Inbound Lead Generation: Attract Qualified Leads + Close More Deals

Companies live—or die—based on the quality of their inbound leads. Most of your customers were once just random, anonymous internet users. Over time, they became a lead in your sales funnel and, eventually, a customer. 

When we started Close, we didn't have a single customer. To say we had to hustle is an understatement. We relied on our inbound lead generation strategy to get people to sit up and pay attention to our product. We spent years tweaking our blogging process, developing downloadable content, and even hosting podcasts and webinars to attract inbound leads. 

The result? We carved out a unique brand built around authenticity as salespeople because we've been in the trenches ourselves. Now, if anyone mentions Close… they don't just think of me. They know that our company is full of sales pros who know what we're talking about. 

That is the power of inbound lead generation. It's a slow burner, but it's so fucking worth it. 

Let's look at how you can build an inbound lead generation campaign of your own.  👇

The Inbound Lead Generation Process

Inbound lead generation usually involves a mix of content marketing, SEO, social media marketing campaigns, and lead nurturing to lure prospects into your sales funnel. The goal is to engage prospects, start a two-way relationship, and, ultimately, close the deal. 

Let's break down what that looks like:

  • A visitor finds your company—maybe through a Google search, a mention on Twitter, a referral from one of your customers, or they click on one of your blog articles. 
  • Once they know you exist, they might check out your website and products/services.
  • Here, you place some kind of lead magnet or intake form to get their contact details—usually an email address. 

You now have a lead. 

The lead's details will flow into your sales funnel and then hit some type of tool, like a CRM, where your sales team can follow up and track progression. 

However, generating leads—especially high-quality ones—takes more than slapping an eBook on a landing page and hitting publish. You need to create useful content or resources people actually want to read or engage with. 

That's how to generate leads that you’ll actually give a shit about. 

But before I dive into those strategies, let's look at what an inbound lead is and how it fits into a sales funnel. 

What is an Inbound Lead?

An inbound lead is a prospect you “pull” into your website or brand. Maybe they engage with content and follow a call-to-action, like downloading a lead magnet or filling out an intake form. Their information is then given to the company's sales reps to follow up with and (hopefully) nurture them to become a paying customer. 

Although leads come from different inbound sources, they also swing between... "hell yeah, they are ready to buy!" to "Sheesh…. Should we even bother trying to nurture them?!" To save your sales reps a ton of time from following up on duds, it's best to categorize leads depending on how serious they are about buying.

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). People who have downloaded an eBook or filled out a landing page form, but need more nurturing before they jump on a call with a sales rep.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). Sales qualified leads have taken actions, like asking questions about pricing or your product, that show their interest in buying your products. These leads are further down the sales funnel than MQLs. 

Each of these leads still lands in your sales team’s lap, but your approach should be customized based on where they are in the funnel. 

Inbound Lead Generation - MQL to SQL

We have to really work to build trust with MQLs and convince them to take a trial or jump on a call, but SQLs are already further down their buying journey. That's why it always makes sense to tailor follow-up strategies depending on what type of leads they are.

So, how do we fill our pipeline with leads that convert? 🤔

Glad you asked. 

6 Effective Inbound Lead Generation Strategies to Fill Your Sales Pipeline 

Click on most blog posts about inbound lead generation, and you’ll find the same generic shit: Set up an email automation sequence! Follow up and nurture leads! Write blog posts!

Wow, how helpful! 

It's hard to find real inbound lead generation strategies that actually appeal to your target audience. Yes, it's more work—but inbound lead generation can also bring bigger rewards. 

Here are some of the inbound lead generation techniques that some of today’s top inbound companies are using to get more customers👇

1. Create Content That’s Truly Helpful

Creating content is a super obvious marketing strategy. But most folks fail to create content that actually helps people solve their problems. A healthy mix of useful, valuable content and a strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy will play a major role in attracting leads.

But you should also consider each customer's buying journey and focus on content that speaks to them at every stage. Adebayo Samson, the Founder and CEO of Academicful says it's important to avoid creating content that only speaks to those in the first stages of the buying cycle. 

"Most marketers tend to focus on creating content solely for the awareness stage of the buyer journey and as a way of staying on top of marketing trends. They leave the nurturing and conversion components of inbound lead generation to the sales team, which completely distorts the marketing effort," he says.  

"A solid inbound lead generation strategy demands a content plan that comprehensively caters to each stage of the buyer journey including the latter steps like qualifying leads, nurturing and converting them."

Here's how to turn that advice into action 👇

Quality, value, and SEO are the key ingredients to content creation that converts. To get search engines like Google to rank content higher in the SERPs, use strategies like: 

  • Keyword research: Dig deep and figure out what your target audience is searching for. Look for relevant keywords and add them (strategically) to your content. 
  • Build internal links: Add internal links to each piece of content so Google can navigate your website. Links provide additional context and credibility to blog posts and help your site visitors find other valuable content on your site.
  • Quality over quantity: The last (but most important) part of the process is to create content that your target audience gives a shit about. Make sure every piece is high-quality, relevant, and informative. 

A content machine that gets results takes time to build. I've written more about how we did it here if you want to learn more. 

