Inbound organizations are 4 times as likely to rate their marketing strategy as effective. (HubSpot)
Inbound lead generation is the holy grail of marketing. No business can survive without leads and almost every business struggles with keeping their sales funnel full and happy. Why is that?
Mostly because there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy that can guide marketers through the process of attracting, connecting and converting prospects into paying customers. That would be too easy.
There is, however, a skeleton of the most effective ideas that can be used to drive sales for any type of business. So, if you’re like any of the passionate marketers who find themselves in deep waters when leads dry up, take out your ideas book because you’re about to get inspired.
#1 Develop and automate your sales funnel
Mapping inbound lead generation to your sales funnel will enable you to effectively target prospects in every stage of the buying journey by producing relevant and engaging content in the form of blogs, guides, videos, infographics and more. Inbound lead generation is only effective when it’s targeted to specific segments and optimized to progress prospects towards a conversion and ultimately, a sale. It will help you to address and overcome common objections, attract qualified leads that have a genuine interest in your product and prioritize higher value prospects.
Once you develop your sales funnel, you will immediately spot the drop-off points that indicate optimization opportunities and get a deeper insight into your customers’ mindset — what’s driving their actions, what problems they’re trying to solve and how close to a purchase/conversion they are. Marketing automation will give you the means to automatically send the right content to the right customers at the right time, resulting in reduced sales cycle complexity and conversion time. According to Pardot, 77% of buyers want different content at each stage of their research. What’s more, studies show that nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.
Good news is that almost every marketing effort can be automated. For instance, Buffer lets you schedule your social media content in advance, Zapier makes it easy to connect different apps in order to automate workflows, while IFTTT brings the apps and devices you use every day together, streamlining your experiences. Email automation is also a crucial part of inbound lead generation strategy, so ensure it’s implemented with your sales funnel in mind and creates maximum value for prospects.
#2 Make data-driven decisions
Effective inbound lead generation campaigns are highly reliant on customer and market data. Acting on a hunch in the marketing world can be a really costly mistake. If you produce content that’s irrelevant to your target audience or is undiscoverable due to low-quality keywords, you will not only waste your time and energy, but also clog your sales funnel with unqualified leads.
Inbound lead generation often focuses on feeding the top of the sales funnel, which represents the awareness stage and deals with prospects that have no knowledge of your brand or don’t even know (yet) that they need your product. The only way to get in front of this crowd is to aim broad, targeting various angles and pain points that could grab their attention. Before you begin crafting your inbound lead generation strategy and producing educational content, use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Semrush to establish the most valuable keywords with high search volume and conversion potential. For example, creating content around generic, popular keywords like ‘blogging’ or ‘sales tips’ will put you in direct competition with thousands of other content creators who are exploring this subject. But if you dig deeper and discover narrower, longtail keywords that concern a specific, niche topic, your chances of getting to the top of the search results and staying top of mind increase significantly.
A rich list of target keywords will help you generate ideas for your content campaigns and tools like Buzzsumo will help you identify what type of content performs well for any topic or competitor. Making well-informed decisions is a stepping stone to inbound lead generation campaigns — your content must solve a problem for your customers, not fill a gap in your editorial calendar.
#3 Sharpen your copy to tap into emotions
Lots of people take copywriting for granted. Just because you can put a sentence together, doesn’t mean you’re a copywriter. Crafting highly converting copy is a skill that takes a lot of honing and can lead to significantly higher conversions when done right. In turn, a bad copy is a surefire way to lose prospects immediately after they land on your website or your landing page. Copy that’s too vague, salesy or misleading can even hurt your brand and earn you some bad karma.
Focusing on benefits rather than features is one of the most important rules of good copywriting. What’s the difference between the two? Benefits-focused copy strives to answer the question “what value will my customer get out of using this?”. Features-focused copy, on the other hand, tackles the more technical questions, such as “what part of my product lets the customer get that value?”.
Unless you’re targeting a very niche, technical audience, your prospects won’t care much about the specifics — you’ll need to connect with them on a deeper level and evoke emotions to prompt them to take the desired action. Packing your copy with action verbs and focusing on storytelling rather than plain selling is guaranteed to lead to better engagement and higher conversions.
