4 Steps to Inbound Lead Generation

Why Inbound Marketing is the Best Way to Generate Leads


My dishwasher died recently, and I had no idea where to begin shopping for a new one. I found a tip sheet online that ranked popular models, so I provided my email address and downloaded it. I received additional info in my inbox and, eventually, a discount offer. By then, I knew exactly which dishwasher to buy and how much I should pay. I’m happy with the purchase I made. If I ever need another home appliance I know where to go.

My dishwasher experience is a great example of inbound marketing. They caught my attention, captured my email, and moved me along the customer journey until I made a purchase. If your association needs to build a prospect pool for your marketing and sales efforts, inbound marketing beats “spray and pray” outbound marketing any day.

Here are the four essential steps to inbound lead generation so you can attract prospects and convert them into members and brand ambassadors.

Step 1: Attract visitors

You must be deeply familiar with your target audience if you hope to attract their attention. Ask yourself the following questions:

What does your audience value most? For example, affiliation, exclusivity, cutting-edge information, cutting costs, philanthropy etc.
What are their personal and professional goals?
What are their pain points? How can you solve them?
What are the current hot topics in your prospect’s industry?
Where do prospects currently get information or services like the ones you provide?

Once you know what your audience needs and wants, you can craft valuable content that meets them where they are and compels them to interact with your organization.

Step 2: Turn visitors into prospects

When you offer valuable content such as infographics, surveys, reports, e-books, webinars, and whitepapers, a few important things happen:
  • People are willing to give you their email address in exchange for something that will help them. You can capture contact info using landing pages or lead generation forms on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Your prospect is automatically a more educated buyer. They learn meaningful criteria to use when shopping around, and they shop based on value instead of the lowest price.
  • They see your organization as a thought leader who has their best interest in mind. They start to trust you. They are more receptive to your messaging, and they might even seek out additional content from you.

When one or more of these things happen, you have successfully converted your visitor into a prospect or even a warm lead.

Step 3: Convert prospects to members and attendees

Over time, you can move your prospects from consideration to decision by regularly delivering valuable information. People will gradually see your organization as a source of help and benefits, rather than another marketer trying to sell them something. Eventually, they will be receptive to sales messages because they trust that you have their best interest in mind. Make your prospects an offer they can’t refuse to convert them to members and event attendees.

Be aware that this process could take some time. Multiyear investments into your inbound marketing yield the greatest rewards because you can build on what you’ve learned each year to fine-tune your efforts.

Step 4: Give the VIP treatment

Your job isn’t over once you’ve gained a new member. To ensure long-term loyalty, continue to learn about your members’ pain points and communicate the ways you can solve them. With help from a marketing automation platform, you can make each member feel like a VIP by offering personalized offers and information. Members who feel valued and who continually benefit from your organization are more likely to engage and renew.

Why inbound works

Inbound marketing is a good strategy whether you’re promoting membership or a specific product—like my dishwasher. It works because you’re paying attention to what people need, delivering useful content, and providing valuable offers to build trust over time. This is not just a recipe for gaining prospects and members. It’s a strategy for creating loyal brand ambassadors who will sustain your organization into the future.

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