If you own a business, which of the following prospective customers would you want one of your sales reps to pursue – one whose name you bought from another company, or one who’s been on your website to get help solving a problem?

Odds are you’d opt for the latter.  After all, that customer is looking for help from a company like yours—not at some vague time in the future, but now—and that customer has already sought help from you.

Inbound Marketing—Warm Leads Ready to Do Business

There are many ways to assess the quality of a lead, from where they are in the buying cycle to how closely they resemble a buyer persona to how high they rank on your lead scoring system.  One of the best ways, however, is how engaged they are with your business.  Have they, for example, filled out an online form, or downloaded content, or told you they’re ready for a sales call?

Leads generated through inbound marketing strategies are superior to those you buy or those you get from outbound strategies—they’re better in part because they cost you, on average, 62% less than outbound leads.  And they’re better because those leads came to you to help them with a problem your business can solve, and because they already know something about your business.

How Inbound Leads Are Generated

There are myriad ways to generate inbound leads, from on-page and off-page SEO to blogging, pay-per-click (PPC), social media marketing and email marketing.  What they all have in common is the creation of relationships built around credibility and trust.

As just one example, imagine the following scenario.  You own a business which sells household appliances.  John is a consumer who wants to buy a new dishwasher.  So, John goes to a social media site looking for information about dishwashers.  He finds a post from you with a link to an article: “How to get a dishwasher that meets your needs without spending too much money.”  That’s information John can use (no one wants to spend more than he needs to), so he clicks on the link, which takes him to a landing page on your website.

There he finds your content offer and an online form.  You ask him to complete that form, which includes among other things his email address, in exchange for the article.  John fills out the form, and you have a new inbound lead.  It’s a win-win:  John gets information he can use, and you get a lead who knows about your business and, more importantly, likes and trusts you—while other companies were pushing sales pitches at him, you were helping him solve his problem.  When it comes time to buy his new dishwasher, he’s more likely to buy it from you than from one of them. 

And Don’t Forget—You Have His Email Address

John might decide to buy one of your dishwashers on the spot, but in most cases, it’s going to take a little more persuading.  That’s where lead nurturing comes in.  You begin sending John a series of emails with more content offers, more articles with the kind of information that will help him make a prudent purchase.

In the process, you have the opportunity to gather more valuable business intelligence about John—you might tell him, for example, that you can be of greater help to him if he shares additional information with you, like how much he’s willing to spend, what dishwasher features he’s looking for, how he wants you to communicate with him, and what questions he has that you might be able to answer. 

Leading John Down the Funnel

With each exchange, you’re nurturing your new lead and your new relationship.  In the back and forth, you and John are getting to know one another a lot better.  He knows that you’re helpful and not trying to sell him something he doesn’t want; and you know that he wants to spend no more than $500, that he doesn’t need anything fancy, and that he likes being contacted by email.  Gradually, over time, you’re narrowing in on precisely what John wants, giving him smart options to make an informed decision, and sending him information which moves him increasingly further down the sales funnel. 

There’s a Reason Marketers Prefer Inbound Leads

According to Hubspot, 84% of marketers surveyed said that inbound leads are of higher quality than outbound leads—and 68% of businesses that use inbound to generate leads said their marketing strategy is “effective.”  That’s because consumers have changed—bombarded with TV spots, direct mail pieces and cold calls from pesky telemarketers, they’re looking for something different:  they’re looking for companies that are willing to work with them, not against them, companies they can trust.

Not sure where to get started?  Check out our 30 Lead Generation Strategies below!

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