Inbound marketing is a way to promote yourself through useful or simply exciting content.
Content is not just blog articles or YouTube videos. Content is everything you show on the Internet:
social networking posts
answers to questions on forums and in comments
guest posts, etc.
Through interaction with you and your content, consumer loyalty gradually grows and they are ready to start working with you.
Hubspot introduced the term “inbound marketing” as a contrast to outbound marketing, when many companies were fond of mass spamming, cold calling, mailing of letters and catalogs, massive advertising, distribution of leaflets, etc.
Many people simplify the idea of inbound marketing into a chain:
traffic via SEO -> blog articles -> email capture via suggested downloads -> email chain (or regular email lists) -> deal. Or simply substitute with the closely related concept of “content marketing.” This is not quite right.
The development of digital marketing technologies has made the options for implementing the methodology of inbound marketing much more diverse than the chain described above (SEO-blog-lead-mails-deal). Today any type of content is available: articles, videos, posts on social networks, interactive content, online courses. And any kind of communication — not only emails and SMS / phone calls but also communication on social networks, messengers, chat rooms, and chatbots on websites.
Social networks and retargeting have greatly enhanced the ability to quickly distribute your content to the audience that is currently interested in that content. And even in some ways have made it less necessary to capture your customer’s contacts when they come to your site. Virtually all advertising platforms allow you to retarget to get the right message to the right customer without even knowing their email address.
Each interaction with a potential or current customer should bring him additional value: new interesting information, answers to his questions, solutions to his current problems.
The core of the methodology of inbound marketing is analyzing the customer profile, analyzing their customer journey, identifying topics of interest at different stages of their customer journey, and offering the right/interesting content at the right time.
The methodology of inbound marketing does not stay the same, evolving with technology and changes in consumer behavior. Previously, inbound marketing was mostly understood as working with content on blogs. Still, now the possibilities of communication with clients have become much wider — messengers, chatbots, chats on the site, and social networks (especially the possibility of advertising in social networks and retargeting) have brought the effectiveness of inbound companies to a whole new level.
By creating engaging, relevant content that informs and educates your potential customers in a clear, creative way, you can begin to gain credibility and establish yourself as an opinion leader in your industry.
Today we’re going to talk about how inbound marketing works and strategies to empower B2B.
How does inbound marketing work?
So how does inbound marketing work? It all starts with an analysis of your customer profile. Who is our customer? In the case of B2B, we describe the person (or people) making the decision. What are their demographics (age, education, gender)? What are their goals and objectives? What problems do they have? What do they like to do? What do they read? What pages/topics do they follow on social media? What events do they attend? And so on.
Next, we analyze how our consumer decides to buy our product or service — we describe their customer journey.
The analysis allows us to identify topics of interest to the consumer, in which we have the expertise and about which we can say something interesting. Based on this, we create content (in any form — the most common type is blog articles, but it can also be videos, podcasts, webinars, live streams, recordings of your speeches at conferences, interactive questionnaires). By the way, after a detailed analysis of the portrait of the consumer, it often becomes clear in what form they perceive the content better.
The key here is to create content that is interesting to the consumer, not content about your product. If you’re making a product for marketing directors, you could write an article called “Top 10 Linkedin Profiles of Marketing Directors” or “Key Metrics Every Marketing Director Should Monitor.” You make this content to attract the attention of your target audience and to denote your expertise in certain issues. Different content is created for each stage of the customer journey. In the first stages, it’s typically non-sales content, which may not even mention that you have a product or solution. In the following stages, the content can become more and more salling — cases, product features, and finally, when the customer is ready to buy, sales texts.
The prepared content is communicated to potential buyers through all available channels: blogs, emails, social networks (including advertising), third-party publications, webinars, etc.
In the past, the emphasis was mainly on SEO and, to some extent, contextual advertising. Many people complained that you have to wait a long time for results from SEO and have to generate a lot of content before it starts to bring results.
But with today’s advances in advertising technology (primarily on social media), time-to-market for your content has dropped to literally days or even hours.
