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19th June 2023

In recent years the B2B marketing industry has seen a considerable shift from marketers focusing solely on outbound lead generation strategies.

Marketers are now dedicating more resources to creating an inbound lead generation strategy alongside their existing plans.

Inbound lead generation is often seen as the 'holy grail'; with streams of inbound leads filling your CRM each month. However, inbound and outbound lead generation strategies should be combined for a successful marketing strategy.

Working alongside this trend is the fact that in the last two decades, we've also seen the rise of the research-powerful buyer. TrustRadius reports the changes as buyers "becoming increasingly self-sufficient, relying mostly on self-serve resources to inform their buying decisions."

Thanks to the internet, B2B Marketing and Sales teams are finding that their new prospects already know what they want and are less likely to be swayed by sales techniques. 

That's why combining inbound and outbound lead generation is now super important to your marketing strategy. Your prospects are already looking for information, and inbound lead generation allows you to give them what they need, attracting them into your marketing funnel over time. 

Read on to find out: 

  • An inbound lead generation definition.
  • How to generate inbound sales leads. 
  • How to create an inbound lead generation strategy. 
  • The difference between inbound and outbound lead generation.  
Headley Media colleague on the phone

What Is Inbound Lead Generation? 

Before we go any further let's discuss the definition of inbound lead generation.

Inbound lead generation involves running marketing activities that are focused on letting your prospects come to you, rather than reaching out to them first. The dream, right?! 

Chances are you're already using B2B inbound lead generation techniques within your marketing strategy and wider business. For example, SEO is a type of inbound lead generation. So is blogging, content marketing, and other strategies focused on sharing your expertise and building an audience over time.

Inbound lead generation is all about making your brand more visible online, so potential customers will find you and use your company for information – and think of you when it's time to buy. 

Inbound lead generation is closely related to demand generation, which focuses on raising brand awareness through techniques including content marketing and social media. The two terms can be used almost interchangeably. You can find out everything you need to know about demand generation here.

The tricky part comes from finding ways to gather the data from prospects who are attracted by your inbound lead generation, so you can track their progress through your marketing funnel and eventually pass them to your sales team.

Examples of Inbound Lead Generation: 

People on technology in a meeting

Creating an Inbound Lead Generation Strategy 

Below are some great lead generation ideas for implementing your own inbound lead generation strategy. 

Inbound Lead Generation Strategy #1: Give Away Free Content 

Content marketing is great for inbound lead generation: it raises awareness of your brand and makes potential leads see you as a trusted source of information, rather than just a daunting group of salespeople. 

We don't just mean 'free' as opposed to paid for. We mean ungated: prospects don't have to fill in a content download form to access it, which means it's likely to be seen by more people, which counts as demand generation even if they don't immediately convert to leads. 

Inbound Lead Generation Strategy #2: Content Syndication 

Next, it's time for gated content, via 3rd party content syndication. 

This type of lead generation is technically outbound lead generation, but it also works as an inbound lead generation strategy because it uses content as bait to attract new prospects, and your content is distributed to new audiences within you ideal customer profile (ICP). 

How Does Content Syndication Work?

Content syndication allows you to precisely target new decision-makers with your most valuable content. Your content will be hosted by a lead generation specialist via their own content library websites, within the countries you need to reach and the sectors you want to target. Discover more about the content syndication process here.

It's a fantastic shorter-term strategy that should fill your marketing funnel with new leads while your other inbound lead generation strategies are nurturing your prospects. 

In addition, the content syndication platforms your content is hosted on will already have its own established audience. That means your brand is promoted and seen by your target audience whether they go on to download your content or agree to hear from your business, or not. Therefore, it's a great way of building up more brand points with the exact audiences you're looking to reach, contributing to your longer-term inbound lead generation strategy.

Inbound Lead Generation Strategy #3: Programmatic Display Ads

Running B2B display ads is a great way to capture the attention of your target audience and build more brand awareness over time. B2B display ads are short and sweet targeted ads, placed on relevant and reputable sites across a 'programmatic' network. Typically you'll work with a display advertising specialist or agency to deliver your campaigns.

