The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing has become the gold standard tactic of any successful digital marketing strategy that helps grow your business better than all others.
Marketing with Inbound is about creating memorable experiences that make a positive impact on visitors, prospects and your business. Inbound teaches the modern marketer to stop pushing the sale in favor of being helpful and human.
Inbound helps you attract more visitors, help them solve their challenges and foster trust. This leads to more prospects, more sales and better customers.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is an innovative method designed to attract potential customers to your website via high value content. We align content with the buyer’s journey, answer the search query and has a goal to convert the visitor into a qualified lead.
RIP Traditional Marketing
B2B marketers have invested years perfecting their tactics. These include intrusive methods such as cold email blasting, hard pitch advertising and promoting service and product pages.
However, traditional marketing techniques are losing their effectiveness by the day. Some blame it on the mass of advertising messages on the internet. Others point the finger at the proliferation and abuse of email marketing.
That said, the result is the same. The buyer has moved on, and you have to keep in step with this fundamental shift and meet the buyer on their terms.
Fellow marketer...meet INBOUND!
Why Inbound Marketing for Business?
Now before you bail – thinking Inbound is nothing but snake oil, let me be the first to tell you I was the biggest hold-out. That’s right, I’ve been a marketer for 20 years and refused to see the value.
Why couldn’t I see the value of Inbound? Because like most I feared change…until I realized this was an amazing opportunity to help our clients Grow Better. Don’t believe me? Take a look at one of our Inbound projects in the next section.
How Can Inbound Help Your Business Grow Better?
If your business is going to succeed, your website needs to be visible in Google search – period! Yes, there are many tactics we use to drive traffic like social media, PPC, email marketing, in-person/online events, etc that help fill in the cracks and find new audience segments. However, they all pale compared to organic search.
Where do you go to get your questions answered? Answer – Google. Me too! What I love about Inbound is that it forces us marketers to create better content.
Inbound Marketing Example
When we set out on an Inbound campaign, we plan to dominate and crush competitors! The best way to do that is to create content that kicks the 1st search result’s ass. See a sample Inbound campaign below.
A few facts:
- No major changes on the website via client nor past vendor.
- Averaged 1 blog post every 3-4 months.
- Website speed was running moderately well.
- Running WordPress on WPEngine.
- Site was not under any Google penalty.
- Company was socially active.
- Lead “quantity” was weak and declining over the past year.
- Lead “quality” was fair but required lots of work.
- Leads dried up to a faint trickle.
- Sales team working harder than ever and discouraged.
- Revenue was flat and not growing.
- Client was uncertain about their future.
- Site had no significant organic traffic growth over the past year.
- Site didn’t fair well after the last Google algorithm update.
- As a result, the site experienced a sharp decline in organic search traffic over 4 months.
Inbound marketing work summary:
- Performed a complete website audit, fixed all critical issues & increased site speed.
- Performed a content audit and created buyer personas.
- Created a 12-month content strategy (2 pillar topics + 2 blog posts per week + timed social postings).
- Rallied existing content to create downloadable lead offers and added to each pillar page and subtopic post.
- Removed blog posts that were not ranking, with thin content and not relevant to our buyer personas.
- Created content clusters around our pillar pages using links to our subtopic blog posts and reciprocal links back to the corresponding pillar.
NOTE: this is our secret sauce. This step increases our crawlability which helps Google discover our posts and assess hierarchal relationship between content.
- Requested re-indexing of our sitemap.xml file in Google Search Console.
- Repurposed our each blog post into a series of social postings.
- Started blogger outreach to create some healthy and natural backlinks.
Inbound marketing outcome:
…reference the SEMrush chart above
- Organic Google search traffic – 1,014% increase in 6 months.
- Keyword equity in Google’s index – 5x coverage increase.
- Net new leads – 10x increase.
- Lead to Customer Acquisition: 37% increase.
Your Marketing Needs a Reboot
For starters, buyers ignore sales messages they didn’t sign up or ask for – period. OK, so I know if I sign-up for a trial I’m going to get some drip emails – got it and no problem. I can easily unsubscribe. However, DO NOT email me ever without my consent! It’s such bad form. If you do, it’s obvious you got my name from some list.
