We live in an age of instant gratification. You want to watch an entire show, you can do it. You want to know Madonna’s middle name? It’s right there, at your fingertips. You get the drift.
So it’s understandable that when you do something new, you want to see results immediately. However, as handy as that can be in many scenarios, in others, it’ll take some time. Think of getting a degree building a house, or getting to know whether a particular B2B service would be a good investment.
Such is also the case with inbound marketing. But, what exactly is it? How does it work? And what’s a reasonable amount of time in which you should start seeing results? Here's our take on using inbound marketing for b2b marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing refers to when you bring your audience to you (hence the term inbound). As opposed to traditional, disruptive marketing, inbound marketing entails sharing content your audience is searching for every time they enter a query into a search engine. For example, if you’re hosting a networking event, you may search for “catering ideas for large events”, “how to keep people engaged at networking events”, or “tips for a successful networking event”.
Doing so will result in a list of blogs letting you know about everything from dressing for the occasion, to figuring out who will likely be there, and how to promote the event. Voilá. Each of the entities who created the content attracted you to their website in search of information that’s relevant to you at that specific moment.
While the bulk of inbound marketing content are blogs, there are other ways you can educate your audience with more in-depth material, including:
You can share your expertise, as well as provide reputable sources for the information you’re sharing (in fact, always do this. It’s a best practice).
The advantages to having inbound marketing campaigns are many; and no matter your industry, you’ll likely appreciate them. These include:
Everyone wants more website traffic. And not just people who typed your URL in their search bar because you gave them your business card. When done effectively, inbound marketing will result in your content popping up in SERPs. And if the title is catchy and the meta description is good enough to pique the reader’s interest, they’ll be coming to your site to find out more about what you have to say.
TV commercials are so obnoxious. Even though they’ve been around for decades and can be effective for B2C companies, the reality is that many people find them vexing. It’s why it’s common to pay extra for streaming services to skip them altogether — or for people to go get snacks, scroll through their phone, or go to the bathroom while they’re on.
However, inbound marketing provides information that the reader is actively seeking. So the only way they’ll leave your site without reading it is if you fail to follow good practices and greet them with a wall of text.
Establish Yourself as an Industry Expert
The more content you publish, the more often you will appear when someone does online searches pertaining to your industry. This is why it’s crucial to come up with an editorial calendar so that you can keep that flow steady. Think of topics that will help the reader right now, even if they don’t make a purchase from you today.
For example, if you’re a family law attorney, you could write blogs about how to work out a timesharing schedule so that your kids get equal time with both parents, or what to expect when going into mediation.
Every piece of information you publish is a new page Google has to index. The more your audience sees you, the more they have awareness of your brand. Bonus points if other businesses backlink to your content.
Even if you’re a stellar writer, there are several tools you need to ensure that you’re approaching inbound marketing the right way. Writing a scholarly article is not the same as writing for an online audience. Therefore, make sure you have the following:
Content Management System
A content management system (CMS) is a platform where you write, edit, and publish your content. Think of HubSpot, Wix, BlogSpot, SquareSpace, or Wordpress. You want to use software that’s user friendly, so that you don’t have to take time from your already busy schedule to figure out complex capabilities. Our favorite one at Bluleadz is HubSpot, because it has drag-and-drop functionalities, CTA creators, templates, and you don’t need any coding knowledge to use it.
You also want to use a tool like ahrefs or moz to search for terms that your audience is researching. You want to know their monthly search volume, as well as the difficulty to rank for those keywords on SERPs. You can get additional ideas by using their Suggested Terms features, or using other tools like Answer the Public.
Once you know which keywords you’re using, implement them into the title of your content, URL, and meta description. If you’re writing a blog, also include it in subheadings. If you’re using images (which is highly recommended, because otherwise your blog will probably look really boring), include the keywords in the image file name and in the alt text.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Using the right keywords is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to search engine optimization. You also want to link your content to other sources of information — internal within your site, and external when backing up claims. This helps Google crawl your website and index it accordingly.
You should also optimize images so that they load faster and look fine from any type of device the reader is using. Speaking of which, make sure to use a CMS with a responsive design for the same reason: Whether from a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, your content should always look appealing and easy to navigate. Not only will this make users happier, it’ll also increase the likelihood of ranking in SERPs.
Social Media Integration
While you want people to come to your site organically, it’s also good practice to promote your content. An easy way to do so is to share it on your social media platforms. Make sure you conduct market research first to see which ones your target audience prefers and focus on those.
If your CMS integrates with social media accounts, you can manage those posts directly from the CMS, and you can preschedule them all in one sitting. You should also use relevant hashtags to ensure people find you more easily.
Sometimes, the content can be great, but several tweaks here and there would make it better. For example, switching titles, layouts, or even the colors on the page. Using an inbound marketing platform that allows A/B testing makes it easy to identify what to use and what to discard. HubSpot even automatically starts displaying the options that are getting the most engagement from your audience.
Now that you know the fundamentals, you want to be aware of the best practices to be successful with your inbound marketing strategy.
1. Develop Buyer Personas
No matter how great your services are, it’s crucial to define your ideal customer. This will help narrow down the traffic that comes to your website to those who are most likely to become customers.
To create these buyer personas, you use real data (based on research and your existing customer base), as well as educated speculation about who they are, what motivates them, and what are their goals. Once you’ve fleshed this out, you can write content that’s directly targeted to this type of person.
