What is Inbound Lead Generation?
Inbound lead generation is the practice of creating valuable content for a specific audience, in order to attract them to your company and obtain their contact details.
We’ll start by defining a lead, and then we’ll cover what inbound lead generation is, why you need lead generation, how you qualify someone as a lead and how you generate leads.
What is a Lead?
A lead is a person who has indicated interest in your company’s products or services, usually by filling in a form on your website to request more information on a specific topic, product or service.
As a lead, you’d hear from a business or organisation that you’ve already engaged with, instead of getting a random cold call from someone who purchased your contact information.
What is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting strangers and prospects into someone who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service.
Some examples of lead generators are job applications, blog posts, coupons, live events and online content.
Inbound lead generation is all about finding unique ways to attract people to your business. The aim is to offer them enough valuable content to get them naturally interested in your company, so that they eventually warm up to the brand enough to want to hear from you.
How to Generate Leads
Now that we understand how lead generation fits into the whole inbound marketing methodology, let’s walk through the steps of the lead generation process.
- First, a visitor discovers your business through one of your marketing channels, such as your website, at an event, from reading a blog or on social media.
- That visitor then clicks on your call-to-action (CTA) — an image, button or message that encourages website visitors to take some sort of action.
- The CTA takes your visitor to a landing page, which is a webpage designed to capture lead information, in exchange for an offer.
- The offer is a piece of content or something of value that’s being “offered” on the landing page, like an e-book, a course, or a template. For example, we have seen clients successfully capture leads by offering content such as free guides to cloud telephony and remote working.
- The offer must have enough perceived value to a visitor to merit providing their personal information in exchange for access to it.
- The form on your landing page consists of a series of fields that collect information in exchange for the offer. Forms are typically hosted on landing pages, although they can technically be embedded anywhere on your site. Once a visitor fills this out — voila! — You have a new lead!
Lead Generation Marketing
Once you put all these elements together, you can use your various promotional channels to drive traffic to your new landing page to start generating leads.
But what channels should you use to promote your landing page? Let’s talk about the front-end of lead generation — lead gen marketing.
There are several channels you can use to get visitors to become leads. Let’s go into depth on these next.
Content and Blogging
Content is a great way to guide users to a landing page. Typically, you create content to offer visitors useful, free information. You can include CTAs anywhere in your content — inline, bottom-of-post, in the hero image, or even on the side panel. The more delighted a visitor is with your content, the more likely they are to click your call-to-action and visit your landing page.
Blogs are a great way to educate your visitors around complicated technologies, such as SD-WAN, or industry news, like the 2025 Switch off, helping you attract new visitors to your website. Over time, your blogs will continue to produce leads long after the initial work has been done to create and publish the content in the first place.
Email is a great place to reach the people who already know your brand and product or service. It’s much easier to ask them to take an action since they’ve previously subscribed to your list. Emails tend to be a bit cluttered, so use CTAs that have a compelling premise.
Performance Marketing (PPC and Retargeting)
The sole purpose of an ad is to get people to take an action. Otherwise, why spend the money?
If you want people to convert, be sure that your landing page and offer match exactly what is promised in the ad, and that the action you want users to take is clear.
Retargeting is showing ads to people who have already visited your website, and is an excellent (and low-cost) method of keeping your brand in front of your prospects, so that when they’re ready to buy, you’re already in their mind.
Social media platforms make it easy to prompt your followers to take action, from the swipe up option on Instagram stories to Facebook bio links to bitly URLs on Twitter. You can also promote your offerings on your social posts and include a call-to-action in your caption.
You can break down a lot of barriers to a sale by offering trials of your product or service, especially with relatively new technology or where there may be a high perceived risk of adoption, such as migrating from legacy PBX telephone systems to cloud-based systems. Once a prospect is using your product, you can entice them with added offers or resources to encourage them to buy.
How to Qualify a Lead
As we covered in the first section, a lead is a person who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service. Now, let’s talk about the ways in which someone can actually show that interest.
Essentially, a sales lead is generated through information collection. That information collection could come as the result of a job seeker showing interest in a position by completing an application, an IT manager sharing contact information in exchange for a voucher code, or a person filling out a form to download an educational piece of content.
Gauging a Lead’s Level of Interest
Below are just a few of the many ways in which you could qualify someone as a lead. Each of these examples shows that the amount of collected information used to qualify a lead, as well as the lead level of interest, can vary. Let’s assess each scenario:
Job Application: An individual that fills out an application form is willing to share a lot of personal information because he/she wants to be considered for a position. Filling out that application shows their true interest in the job, therefore qualifying the person as a lead for the company’s recruiting team — not marketing or sales teams.