You probably saw this article on Facebook, probably even faster than Google indexed it and included it in the search results somewhere in the 20s or 30s.
Interesting, engaging content and social media advertising are literally made for each other. Today, it’s the cheapest and most effective way to get a quick response to your content and not expensive traffic for you.
Next, by hooking the potential buyer, you lead them through your lead warming process — offering new content (already closer related to your product), appealing to problems your product solves, perhaps case studies of your previous work, testimonials, and calling for the final step (either buying something or making contact with a salesperson).
For whom does inbound marketing not work?
With some reservations, inbound marketing can work badly for products with a low price, for products with a very short sales cycle. And on the other hand — too long sales cycle (several years), a very high price (several million dollars or more), and a very narrow market (e.g., producers of pipes for gas pipelines or prime jets for billionaires).
But if you look at the brands around you, the successful companies you work with, you will find that they all at least use most of the inbound marketing tools.
When you need inbound marketing
Your brand lacks recognition.
You’re not happy with your conversion rates. Orabrush has achieved a 10-fold increase in conversions from a promotional page thanks to its inbound methods.
You want to achieve an increase in audience loyalty, increase LTV
The audience chooses competitors, although you have no less favorable terms and quality products.
You want to increase market share with a small advertising budget. Recruiting company Firefish Software can boast of such a “success story,” which with the help of inbound marketing increased customer retention by 94%, purchase requests — by 190%, and traffic — by 355%.
Myths about inbound marketing
1. You need to create a lot of content
Of course, the more content, the better. But it’s not necessary to achieve results. Competent customer journey analysis and scaling through advertising channels are more effective than generating a huge amount of content.
2. You have to wait a long time for results.
This myth comes from the fact that the term inbound marketing appeared ten years ago when SEO was the main channel for attracting customers. Today, with much more money, you can start getting results much faster.
3. Content needs to sell.
Many people make the mistake of trying to build selling texts into content for the early stages.
4. Users will come to interesting content for free
Perhaps the biggest mistake is ignoring paid channels to distribute content. Many are willing to spend budgets to write texts and record videos — hired expensive PR agencies, which distribute your information through offline and online channels. But advertising non-selling content is not accepted by any advertisers. At the same time, interesting, engaging content can work wonders in advertising. With interesting, relevant topics, it can achieve very high rates (up to 25% CTR when advertising to a cold audience and over 50,000 impressions). And then, through retargeting, warm up an interested audience by turning them into leads and then into clients.
Benefits of inbound marketing
First, let’s look at the benefits of inbound marketing.
Reduced advertising costs
The company will stop draining the budget on mass coverage and focus on contact with the target audience. Classic marketing works with high spending and a massive advertising bombardment through television and other media. Inbound marketing is all about painstakingly working on content and its usefulness to your audience.
If you want your articles, videos, and podcasts to sell, work on their quality, distribution, and SEO promotion. Then the content won’t go unnoticed.
Information spreads fast on the web, and useful one spreads even faster. People like, comment, or repost your posts, and thanks to that, it will be seen by their friends, who will probably become new customers. And if you find the right topic that stays relevant for a long time, you’ll beat your competitors in the long run.
Through inbound marketing, customers make a conscious choice in favor of your brand and trust your expertise.
Disadvantages of inbound marketing
Despite the pros of inbound marketing, this strategy also has its cons.
Attracting customers while being cheaper will require patience. First, you have to create content, distribute it, and wait for potential customers to notice and share it. All of this takes time.
An inbound marketing strategy involves researching customer needs, analyzing competitors’ content and the marketplace. To create useful content that will respond to the “pains” of the audience, you need to understand the topic and involve experts.
Classical marketing gives pure statistics. For example, you can find out the number of clicks on links in advertising and orders after a series of cold calls. Inbound marketing has no such thing: reads, reposts, and comments after an article is published do not always lead to instant purchases.
