Let’s create the ideal inbound marketing strategy!
You know, it’s a lot easier when leads come to you than for you to go to leads. That’s just science.
Inbound marketing has had marketers in a tizzy this past decade because it’s the surest way to make this happen. And that’s not to mention the fact that inbound’s a much more cost-effective way to generate good leads – compared to traditional advertising and outbound sales.
But, as with all the best strategies, you have to know what you’re doing to get results. So let’s talk about how to create the ideal inbound strategy, shall we?
First, what is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a cyclical method of attracting leads to your business. It has three steps:
- Attract attention to your business via search, social, digital advertising and other similar tactics. Ideally you are attracting a targeted audience, not just any old soul.
- Engage these individuals to learn more about them, then personalise their experience with your business to establish trust, authority and customer loyalty.
- Delight these individuals to turn them into brand advocates that spread your message further, while you continue to promote your message alongside.
The idea here is that your business acts as a beacon of authority and helpfulness that prospects can engage with. This trust puts you front of mind when they are ready to convert. Inbound doesn’t just scream BUY ME, it walks people through the steps they need to take to get to a point where they think of it themselves.
Does this work for B2C as well as B2B?
Absolutely. The only real differences are the people you’re speaking to and the length of their lead time. B2B marketing typically has a very specific target market that takes a while to convert, whereas B2C businesses often focus on broad consumer demographics and getting a quick sale.
Fundamentally, though, the act of establishing awareness, trust and advocacy remains the same for both categories.
OK, now let’s talk about inbound marketing strategy
We’ve written out a general inbound strategy below, which you can follow start to finish to learn how it works. You will need to make tweaks where applicable to make it work for your specific business.
Step 1 – Create user personas
You can’t attract an audience without knowing who they are! So, first things first, you’ll need user personas – that is, a guide that outlines who your audience is and what they are looking for.
You can’t attract an audience without knowing who they are!
It’s OK to have multiple user personas if you have more than one audience sub-group, so long as you can accurately outline who each group is. Your personas should include:
- A user’s job title, responsibility and skills.
- Their demographic.
- Their goals, challenges and pain points.
- Their level of assumed knowledge (about your product).
- What they are looking for online and, more specifically, on your website.
And you can pull this data from:
- Google Analytics.
- Social media.
- Email marketing data (if you have it).
- Customer surveys.
- Your salespeople.
This information should be wrapped up into little one-page cards on each ‘persona’, so it can be easily referred to and updated over time. Learn more on our page ‘How to create user personas’.
Step 2 – Establish inbound marketing goals
Establishing a goal is the first step to achieving it. Once we know who we’re talking to, we can think about what we want these people to do when they interact with our marketing materials.
To create inbound goals, you will need to understand the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel, in its simplest form, breaks your users into three interest stages:
- Top of funnel: They haven’t heard of your brand and aren’t ready to convert. Users are searching for general information.
- Middle of funnel: They may have heard of you or the problem you can solve, but are still not ready to purchase. That said, they are comparing options and are thinking about it, or are more aware of their problems and require next-level information.
- Bottom of funnel: They have heard of you and/or are now actively seeking a solution to their problem.
Nurturing people through this funnel is what’s going to get them from “Who are you?” to “When can I buy?”.
Now we establish specific goals
Every digital marketing strategy should have measurable goals.
- Examples of good measurable goals: For B2B, think “Get X more demo requests per month”. A good B2C goal could be “Increase XYZ product sales per month”. These are good because they are linked to business success and, more importantly, they can be measured. Newsletter subscriptions, ebook downloads and Facebook likes are further examples of good goals.
- Example of bad measurable goals: “Become a thought leader”. While a great goal, it can’t be measured so it’s hard to determine success.
Step 3 – Plan your funnel
With goals established, now we can nurture prospects through the funnel.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurture is the act of engaging with prospects at different stages of the funnel and encouraging them, through multiple customised interactions, further towards your goal. The user’s experience with your brand is tailored to their needs (using automated processes), so the message they receive is always relevant.