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    <b>Example:</b> The <a href="https://ahrefs.com/blog/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Ahrefs blog</a> sees 600k+ in organic traffic every month, and is packed-full of helpful content for their target audience. They segment their blog into different sections, and also present long-form guides to help their audience learn the basics. Their blog introduces their team as professionals and experts in the field of marketing and SEO, making them trusted advisors.<br><br>
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2. Send Emails People Actually Want to Read

In a survey by Litmus, 90 percent of businesses found email is critical or somewhat critical to their business success. That’s why many B2B marketers still rely on email marketing as the bread and butter of their inbound lead generation: it works.

Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls insists that, even with all the new and shiny lead generation tools out there, the best one in her arsenal to generate leads is still email. "Emails are a great way to build relationships over time and keep the conversation going,” she says. “It’s just so much easier now.  You don’t need to be a big multinational company to have the tools at your disposal anymore." 

Over time, consistent email campaigns can get high open rates and boost your conversion rates, turning new leads in your email list into happy, paying customers.

Here's how to do it:

  • Write subject lines that grab attention: Avoid the "just following up" garbage many salespeople use in outreach email subject lines. Instead, make them curious and use questions or pain points to encourage them to read on further.

Inbound Lead Generation Strategies - Send Emails People Want to Read.
  • Keep it short and sweet: Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and headings to make the content scannable and actionable. 
  • Don't forget the call-to-action (CTA): Include a clear CTA that tells the prospect what you want them to do next.
  • Focus on relevance rather than personalization: An email that’s tailored to the pain that your prospect is facing right now is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. You want them to read it and think, “Hell yeah, I’m going through this right now!” Try segmenting your list based on behavior, demographics, or interests—that way, your emails will resonate with their needs.
  • Set up automation triggers: Send automated emails based on the prospect's actions, like clicking on a CTA or opening a specific email. This hack will send emails with personalized content that hit the prospect's inbox at the right moment.

My advice? Stick to the basics. Send people helpful stuff. Don't spam them.

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    <b>Example:</b> Here at Close, we send helpful content from our blog out to our thousands of newsletter subscribers. They get to see real, relevant content that fits their needs, and they also get nurtured toward a purchase in the future.<br><br>
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3. Build Lead Magnets That Solve Problems

One of the best ways to generate inbound leads fast is to offer up a compelling lead magnet. In fact, you’ll probably find this tip on every lead generation list out there. But, there's a caveat—a great lead magnet solves problems, it's not just a longer blog post. 

We get a ton of valuable B2B leads by offering helpful resources that will help other salespeople crush their goals, including templates, worksheets, and even free tools.

Here’s one now:

Inbound Lead Generation Strategies - Build Lead Magnets.

Don't overthink lead magnets.

Just look at what your audience's pain points are and build lead gen resources to solve them. If you can provide this fix, you're halfway to building an incredibly valuable inbound lead generation machine. 

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    <b>Example:</b> Tori Dunlap, founder and CEO of Her First $100K, preaches financial freedom to professional women. Highly in line with her financial education website, she offers a ton of freebies—including a workshop to stop emotional spending. This workshop is highly targeted to her audience, and helps establish her as an authority in the space.<br><br>
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        Source: <a href="https://event.webinarjam.com/register/57/n7kg8t52" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Events.Webinarjam</a>
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4. Engage Authentically on Social Media With Your Target Audience

Think about where your target audience hangs out. It's not just their inbox—it's also on social channels like (the platform formerly called) Twitter and LinkedIn.

Social media platforms are the perfect medium to connect with prospects 1-on-1. It shows you're a real person who is reachable and can talk about issues that are important to prospects. 

Follow this simple yet effective formula:

  • Start conversations: Go beyond posting promo content and start conversations with your audience. Ask questions that make them think, seek out their opinions, and get people talking. Once your posts gain traction, it lays the foundation for you to become an authority in your industry (and the prospects will follow). 
  • Share valuable content: Create and share content that's informative, relevant, and solves your target audience's problems. This can be anything from your site's blog posts to whitepapers, video content, or industry news you notice on your feed. A consistent flow of helpful information on your feed helps build trust with prospects. 
  • Be responsive: Social media engagement is a two-way street. Set aside time to reply to messages from people and those who mention your brand online. Answering questions and taking feedback is a great way to show others you are invested in your product and the people who use it. 
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    <b>Example:</b> One sales expert who absolutely crushes socials is Ahref's CMO, <a href="https://twitter.com/timsoulo" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Tim Soulo</a>. He uses his X channel to discuss marketing trends, <a href="https://twitter.com/timsoulo/status/1689263690703618049" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cross-promote Ahrefs' merch</a>, and engage with his audience on feedback and product ideas.<br>
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            <p lang="en" dir="ltr">What are some good "AI translation" tools?<br><br>And if you're actively using one - how much editing does its output require?</p>— Tim Soulo 🇺🇦 (@timsoulo) <a href="https://twitter.com/timsoulo/status/1648312673719795712?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 18, 2023</a>
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    <p>Thanks to his nearly 50k followers (and his history of replying to comments and feedback), Tim's Twitter channel helps Ahrefs keep its finger on the pulse of their industry. If the company's audience has a problem or a product suggestion—Tim is there to listen.</p>
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5. Use Lead Capture Forms and Chatbots To Hook Prospects

Lead capture forms are a 2-in-1 tool for generating leads: they gather prospect information and give a clear signal that they're interested in what you sell. 