Inbound marketing strategies
New technology is expanding the number of ways companies can interact with consumers, and the number of available channels that can be used as touchpoints is constantly growing. Marketing strategies also need to adapt to changes in the marketplace, or you could find yourself falling behind at one “great” moment.
Inbound marketing is good because it allows you to attract visitors, generate leads and sales using SEO, content marketing, social media, and other channels that users perceive as organic. It’s not repulsive, unlike conventional advertising, which can be extremely intrusive.
And here are 7 inbound marketing strategies you can start using right now to attract visitors to your company website and convert them into customers for your business.
Creating content and then posting it on your website and on third-party resources is an integral part of your inbound marketing strategy. A business that generates content that is useful to its target audience has a much better chance of attracting the attention of potential customers. And the more in-depth the subject matter in each specific article, the greater the return on them will be.
A handy tool in the context of solving content marketing problems for businesses is blogging. And even if it seems to you that you are working on an extremely “boring” topic, and there will simply be nothing to write about in the blog, remember that the decisive factor is not the topic but the approach.
The main thing — pay attention to developing a strategy, because publications on the blog should answer the questions of your potential customers, help them in choosing and solving possible problems, and in general — start from the interests of the target audience.
The blog acts as a launching platform for content and is closely integrated with other components of inbound marketing. After an article is published, you can add it to your social media pages, send it out via email, or even make a video based on the material.
Quality content is a good thing. But high-quality and optimized content is even better. After all, it doesn’t just allow you to attract traffic. It allows you to attract free traffic. With regular work in this direction, the visibility of the site in search will constantly grow, increasing the recognition of your brand and attracting new customers.
In addition to the texts, many different technical points need to be worked through to prepare the site for active promotion and remove obstacles that could interfere with it. This includes eliminating doubles and scripting errors, optimizing and uniqueness of the meta tags, adapting the design for mobile devices, increasing the site’s speed, working on the semantic core, migrating to the HTTPS protocol, and many more other issues.
As a rule, customers of more companies start choosing a product or service with a Google search. This is your first point of contact, and you have to make sure that the pages on your site are optimized for relevant keywords. Otherwise, instead of a link to your project, the search engine will show them a link to your competitors’ site.
Only social networks allow you to bring the necessary information to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people with just one or two clicks, by publishing a post on your page. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn — your audience can “live” in any of these social networks, and quite often, they do not overlap. Therefore, it is necessary to compare the effectiveness of each of them to find the channel that will be optimal in your case.
In almost every topic, social media can be used to build a loyal community and attract and retain an engaged audience. And for some niches, it works especially well. And the results can be pleasantly gratifying. The main thing is not to forget to pay attention to the metrics of social networks!
So if you’ve written a great article and published it on your site, you can relax and sit back on the couch and fill up the champagne glass? Whatever the case, this is just the beginning of a great journey. And the first thing to do is to post new material to the available social networks. There is no need to be limited to free methods because investment in paid advertising may well justify itself.
Email marketing is an element of an early strategy; you shouldn’t expect immediate results here. The main thing you can achieve by working in this area of inbound marketing is to build and develop relationships to retain a core of loyal audiences.
Here you won’t be limited by search engine algorithms, the need to spend money on Facebook promotional posts, or other restrictions from platforms. Email marketing provides an invaluable opportunity these days — to communicate with your audience directly, without any filters.
In general, email newsletters can also be seen as an element of an outbound marketing strategy. However, email content is usually built around providing subscribers with content to retain them and increase their loyalty while creating a regular flow of traffic to the site.
Because such content provides value to your readers and subscribers, rather than just being used as another way to advertise your products and services, it can be considered another form of inbound marketing.
People love to watch videos and share videos, and Google includes videos in its search results, allowing you to increase your presence in search results further. For some purposes, such as education and entertainment, videos are the best way to go. And for something like demonstrating a product’s capabilities in action, it’s a tool that’s beyond the competition.
When creating video content, follow the same rules as to when writing articles — your main priority is to answer potential customers’ questions, help them solve problems, make choices, etc. And sometimes you just need to tell people something interesting and entertain them.