- Example of a short lead nurture campaign: You write a blog piece targeted at the middle of the funnel. A user finds your article via Google and clicks on it because it appears to answer the question they have. The article answers their question, and gives them the confidence to take another step. Within that article, you advertise a whitepaper that could be their next step. They click, enter their contact details and now you’ve got the lead.
- Example of a long lead nurture campaign: Using email automation software, you send out a relevant piece of content to your database. Later, you send a follow up, but what users now see is dependent on how they reacted to the first piece of content (click and read, click but don’t read, don’t click). This process continues. The users who keep engaging see content that becomes increasingly salesy as they move down the marketing funnel. Those who start to drop out are sent different content, perhaps animated videos, to keep their engagement even if they don’t proceed yet. Folks who are clearly not interested are dropped out.
For reference, that second method is called a ‘drip campaign’.
Once you have these leads, you can send them further pieces of relevant content, or have sales reach out (depending on their location in the funnel).
Step 4 – Create content in line with your goals
It’s time to create content. Content is the meat of your lead generating sandwich. It’s what users will engage with, learn from, and use as a roadmap to your established goal.
We recommend you create a variety of content pieces targeted at different stages of the marketing funnel, so you have a variety to work with. Examples include:
- Top of funnel: General educational content that could include blogs, videos and graphics.
- Middle of funnel: More specific or niche blog topics (for a better-informed audience), ebooks and whitepapers, webinars, Slideshares.
- Bottom of funnel: Case studies, customer testimonials, animated product demos.
Where does SEO fit into inbound marketing?
SEO is a powerful passive tool for generating leads. As you can glean from our short lead nurture example above, search engines are a good way to attract the right kind of audience to your website.
If you write a blog that educates on a particular topic, the people who find it on search are those who searched for it specifically – that means they obviously have that problem, therefore your content is highly relevant. Compare this to a paid Facebook ad blasted out to as many people as possible.
Landing pages can also be used in the same SEO capacity. Your landing page highlights a service, someone Googles with a need for this service, they land on your site.
- Bonus point: SEO takes time. It’s a long-term strategy. One piece of SEO-driven content won’t help your whole site to rank. You need to optimise your entire site and all your content, and keep posting regularly to maintain relevance online. This takes time and energy, but it grows more cost effective over time so it’s worth maintaining.
Step 5 – Amplify your content to spread awareness
Content amplification is the final tool in your inbound toolbelt and indeed the string on your bow. With a bit of effort followed by a mighty TWANG, it’s going to propel your content and – thus – your inbound efforts far across the battlefield.
Amplification generally comes in two forms:
Organic social: That is, setting up, growing and maintaining a social media presence where users like, comment and share your posts. This strategy requires you to post consistently and focus on producing engaging content that people would actually want to engage with – limit that sales fluff!
Paid advertising: That is, paying for platforms like Google Ads and social media ads to amplify your reach. This is also called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, because you’re typically charged – you guessed it – by click. This strategy gives content an effective short-term boost, but it has little long-term benefit. When you turn it off, it’s off. It’s usually best to pair PPC advertising with organic social media and SEO to get both short and long-term gains.
Is influencer marketing the same thing?
More or less. Except with influencer marketing, somebody else is doing the amplification for you. You can read more about influencer marketing in the article “Is influencer marketing right for you?”.
Inbound marketing is a cost effective way of having leads come to you, but requires a long-term commitment to making and promoting content to have maximum reach. It follows a cycle involving these steps:
- Figure out your target audience.
- Establish measurable goals.
- Set up a lead nurturing plan.
- Make content to get users into the pipeline.
- Promote content using social media and PPC.
You will also likely need some kind of automation software such as Hubspot or Marketo to help you, and perhaps even an agency to get some of the tricky bits right – e.g. SEO, producing enough content, or even running the whole thing on your behalf.
And if this article has tickled your fancy, we’ve got even more tips for you in our free ebook “Inbound marketing best practices in 2018”.