January 22, 2016

10 Inbound Lead Generation Tips from Top Marketers

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Inbound programs can generate some of the most qualified, valuable leads in your marketing mix.

That’s because inbound leads are primarily driven by their own will and research. At the point of conversion, they knowingly opt-in and submit their contact information, which gives you clear permission to continue the relationship.

But inbound lead generation isn’t without its challenges. Many marketers struggle to convert a high enough volume of leads, to maintain consistent quality, or to make a measurable impact on revenue — which are three of the most important inbound objectives, according to a NetProspex study.

ALSO READ: 9 Reasons Your Inbound Lead Generation is Failing

One of the best ways to improve your programs is to learn from the experts. There’s a lot of meaningless drivel out there, but brands and thought leaders with a proven track record can provide insights that actually affect change.

We’ve rounded up a list of inbound lead generation tips from the world’s top marketers. As you read, try to identify areas where your current inbound programs are weak.

1. Strengthen Your Blog

Douglas Burdett inbound lead generationDouglas Burdett│Principal/Owner of Artillery Marketing

“A blog is by far the most important means of increasing the right kind of traffic to your site and converting visitors to leads.”

In order to generate leads, Burdett suggests, businesses need to supply a consistent stream of quality content. That content should be designed to educate buyers and address common hesitations and pain points, rather than force a hard sell. In an age where brands are increasingly moonlighting as media organizations, the business blog becomes the hub of digital content. “As an added bonus, the more you blog, the more people will perceive you as an expert.”

“Focus on the problems your prospects are facing and how you can help them,” Burdett writes in a separate post. “Pay attention to their core pain and how they feel. What’s making it hard for them to do their jobs? . . . Just like at a cocktail party, if you only talk about yourself, others won’t find you very interesting. Companies who talk only about themselves and their products are largely ignored.”

To perfect your lead generation content, Burdett says you must master two things:

  • Deep insights into your buyer persona
  • A clear understanding of the buyer’s journey

Connect with Douglas Burdett on Twitter or LinkedIn.

2. Optimize Landing Pages

oli gardner inbound lead generationOli Gardner│Co-Founder of Unbounce

In a recent post for the Moz blog, Oli Gardner talks about the importance of conversation momentum — or the continuity of personalized marketing between different touchpoints.

“The purpose of conversation momentum is to remove the break in communication that can occur when the click is made. If you’re wooing someone in an email or blog post, it makes sense to continue on the landing page. You wouldn’t invite someone to your house, then act like you never met them, would you?”

Gardner uses one of his online landing page optimization courses as an example. He draws in students through a series of personalized drip emails and preserves the personal touch on the registration landing page.

His first landing page iteration was generic. The second iteration, which saw a 77 percent lift in conversions, provided more context to readers and preserved “conversation momentum” from the drip emails.

Connect with Oli Gardner on Twitter or LinkedIn.

3. Diversify Content

dayna rothman inbound lead generationDayna Rothman│Director of Content Marketing at Everstring, Author of Lead Generation for Dummies

“Create diversity in your content,” Rothman says. “Your buyers have unique wants and needs . . . at varying stages in the journey. Make sure you have content that speaks to each stage in multiple formats to accelerate buyers toward closing.”

In the same vein, Rothman says that businesses need to use a variety of acquisition channels to drive new prospects to their owned media. “You should be engaging in both organic and paid campaigns to drive traffic to your website to generate leads. Think about audience building and lead generation on social media, and consider engaging in paid programs like paid email sends, content syndication, paid webinars, and more to drive leads into your funnel.”

Many marketers pour all of their resources into bottom-funnel gated content and lead nurturing, mistakenly believing this will maximize revenue. What they fail to acknowledge — and what Rothman articulates — is the importance of spreading your efforts across the whole customer journey, from awareness to opportunity.

Connect with Dayna on Twitter or LinkedIn.

4. Simplify the Prospect Experience

david t scott headshot David T. Scott │Chief Marketing Officer of Livefyre

For B2B companies, the ultimate goal of inbound marketing is to convert a visitor into a known lead (i.e. obtain their contact information). To that end, David T. Scott suggests marketers pare back unnecessary elements from their website and focus on the most important messages and calls to action.

Limit the amount of options a person has to explore through your website,” David writes. “The more overwhelming it is, the greater chance that they will get [distracted] and leave. Make your web forms simple and easy to complete. Ask for less information and offer a social login as an option.

“A good website converts between 7-14% of visitors and is optimized toward this goal. A lot of people think that beautiful websites are better, but studies show that ugly, but functional websites can be just as successful, if not more successful at converting leads.”

Connect with David on Twitter or LinkedIn. 