Remember that writing for the masses will weaken your copy. You should focus on trying to convert a smaller number of better-suited people rather than trying to please every visitor. Ensuring your copy is peppered with the right amount of attention-grabbing CTAs will help you generate more leads through the content you create.
#4 Use natural imagery and avoid stock photos
Image credit: Stocksy
Finally, someone has stopped the awful, cheesy stock photography from infecting every blog and website on the planet. It’s been proven, time after time, that human brain processes and engages with visual information much better and faster than any other medium. Inbound lead generation campaigns often involve highly visual content, such as videos and infographics, in an effort to lock people’s attention and generate enough interest to influence their decisions.
Thanks to the rise of the new generation free stock images libraries, such as Unsplash or Stocksy, embellishing your content with high-quality, natural imagery is easier than ever before. Great-looking images can have a massive impact on lead generation efforts if they’re purposefully woven into the rest of the content, adding an additional motivation for consumers to click through, share or buy.
However, keep in mind that the images you use should follow your brand guidelines (more about this later) and contribute to your brand identity. If you illustrate your content with random photos that look great but add little to no value, you’ll risk losing consumer’s interest as soon as they realize the content doesn’t match the visual they chose to click on.
#5 Design smart opt-ins
Imagine walking up to a stranger at a grocery store and asking for their email address because you’d like to send them something you think they’ll love. Would you be more surprised if they happily shared their personal contact details with you or if they gave you a finger? The same rule applies to online communication, especially when it comes to the buying/selling relationship between a business and its customers.
Inbound lead generation campaigns often focus on capturing email addresses – whether you’re inviting people to register for your webinar or download a free ebook, the ultimate goal is to get into their inbox and send personalized follow-ups in order to bring them back to your site and ultimately, convert.
In the digital age, email address is a powerful currency whose value grows over time. It takes more than a boring signup form to convince people to exchange their email address in return for something particularly valuable to them. Tools like Sumo and OptinMonster will make email list building feel like a walk in the park — you can create beautiful pop-ups that appear on clicks, timers and before visitors exit your site, add sliding bars or sidebar forms and watch your traffic and mailing list thrive.
#6 Make your lead generation forms friendlier
People are growing really impatient with long, poorly designed lead capturing forms. The immediate gratification that all online users seek is an extremely powerful factor when it comes to lead generation forms. People want what they want and they want it fast. The form is a hot spot for turning visitors into leads for your business, so making sure it’s optimized to cause as little frustration as possible is key.
If you’re not having much luck with getting visitors to fill in your forms, try reducing the friction by removing unnecessary form fields and cutting down on the number of required fields. Adding a prominent call-to-action button, placing the form above the fold and reassuring visitors that their personal details are in safe hands should also contribute to boosting your conversion rate. Make your forms look less like forms by using non-standard user interface elements, such as clickable images or toggle sliders, and use conditional logic to get more information from your users and be able to target specific audience segments.
#7 A/B test everything
Image credit: mobileseopros
Crafting a stellar landing page from scratch can require serious design and copywriting know-how. You will make mistakes, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is to think that once a campaign or a landing page is launched, you should hurl yourself at building the next one. Wrong.
Sometimes, a tiny, seemingly insignificant tweak, such as changing the color of a CTA button, can skyrocket your conversions. A good rule of thumb for any business that’s experimenting with online marketing techniques is to A/B test everything. Running targeted experiments will give you unprecedented insight into your customer base, their preferences, and habits. It’s the only way to ensure you’re always running the best performing version of your website or campaign.
Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) is one of the best A/B testing tools for marketers. It lets users tweak, optimize and personalize their website with minimal IT help and takes the guesswork out of conversion optimization. You can also use Google Analytics (GA) to track and measure the impact of changes that you make, but bear in mind that it’s only a basic feature, so your findings will be limited.
#8 Provide value and overdeliver
“Promise an atlas, deliver the world” is a killer advice for those seeking to take their inbound lead generation to a higher level. The only way to earn your customers’ trust is to continuously provide value without asking for anything in return. In a similar way that online retailers run merchandising campaigns to entice their shoppers to come back and spend money with them, businesses invest in educational inbound lead generation campaigns to deliver value-packed content in the form of free ebooks, video courses, cheat sheets, workbooks, and more, to nurture the leads that aren’t ready to make a purchase yet.
