Every good pitch starts with the challenge you are trying to solve. An effective inbound marketing strategy solves the lack of quality leads and the increasing price pressure your sales team faces every day.
Why? Today’s B2B buyer navigates over 70% of the purchase process before engaging a solution provider. They no longer talk to your sales team until they have conducted research, evaluated brands, built an internal consensus on solutions and providers, and established their purchase criterion. If you are not contributing to that process via inbound marketing strategies, then your sales team is left to negotiate on price, assuming they even get the call.
Using Inbound Marketing to Educate and Empower your Buyers
Inbound marketing can establish your brand’s value early in the purchase cycle. Your prospect will engage with content that answers their questions and enhances their knowledge. In fact, a solid inbound strategy can do exactly what you would want your salesperson to do if they still had the chance. It can play the role of a trusted advisor. That is, good inbound strategies “listen” to the buyer and provide insightful guidance at each step of the purchase process to help them be successful.
Here are the key elements of an effective inbound marketing strategy:
- Know your audience (p.s. sales can help with this). Your content and campaigns will miss the mark if you don’t know what your audience cares about or how they navigate the purchase process. It takes milliseconds to click away from your content. You must capture them with motivators or barrier-breakers that are truly meaningful to them. You can read all about audience personas here.
- Lead with value and transparency. Marketing/business ‘speak’ is an engagement killer. If the first line of your whitepaper says anything like, “…we are a leader in transformational change driven by core frameworks of operational excellence and sustainability…”, then you’re dead, “click”. Just give them what they’re looking for. Make it easy, intuitive, and answer their questions honestly. Business ‘speak’ and/or a heavy-selling approach are why they aren’t taking your sales teams’ calls in the first place.
- Dynamic content. It’s not enough to create a bank of good content and then go dark for a long period of time. Google loves fresh content. So does your prospect. In the B2B world of long, complex sales cycles, you need to publish new content on a regular basis. This is generally governed by a rolling 90-day editorial calendar that is aligned with your audience personas and the various stages of their purchase cycle. Learn more about content stacks here.
- Your website. To be effective, your site needs to be optimized from a UX/UI and SEO perspective, while also being fast and outfitted with the right content hierarchy, user paths, and CTAs.
- Your organic social media presence. The larger your following on social, the greater your reach. That’s critical not just for connecting with prospective buyers, but also for establishing additional credibility for your brand.
- Content amplification tactics. You want your content to drive traffic to your website, but you can’t assume that’s going to happen organically. Instead, drive prospects to your content and website via targeted paid digital campaigns across social media, search, sponsorships on trade/analyst websites, and programmatic campaigns.
- Data. Perhaps most important component of all, data is the key to optimizing performance. By understanding how your existing content is performing, you can make informed decisions about how to adjust future content and campaigns.
While each of these components are critical to effective inbound marketing, you ultimately need to unite them by developing a thoughtful strategy.
Building Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Developing an inbound marketing strategy may sound like a lengthy or daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be — especially if you’re working with the right partner. In our experience, the best way to develop a sound, comprehensive strategy is to consider these steps:
- Conduct a situation analysis to make sure you understand exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are. This analysis might include a competitive study, business and brand research, detailed customer evaluation, or, ideally, all three.
- Look at your brand positioning so you know how you well you are aligned with demand in the marketplace and how you compare to your competitors. That positioning should include a purchase cycle analysis, an understanding of your brand’s most meaningful attributes, and how your prospects currently view your brand vs. your competition.
- Finally, define your business objectives, so that you know what you want to accomplish and can monitor your progress.
Once you’ve completed this work, you’ll be well-positioned to develop an inbound marketing strategy that consists of defined goals; a clear understanding of your target audience and brand positioning; your preferred content and media platforms; a thoughtful approach to campaigns and amplification; and finally a robust approach to measurement.
Inbound marketing is not easy, and doing it well is practically a fine art. However, your leadership team shouldn’t be discouraged. Meeting your buyers where they are, with the information they need and a plan for engagement, is always worth it.