The concept of inbound marketing centers on attracting users to your business or services in an organic, natural way, by presenting them with relevant and quality content at the right time, and at the right place. It’s a non-intrusive, non-disruptive marketing methodology that is aligned with the customer’s needs and interests at every step of the buying process.
In other words, B2B inbound marketing is based around the sales funnel where marketing efforts at every stage of the funnel are aimed at guiding users closer and closer to the bottom of the funnel where they convert successfully into long-term customers and promoters.
A Quick Glance at the Inbound Methodology
The inbound process primarily involves four stages:
Each of these stages involves implementing a number of marketing actions aimed at delivering the right content, within the right context and through the right channels. At the end of each stage, users are transformed from strangers into visitors, leads, confirmed customers and promoters, respectively.
This stage involves the acquisition of potential leads and gathering relevant data about the user. By the end of this stage, a stranger is turned into a visitor when they visit any of your business channels, such as, your website or blog.
This involves tactics such as:
- Dynamic Smart Content Marketing. Smart content marketing entails creating content that is adapted to the customer’s needs; i.e. content that a user is willingly ready to consume because it is informative and beneficial to their specific requirements. Smart content marketing lets businesses personalize a user’s experience, with the aim of building trust and increasing their authority within their niche.
- Social Media Marketing. Social media channels present a huge, data-rich pool of potential customers. However, businesses need to identify which social media channels work best for them. The suitability of the channels depends on a number of factors including the key demographic on each of those channels and the type of content/media that the business is primarily focused on.
- Growth-Driven Design. Growth-driven design involves constantly tweaking and changing your website’s design in response to data acquired in your marketing and sales campaigns. By making small, incremental changes to your website makes it easier to gauge your audience’s response to them and measure their impact.
- Inbound SEO. Inbound driven SEO consists of driving inbound traffic to your website by improving your visibility and ranking in search results. The tactics include: SEO Audit – Comprehensive Keyword Analysis and Research – On-Page SEO – Off-page SEO –Link Building.
- Competitor Analysis. Competitor analysis helps you track what your competition is doing, including their content strategy and social media activity. The data garnered through competitor analysis can be used to generate new marketing ideas, tweak existing campaigns and draw inspiration for social media activity.
The next stage in a smart inbound strategy involves converting those acquired visitors into potential leads by providing them with incentives to download and access premium content on your site. Premium content is content that’s more in-depth and informative than content provided in the Attract phase; this can be e-books, webinars, tutorials, videos, free trials, case-studies and product demos.
- Adding Value to Premium Content. Marketers provide premium content to users in exchange for their contact details. To encourage users to provide their details, marketers add value to content – that is to make the content appealing to the potential leads – through: Attractive and responsive landing pages – Effective CTAs that result in conversions – Thank You pages
- Automated Content Distribution. Downloading a single piece of premium content doesn’t guarantee that a visitor will convert to leads. To push them further down the funnel, they need to be exposed to more relevant premium content. Marketers can use automated tools to identify triggers that a user is ready for the next bit of content, and automatically deliver it to them with the help of workflows.
By the end of this phase, the user is sales-ready and the sales can close the deal. By this time, businesses have amassed a pool of potential leads, and are ready to nurture them to the point where the lead fully trusts the business and is ready to make a purchase.
- TOFU, MOFU and BOFU Lead Nurturing Tactics. During this phase, businesses execute lead nurturing tactics corresponding to the marketing sales funnel, abbreviated as TOFU, MOFU and BOFU. The nurturing tactics at each of these stages are different, but all aimed at edging the lead further and further down the funnel.
- Lead Segmentation and Qualification. No two leads are the same. It is important to know which leads need to be prioritized, what efforts are needed to keep them moving towards the end of the funnel, and the impact of your marketing efforts. This can be done by segmenting your leads according to their behaviors or characteristics and tracking individual segments to measure the efficacy of the campaign.
Even after leads have successfully converted into customers, they can be converted into promoters of your brand.
- Dynamic and Actionable Content that is personalized for each customer such as personal e-mails, product recommendations based on previous purchases, and special offers.
- Active Customer Support by actively engaging with the customer about their experience with your service, preemptively offering assistance before they ask for it, etc.