Giving top quality content away for free is a reliable way to build rapport with your visitors and position yourself as an expert in the field. If you keep releasing genuinely useful content on regular basis, you will be able to build a loyal and engaged customer base as well as attract more top-of-the-funnel traffic.
And if your content hits a sweet spot with your customers, chances are they’ll share it with their social networks, giving you extra exposure and potentially driving more traffic to the site. Long-form content is also an excellent way to build links and get some SEO juice, so if you do it right, the benefits of over delivering are crystal clear.
#9 Establish brand guidelines and stay consistent
You may have spent hours crafting the perfect logo, spent a lot of money on a copywriter who crafted the perfect tagline and even printed a ton of beautifully designed business cards – but none of this will stay consistent if you have not established your brand’s guidelines. A brand guideline is a set of tools and design rules on how to use your brand’s elements. The brand’s guideline usually comes in a book or PDF format, laying out how your brand works and how different design elements come together to form your brand’s identity. The brand’s guideline is used by anyone working on your brand – a designer, a copywriter or anyone else creating marketing material for your brand.
The elements in the brand’s guidelines will differ from business to business, but every guideline should have the following:
- Color palette – a set of colors used throughout all your brand’s graphics
- Tone of voice – are you funny, persuasive, informative?
- Typography – a typeface for headings and body of text associated with your brand (you may create your own typeface)
- Different versions of the brand’s logo – video, social media, print
- Content style – is your content image-heavy? Longform? Bite-sized?
It may be tempting to adjust the color of your logo for a certain marketing piece, but the change may be unrecognizable to your audience or client and so it will not generate any leads. The guideline will put in place a set of rules, which will ensure your brand’s elements are used consistently and effectively.
Luckily, you can easily create your guideline yourself. Fortify and Canva both offer free templates to get you started right away or create your own original templates, Hemingway app will help you write impactful and consistent content and Adobe Spark will provide you with all the tools you need to create your logo and other graphics.
#10 Use analytics
Analyzing your data will allow you to better understand your consumers and how to reach them. Invest time and effort in getting to know your users’ journeys through your site, which will help you to benchmark marketing campaigns that are not working. Among many analytical tools, FullStory offers the unique opportunity to not only get to know your consumers on a deep level by tracking their engagement with a new feature or analyzing campaign conversion rates, it also allows you to see (in video format) their journey on your website – where they went, what issues they encountered and what prompted them to make a purchase or drop off. These insights are made available across your whole team, which will help you to make executive decisions how to best use your resources.
Analytical tools may also be a key to generating a significant amount of new leads. For example, use tools, such as Hotjar, to identify the hotspots of lead generation on your website. Hotjar offers click and scroll heatmaps (among many other great features) to measure the most engaging and capturing content. The data may reveal that certain keywords are generating a large number of leads, as a result, you can focus on those keywords when writing content for your site or marketing campaigns in order to generate more leads.
Use Google Analytics (GA) to measure and increase your ROI and drive more traffic to your site. GA is a very robust tool and provides you with an enormous amount of data on your social media traffic referral, page visits and average time per page. Use the tools provided to identify content your consumers enjoy and which channel reaches them best, and produce more to generate new leads.
#11 Optimize your content for search engine optimization (SEO) and social media optimization (SMO)
The foundation of your inbound lead generation efforts is the content you produce. Produce valuable and relevant content to attract and engage your target audience. Ensure your content is impactful and drives your audience to share it. High-quality content will help you break through the noise and generate more leads.
Content with value is important in increasing your SEO, because search engines equate high-quality content with a high-quality website. Keep track of your content and conduct a content audit to see how much of your content falls into the following categories – informative or promotional. Ensure that you produce a good mix of content, including visuals, and start sharing it on social media. Identify the keywords you want your website to be associated with in search engines and use tools such as Google Keywords to increase your SEO. The more popular your content is on social media, the more Google considers it to be of high value, so it boosts your SEO rankings.
