What is B2B Inbound Marketing?
B2B Inbound Marketing is the process of attracting and encouraging users and prospects from other businesses to engage with your business by providing them desired resources.
These resources can include content like a blog post or whitepaper, a quiz, or even a tool for some kind of analysis.
The benefit of inbound marketing is that instead of having to continually hunt down your ideal target audience, they come to you looking for advice, help, and a solution in the form of a product or service. Pre qualified because they sought you out, inherently indicating a need.
Inbound B2B marketing is the polite way to promote your services online. It doesn’t involve unsolicited emails, loud commercials, cold calls, or anything else B2B clients hate.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
The difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing is that inbound marketing attracts users, prospects, and customers to your website or business, whereas outbound marketing involves you going to where your target audience is and actively seeking them out.
Put simply, it’s about them coming to you, vs you going to them.
Components of Inbound Marketing
There are many intricacies to an effective inbound marketing campaign, and describing every potential tactic, past, present, and future would be exhausting. However, there are core principles and foundational strategies that you need to be aware of.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Goals & KPIs
Marketers love jargon. Almost as much as they tend to shy away from accountability of showing a tangible return on investment or return on campaign spend.
That being said, two of the most foundational elements to any inbound marketing campaign (and any other kind of marketing campaign) are defining your key performance indicators (KPIs) and overall goals for the campaign.
If you know that you want to increase MQLs by 10% in the 6 months, what will you have to do to achieve that? Answering this question instantly gives you ideas and a clearer picture of what kind of effort that will take.
Compare that with “we want to increase our online presence”. In this scenario, you have no idea where to start or how to deploy spending to effectively and definitively meet that goal. Increase online presence on which platform? All of them? “And how do you define presence”? We can already see how the more specific and S.M.A.R.T the goal, the easier to reverse engineer the steps. Next is figuring out the “defining presence” aspect.
KPIs aren’t as valuable as conversions (demo requests, contact form submissions, phone calls, etc), but they do serve as a way to benchmark performance towards your larger goal at any given moment. Commonly used KPIs include:
- Organic website sessions
- PDF downloads
- Conversion rate
- Average time spent on site
- Email list sign ups
- Contact form inquiries
- Youtube subscriptions
- Keyword rankings
- Bounce rate
- Incoming backlinks
- CPA or CPL
A B2B buyer persona is a fictional, but clearly defined representation of your ideal customer within an organization and the organization as a whole. This includes traits of the business, demographic information of the decision maker, and more.
Buyer personas are extremely important because they allow you to get into the mind of your prospects, empathize with their frustrations and knowledge gaps, and gain insight into the kinds of solutions they will be most receptive to.
That depth of understanding allows you to craft the right campaign strategy and content to fit their needs at every stage of their buying decision journey.
A website is no longer a luxury for B2B businesses, it’s a necessity if you want to compete for your prospects’ attention in 2021 and beyond.
The facts are that up to 71% of your B2B decision makers are conducting a search before speaking with a company, and 70% of them do it on a mobile device.
Your website needs to meet their expectations from a usability standpoint, guide them to the correct information, and do so quickly, or they’ll leave. It should be logically organized with a robust balance of content types and serve as your central hub for user interactions.
Why? Simple. You have full control.
Control over the user experience, call to action placement, colors, server, etc. Any number of optimizations can be done and tracked when you are driving users to a website that you own. Other platforms like Linkedin or Twitter have built in audiences for you to tap into, but at the end of the day they could be shut down overnight without an explanation (not likely, but possible).
Now that you’ve got the website dialed in, you’ll need to understand the different kinds of content you can utilize and the importance of each.
Content is king. Always has been, always will be. But what does that mean exactly?
Simple. Earlier we established that inbound marketing requires you to provide your target audience with a resource to help them solve a problem or need. That resource is content. It is the currency you trade for their time and attention.
There are many sub categories and ways to dissect content into distinct “types”, but these are the core buckets when thinking about what content to create.
- Solutions. This type of content lives as a landing page for users who are already problem and solution aware. You should have as many of them as you have unique service offerings. If you’re a business advisory firm, then your solutions pages should be about your services. An example would be https://yourcompanyname.com/mergers-and-acquisitions/. If you’re a SaaS company, these could be product features or use cases.