- Social Engagement Campaigns to encourage customers to share and promote your content on their social channels.
How You Build a Smart Inbound Marketing Strategy
Building an effective strategy for your inbound marketing strategy involves the following:
Create SMART Goals
The first step of your inbound strategy necessitates setting your business’s goals: deciding where you are at present, where you need to go, and mapping out how you’re going to go there. The SMART framework can help define goals which are:
- Specific: Definite goals that clearly define what needs to be achieved, who will achieve it, how they will be achieved and when they will be achieved.
- Measurable: Define the metrics that will be used to track the progress of each goal.
- Attainable: Goals that fall within the capabilities of the business
- Relevant: Goals that are relevant to the final objectives of the business
- Timely: Goals that can be achieved within a given time frame.
Define Your Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are a fictional representation of your ideal customers. By defining your “ideal customers”, you’ll be able to know who you’re marketing to and how your business product or service can help them.
Each of these personas vary in their interests, pain-points, behaviors and priorities; and it is important to understand each and every one of them in order to be able to craft marketing content that will truly resonate with your customer base.
Select Your Keywords
Once you have identified your buyer personas and identified why they’ll need your service or product, you’ll need to know how they can find you through search engines: that is, you’ll need to figure out what keywords they’re using to search for services or products similar to yours. Through keyword research using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or HubSpot, you can narrow down a list of short-tail and long-tail keywords that you’ll need to craft your content around.
Now, it’s now to develop a content strategy that’s mapped to the sales funnel. Content mapping is essentially the core of inbound marketing, which is delivering the right content at the right time at the right place. To do that, marketers need to segment their content marketing to target leads depending on where they’re on the sales funnel; that is:
- Top of the Funnel: Also known as the Awareness stage, where strangers find you as a source of information, education and knowledge.
- Middle of the Funnel: Also known as the Consideration stage, the content at this point should seek to position the brand as an authority within their niche, leading the customers to trust them above other competitors.
- Bottom of the Funnel: Also known as the Decision stage, the content should target leads who are on the verge of using your service or product.
Choose a CRM That Aligns With Your Inbound Needs
The next step would be to choose a CRM will allow you to implement your inbound strategy through intelligent automation.
Your CRM should include a number of capabilities such as lead generation, lead nurturing, e-mail marketing, competitor analysis, sales tracking and forecasting, and many others.
Develop Your Lead Nurturing Strategy
As we’ve said before, no two leads are the same. Some leads take longer than others to reach sales-readiness than others. Your lead nurturing strategy should proactively work to provide your leads with content that is pertinent to their position in the sales funnel. If any conversion paths seem to be stalling – usually due to a lack of information or relevant content – your strategy should encourage users to re-engage with you through strategically timed content offers, e-mail reminders or follow-ups. Once your leads have reached the bottom of the funnel, they are ready to be handed over to your sales team.
In most businesses, marketing and sales teams often tend to work separately since their perspectives vary in terms of their goals: generating leads and generating sales, respectively. However, this disconnect can actually harm the marketing process since a lot of pertinent information from both teams can be lost. Bridging this disconnect can have a lot of benefits including, shorter sale cycles, lower market entry costs and sales costs and increased revenue.
This can be done by involving sales in the marketing process, to benefit from insights they have gained through interactions with the customer-base. Give the sales team direct access to prospective leads through social media engagements, thereby potentially reducing the conversion time, resulting in a quick sale.
Big Data and Inbound Marketing
One of core facets of inbound marketing is that it’s a long-term marketing methodology is contingent on constantly tracking and analyzing outcomes, and then modifying strategies to produce better outcomes. In other words, inbound marketing relies on intelligent interpretations of data: massive amounts of data that are collected throughout the lifecycle of the campaign then filtered through artificial intelligence tools.
Leaving the interpretation of this influx of user data, analytical outputs and numbers solely to intuition and probabilities could lend itself to a lot of trial and error, and decreased Marketing ROI. This, therefore, necessitates a precise, scientific means of interpreting and exploiting this data, we could remove the element of guesswork and probabilities, right? And so there is: intelligence marketing.
By using precise formulas to define campaign outcomes, marketers can ensure that the inbound marketing efforts are functioning as they should: fulfilling the SMART goals of the campaign.