Types of Lead Generation: Inbound VS Outbound

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Lead generation is essential for companies to achieve sales objectives. It fills the sales pipeline with qualified prospects that can convert into paying customers. 

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of capturing interest from potential customers. When done right, lead generation can:

  • Generate Business Opportunities: Lead generation allows companies to tap into new market segments and gain more paying customers. 
  • Boost Brand Awareness: A big part of lead generation is publishing relevant and valuable content that helps spread the word about your products and services.
  • Provide Better Understanding of Target Audience: Many types of lead generation strategies involve extensive market research, allowing you to better understand your target audience’s pain points and the solutions they need. 
  • Improve Lead Quality: Targeted lead generation strategies let you focus your efforts on high-quality leads with more chances of becoming paying customers. 

Types of Leads

The definition of “lead” differs from one company to another. To create a solid lead generation strategy, it’s crucial to define what a lead is to your business and align the different departments in your company. 

Companies generally classify leads based on interest or qualification. 

Leads based on interest

Cold Sales Leads
Warm Sales Leads
Hot Sales Leads

Leads enter the sales funnel with varying degrees of interest. They are classified as:

  • Cold Sales Leads: These leads have little to no previous interaction with your brand. They entered your sales funnel through prospecting or a purchased lead list.
  • Warm Sales Leads: Unlike cold leads, these leads are aware and interested in what your brand offers but still need more information before making a purchase. These leads usually enter your sales funnel after filling out forms requesting additional details about your offerings. 
  • Hot Sales Leads: Hot leads have the highest chance of becoming paying customers. These leads are also the quickest to convert because they’re well-informed and interested in your offerings, and ready to buy.

Leads based on qualification

Information Qualified Leads (IQL)
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)

Engaging every lead can consume a lot of time and resources. A clearly defined lead qualification process separates good and bad leads for a more targeted sales approach. 

Lead qualification compares the lead’s characteristics with the company’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and buyer persona. ICP is a research-based profile representing the companies that would best benefit from your solutions. Buyer personas are well-researched profiles representing your target customer.

These are the different types of leads based on qualification:

  • Information Qualified Leads: Prospects become IQLs when they provide their contact details in exchange for valuable information. They’re in the early stages of the buyer’s journey and are not fully aware of your offerings. These leads have lower sales follow-up priority because moving them to the next stage of the buyer’s journey takes more time and effort. 
  • Marketing Qualified Leads: These leads are equivalent to warm leads, as they are aware of and interested in your products and services. They usually get higher sales follow-up priority and are offered demos, trials, and consultations.
  • Sales Qualified Leads: SQLs have the highest potential of becoming paying customers. These leads have already expressed interest in buying your products or services. As they don’t require much nurturing, they are the highest priority for sales follow-up. 

Inbound vs. Outbound Lead Generation

There are two main categories of lead generation: inbound and outbound. 

Inbound lead generation increases website visitors and converts them into leads. Outbound lead generation is a direct approach to reaching out to potential customers who can be aware or not of your brand’s offerings. The leads these strategies produce are very diverse because of their broad reach.

Inbound lead generation strategies

Publish High-quality Blog Posts
Invest in SEO
Offer Gated Content

Publish high-quality blog posts

A high-quality blog must have two characteristics: 

  • Originality: Unique blog content establishes your brand as a knowledgeable authority for a particular niche. You can make your blog original by providing your target audience with a new perspective on relevant topics. 
  • Value: Your blog must offer value to readers. You can do this by providing essential information to help them identify their problems and the best solutions. 

Versatility makes blogging an effective lead generation strategy. Most successful companies use a wide range of techniques to gain the attention and trust of visitors and turn them into leads. Some of the methods include: 

  • Adding Call-to-Action: CTAs are clear directives prompting website visitors to take specific actions. 
  • Traffic Retargeting: Also known as remarketing, this is a strategy of reaching out to previous website visitors using emails or ads. 
  • Optimizing Keywords: These are words or phrases used by search engines to give context to your content. Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to analyze these keywords and rank them accordingly on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

Invest in SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) makes websites user-friendly and easier to crawl for search engines. Its primary goal is to drive organic traffic from SERPs by improving web page ranking. A solid SEO strategy will make it easier for leads to learning more about your solutions and benefits. 

