A Beginner's Guide to Inbound Marketing: How to Generate Quality Business Leads

June 26, 2024

Congratulations, you're embarking on the exciting journey of lead generation! If you're new to marketing or simply need a refresher, this article will guide you through the essential steps to attract, engage, and share high ROI leads your sales team will be thrilled to receive.

There are countless account-based marketing tactics and strategies available to help you generate leads and expand your business. But in this article, we will focus on the seven proven strategies that can help you achieve your growth goals as well as learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about lead generation. Let’s dive in! 

What is a lead?

Lead generation is a vital aspect of any successful business growth strategy. It's essential to understand what lead generation is and why it's crucial for your business. 

In the world of sales and marketing, generating leads is a crucial aspect of any successful campaign. Leads can be classified into various categories, depending on their level of engagement and potential to convert into customers. Understanding the differences and significance of each type can help businesses focus their resources on prioritizing prospects and nurturing valuable relationships.

Here are 4 different types of leads and why they matter:

  1. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead that has shown an increased level of engagement with a company's marketing activities. These leads have typically interacted with the company's content, such as downloading whitepapers, signing up for newsletters, or attending webinars. They are considered to be more likely to become customers when compared to those who have not exhibited similar behaviors.

xMQLs are often identified by taking a prospect's demographic information and online behavior into account. By tracking how leads interact with marketing materials and campaigns, marketers can better understand which prospects are warming up to their brand and may be interested in learning more about their products and services.

One of the key benefits of identifying MQLs is that it allows businesses to focus their resources and efforts on the prospects that are most likely to convert. This is particularly important in today's crowded and competitive marketplace, where companies need to be strategic and efficient in their marketing and sales activities.

Identifying MQLs also enables companies to personalize their marketing efforts and provide targeted content that speaks directly to the needs and interests of each prospect. This can help to build trust and credibility with the prospect, as well as increase the likelihood of converting them into a customer.

  1. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead that has demonstrated not only interest in a company's products or services but also the intent and ability to make a purchase. This determination is often made after a sales representative has reached out to the prospect to gauge their interest and specific requirements.

SQLs have usually progressed further into the sales funnel than MQLs and are deemed ready for a more direct, personalized approach from the sales team. To identify an SQL, sales representatives need to consider factors such as budget, decision-making authority, and timeline.

  1. Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

A Product Qualified Lead (PQL) is a lead that has demonstrated a strong interest in a product or service based on their direct interaction with it. PQLs often arise from free trials, freemium models, or product demos, where prospects have the chance to experience a company's offerings firsthand.

PQLs are typically seen in the SaaS (Software as a Service) industry, but the concept can be applied to other sectors as well. Identifying PQLs involves monitoring prospect behavior within the product, such as usage frequency, duration, and feature adoption.

PQLs matter because they provide businesses with a tangible indicator of a lead's interest and potential to convert. By focusing on prospects that have experienced the product or service firsthand, companies can engage with leads that have greater potential to become long-term customers.

Also, PQLs can help organizations identify areas of improvement within their product or service offerings. By analyzing the behavior and feedback of PQLs, businesses can make data-driven decisions to refine and enhance their solutions, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction and retention.

  1. Service Qualified Lead

A Service Qualified Lead is a lead that has expressed interest in a company's services and is likely to become a paying customer. In most cases, Service Qualified Leads arise within industries that operate on a service-based model, such as consulting, financial planning, or marketing agencies.

Similar to identifying SQLs, determining Service Qualified Leads often involves sales representatives engaging with prospects, evaluating factors such as budget, decision-making authority, service-related pain points, and specific needs.

What is lead generation? 

Lead generation is the process of attracting potential customers, or leads, to your business through various marketing tactics. These potential customers may be interested in your products or services and could become actual customers if nurtured correctly. 

Once leads are generated, you’ll need to have a system in place to capture their data and information on future communication. A CRM is a popular type of tool for this exact purpose. 

What is a lead generation example?

Gated content is a good lead generation example for both B2B and B2C marketing. 

For example, you may create a free, customized report that helps businesses in your target market analyze a particular aspect of their business (think software development process, security measures, etc.) and provide recommendations for improvements. 

To access the report, businesses would need to provide their contact information, including their email address, phone number, and company name; the gated part of gated content.

A possible B2C version of this example for a skincare company would be to ask for an email address in exchange for 10% off their first purchase. 

Why is lead generation important? 

Lead generation is essential because it fuels your sales funnel, continuously providing new prospects for your business. Without a steady stream of leads, your business will struggle to grow consistently. In addition, quality B2B lead generation helps increase revenue, build brand awareness, and establish long-term relationships with your customers.

How lead generation works

Through a combination of inbound marketing, outbound marketing, and account-based marketing, businesses can build a strong pipeline of marketing-generated leads and propel their sales efforts into the future.