As we all know, business and technology decision-makers rarely make impulse purchases. Therefore, when creating your inbound lead generation strategy, B2B display advertising is well worth considering to keep your brand front of mind when buyers are researching online.

There's more helpful strategizing your inbound lead generation in this blog on B2B demand generation.

Headley Media colleague on the phone in the office

Inbound Lead Generation Services 

We've already mentioned content syndication, which bridges the gap between outbound lead generation and inbound lead generation. 

When you work with a content syndication lead generation company to deliver you a list of leads, they do that by offering your most valuable content – gated – to a huge potential audience. 

For example at Headley Media, our content syndication services are done via our content libraries, which are published in 60 countries in 32 languages. They cover the IT, cybersecurity, HR, fintech, martech, and electronics sectors. 

Here's how it works from the prospects' point of view. 

It's technically outbound lead generation – a shorter-term strategy dedicated to generating interest from new prospects and gathering their data – but it counts as inbound lead generation, too.

Firstly, you're using useful and educational content to attract leads when running a content syndication campaign. Plus, your brand is exposed to many more people within your lead generation supplier's audience and although they might not be ready to share their information with you, they've still interacted with your brand and downloaded valuable content. Like we said earlier, inbound lead generation services focus on drumming up inbound interest over time, so running content syndication campaigns is a great way to contribute to that interest.

You can also enhance your campaign to make your brand more visible and attractive to prospects. For example, a softBANT campaign helps you identify your leads' budget and timeframe, so you can avoid targeting them when they're not interested. 

Or try programmatic advertising, another great inbound lead generation strategy, to ensure your prospects get more exposure to your brand through 'surround sound' messaging

Woman working on laptop in an office

Inbound vs Outbound Lead Generation: 5 Key Differences 

  • Inbound marketing lead generation is a long-term strategy, usually slower than outbound lead generation. 
  • With inbound lead generation, customers come to you: with outbound, you're chasing them. 
  • Inbound lead generation is less transactional and usually has lower associated costs than outbound lead generation. 
  • Inbound lead generation makes heavy use of social media and SEO, while outbound lead generation is more associated with direct email and B2B lead generation companies.
  • Inbound lead generation relies on ungated, free content, while outbound lead generation more often uses gated content. Explore more on ungated vs. gated content here.

How to Generate Inbound Leads 

How to generate inbound sales leads? You have to hook your audience with some juicy bait. 

Inbound lead generation relies largely on your website and your content. Focus your efforts on creating compelling, useful content that your website visitors will value enough to give you their contact details in return. 

Inbound Lead Capture Techniques

Inbound lead capture techniques include:

  • Creating landing pages and clear contact forms across your website, making it easy for visitors to fill in a form to find out more if they wish.
  • Offering free trials or product demos.
  • Using gated content and email sign-up forms within your website to capture website visitors as they browse your site.
  • Using pop-ups and chatbots.

What Types of Content Should You Use?

Different types of content have different uses within inbound lead generation. 

If you're targeting top-of-funnel leads on social media, for example, an interesting blog promoting your CEO's point of view on a trending topic can get a lot of traction.

However, further down the funnel, instructional videos, case studies, product demos, and free trials are valuable resources for potential leads who are actively researching solutions.

The more useful and/or unique your content is, the more it's worth gating. That is, putting it behind a content download form, so prospects give you their contact details in return for access.

Webinars, to take one example, are fantastic for lead generation: if your topic is engaging enough, and you're offering a Q&A, prospects will give you their email address without hesitation.

As another example, content syndication works really well as a short-term B2B inbound lead generation strategy. You agree to a cost-per-lead (CPL) and hand over your most useful content to be shared on content libraries read by thousands of potential leads. Inbound lead generation companies can track who downloads your content and deliver a list of leads. Simple!