To take it one step further, email services like Gmail and Office 365 sniff out SPAM and nuke it before hitting the inbox. Even worse, if you do it too often, the recipient blocks you and/or reports you as SPAM…now watch your sender reputation take a nosedive. Good luck getting to someone’s inbox now.
Still cold calling? Here’s a little inbound tip – cold calling no longer works. A recent study showed that you’d need to make 100 cold calls to get 1 very weak “maybe” to your offer.
In short, if you’ve relied on these practices up to now you’re way out of touch and it is time for an inbound reboot. The good news – you can be rehabilitated…I’m proof. Start with an inbound marketing assessment to see if it’s the right fit for your business.
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing
Quit spending money on banner ads, direct mail, email lists, and other outdated–and expensive–marketing approaches. Customers don’t like it, and will simply ignore you. The buyer and the buying process has evolved. From now on, the emphasis shifts from the intrusive nature of outbound marketing to the buyer-focused, helpful approach of inbound.
Within this new framework, the buyer is in control of their own journey. It’s no longer feasible to apply pressure and try to force the click or sale. Rather, the sales journey now emphasizes informational content, data sharing, and product value geared towards solving a problem.
Change is Good Thing
On the outset the change may feel foreign and scary as it did for me. It took me a long, long time to let go. Treat this moment – right now – as an opportunity to grow into inbound.
As an inbound marketer you must give good first, gain trust and then you “earn the privilege” to engage the prospect in conversation on their terms. As you continue to engage being helpful and offering value along their journey so they can make the most informed decision when they’re ready.
The New Buyer’s Journey
As I mentioned the approach, methodology and goals of the sales process have changed. In fact, there are 3 stages of the buyer’s journey.
- Awareness: The buyer starts to realize they have a problem and asks questions in Google search.
- Consideration: The buyer defines their problem and gives it a name. Then further researches options to solve that problem.
- Decision: The buyer evaluates and chooses a solution.
Inbound Marketing Methodology
B2B inbound marketing strategies vary in approach, velocity and intensity. Within an inbound campaign one would see an array of tactics including content marketing, SEO, PPC, demand generation, email marketing, social media, and relevant content offers for lead generation.
We Used to Call it the Sales & Marketing Funnel
The buying process goes by a number of different names. In some visual explanations, you see numerous steps. Others combine several of the individual steps to summarize the process. No matter which model you favor, the funnel setup outlines a general set of actions that buyers now follow.
- Need awareness. The consumer becomes aware of a need. This might be a product or service.
- Consideration. The prospective customer is searching the internet for vendors that can meet the need. Choices, packaging, add-ons, and price are part of the consideration process.
- Decision. The customer makes a buying decision and takes action.
- Post-sale interaction. Your sales staff continues to interact with the buyer. Fostering the relationship can result in additional sales and brand loyalty.
There’s no exact timeline for the process. One prospect travels through all the stages in an hour. Another one might take days or weeks to get to the buying decision. Some vacillate between different phases. Because the buyer is now in control of the process, the old techniques of rushing the sale no longer work.
Now We Call it the Inbound Flywheel
The flywheel model (below) helps Inbound marketing efficiency because thrives around serving the consumer with its friction free process to attract, engage and delight – all while building momentum through each turn.
It’s important to attract the right people to your inbound website. You want people in need of what you offer, then those people to become leads and, ultimately, brand ambassadors – right! In order to get them there you’ll need to provide relevant content at the moment when they’re looking for it.
By engaging with prospects on their preferred channels like email, bots, live chat, or messaging apps you can start the conversation. Then use the conversion tools like CTAs, forms, and lead flows to capture the prospect’s info. Continue to personalize their experience by aligning sales collateral timed to each stage the buyer’s journey using email and marketing automation.
Create contextual conversations with your customers that personalize their experience of working with you. This is your opportunity to align your sales and service team to delight your customers and have them preaching your name in Google customer reviews.
Align Your Methods with the New Way of Doing Business – Inbound
B2B inbound marketing statistics support that companies with a focus on earning the trust of the consumer do well. Those that continue with unwanted emails and intrusive marketing techniques do not. Doing so is essential if you are experiencing an increase in bounce rates or seem to be losing more sales than usual.
One of the best attraction methods is to create better content that aims to help as its primary purpose. There is a world of difference between an informational blog post on your company’s website and a “buy me” post that is little more than a thinly veiled advertisement.
