Ever wondered what exactly inbound marketing is or how to do it?
It’s a much used term these days and b2b marketers all over the planet have been switching on to inbound vs outbound marketing.
The basic principle is straightforward: create compelling content that attracts your target customers to your business when they are ready to buy.
Contrast that to the more traditional outbound marketing strategies where you broadcast your marketing messaging at your target audiences, often with no intelligence as to where they are in the buying cycle. This is batch and blast, numbers based b2b marketing.
The principles may be simple, but in practice inbound marketing requires some smart thinking to be effective. The last thing you want is to waste your resources churning out content that’s missed by 99% of your audience.
To help you think about building inbound marketing into your b2b marketing mix, take a look at our 7 core steps to b2b inbound marketing:
1. Build your Buyer Personas
Sounds easy right? Frankly it should be.
Start off by developing an understanding of your customers buyer personas: who are they, where they work, what age brackets and experience they typically have, what industries are they in, which journals they read, what are the typical challenges they are faced with, do they have purchasing authority… the list could go on.
All these great tit bits of information that will help you to understand who your customer is. You can see a really great example of this in practice from email marketing company mailchimp here.
Just in case you’re thinking what I’m thinking, the answer is yes. This actually applies to all marketing and not just inbound.
2. Create Great Content
Now that you have a clear picture of who your customers are, you will need to create content that meets their needs and answers their questions.
Start off with an editorial plan and calendar that aligns your content to your buyer personas. If your customers are seeking easier ways to manage their enterprise information, create content that answers questions such as:
> how can I best manage my business information, or
> what ECM solutions are best suited to banks (assuming you are targeting banks)
Create content in formats your customers are likely to respond to. For example, should you be targeting IT buyers working in banks, a blog or a Linkedin Group is more likely to reach your audience than a YouTube video or a facebook page.
You should get the idea by now, but get in touch if you want to talk about creating an editorial or content plan for your business.
Be careful to create content that answers you target customers questions, in a format that are likely to engage with and will share where they hang out online.
3. Optimise for Search Engines
Now that you have defined your buyers and created compelling content, you need to make sure it can be found and ranked well by the search engines.
This takes a bit more work and you may want to consult an SEO expert to help you setup your website optimally. A good starting point is to think about the keywords your target customers are likely to use and worthwhile focussing on with your inbound marketing. Google’s keyword tool is great for this.
By the way, if you’re website is based on WordPress you might find this simple WordPress SEO Checklist we created useful too.
4. Capture Leads
Inbound marketing is not a cheap tactic but it should be more efficient than outbound. However it will only work if you create enough points to capture your target audience’s information.
What do I mean by that?
Essentially you create compelling, high value content that your audience is willing to exchange their contact details for in order to receive. You will be no stranger to calls to action like ‘complete the form to download your report’ I’m sure.
Not all of your content should be hidden behind a lead capture forms. Blog posts for example should be freely accessible, as should demo videos or podcasts.
But if all roads eventually point to a lead capture form, you will start to see web visitors convert into sales leads.
It’s all too easy for marketers to think there job is done once the lead form is filled. But it’s not. You need to nurture your leads at every stage in the buying cycle until they are suitable qualified to pass onto your sales team.
We do this with lead scoring based on how visitors interact with our site (and for our clients too). You can read more about this here.
Yes this is likely to mean creating content that aligns to stages in your buying cycle.
6. Seal the Deal
As soon as your sales team close the deal with a client, it’s time to get your inbound marketing hat on again. Ask yourself ‘how can I nurture them for cross-sell / up-sell opportunities, or can I create a compelling case study or a testimonial with this customer?’
All these traditional marketing tactics and assets make great materials to pour back into your inbound marketing machine. This is nothing new for any marketer, just the delivery mechanic has shifted to online.
7. Monitor, Evaluate & Adjust
The classic feedback loop. It’s no different with inbound versus outbound, just you will have a lot more data to review and from which to make informed decisions. Your website analytics package is likely to be the starting point, but if you have a marketing automation system setup you can drill down a lot more into individual decision makers or key accounts.
Analyse what content is working and either create new assets or re-purpose the existing to stretch your budget, for example:
> turn that blog post on business intelligence into a slide deck
> repackage that slide deck into a short animated video, or recording of your VP delivering the talk
Also look at what channels are working for getting traffic and importantly conversions. Spending all your time pouring content out via twitter or Linkedin but not seeing any website traffic, or ultimately conversions, suggests your message is wrong or your audience isn’t on twitter.
And that’s it, 7 Core Steps to Inbound Marketing for b2b marketers. Let us know how you have been getting on with inbound marketing for your business in the comments below.