What is the lead generation process?

Lead generation is the process of identifying and attracting potential customers to your business, nurturing them, and converting them into paying customers. It involves using various account-based marketing strategies, such as email campaigns and content marketing, to grab the attention of prospects and seamlessly move them through the sales funnel.

One of the most critical aspects of lead generation is identifying the right target audience. This requires a thorough understanding of the needs and preferences of your potential customers and creating content that resonates with them. By doing so, you can attract prospects who are more likely to be interested in your products or services, which can significantly increase your chances of converting them into paying customers.

Once a potential customer expresses interest in your business, they are referred to as a lead. In order to qualify as a good lead, the prospect usually provides their contact information, such as an email address or phone number. This allows businesses to establish a connection with the lead and provide relevant content or offers to guide them towards becoming a paying customer.

How lead generation has evolved over time

Lead generation has undergone significant changes over the years. The rise of the internet and digital technology has dramatically altered the way businesses approach potential customers. Initially, lead generation relied heavily on cold calling, print advertising, and direct mail campaigns.

As technology evolved, businesses started using digital channels, such as email, to communicate with their audience. This marked the beginning of digital lead generation tactics. Over time, more advanced strategies emerged, like search engine optimization (SEO), social media advertising, and content marketing, leading to increased online visibility and engagement with prospects.

Today, lead generation strategies place a significant focus on providing value to the prospective customer in the form of personalized content, resources, and tailored offers. Additionally, data-driven insights and analytics play a crucial role in optimizing the efficacy of lead-generation campaigns.

What are the 3 main approaches of lead generation?

There are three primary approaches to lead generation, each with its own set of account-based strategies and techniques:

  1. Inbound marketing 

This approach focuses on drawing prospects to your business through the creation and distribution of valuable content, such as blog posts, eBooks, and webinars. Inbound marketing is centered around attracting, engaging, and delighting your target audience. An inbound lead will likely already be familiar with your brand on some level by the time they share personal contact information. 
  1. Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing involves outreach to potential customers through more traditional methods, like cold calling, direct mail, or print advertising. This approach can be less effective than inbound marketing due to the lack of personalization and increasing consumer aversion to interruptive digital marketing tactics. For example, strategies such as cold calling are now considered overdone and even annoying. A cold email may evoke a similar feeling depending on who you ask. 
  1. Account-based marketing (ABM) 

ABM is a highly focused lead generation strategy that targets specific high-value accounts or companies. By developing customized marketing campaigns for these key accounts, businesses can nurture relationships and increase the likelihood of conversion.

The 4 steps of the lead generation process

A typical lead generation process consists of the following four steps also known as the buyer’s journey:

Step 1: Attract

At the beginning of the process, businesses aim to attract prospects through various marketing and advertising tactics, such as SEO, social media, and content marketing. The primary goal is to increase brand visibility and gain the attention of potential customers.

Step 2: Convert

Once a prospect shows interest in your offerings, the conversion phase kicks in. This step involves encouraging the potential customer to provide their contact information, usually in exchange for valuable content or a special offer. Conversion may involve the use of engaging landing pages, calls-to-action (CTAs), and lead magnets.

Step 3: Nurture

The nurturing phase focuses on building a relationship with the lead, providing them with the information and resources they need to make an informed decision. Email campaigns, targeted content, and personalized offers are often employed during this stage of the process.

Step 4: Close 

The final step in the lead generation process is to close the deal and transform the lead into a paying customer. Sales teams usually take over at this point, utilizing various tactics, such as follow-up phone calls, product demonstrations, or proposing a solution tailored to the lead's needs and challenges.

Building a lead generation funnel

What is a lead generation funnel? 

A lead generation funnel is a marketing strategy that guides potential customers through a series of steps, with the ultimate goal of converting them into paying customers. The funnel typically starts with a broad audience, and gradually narrows down to those who are most likely to make a purchase. The funnel is divided into different stages, each with a specific goal in mind. The stages may include awareness, consideration, and decision.

At the top of the funnel, the goal is to raise awareness of your brand and products. This can be achieved through content marketing, social media advertising, or other tactics. The middle of the funnel is focused on building trust and credibility with your audience, and providing them with information that helps them make an informed decision. Finally, the bottom of the funnel is where the actual sale takes place.

What are the benefits of having a lead generation funnel? 

There are many benefits to having a lead generation funnel in place. Here are just a few:

  1. Win more targeted leads. By guiding potential customers through a series of steps, you can ensure that the leads you generate are more targeted and qualified. This means you'll have a higher chance of converting them into paying customers.
  2. Improve ROI. A well-designed lead generation funnel can help you get more bang for your digital marketing buck. By focusing on the stages of the funnel that are most effective for your business, you can improve your ROI and drive more revenue.
  3. Enhance customer experience. By providing potential customers with valuable information and guidance throughout the funnel, you can create a better overall customer experience. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  4. Scale faster. A lead generation funnel can be scaled up or down depending on your business needs. This makes it a flexible marketing strategy that can be adjusted as your business grows and evolves.

