There are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding what inbound marketing is and whether or not you're doing it already.
The fact of the matter is, yes -- most companies are doing pieces of inbound marketing. They may have an SEO optimized website. They might publish content a couple times a year. They may even have an email subscribe form on their site.
But these are all just slices of the inbound marketing pie.
We launched our own inbound marketing program (eating our own dog food, you see) about 6 months ago, and we've been doing inbound marketing for various verticals within the real estate industries as well.
After 450+ hours of HubSpot set-up, SEO research, content writing, social media promotion, paid media management, sales enablement and funnel writing, here is what we have learned...
How to Be Successful in B2B Inbound Marketing
1. Do it all, not just pieces
Many times when companies come to us for help, it's because they are disappointed that they are not getting leads from their website. When we probe a little deeper, we often find out that they have been blogging but without an SEO strategy and without a conversion points. Inbound marketing is an ecosystem. If one piece of the puzzle is missing or not functioning optimally (see #8), it just doesn't work.
For a truly successful campaign, you need a well-written, strategic, researched and cohesive funnel to bring in qualified leads and bring them to the point of purchase.
This inbound campaign checklist shows you everything you need to have in place.
2. Focus on SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) is the driving force for your inbound marketing strategy. Think of SEO as a group of signals that helps search engines to not only identify your content but to determine it's quality and relevance as well.
"SEO gives you the foundation upon which you can grow organically over time."
SEO includes everything from keyword optimization to external link scores to social signals. These elements help boost your search engine rankings, which in turn will help send higher quality traffic to your site.
But because we focus so heavily on SEO, it can take up to 6 months to see all that work come to full fruition. Rand Fishkin calls this lull in results versus effort the "Gap of Disappointment." But when it kicks in and starts picking up, the results are fantastic. We talk about this more here.
3. Promote, promote, promote
It doesn't matter how good your content is if you're not promoting it. There are several ways to promote new content. Promoting on social media is one of the most effective ways to do this. As long as you post to the right social channel at the right time, you'll help improve the exposure of your content and increase the likelihood of attracting new readers by encouraging likes, shares and comments.
But there are so many ways to promote your content and offers other than social media. You can also promote new content to leads that you've already captured through your email list. Utilize your website and web pages to drive traffic to landing pages and lead forms. When you're at live events and conferences, have a tablet open to a landing page at your booth. You may even consider promoting your content internally to get more play.
4. Make sure sales is prepared
Focusing on attracting high quality leads to your site and capturing them is very important - but don't lose sight of the fact that once you capture your leads, you still need to convert them into customers. Make sure that you are prepared to nurture your leads and turn them into customers once they have been captured.
At the very least, have an inbound sales process put in place so you know that you can handle incoming leads. When you first reach out, what information do you need to get from them? What do you want them to do? Set aside at least one hour per day to make your emails or phone calls so you don't let any hot leads go cold.
If you are operating with a rather small team and your salesperson wears ten other hats, consider getting them some help. Hire a sales contractor or a part-time employee who can call leads as they come in.
It's really important to follow up within 24-hours.
5. Email is great, but phone is sometimes better
Email marketing is quite effective in terms of closing sales - but this doesn't mean you should ignore traditional sales methods, such as sales by phone. In fact, according to Chris Smith, by calling a lead at least six times, you'll have on average a 98 percent success rate in reaching that lead.
The odds of making contact to qualify a lead decreased by over 6 times in the first hour.
Be sure to keep in mind that the longer you wait to call a lead after they've been captured, the less likely you are to reach them. Your sales team should combine email and phone for the most effective results.
6. Segmentation is important
Different businesses have different needs. When it comes to email marketing, you can't nurture your leads in the same way - you need to segment your leads so that you can more effectively target them using personalized content.
This will be a lot easier if you've developed your buyer personas beforehand as you can use these personas as the categories to segment your email list into. If you don't segment your email list, every business on your list will receive the same content - even if it's not relevant to their company or to the stage of the buying cycle that they are in. That's not effective.
7. Marketing automation will save you
Marketing automation will not only help make your use of time much more efficient, it will also help you to reach leads quicker. The faster you reach out to leads, the better the chance is that they will engage with you.
"In 2015, 80 percent of marketing automation users reported generating more leads, and more importantly, 77 percent are seeing an increased number of conversions."
If you've captured a lead and it takes a few hours to reach out to them, there's a good chance that they're either away from their computer or phone, or have lost interest by then. Automation allows you to program specific emails to be sent out as soon as a lead has been captured.
8. Never stop optimizing
The biggest mistake you can make is setting and forgetting your campaign. Even if you're getting great results, there is always room to improve. Optimizing is a continual process. Search engines pay attention to the freshness of your site - if you don't earn new external links regularly, it can hurt your ranking. And if you're publishing content regularly, it should always be optimized. Not to mention that you should always be doing keyword research to find better and stronger keywords to use.
But optimizing goes beyond content and search -- if you want really fantastic results, you really need to be conversion optimizing your landing page. Something as small as color can make a huge difference. A great example: In a marketing experiment, Heinz Ketchup changed their iconic red color Ketchup to green and sold more than 10 million bottles in the first 7 months. This brought in $23 million in sales, the highest increase in the brand's history.
Sometimes doing the unexpected can have unexpected (and glorious) results.
9. Start from the bottom up
Marketing is a giant cycle, which means that once you've converted your leads into customers, you can use those customers to get more leads. Don't be shy in asking existing customers for referrals. Depending on your industry, you may consider offering existing customers special deals for referring their friends and family who end up becoming customers. If you don't want to be "obvious" about it, send a hand-written thank you card and a small gift (like a gift card) to clients who refer friends.
"Referred customers are 18% more likely to stay with your business, and help you generate 16% more in profits."
Basically, find a way to reward the clients that bring you business -- because it's worth it!
10. Do your research ahead of time
A lot of businesses make the mistake of trying to write content or provide offers for as wide an audience as possible. But doing so will actually limit your audience - if you're writing for everybody, you're essentially writing for nobody.
This is why you need to do your research ahead of time in order to identify who your target audience is and what their needs are. Your content and promotions should target your specific audience as well as meet their unique needs. Investing thousands into an unresearched and unvalidated inbound campaign can end in disappointment and money lost. It's important to have an idea that what you want to do is likely to work.
Resources for Success
Below are some articles and downloadable resources that we've found helpful and that may help you to find success in B2B inbound marketing.
- 43 Ideas for Promoting Your Lead Gen Content
- Inbound Marketing Campaign Checklist
- Lead Response Study: Best Times & Days for Sales Calls
- 30 Effective B2B Lead Generation Tricks & Tips