One of the biggest challenges in marketing is how to generate more leads and close more sales. The good news: inbound marketing is making it much easier to do those things. Today, three out of four marketers across the globe are taking an inbound approach to marketing.
The term “inbound” used to refer to a call center – a busy, loud and chaotic environment. These days, the term has been adopted by digital marketers and is most simply defined as the effort to attract clients in the pursuit of capturing leads online. It means pulling customers in(bound) to you, instead of pushing your messages out(bound) to them.
Inbound is like fishing. You send your lure out to capture the fish interested in your bait. Instead of blasting out ads or pushing a hard sales pitch on a prospect, inbound marketing uses helpful, educational content to attract visitors (stuff they actually want or need) and gets them to engage with a brand on their own. Like great fishermen, leading marketers understand that, from attracting a lead to closing a deal, inbound is about winning the long game.
Typically, the inbound methodology integrates multiple, digital channels throughout the sales funnel. It might include social media or blogging, but it almost always includes a form on a landing page, as well as a content offer (like a fact sheet or white paper) which visitors can download. The goal is to capture the names and email addresses of those interested in your content offer, so that you can follow up with the potential customer(s) about your product or service.
If you decide to use this method when you’re fishing for leads, here are five things you should know:
1) Excellent strategy is driven by key personas and the sales funnel.
It is imperative that your key personas and sales funnel inform and drive the design of your content. To ensure that you hit your target, this means conducting solid research and data analysis, as well as maintaining the flexibility to pivot mid-campaign. When developing your personas, don’t base them on stereotypes about your target market. Instead, do your homework first.
“Personas” is an umbrella term that combines your demo, psycho, and anecdotal information into one “fictional character.”
Consider using all three types of marketing research (exploratory, descriptive, casual). That might include mining for expert opinions; analyzing social media data; conducting polls, surveys, lab investigations and focus groups.
Bottom line: the more information you’re able to capture, the more comprehensive, accurate read you’ll have on who you’re talking to, what they want to talk about, how they prefer to communicate and, in some cases, when they want to communicate. This research should be ongoing, so that you can deepen your understanding and capture changes in the buying cycle of the target audience.
2) Marry your sales team.
The sales team can be a huge asset to marketing (just as marketing is a huge asset for sales). Benefits include:
> Better insights into what works and what does not work with prospects
> Informal research that can contribute to developing personas
> Anecdotal sales stories that clue you in on market shifts to investigate
> Current target lists to tailor your inbound campaigns
> Opportunities to better define marketing and sales qualified leads.
3) Attract -- don’t interrupt -- with great content!
Create great content that attracts prospects to you. There’s a place for interruptive marketing (aka advertising) -- but this isn’t it. Leave the catchy sales pitch behind and think about what your target market wants to read or learn about in order to bring them to your site.
Too often, B2B companies believe their content needs to be super serious, which makes it dry and (yawn) robotic. Don’t forget that B2B target personas are still people! Look for inspiration from B2C companies (if you’re B2B), as well as from companies outside your immediate vertical. Many of us would welcome some fun, interesting storytelling incorporated into B2B collateral (like this fun dog; you’re welcome).
4) Your blog is the center of this universe.
All paths -- from search engines to social media to media pitching -- lead to the company blog.
Once you’ve brought viewers to your blog, you can capture leads by setting up landing pages, making calls to action and providing downloadable content that requires the user to input their information to a form.
When developing content, start with the downloadable offer. Although it may be tempting to develop the content in order of the sales funnel, if you start with the largest piece of content in your campaign, such as a webinar, white paper, or ebook, you’ll save time and energy developing all the other pieces of content.
Because the hard work around research and conceptualization is done up front, the rest of the content can be sliced and diced to create multiple blog articles, infographics, social posts, memes, and earned media articles.
This is what we (at Tigercomm) call a content echo-chamber; it is the process of digital amplification.
5) It takes time.
Inbound does not result in leads overnight. Instead, it is a slow and progressive process that requires lead nurturing. However, none of the hard work will be wasted if you keep at it – promise! The research shows that inbound campaigns achieve higher ROI than outbound. [Tweet " Inbound campaigns achieve higher ROI than outbound via @scalinggreen @lippincottpost"]This holds true across different company sizes and budgets. And the benefits compound over time with increased traffic and search engine ranking.
In a study, nearly 93% of companies saw an increase in lead generation by month seven of their inbound campaigns.
The number of leads depends on the industry and your commitment, of course. But a good starting point is to assume a 2 percent lead-gen and adjust your calculations up or down based on actual response.
Ultimately, if you want to increase volume at the top of the funnel while increasing conversion percentage at the bottom, make friends with your sales colleagues and start fishing with inbound.