What are the most common types of lead generation? 

Lead generation can take many different forms and can be done using a variety of different techniques. Some of the most common ways to generate leads include:

  • Landing pages

  • Organic and paid social media

  • Email marketing

  • Content marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

  • Referral marketing

  • Event marketing

Diving deeper, here’s more about what each type of lead generation is and how to effectively implement it: 

1. How to create a high-converting landing page

Landing pages are dedicated pages where potential leads land after clicking on an advertisement or a link from another source. They play a crucial role in your lead generation strategy by capturing the attention of visitors and persuading them to take action. In this section we’ll go over what you’ll need to do in order to maximize the ROI of any lead generation landing page:

Essential Elements of an Effective Landing Page

An effective landing page should have the following components:

  • A clear and concise headline that communicates the value of your offer

  • Compelling copy that convinces visitors to complete desired actions (e.g., providing contact information or making a purchase)

  • Attractive images or visuals that reinforce your message

  • A strong, visible call-to-action (CTA) button that guides visitors towards the desired action

  • Minimal distractions or unnecessary navigation options

  • Social proof, such as testimonials or case studies, to build trust and credibility

Tips for Optimizing Your Landing Page

Optimizing your landing page involves consistently testing various elements and making changes to improve its performance. Some optimization tips include:

  • Utilizing A/B testing to compare the effectiveness of different headlines, images, or copy

  • Ensuring your landing page is mobile-friendly and loads quickly

  • Applying conversion rate optimization (CRO) principles to your design

  • Analyzing user behavior data (e.g., heatmaps and scroll depth) to identify areas for improvement

2. How to use organic and paid social media for lead generation

Social media has become a powerful channel for lead generation. By leveraging social media platforms, you can attract potential customers and drive them to your landing pages or website. Here’s how to use social media in a strategic way:

Choosing the Right Social Media Platforms

Your choice of social media platforms should depend on your target audience, your products or services, and your overall account-basedmarketing strategy. The most popular platforms for lead generation include:

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • LinkedIn

  • Instagram

  • Pinterest

Best Practices for Social Media Marketing

To generate leads through social media, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Create engaging and shareable content that resonates with your audience

  • Use social media advertising to target accounts based on demographics, interests, and behaviors

  • Monitor and respond to comments and messages promptly to build relationships with your followers

  • Measure and adjust your social media efforts based on analytics data

3. How to implement magnetic email marketing campaigns

Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to generate leads and nurture relationships with your audience. An optimized email marketing campaign can help you deliver personalized content and offers to your subscribers, driving them to take desired actions.

Building a Quality Email List

A quality email list is the foundation of a successful email marketing campaign. To build an effective list, use the following tactics:

  • Offer incentives, such as discounts or exclusive content, in exchange for subscribing to your email list

  • Implement exit-intent pop-ups or signup forms on your website to capture visitors' contact information

  • Encourage social media followers to join your email list through regular posts and promotions

Crafting Compelling Email Content

Your email content should be relevant, engaging, and provide value to your subscribers. Here are some tips for crafting compelling emails:

  • Write persuasive subject lines that encourage recipients to open your email

  • Keep your message concise and focused on the desired action

  • Segment your email list based on subscriber behavior or interests to deliver personalized content

  • Include clear calls-to-action throughout your email to guide subscribers towards your desired outcome

4. How to leverage content marketing to attract leads

Content marketing is a powerful way to attract, engage, and convert potential customers into loyal fans of your brand. By creating valuable, informative content that speaks to the needs and interests of your target audience, you can build trust and credibility and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Types of Content to Generate Leads

There is a wide variety of content types that can be used to generate leads, including:

  • Blog posts

  • Whitepapers

  • Ebooks

  • Infographics

  • Videos

  • Webinars

  • Podcasts

Choose whichever type of content that resonates with your target audience and aligns with your overall account-based marketing strategy.

Promoting Your Content Effectively

Creating high-quality content is only half the battle; you also need to promote it to attract potential leads. Utilize multiple channels to reach your target audience, such as:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) to improve visibility in search results

  • Social media sharing and promotion

  • Guest posting on relevant websites

  • Email marketing to your subscribers

5. Revise digital properties to improve search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful lead generation tool that helps businesses rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant search queries. The benefits of SEO for lead generation include:

  • Driving targeted traffic

  • Improving brand visibility

  • And generating high-quality leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers

Leveraging SEO to Enhance Lead Generation

Effective SEO involves a range of tactics, including keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building. 

