So you've been doing an inbound marketing campaign, spending money on creating web content for informative and newsy blog posts, understandable and share-worthy infographics, even a quick how-to video to show how your product is changing people's lives.

And you've noticed that your content, which has been optimized for SEO, has created an uptick in your website traffic.

But how can you convert this traffic into leads? And how do you get leads to convert into customers?

You're not alone in asking.

First off, understand that 75% of that traffic is people poking around looking for information. It could be a VP of marketing, or it could be an assistant to that VP of marketing doing research who is months away from making a purchase.

What you need to do is to make sure your website content is operating as a marketing funnel.

"Make sure your website is easy to navigate for people who are ready to buy now," says Alan Perlman, owner of Extreme Inbound, a NYC-based agency that specializes in email segmentation, SEO and contact database management. "But you also need to match your content to other stages of the buying process."

"You should be thinking of your content as a carrot," says Perlman, "that you can dangle in front of people in return for one thing: their email address."

In other words, the content that you currently have on your site needs to be assessed to determine how it can best be positioned to be an email-generating machine.

"Think about the target customer and their pain points," says Perlman. "It all starts with your buyer persona and doing a deep dive to understand them: what problems are they facing? What's keeping them up at night? Talking with a customer is so important for startups wanting to understand who their customer is."

So, for example, are there a few blog posts you can combine into an e-book or white paper and then put up as gated content, in exchange for an email? The idea is to package content in an easy to digest format.

If visitors are giving their emails and downloading your ebook, you can consider them being at the beginning of the cycle--the top of the funnel. "People at the bottom of the funnel are downloading sales brochures," says Perlman. "Setting clear action items at different stages is important."

Now, armed with email addresses, you have successfully converted your web traffic into leads. Now it's time to begin thinking about nurturing these leads--and turning them into customers.

One word: email. "The ROI is astounding," says Perlman. "For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you get nearly $40 back. And it's not just a monthly newsletter. Try creating a three or four email follow up after they give you their email address. Have a script in place. Send a follow up email, and then wait a week, and send another, and wait a week, and send another."

In this process, Perlman advises, "Always look at your metrics, open rates and click through rates. How much business are you driving? Track back from an incoming customer to see what kind of ROI you're getting, to figure out your cost per lead and closing rate. What's the percentage and the time frame? Get those answers, and that will set you apart."