you shouldn’t build content just for bots. In Dave Naylor’s words, your rule of thumb should be to build a site for users, not for spiders. If you’re thinking about content marketing as a way of generating leads and sales, your rankings will naturally improve with time.
But we’re not just talking about keywords. Technical SEO is as important. You want users to visit your website and enjoy the experience. Navigation should be intuitive, and pages should load quickly.
Think of a prospect who’s looking for more information about Bookster’s subscription plans after visiting the website’s landing page. Ideally, they shouldn’t have to search for the ‘Subscription Plans’ option on the navigation bar. There should be plenty of relevant links on the main copy of the landing page itself.
This completes the third and final part of our Ultimate Guide to Inbound Lead Generation.
We hope our tips will help you thrive in the fascinating—yet ruthless—world of online marketing. From here, we recommend you return to the Bookster example as you build and develop your own inbound lead generation campaign.