Voucher Code: Unlike the job application, you probably know very little about someone who has stumbled upon one of your online voucher codes. But if they find the discount valuable enough, they may be willing to give you their name and email address in exchange for it. Although it’s not a lot of information, it’s enough for a business to know that someone has interest in their company.
Content: While the download of a voucher code shows an individual has a direct interest in your product or service, content (like an educational e-book or webinar) doesn’t. So, to truly understand the nature of the person’s interest in your business, you’ll probably need to collect more information to determine whether the person is interested in your products or services and whether they’re a good fit.
These three general examples highlight how lead generation differs from company to company, and from person to person. You’ll need to collect enough information to gauge whether someone has a true, valid interest in your product or service — how much information is enough information will vary depending on your business.
Let’s look at Episerver, for example. They use web content reports for B2B lead generation, collecting six pieces of information from prospective leads.
Episerver offers a great example for what to ask for in a lead gen form:
- Full Name: The most fundamental information needed to personalise your communication with each lead.
- Email: This serves as a unique identifier and is how you will contact your lead.
- Company: This will give you the ability to research your lead’s industry and company and how the lead might benefit from your product or service (especially relevant for B2B).
- Role: Understanding an individual’s role will help you understand how to communicate with them. Every brand stakeholder will have a different take and perspective on your offering (mainly for B2B).
- Country: Location information can help you segment your contact by region and time zone, and help you qualify the lead depending on your service.
- State: The more detailed information you can get without sacrificing conversions, the better. Knowing your lead’s state or region can help you further qualify them.
Lead scoring is a way to qualify leads quantitatively. Using this technique, leads are assigned a numerical value (or score) to determine where they fall on the scale from “interested” to “ready for a sale”. The criteria for these actions are completely up to you, but they must be uniform across your marketing and sales department, so that everyone is working on the same scale.
A lead’s score can be based on actions they’ve taken, information they’ve shared, their level of engagement with your brand, or other criteria that your sales team determines. For instance, you may score someone higher if they regularly engage with you on social media or if their demographic information matches your target audience.
Borrowing from my previous examples, you might give a lead a higher score if they requested a voucher code — an action that would signify this person is interested in your services.
The higher a lead’s score, the closer they are to becoming a sales qualified lead (SQL), which is only one step away from becoming a customer. The score and criteria are aspects you may need to tweak along the way, until you find the formula that works. But once you do, you’ll transform your lead generation into customer generation.
Lead Generation Benchmarks and Trends
So … you’re getting web traffic and generating leads. But how are you doing compared to other companies in your industry? How many leads should you really be generating?
It’s tough to figure out if your lead generation strategy is working if you aren’t looking at industry data. HubSpot partnered with Qualtrics to survey more than 900 marketers from all different industries in North America and Europe to create a demand generation report with data on website visitors, leads, opportunities, customers and revenue.
Did you know that 74% of companies that weren’t exceeding revenue goals didn’t know their visitor, lead, marketing qualified lead (MQL), or sales opportunities numbers? How about that over 70% of companies not achieving their revenue goals generate fewer than 100 leads per month, and only 5% generate more than 2,500 leads per month?
Cost per Lead by Industry
The media and publishing industries report the lowest cost per lead at $11 to $25. Software, information technology and services, marketing agencies and financial services companies, all report the highest average cost per lead at $51 to $100.
Leads Generated per Month, by Annual Revenue
Unsurprisingly, the more revenue a company has, the more leads they generate. The differences are most drastic at the highest and lowest end of the spectrum: 82% of companies with $250,000 or less in annual revenue report generating less than 100 leads per month, whereas only 8% of companies generating $1 billion in annual revenue report less than 100 leads per month.
Leads per Month
HubSpot found that 58% of companies generated 500 leads per month or fewer, and 71% generated 1,000 or fewer. But as we saw previously, the companies having the most success are also the ones generating the most leads. Here’s how the data broke down by company size:
Lead Generation Software
HubSpot found that the most successful teams use a formal system to organise and store leads: 46% use Google Docs, 41% use marketing automation software, and 37% use CRM software.
Lead Generation Strategies
Online lead generation encompasses a wide range of tactics, campaigns and strategies, depending on the platform on which you wish to capture leads. I talked about lead capture best practices once you have a visitor on your site, but how can you get them there in the first place?