- Company information. Even though it may not seem important, 52% of B2B buyers report wanting to see leadership bios, company history, and about pages to make decisions. These kinds of pages solidify what your brand stands for and helps position you uniquely in the market. Every website should have an “about us” at minimum with information on company values, history, and employees.
- Resource. Resource content is a catch all for content that helps inform your prospect in order to help them solve a problem or answer a question they have about your offer or industry as a whole. These can include blog posts, whitepapers, guides, infographics, videos, FAQs, slide decks, checklists, spreadsheet templates, and more.
- Case studies. Simply put, this kind of content is proof that you are as competent that you claim to be. It gives buyers confidence that you’ve already done great work in the past, and will likely be able to replicate that with them.
- Industry specific or target buyer specific. This less often used content type is useful when buyers have already been educated, know you have the solution they want, but still need a little more help coming to a purchase decision. Industry specific or buyer type content should be laser focused on how your solution fits the unique needs of each segment, even though it’s the same solution. If your product has a different approach for each segment, even better, include that information as well.
Yes, paid ads are an inbound marketing technique. Just like every other technique listed in this article, a well researched paid ads strategy can be extremely relevant and helpful to your users’ needs.
Paid ads are when you utilize a platform like Google, or Linkedin’s built in advertising software to select a target audience of users, create ad placements, and track performance over time. Depending on your firm’s previous experience, budget, goals, and timeline, results may vary widely.
However, on average, companies see a 2X return for every dollar spent on PPC initiatives. Paid ads are a great choice if you’ve got the money to spend, lack of time, and desire to scale or gain initial traction quickly.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Last but not least, is search engine optimization (SEO). B2B SEO is the process of making changes to your website, creating content based on commonly used phrases by your target user persona (called keywords), and increasing the trustworthiness of your website and brand through acquiring links from other reputable websites (called backlinks).
This process, when done correctly, results in your website being shown more often to users when they type in their keywords (as opposed to your competitors), which leads to increased website traffic, which leads to more sales opportunities and eventually, increased revenue.
SEO is one of the most scalable and effective inbound marketing (and lead generation) methodologies but also takes the most time and effort to see tangible returns. It’s also constantly evolving based on Google’s algorithm updates so it’s something that should be treated as a long term engagement.
How To Put Together Your Own Inbound Marketing Campaign
1. Define Your Goals
In the beginning of any B2B inbound marketing campaign, the first thing you should do is get exceptionally clear on what you actually want to happen as a result of the campaign.
As mentioned above, this can be to increase MQLs, drive higher qualified SQLs, double organic traffic, increase domain authority through link building, etc.
Once you know where you want to end up, you and your team can reverse engineer that goal into action steps. Here’s how to plan the perfect goal:
- Figure out your most important channels; ones that your target buyers will likely be utilizing
- Figure out the gaps the gaps in your existing efforts
- Perform an analysis of how much performance improvement you need to hit business goals
- Use those performance improvement numbers to forecast how long those improvements should take based on historical data
- Write your goal down, discuss with your team, and get feedback on it’s plausibility
An example of an inbound marketing campaign goal would be: “We will generate a 250% net increase of organic website traffic by the end of our 12 month SEO campaign in order to have a 5% increase in monthly MQLs.”
2. Define your target user
We’ve already discussed why understanding your target B2B buyer persona is so important, now let’s dive into how to do that.
First things first, Hubspot has an amazing tool that will walk you through this process. I highly recommend you use that to help you through this process.
That being said, here are the steps and major considerations:
- Decide if you have multiple target buying personas for different offers. Usually, the same type of person will make up the majority of your purchases, however, if you run a company that offers noticeably different offers, then you’ll need to do this process according to that.
- Give that person humanizing features like a name, location, gender, and even an image. The purpose of this is to keep everyone on your marketing team accountable to your target personas needs throughout their buying journey. They are a real person with hopes, dreams, needs, and fears, not simply a data point.
- Write down the key demographic information about them like height, age, income, etc. This information begins to inform how you can position your brand image, content types, and messaging to fit the key elements of their life experience and background.
- Decide on company and industry related information. Is their organization global or local? What is their job title? What field of work does their company engage in?
- Think through their biggest struggles, goals, and dreams. This information is as important as any of the other types. By intimately understanding your buyer’s pains, you can message or even change your offer to more accurately fit their needs. If you know what their core objectives are on the job, you may be able to connect them with that goal with your product as their guide.