Increasing your SMO will automatically increase your SEO, so it is important you optimize your content for that. Since SMO is all about your presence on social media, start by engaging with your audience. You must comment, like and share your own, as well as others’ posts. Include a CTA button at the end of your posts and encourage people to share, comment and like. Become a leader and provide well researched, high-quality content, which will add value to your readers’ lives. Make it easy for your followers to share your content by providing share buttons, ensure all your social icons are clearly visible on your site and provide subscription options (email, newsletter, RSS).
#12 Use social proof and testimonials to build credibility
In order to successfully generate more inbound leads, you must produce content that your followers will trust. One way of building credibility is using social proof. It can be anything from a recommendation from a friend to an expert’s review. If you can get an expert from your field to recommend your product, make sure you make it loud and clear on your website – people always seek for advice and reviews before making a purchase. Having a well-known figure backing you can be a great way to secure those inbound leads.
Don’t forget to include and ask for testimonials from your clients. Testimonials are among the most persuasive forms of social proof, as those are the words of a consumer and not an expert and so are perceived as more relatable/trustworthy. Allow the newcomers to make decisions based on what others like them have experienced. Include a high-quality photo to accompany each testimonial, as recent research has shown it makes the testimonials more believable.
Another way to increase your credibility is by increasing the engagement on your content. The volume of engagement (likes, shares, comments) indicates the value of your content. If your post receives a thousand retweets it is more likely that more people will click and read your content. This will also help you increase your SEO and your audience reach, which can generate new inbound leads.
#13 Employ urgency
Last but not least, inducing the sense of urgency is a great way of generating new inbound leads or nudging an undecided consumer to make a purchase. One way of employing urgency is by creating a deadline and using time-sensitive language in an email or a newsletter. Use language such as ‘Limited time only’ or ‘ends tomorrow’ to urge traffic to your site to make a purchase. Include a countdown clock in your newsletter and across your social media, to remind your followers of the urgency. You may wish to send a last minute email for a more dramatic effect.
Create demand and need with scarcity. Urge your followers with ‘only 3 left’ and ‘while stocks last’ products and offers. The rapidly dwindling supplies can convert the unsure followers into inbound leads. However, ensure that you are honest about the quantities of stock, your followers will find out if you’re lying and they won’t be happy. Invest time and effort into your headline and keep your body of text concise and brief. You want your followers to feel the pressure of the scarcity of your product – you do not want them to get lost in your newsletter.
Finally, use a clear Call-To-Action button. All your efforts will be wasted if you do not tell your followers what you want them to do with the information provided. Make your CTA a highly visible link or a button with action-orientated wording. You can also use Fomo, a tool which showcases recent consumer actions to increase conversion on your site and helps you generate more leads.
According to Hubspot, 65% of marketers admit that generating traffic and leads is their top marketing challenge. One way to think about the inbound lead generation is to imagine it like a spiderweb — every campaign is a silk thread; the more threads you have, the bigger is your web, the higher are your chances of catching something. It takes time and skill to spin a wide enough web but it will last you a long time, too. Without leads, your business will perish.
A diverse inbound lead generation strategy will most certainly lead to a boost in sales. But the main takeaways to consider include:
- Map inbound lead generation to your sales funnel to be able to effectively target prospects in every stage of the buying journey.
- Use data to drive your decisions: research keywords and trending content to start from a strong place.
- Get serious about copy — focus on communicating the benefits of your product rather than features, keep it actionable and tap into human emotions.
- Take advantage of free high-quality natural stock images — there can never be too many images.
- Use tools available to you to streamline the process of building a mailing list and driving traffic.
- Make sure your lead generation forms are asking for essential information only and are simple and convenient to fill in.
- Spend time A/B testing changes to your website, email or content campaigns to launch with confidence and improve your conversions.
- Create skyscraper educational content to educate and engage your visitors.
- Establish your brand guidelines early on, so that you can align all of your marketing efforts.
- Use analytics to better understand your customer’s journey through the site.
- Ensure you’re producing the right mix of content, including visuals to optimize your site’s SEO and SMO.
- Boost your credibility through social proof.
- Induce a sense of urgency to prompt your buyers to make a snap buying decision.
Lead generation starts with understanding your customers, so always ask yourself “what’s in it for my customer?”