When strategically placed on your website, forms collect follow-up details and automatically segment them into a database so your reps can follow up. Now, a lot of people avoid filling out these forms for a couple of reasons: they're always asked to hand over way too much information, or they're afraid the company will spam the shit out of them. 

So, make sure every lead capture form on your website is:

  1. Simple: Only ask for essential information like a name and email address to minimize friction.
  2. Offers value: Give an incentive in exchange for contact information. This could be helpful content, information, or a product discount. 
  3. Sets (realistic) expectations: Tell the lead exactly what you will do with their information. If they will be added to an automated email sequence, let them know so they don't feel like you are spamming them!

Along with lead capture forms, experiment with chatbots.

These AI-powered sales machines can be a valuable lead generation tool to give instant, personalized support to website visitors—even when you sleep. Chatbots engage visitors in real-time, capture lead information, and filter it back into a sales database. Hell, the right chatbot can even book a slot on your rep's calendar for a meeting. This is thanks to: 

  • Automated qualification: Thanks to qualifying questions, chatbots can identify promising prospects and send them across to a sales rep. 
  • Instant responses: Chatbots respond instantly, so no leads fall through the cracks. 
  • 24/7 Availability: Unlike humans, chatbots can chat anytime, so you never miss out on an opportunity to turn a visitor into a lead.

The big daddy in the sales chatbot space is Drift. Teams can customize the tool's conversational sales sequence to route leads to reps depending on their needs and where they are in the buying cycle.

Inbound Lead Generation Strategies - Use Chatbots

It can even qualify a lead based on questions you input and book a slot in a sales rep's calendar—all without the need for a human to step in! 

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    <b>Example:</b> <a href="https://www.lemonade.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lemonade</a>, a highly-rated insurance company in the US, uses their brand’s friendly, conversational tone in their lead capture forms by including a human-like personality—Maya. As you’re guided through the process of inputting information for your new insurance policy, it feels more like you’re having a friendly conversation with a rep than filling out a form on a website.<br><br>
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6. Run PPC and Retargeting Campaigns

I'm one of those founders who cringe at paying for advertising. But strategies like PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and retargeting campaigns can be incredibly effective for generating leads—especially for startups. 

PPC campaigns place ads on search engines and social media platforms based on search terms. If someone searches for a keyword you have paid to advertise, your ad will show up—but you'll only get charged if they click on it. This not only drives targeted traffic to your website, but it'll be traffic that wants your product. 

PPC is powerful, but you need a backup plan: retargeting campaigns. 

This lead generation tactic engages people who land on your site but don't buy anything. Thanks to a tracking pixel placed on your website, it tracks and targets them across platforms like social media and advertises your product. It's not a foolproof way to win them back, but it keeps your product visible. 

How to build a retargeting campaign:

  • Use segmentation: Segment your audience based on their behavior on your website. If someone has clicked on your pricing page, you can target them with free trials or demos of your product. But if they only checked out your product features, they will probably need more nurturing with helpful content or information. Tailor each ad to their specific interests and behavior. 
  • Have a reason for them to click: Keep brand awareness alive and offer trials, discounts, or exclusive content to draw customers back to your site.  
  • Don't stretch your budget too thin: Only pay for retargeting ads on marketing channels where your prospects hang out. Stick to LinkedIn if that's where your target audience is—and drop TikTok. 
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    <b>Example of PPC in action:</b> Just look at what pops up if I google "best keyword search tool:"<br><br>
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    <p>Semrush is a major player in this space… but Mangools and Algolia? Not so much. Without the PPC ads, I probably wouldn't have considered them. However, now they're at the top of the SERPs, I might take a look.</p>
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Inbound vs. Outbound Lead Generation and Why You Need Both

Inbound lead generation attracts prospects and customers through content marketing, SEO, social media interactions, and email campaigns. Inbound marketing is about creating a magnetic pull that pulls prospects in, rather than actively reaching out to them. 

Outbound lead generation is a whole different ball game. This is where your sales team makes the first move using strategies like cold calling and email. Instead of waiting for prospects to come to you, you actively seek them out. 

So, what's the best strategy to use? 🤔

Inbound lead generation is a better fit if your company has a long sales cycle or complex products where you need trust to get a deal signed. On the other hand, outbound marketing is more suitable for businesses with shorter sales cycles as it's more direct and immediate.

In my opinion, the best sales strategy is a mix of both. Sales teams should leverage the power and trust levels that are made using inbound generation, and take advantage of the shorter sales cycles that outbound leads bring. 

After all, closing a deal is closing a deal—no matter how the lead landed in your funnel.

If you can establish your brand as a trusted authority and consistently generate a stream of quality leads, it won't just fuel your sales pipeline—it'll do the same for your bottom line 💰

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