3. Research opportunities & analyze competition
Competitive analysis is a pillar step towards an effective marketing campaign of any kind.
Understanding existing strategies and what your competition is doing to get results for themselves can save you a ton of headache with planning and testing. It gives you a solid baseline to launch your own unique initiative.
Here’s the playbook:
- Pick 5-10 of your top competitors both from a business model perspective and from AND companies that are running successful campaigns in the channel that you want to compete in.
- Use competitive intelligence tools to gather as much information and data points about these competitors and their strategies as possible. Some examples would be SEMrush for website traffic and SEO metrics, BuzzSumo for winning content examples, SpyFu for Google Ads campaign insights, etc. Find a few different tools that give insights into your campaign channel of choice, pull the data, and combine it in a central location.
- Focus on finding out what they all have in common that’s successful (where to start), what efforts they’ve tried that haven’t yet paid off (what you can learn from or stay away from), and areas of production that they’ve missed (your opportunities)
When you build your campaign on a foundation of useful and accurate data, you set yourself up for success because you have something to benchmark your own performance from right from the start.
4. Create awesome content
Content is the backbone of b2b inbound marketing, and for good reason. When done right, content helps your buyer make the right decision for their needs and goals.
But how exactly do you do it right? Truth be told, the content aspect can be equal parts science and art at times, but there is a system to creation that will surely set you up for success.
- Use the insights from your research to plan ahead. If you’re embarking on an SEO focused campaign, ensure that you have all of your target keywords mapped out in a sheet with the type of content you need to produce, and whether or not it’s an existing or future asset or not. If you’re creating a PPC campaign, make sure you have your ad groups mapped to a target landing page type based on best practices and competitor efforts.
- Focus on information that educates and helps users solve an immediate need. There are so many factors to keep in mind when optimizing content for the platform of the channel that you’re targeting during your campaign, but at the end of the day, users won’t convert into customers if that content is served to them but not relevant to their needs.
- Outline your content ahead of time. Yes, make an actual outline of all of the elements of the content you want to produce before you start working on it. Working from the outline will ensure the finished content is laser targeted to help meet your campaign objectives.
- Use tools to analyze the content as you go. Apps like Grammarly, can help ensure that there are no major writing errors, grammatical eros, or readability errors as you go. This will save you time and frustration in the long run.
- Show it to multiple team members and departments when finished. This step is crucial in catching any spelling or grammatical errors that you missed, but each person will be able to offer a unique perspective that can make the content perform better.
- Publish and optimize on your targeted channels. Make sure that you’ve optimized each element of the content according to the best practices of the platform. Hashtags for linkedin, title tags for SEO, heading copy for PPC, etc.
5. Promote your content
Content promotion is a crucial step of inbound marketing that some organizations skip. However, it’s critical to scaling the reach and ultimately, the effectiveness of your content.
Some examples of content promotion are:
- Publishing blog posts to content syndication platforms.
- Use forum sites like Quora to engage with target user questions or post helpful blurbs that link to your more in depth piece.
- Repurpose your content into an infographic or slide deck and post to websites that specialize in curating these resource types.
- Run impressions or click through targeting ads on Linkedin, Facebook, or Google to get visibility for your website content.
- Encourage your coworkers and brand advocates to share and start discussions about the content on your target platforms of choice.
Promotion requires understanding what value you can add to the right kind of user, on the right platform, at the right time. It’s a long term game, but one that’s highly worth playing.
6. Measure results and update strategy
When you’re spending money on campaigns, it’s enticing to anecdotally judge the performance of your content or rely on flimsy KPIs like impressions. But ultimately, this won’t help your bottom line.
Every good B2B marketing effort needs to have the appropriate analytics and tracking in place, to judge the performance of the campaign, get reliable insights into that performance, and take action to make improvements.
Every week or month (depending on the overall length of the campaign), your team should be reviewing KPIs, to discover trends about the performance of your content and pivoting strategy regularly (especially in the beginning), until you’ve achieved the desired results.
5 Useful Tips For 2021 Campaigns
Follow these 5 B2B inbound marketing strategies to keep them there and convert them to active clients.
1. Get them further inside for a look
Restaurants, theatres, and retail outlets know they must draw people in past the front door to get them ready to buy. Restaurants do it with pleasures: soft mood lighting, an outdoor patio, music, and exterior décor that reminds people of cuisine they like.