By placing links to your site under each new video, in the channel description, mentioning it in the video itself, and, if necessary, in the comments, you can turn YouTube into a stable source of quality thematic traffic.
Tell something about yourself
As you can see, the main work in the direction of inbound marketing is to create high-quality and relevant content for the audience. But that’s not enough, because the Internet is a big place, and even if you create delightful and extremely useful content if no one knows about it — all the effort is useless. That’s why you yourself need to tell those who are your target audience about yourself.
Content should not only be created but also actively distributed, using a variety of channels. After all, with the same article, you can:
publish it on a blog;
start a mailing list;
publish on a personal page in a social network;
run a promotional post on Facebook/Instagram;
use as a script for a video.
As you can see, there are more than enough options. Although not every channel will be profitable, the one who searches will find the way out!
Nothing inspires more credibility than practical facts. That’s why cases are a powerful tool for inbound marketing. Share stories with customers about how you know how to solve problems. The more unique your experience and the more different it is from your competitors, the better.
Case information is the projects you’ve implemented for clients. Tell your visitors what problems the customer had and how you solved them. If there are few projects, describe them all. If there are many, choose the best and the most interesting. For example, work with a well-known client, a non-standard task, a large-scale project, an outstanding result. Choose projects that show your business from different angles: one case about a difficult niche, another about a tight deadline, the third about a good result.
Effective inbound marketing: tips
For an inbound marketing promotion strategy to work, follow these rules.
Study your niche and your competitors’ strategy
This is necessary to choose the main promotion tool and improve your offer in it. For example, a small beauty salon is better suited for a group on Facebook — in this social network, it is easier to find your target audience. A bank or travel agency will attract customers through an expert blog on its own website. Remember that the chosen tool will be the main source of leads. Focus your efforts on it and keep track of the results.
Get to know your customers, identify their interests
If in outbound marketing marketers hope for chance: they say that the customer will surrender to compulsive advertising and let himself be persuaded. Then inbound marketing is different: the task of inbound marketing — to solve the problem of the customer.
You will not earn on catchy headlines — you need to clearly understand who your audience is: students or retirees, adventurers or homebodies, dreamers or pragmatists. Study what problems these people have and how to solve them with your content.
Read about how to create quality educational posts and articles in our article.
Form a content plan
If you’ve figured out your business, your main platform for communicating with your audience and your customers’ needs, it’s time to make sense of your interactions with them and create a content plan.
Figure out what challenges you need to solve with your content strategy.
Analyze your target audience, your business, your competitors.
Prepare a general list of topics and publication ideas.
Make a list of topics for the month.
Check the balance of rubrics and the ratio of content types.
When choosing a new topic to publish, ask yourself each time: What specific customer problem does this piece solve? For example, this article will help you understand inbound marketing and put its tools into practice.
A little tip: If you already have an audience on your social networks or website, try to poll your readers to see what content would be useful to them.
Diversify your content
Don’t use text content only: experiment with polls, videos, infographics, and podcasts.
If you have a narrow topic, think about unique content, such as answers to readers’ questions or video interviews with company experts.
Get closer to your customers
Always keep your audience informed of your offerings, but don’t flood them with ads not to be intrusive. An inbound marketing strategy is characterized by attention to customer interests. Give the person a choice. Offer options for interaction: from a newsletter subscription to several types of services. The customer will trust you and have an interest in the product.
The bottom line
The fact that inbound marketing provides a good return when done well does not mean that it will be easy. Given the need to work on several fronts, the laboriousness, and the many nuances, implementing such a marketing strategy will require consistency and persistence.
Unlike the same contextual advertising, there is no on/off button — you will have to start small and then grow and develop. This is normal. Easy ways to success are found only in movies and texts on sites of self-development gurus.
What is most interesting — you can start with a minimum budget, or even without it. Yes, you will still have to invest in the future, but you will be able to reinvest from the dividends. It is always more enjoyable to work long distances because marathon runners always have fewer competitors than those who prefer to run easily.