These are the subsets of SEO:

  • On-page SEO: The goal of on-page SEO is to make web pages user and search engine friendly by optimizing page titles, headings, images, and page formatting. 
  • Off-page SEO: Unlike other SEO subsets, off-page SEO focuses on website promotion across the internet through link building and brand advertising.
  • Technical SEO: This deals with the technical parameters affecting a website’s visibility in search engines. It involves optimizing website and URL structures and following the best SEO web design practices. 
  • Content SEO: Content SEO focuses on publishing high-quality and relevant content that drives traffic to the website. 
  • Mobile SEO: Most search engine searches are done through mobile devices. Mobile SEO is a subset that focuses on optimizing web pages for mobile use.
  • Local SEO: This subset is similar to content SEO but integrates localization to capture local customers’ attention. It mostly takes advantage of “near me” keywords. 
  • eCommerce SEO: This SEO subset is more complex than others because it has more pages to optimize. Promoting it is more challenging than corporate websites because it has more pages.

Following the best practices of each subset will increase your chances of ranking higher on SERPs. This will make your content more accessible to leads searching for solutions to their pain points. 

Offer gated content

Gated content is any form of content that visitors can access in exchange for their contact information. It’s an effective lead generation strategy because it provides leads with direct incentives, making it easier to nurture them into paying customers.

Examples of gated content include: 

  • E-books: These are electronic books that contain information not available anywhere else. Compared to blogs, e-books are more in-depth and informational. 
  • Whitepaper: The goal of whitepapers is to educate readers and provide them with possible solutions to a problem. 
  • Webinars: With their increasing popularity, webinars provide you with an opportunity to engage with your target audience while they learn more about your offerings. 
  • Demos: A favorite among Saas companies, demos allows salespeople to showcase how their products and services work. It also gives them the opportunity to engage with leads and answer questions in real-time.
  • Freemiums: Also known as free subscriptions or trial plans, these give leads access to limited features of a particular solution. 

Outbound lead generation strategies

Appointment Setting
Email Marketing
Social Media Marketing

Outbound lead generation strategies capture higher quality leads. These leads either fit the company’s buyer persona and ICP or have already shown interest in buying the company’s offerings. 

Examples of outbound lead generation strategies include: 

Appointment setting

Appointment setting captures leads by scheduling appointments to potentially close a deal. This strategy is run by Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and managers whose primary responsibility is to qualify leads. 

A solid lead generation strategy can:

  • Unburden Account Executives (AEs): Qualifying leads can be time-consuming. Having SDRs do this task gives AEs more time to prepare for closing deals. 
  • Supply the Sales Pipeline with Highly Qualified Leads: Companies can lose customers after some time, resulting in churn. Filling the sales pipeline with qualified leads prevents this from happening. 
  • Boost Brand Awareness: SDRs representing your company help create a good impression with leads and establish a positive rapport.

Social media lead generation

Social media is an effective lead generation channel that makes reaching out to leads easier. It also allows you to engage with leads and build rapport, making it easier to nurture them into paying customers.

You can use social media to generate leads by:

  • Running Paid Ads: Paid social media ads allow you to reach out to your target audience and increase engagement with them. It also allows you to gather data and gain valuable insights into your audience. 
  • Driving Traffic to Website: You can leverage social media to drive more traffic to your website and turn visitors into leads. 
  • Increasing Social Proof: Social media platforms are an excellent and convenient way to gather and highlight social proof such as reviews and testimonials. 
  • Direct outreach: Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, have features that enable you to identify your target audience. You can engage and nurture the target audience by sending them direct messages about your offerings through social media app’s messaging tools. 

Cold email outreach

Cold email is the strategy of reaching out to potential customers that haven’t previously interacted with your brand. These individuals are reached using a lead list compiled through extensive research or bought from lead list providers. 

Cold email outreach is often confused with email marketing, but they are distinct practices. Cold emails are for new prospects, while email marketing is for those who opt into gated content.

Your cold email must have a professional and courteous introduction. If possible, address the lead with their name instead of saying, “Hi ma’am/sir.” This gives the email personalization and shows the lead you’ve done the research. 

The email must contain why you are reaching out to them. This could be to introduce your offerings or ask them to book an appointment for a sales call. Regardless of the purpose of the email, it’s discouraged to be pushy when contacting a  lead. 

Personalization and follow-ups are critical to a successful cold email outreach program. Personalization allows your emails to establish a positive rapport with the leads, while follow-ups increase the chances of the emails getting noticed. 

Bottom Line 

Most successful companies combine inbound and outbound lead generation strategies to capture more leads. The key to building an effective lead generation strategy is to have a good understanding of your target audience and market trends. This requires extensive research and trial and error. After doing the legwork, creating a lead generation strategy to achieve your business goals will be easier. 

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