Theatres used to intentionally pump the smell of popcorn into the street and lobby. Retail outlets put their best items in the front window or hang a banner about a 70% off sale. You sell B2B products and services, and your off-site B2B marketing must do the same, but online – remind them of things they love.
You might think B2B buyers don’t love anything – it’s just their job. They most definitely love. They love service providers who make them look good in front of their boss. They love products that automate their work and make it easier. They love options that save their employer time and money.
To get and keep them interested, show them what they love: a happy supervisor or user base, products making a business more successful, or knowledge and insight that make these possible.
Your web site should be an extension of the pleasurable journey they’ve taken to get there. Optimize your search engine capabilities and paid search ads so that appealing options appear as soon as a buyer enters a search term.
Post abbreviated stories on social media about purchasers’ counterparts at other companies enjoying the benefits of your brand. Reinforce and extend those stories on your web site. Make interested visitors want to be part of this stimulating conversation. Make them want to know how the story ends.
2. Publish usable, memorable content that drives new business
You are a thought leader in your field. Show it. Pack your site with useful, downloadable content that clients come back for again and again. To be useful, your marketing content must be supported by relevant data and framed in memorable stories about how clients benefited from working with you.
If your inbound B2B leads can rely on you as part of their network to inform their process, they will assume they can rely on you as service providers. Publish client testimonial stories, instructional videos, course snippets, articles by your subject matter experts, blogs, and eBooks.
The temptation for B2B marketers is to horde intellectual property and on their web site, boast about projects they have done without providing anything their clients can really use to inform decisions. Resist that temptation. Don’t give away everything, of course, but be more generous with what you know.
Contrary to what your instincts might scream at you, this does not give potential clients (or competitors) just enough to take advantage of you. This generosity is consistently met with generous interest in working with you.
You want leads to arrive at your site and discover things they can take with them to their colleagues and build a case for working with your team.
3. Keep it fresh, regular and relevant to the B2B client
To maintain your status as thought leaders in your field, your content should be regular and new. Automate it. Create calendars that remind your marketers to get that robust content uploaded. Establish a sense of urgency.
The B2B purchasing process is longer and more rigorous. Some inbound B2B leads will visit the site multiple times before they are in a position to work with you.
Keep their interest by making them glad they visited. If they have subscribed to your newsletter, use it to notify them when new content is available.
4. Be responsible and efficient with the B2B buyer’s time
You have earned the privilege of this person’s time. Don’t waste it. Whatever route they took to get to your site, don’t make them take too many more steps to get to the next call to action. Avoid alanding page that scrolls through pretty (butmeaningless) images before giving them the option to subscribe or review the catalog.
Have the most important conversion task ready and obvious when they arrive. Make it easy for them to reach out to your representatives and chat with a real person if they want to. If you struggle to weigh competing priorities, conduct some A/B testing. This will tell you which of the two options is providing the best results.
5. Create reminders – not for you but for your inbound leads
If you track the activity on your site, you will know where inbound leads spent their time and attention. Set up automated systems to remind them about what they saw. This can be done through remarketing, a strategy that cookies your site visitors and follows them around the web with ads reminding them of the content they reviewed.
It can also be more old school. Have account managers reach out to those leads directly and ask if they need further information. Send an email via their subscription address to remind them that an update was posted for a report they read. Jog their memory. Re-use titles from the articles they clicked on in future newsletters.
These five strategies will help you take advantage of a great resource: inbound B2B leads, otherwise known as people who stepped up to your virtual storefront and took a peek inside because,from where they were standing, they liked what they saw.
In 2021 and beyond, B2B brands can’t afford not to have a robust inbound marketing strategy.
Now more than ever, B2B buyers are doing research online first, expect you to educate them, and will compare you to your competition based on your web prsence. You need to meet them where they are.
The TLDR of how to do that:
- Align with your organization on campaign objectives.
- Learn about your target buying persona and their needs.
- Define the correct marketing channels and strategies based on their needs and where hey spend their time.
- Create laser targeted content that is useful and helps them progress through their buying journey.
- Regularly test assumptions, measure results, and pivot until you meet your desired results
If all of that sounds good then all you have left to do is get started. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of doing that all yourself, get in touch with us. We’re an ROI focused B2B inbound lead generation agency who helps companies like you all of the time.
Welcome to the world of inbound.