After you create the content, you can also share it on the social media platforms that your buyer persona would typically prefer. If you’re looking for a professional crowd, LinkedIn will serve you well. If you’re selling Barry Manilow collector’s merchandise, skip TikTok and Instagram for Facebook, which tends to be preferred by Boomers. You get the drift.
2. Develop the Buyer’s Journey
A person who just became aware of a pain point is not in the same place as a person who’s spent the past several weeks doing research and is ready to buy.
This A to Z spectrum is called the buyer’s journey. It’s made up of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.
The awareness stage is when they start conducting educational research when they’ve first noticed a problem. During the consideration stage, they’ve clearly defined what they need and are looking at all the available options to solve it. The decision stage is when prospects are whittling down vendors list and are ready to purchase. An effective inbound marketing strategy includes creating content for all of these stages.
3. Conduct Market Research.
To know what your target market wants, you’ll have to first gather information about what they need, want, and what their preferences are. Doing this is crucial to prevent wasting your time marketing to unqualified leads.
Once you know their pain points, create content that provides them with value. The more you answer their questions — even those they weren’t even fully sure yet that they had — the more they start thinking of you as an industry leader and will keep coming back for more information from you.
This comes in handy so that you can see the type of content your prospects are looking for. It also allows you to find content gaps so that you can stand out from your competition. You can do A/B testing with focus groups, conduct customer satisfaction surveys, track your NPS score, and/or do market segmentation research.
4. Create a Content Strategy.
Once you have specific business goals, plan how you’re going to share it and modify it depending on the reader’s stage in their buyer’s journey. You do this with all aspects of your content — written, video, photographic. How are you going to lay them out? Where are you placing calls to action? When are you publishing what?
SEO tools like Ahrefs and Moz can help you research relevant keywords and determine how difficult it may be to rank on a search engine results page. You can use that as a starting point and create your content around it.
You should then create a cohesive editorial calendar clearly laying out each topic, keywords, and possible titles and subheadings, as well as relevant websites that are ranking well. Then craft content that’s better than what’s currently ranking well. Look for information gaps or outdated data to make what you publish more useful.
5. Optimize Content.
You can create the best content of the universe, but if it doesn’t show up in search engines, barely anyone will ever find out about it. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps you increase the likelihood of ranking on search engine results pages by letting Google know that your content is useful and relevant.
In fact, SEO drives 1,000 percent more traffic than organic social media. Some of the best SEO practices include
- Writing compelling titles and meta descriptions
- Optimizing your images for faster website loading times
- Including target keywords in the URL
- linking your pages to authoritative sources
- Using alt text for images,
- Writing for human readers
Simply stuffing your content with keywords to the extent that it sounds unnatural or robotic is useless, and can harm your site’s ranking.
Before getting started, first use an SEO tool to help you identify the user’s intent when doing the kind of search that should lead to your content.
For example, if you search “how to train for a marathon,” you’ll see that most of what pops up on Google’s first page are blogs. So write blogs.
But if you type “running shoes”, you’ll mostly get ecommerce pages showing you what they have on stock. If what you’re trying to do is sell running shoes, then you’re golden. Create an online shop.
Seeing what appears on the first results page lets you know what users researching for a similar product are looking for.
6. Provide a Good User Experience.
User experience (UX) refers to how a person feels when interacting with your content. Is your website appealing? Easy to read? Intuitive? The content and layout has to make sense for the website visitor.
It also should load fast and adapt well for mobile devices. The north star is to always be user-centric. Is your buyer persona a busy person who’ll likely be carrying a kid on one arm while scrolling through your site one-handed with the other? Are they likely to prefer video content instead of the written variety? Are they likely to be more comfortable reading larger text?
Whatever it is, design everything thinking about how to make it easiest and most enjoyable for them.
7. Track Results.
By tracking how your content is performing, you’ll be able to identify areas that are working well and which ones need to be optimized.
Do you want more people to sign up for your newsletter? Enroll in a webinar? Increase blog subscribers by 10 percent by the end of the quarter? Figure out what it is you want to accomplish, then align all your efforts to achieve it.
Keep in mind that there are many metrics, and if you try to pay attention to every single one of them, your head will spin and you’ll want to drive to the airport and never come back. So focus on what’s relevant to your specific goals. This could be website traffic, bounce rate, qualified leads, social media engagement, enrollments, conversion rate, and/or customer acquisition costs, to name a few.
As with anything else that’s truly worth it, it takes time. You could do a short-term analysis by waiting about six months to see if you notice any changes.
However, keep in mind that inbound marketing is a long-term strategy. The answer of when results will be obvious also depends on how often you publish new content — blog posts, instructional videos, webinars. Each of them is a new website page that, when optimized, increases the likelihood of one of them ranking on Google’s first page results. If everything’s done right, you could see substantial results within a year.
That said, inbound marketing shouldn’t be static. User behavior, likes, and expectations evolve with time, and so should your marketing strategy. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen overnight, so once you find a strategy that works for you, you can stick with it for a while.
Inbound marketing is an effective tool to attract the right audience. But learning about its fundamentals and all the available tools can sometimes feel overwhelming. Let us help you by conducting a free HubSpot audit. We use this platform because it has all the tools you need to transform the way you market your business. Learn what would work best for your inbound marketing campaigns, along with actionable steps so that you can move forward confidently.