5. Go Easy on the Gated Content

rand fishkin headshotRand Fishkin│CEO and Founder of Moz

In a recent whiteboard video for the esteemed Moz Blog, Rand Fishkin laid out some new thoughts on B2B marketing. He zeroed in on the use of gated content for lead generation:

“I don’t want to have to download something and open it back up. That makes it less shareable. It’s very hard for me to amplify that content if I’m interested in it. When I want to share it with other people I have to tell them, ‘Hey, you’ve got to go to this download link.’”

Although this notion is less popular in B2B marketing, Rand is right. A gate is a restriction. At some point, you do need to capture the prospect’s contact information, but you should try to be as subtle and generous as possible. Rand suggests providing a teaser on the download page and asking for as little information as possible. Otherwise, you may lose out.

“What happens? I’ll tell you what happens. Every single time I download [a PDF] and then attach it in an email and send it to every relevant person at Moz, the company that made it only gets one email address, and I unsubscribe from their list.”

Connect with Rand Fishkin on Twitter or LinkedIn.

6. Invite Readers to Commit

ardath albee headshotArdath Albee│Author, CEO of Marketing Interactions

Many content marketers develop a kind of monomania for engagement metrics — shares, clicks, views, downloads, but when you’re trying to generate leads, engagement isn’t enough.

“Engagement will only get you so far,” Ardath Albee writes in a recent post. “Commitment is the tipping point for content marketing effectiveness that contributes to revenue and growth.”

She goes on to explain how marketers can draw prospects deeper into their content, toward commitment. “A lot of the content published today is a one-off effort. Just publishing is not enough. Every asset you produce should inspire a next step action that pulls your audience deeper into your world and helps them adopt your perspectives based on the expertise you share.

“A call to action for most of your content should be about building commitment by asking them to do something that makes sense, given what they experienced.”

Connect with Ardath Albee on Twitter or LinkedIn.

7. Use Webinars to Connect

matt heinz headshotMatt Heinz│President of Heinz Marketing

Webinars can be a powerful lead generation play in the hands of a savvy marketer. Essentially, you draw in prospects through your inbound marketing content and invite them to register for a webinar to gain deeper, job-specific insights.

“Don’t worry about getting hundreds of prospects on the call. Don’t worry about making everything perfect,” Matt writes. “No matter how much time you spend planning, your first couple Webinars will be a learning experience.”

He also suggests:

  • Adding a third-party speaker
  • Asking for content from registrants
  • Avoiding the in-webinar product demo

“Your product should be a natural next step to what you’ve presented. If your content has set up and addressed the problem, the pain, the challenge, or the current situation your customers are in, it will intensify the need for what you’re selling.”

Connect with Matt Heinz on Twitter or LinkedIn.

8. Define Your Revenue Cycle

jon miller headshotJon Miller│CEO and co-founder of Engagio, former VP of Marketing at Marketo

Part of the struggle of inbound lead generation is taking something qualitative (content) and converting it into quantitative results (leads, revenue). Jon Miller is the president and co-founder of account-based marketing platform Engagio. In an older, but still relevant post for the Lenskold Group, he suggests building an inbound strategy around the revenue cycle.

“Changing marketing from art into science starts with defining your revenue cycle . . . Codifying your company’s revenue cycle methodology (awareness —> funnel stages —> closed deal) is the first endeavor any revenue-focused marketing executive should take.”

The benefits of a clear revenue cycle are huge:

  • Common language across departments about funnel stages
  • A foundation for coordinated action at each stage
  • A foundation for measurement and forecasting

Connect with Jon Miller on Twitter or LinkedIn.

9. Give Away Free Tools

jeremy smith inbound lead generationJeremy Smith│Conversion Optimization Consultant

Everyone loves a freebie. That’s why free stuff (content, tools, resources) is such an integral part of inbound marketing’s value proposition. Renowned consultant and entrepreneur Jeremy Smith says that free tools can speed the momentum of lead conversion.

“You should be giving away free stuff,” he wrote in a 2014 post. “As lead generation goes, it’s a tested and proven method of gaining leads . . . The idea behind free tools is that they can be delivered instantly in exchange for an email address.”

For example:

  • Create an e-book that your target market wants.
  • Give it to them for free.
  • They give you their email address.

“And then, Voila, you have a lead.”

Connect with Jeremy Smith on Twitter or LinkedIn.

10. Bonus Tip: Educate Buyers and Provide Solutions  

By now, you’re probably getting the idea that inbound lead generation is complicated and expensive. If the voices of these myriad thought leaders are any indicator, it takes a village. In some ways, that’s true: an effective program requires high-quality content, promotion across multiple channels, lead nurturing, and the ability to prove results. But it all comes back to one simple question: are you solving real problems and providing valuable content for your buyers?    

If you’re still struggling, don’t be afraid to seek help. At TechnologyAdvice, we connect B2B companies with highly-qualified leads through our multi-channel, inbound and outbound marketing programs. Check out our vendor page to learn more.