Let’s dive into lead generation strategies for a few popular platforms.
PPC Lead Generation
When I say pay-per-click (PPC), I’m referring to ads on search engine result pages (SERPs). Google gets 3.5 billion searches a day, making it prime real estate for any ad campaign, especially lead gen. The effectiveness of your PPC campaign relies heavily on a seamless user flow from search to ad to landing page, as well as your budget, target keywords and a few other factors.
B2B Lead Generation on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has been increasing its stake in the advertising space since its early days. When it comes to lead generation, LinkedIn created Lead Gen Forms, which auto-populate with a user’s profile data when they click a CTA, making it easy to capture information. You can also use LinkedIn ads in the same manner as PPC ads, directing people to your landing page. Rather than targeting search terms as with Google Ads PPC, with LinkedIn ads you create an audience based on information such as job title, company size, industry and location. This allows you to target LinkedIn users that fit your ideal customer persona.
Facebook Lead Generation
Facebook has been a method for lead generation since its start. Originally, companies could use outbound links in their posts and information in their bios to attract strangers to their websites.
But when Facebook Ads was launched in 2007, and its algorithm began to favour accounts that used paid advertising, there was a major shift in how businesses used the platform to capture leads. Facebook created Lead Ads for this purpose. Facebook also has a feature that lets you put a simple call-to-action button at the top of your Facebook Page, helping you send Facebook followers directly to your website.
Twitter Lead Generation
Twitter has Twitter Lead Gen Cards, which let you generate leads directly within a tweet without having to leave the site. A user’s name, email address, and Twitter username are automatically pulled into the card, and all they have to do is click “Submit” to become a lead.
Tips for Lead Generation Campaigns
In any given lead generation campaign, there can be a lot of moving parts. It can be difficult to tell which parts of your campaign are working and which need some fine-tuning.
What exactly goes into a best-in-class lead generation engine? Here are a few tips when building lead gen campaigns.
Create Amazing Offers for All Stages
Not all your site visitors are ready to talk to your sales team or see a demo of your product.
Someone at the beginning of the buyer’s journey might be interested in an informational piece like an e-book or a guide, whereas someone who’s more familiar with your company and near the bottom of the journey might be more interested in a free trial or demo.
Try creating offers for each phase and offering CTAs for these offers throughout your site to maximise your lead generation.
Yes, it takes time to create valuable content that teaches and nurtures your leads down the funnel, but if you don’t offer anything for visitors who aren’t ready to buy, then they may never come back to your website.
If you want to take personalisation a step further — which will help boost your conversion rate — try using smart CTAs. Smart CTAs detect where a person is in the buyer’s journey, whether they’re a new visitor, a lead, or a customer, and display CTAs accordingly. Personalised CTAs convert a whopping 42% more visitors than basic calls-to-action.
Keep your Messaging Consistent and Deliver on your Promise
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.
The aspects of your lead gen campaign should mirror everything else on your website, on your blog, and within the product that you will eventually try to sell. If not, you’ll have a difficult time getting your lead to the next lifecycle stage. Your campaign should be about more than just obtaining an email address — it should be about developing a new customer.
Link your CTA to a Dedicated Landing Page
This may seem obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how many marketers don’t create dedicated landing pages for their offers. CTAs are meant to send visitors to a landing page where they can receive a specific offer.
Don’t use CTAs to drive people to your homepage, for instance. Even if your CTA is about your brand or product (and perhaps not an offer like a download), you should still be sending them to a targeted landing page that’s relevant to what they are looking for and includes an opt-in form. If you have the opportunity to use a CTA, send them to a page that will convert them into a lead.
Get your Sales Team Involved
Remember when we talked about lead scoring? Well, it isn’t exactly doable without your sales team’s input. How will you know what qualifies a lead for sales without knowing if your defined SQLs are sold? Your marketing and sales teams need to be aligned on the definitions and the process of moving a lead from MQL to SQL to opportunity before you even begin to capture leads.
Also, be open to evolving your relationship with sales and how you guide leads along your funnel.
Your definitions will likely need to be refined over time; just make sure to keep everyone involved up-to-date.
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 as shared in the lead gen strategies above. 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. Tell visitors that you’re sending them to a landing page. That way, you’re setting expectations.
Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of inbound lead generation; from what a lead is and how to capture leads, to how to get traffic to your offers and nurture leads towards becoming sales opportunities and customers.
If you’d like to see how much revenue you could potentially generate from inbound lead gen for your business, download our free Growth Calculator here.