  1. Keyword research. Keyword research is the process of identifying the keywords and phrases that potential customers are searching for on search engines. By understanding the keywords that are relevant to your business, you can optimize your website's content to rank higher for those specific terms your ideal audience is looking for.

  2. On-page optimization. On-page optimization involves optimizing a website's content and structure to rank higher in SERPs for specific keywords. This includes optimizing the website's metadata, such as the page title and description, as well as the content on the page itself. By ensuring that your website's content is relevant and informative, you can improve your website's ranking in search engine results pages.

  3. Link building. Link building is the practice of acquiring high-quality external links from reputable sources to improve a website's authority and credibility. By building relationships with other websites in your industry and earning links back to your website, you can improve your website's credibility among top search engines. 

By crafting a comprehensive SEO strategy that includes all of these tactics, businesses can make their website more visible online, drive qualified traffic to their site, and generate high-quality leads. However, it is important to note that SEO is not a one-time effort. It requires ongoing maintenance and optimization to ensure that your website continues to rank well in search engine results pages as new, competing results crop up every day. 

6. Round out organic traffic with targeted Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising

PPC offers a range of benefits for businesses, including fast results, control over targeting and messaging, and the ability to measure and optimize campaigns for maximum ROI. With PPC, businesses can reach potential customers at every stage of the buying journey, from awareness to conversion, and beyond.

Getting The Most Out of Your PPC Ad Investment

PPC can be expensive but it typically offers quick results and the ability to control costs by setting budgets and bidding on keywords. On the flipside, if not properly managed, PPC campaigns can quickly become unprofitable or ineffective. That’s where metrics come in. Maximing results from PPC marketing requires research into keyword generation and bidding, as well as the creation of high-quality ad copy that resonates with the target audience, in order to truly take off. From there it’s important to keep testing out ad copy, reviewing results, and making informed decisions. 

7. Get the word out with universally trusted referral marketing 

Referral marketing is a cost-effective lead generation strategy that involves encouraging satisfied customers to refer new customers to a business. Referral marketing is highly effective because people are more likely to trust recommendations from their friends and family members than traditional advertising.

Referral marketing takes many forms, from simple word-of-mouth recommendations to structured referral programs that offer rewards or incentives for successful referrals. Either way, referral marketing can be highly effective, often generating high-quality leads with a high conversion rate at a low cost.

Maximizing Your Lead Generation Potential with Referral Marketing

There are many ways to maximize the potential of referral marketing, from engaging with customers on social media to offering incentives for successful referrals. By building and nurturing strong relationships with customers, businesses can turn satisfied customers into brand ambassadors who actively promote their products or services.

The goal is to create a powerful network of advocates who promote your company to others, generating high-quality leads at low cost.

8. Host or support virtual and in-person events

Event marketing is a highly effective lead generation strategy that involves participating in or hosting events, such as trade shows, conferences, or seminars. Events offer businesses the opportunity to engage with potential customers face-to-face. They are also great for building relationships, creating connections with compatible brands and audiences, and generating high-quality leads through high volume discovery. 

How to Know If Event Marketing Is Right For Your Brand

It’s not for everyone though. Event marketing requires careful planning, budgeting, and execution. However, when done right, it can yield substantial results. By making a strong impression at an event and following up with leads effectively, businesses can generate high-quality leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers. 

If other marketing endeavors are consistently successful, event marketing is a great addition to a holistic strategy. If other marketing campaigns feel disorganized or behind schedule, it might be best to take on smaller roles such as sponsorships with events instead of diving headfirst into creating your own conference for example. 

Event Marketing Strategies for Generating New Leads

There are many ways to approach event marketing for lead generation. But the biggest and most effective tactic is this: businesses must identify the events that are relevant to their target audience, create compelling messaging, and execute well-timed follow-up to maximize the ROI of the event. It’s not just about getting ready for the event and showing up. It’s also important to build on connections made after events using a consistent approach. Like with any account-based marketing strategy, a little automation goes a long way. 

In a nutshell: Lead generation is the process of identifying and cultivating potential customers for a business's products or services. The goal of lead generation is to create a pool of potential customers or leads, that a business can then follow up with in order to convert them into paying customers.

By implementing the ABM strategies outlined above, you'll be well on your way to generating leads and growing your business. Test, measure, and refine your efforts for maximum impact and watch your business thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why not just buy leads?

Purchased leads can harm your business in the long run with low-quality leads, legal risks, damage to your brand’s reputation, lack of personal connection, and wasted time for your sales team. It's best to invest your marketing resources in more lucrative and efficient options.

What is the difference between lead generation and lead management?

Lead generation attracts potential customers and collects their information while lead management tracks and manages leads throughout their journey, organizing them into different categories based on their engagement and tailoring marketing messages to their needs and interests.

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