HubSpot Helps with Inbound Marketing
Experts credit HubSpot with defining the terms that describe the new inbound methods for working with the consumer. They prove that consumers prefer to be informed rather than “sold to.”
- Attract consumers
Blog posts, social media postings, SEO, and value proposition statements factor into this part of the process. Remember that the consumer is searching for answers. The prospect identified a need and wants to find a way to meet it. This is why your content generation should primarily focus on building relationships and providing information. By the way, focusing on paid social promotion at this stage could pay huge dividends. More and more consumers take to social media when looking for product information.
- Convert website visitors to information seekers
Content is king. Landing pages work very well. Similarly, calls to action can help move the prospect along your sales process. You are looking for contact details and the permission to interact directly with the prospect. You might offer a newsletter, how-to guide, or other value in return. Align sales collateral with this end in mind. Do not be clumsy, however. Pushy sales tactics may seem tempting but will not work.
- Close the sale with the support of the decision-making process.
Email and CRM are appropriate at this point. Once again, this is not the excuse for “buy me” messages but rather an opportunity to nurture the relationship with the prospect so that the sale happens almost organically. It is the next step in a natural progression. Make the transaction easy for the prospect. Something as simple as a pre-populated web form pays off.
- Delight customers with the right level of care.
Personal contact with a dedicated sales professional works well at this juncture. Personalized emails, curated content sharing, and blog digests are good options. You want the customer to remember you. If the need for a product or service arises again, you want your company to be the go-to vendor to meet it.
A Word on Content Marketing and Lead Generation with CTAs
Content refers to the information the consumer sees on your website, social media, YouTube and other digital properties. There are white papers, how-to guides, tutorials, blog posts, videos, and similar material. Each of these can appeal to the prospect at a different position without the sales funnel.
Great Content is Good for Search Engines
Content that offers the reader something of value drives up search traffic. It’s friendly, addresses the reader in easy-to-understand terms, and answers their questions.
It might get shared on social media. In this way, it can generate new leads and contacts. Content can also convert leads. For this reason, inbound marketers pay close attention to featuring a variety of engaging content options. For example, tutorials are great. However, if your website features nothing else, it becomes one-dimensional. The customer will not consider you an authority in the field.
However, when you add other content to the mix, you show that you understand the topic from a variety of angles. Vary the media presentation along with the material for best results.
For example, if you are explaining how your type of product solves a problem, it might bring up new questions for the customer. Offer complimentary content that focuses on answering these questions. In fact, anticipating questions is always a good idea.
As your content generates leads, you focus on converting them. Doing so requires a unique and targeted call to action. Not every CTA should feature a “buy me” message. Some might merely encourage the prospect to reach out if there are questions you did not address in a webinar. Aligning the CTA to the targeted position in the sales funnel is crucial. Not only does it vary the approach, but it also recognizes that the prospect needs a different approach depending on where in the decision-making process the consumer might be.
In some situations, a call to action yields valuable contact opportunities that allow your sales staff to understand the consumer’s needs better. They can then focus on this need, provide the information the customer wants, and nurture the relationship. A customer who feels heard is more likely to do business with the company that produced this experience. One who is made to feel like a number in the system will not develop brand loyalty even if your product or service is superior.
Automation Streamlines Marketing Workflow
Inbound marketing is not as quick and straightforward as the outbound method. Besides that, it takes longer to see results. However, it works.
Several software programs now automate some or all aspects of the marketing process. Keep in mind that marketing automation works best when you customize the process as much as possible to your buyer persona. The consumer appreciates personal dialogue that humanizes your touch points. Cookie-cutter and one-size-fits-all approaches to marketing will feel clumsy and hallow when received by the prospect.
Get to Know your Prospect
For example, there’s more to automation than setting up a software program. You must be in touch with your ideal buyer persona. From there, you must effectively segment the visitors to your content and buyer stage offers. Because there are different channels of engagement, it’s essential to monitor the automation of all these avenues. Doing so enables you to sequence email approaches.
Most importantly, empower the prospect to switch gears. It’s unwise to dictate the process through the sales process from your end. If the prospect at any point decides to fast track the decision-making process, you should allow for this step to happen. Similarly, if the prospect chooses to take a step backward, you need to enable this move to happen. If automation attempts to move the buyer through the funnel independently of the consumer’s readiness, the trust-building process breaks down.