What is Inbound marketing
and how does it work for B2B?
You’re sitting at your desk and the phone rings – it’s an irritating cold call from an organization trying to sell you something you don’t need. You log on to the internet and a pop-up obscures the page you’re trying to visit. You go out to lunch and a promoter on the street interrupts your conversation to hand you a leaflet you don’t want.
What do these scenarios have in common?
They are all examples of traditional marketing, which aims to push a message at the market, often in an intrusive way that prioritizes the needs of the company pushing the message over the needs of the organization that’s receiving it.
Inbound Marketing turns this model on its head.
Instead of putting your message and your marketing goals at the forefront of your content, you look at the business needs of your clients and aim to solve them in a way that draws them to you, pulling them in instead of pushing your message at them.
Inbound is about being less intrusive, more engaging and significantly more cost effective, while building a relationship with prospects based on attraction rather than interruption.
Organizations create content that is interesting, useful or insightful to attract potential leads to their website. Once there, prospects are incentivized to share their details with a free content offer. This might be an e-book, a webinar, a video course or anything that supports the visitor’s business goals.
When the lead’s details are stored in a CRM, they can be nurtured via email. Since the lead volunteered their information, and they already have a relationship with the organization based on having consumed that information, they’re more likely to open emails and become customers or clients.
Organizations can then continue to build and maintain the relationship by providing high quality content on an ongoing basis. The CRM allows you to see a linear timeline of a prospect's interactions with your company through different tactics and platforms (social, email, web).
In order to create tailored and relevant content, it’s essential to create buyer personas that identify specifically who your target is. These are personifications of your ideal clients. Once you know who they are and what matters to them, it becomes easier to bring them into your marketing funnel.
A B2B buyer persona like ‘Finance Frank’ might identify what sector and role Frank works in, what the structure of his team might look like, what problems and opportunities he faces every day in his role, an estimated budget he might have to solve those problems, and educated guesses as to where Frank goes to find trusted information on products and services.
Every touchpoint, every piece of content, and every experience is tailored to a buyer persona.
Go deeper: Read more about B2B buyer personas
The Buyer's Journey
Most people do extensive research before making a big purchase, and this is especially true in a business context where clients may have to show their decision-making process for compliance reasons.
That’s why it’s important to build a relationship with your prospects instead of simply pushing your products and services at them.
There are three main stages of the Buyer Journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision Making.
At the Awareness stage, your clients realize they need a solution to a particular problem but they haven’t fully defined that problem or how they are going to solve it yet.
At the Consideration stage, the problem has now been defined and your clients are actively looking into solutions.
At the Decision-making stage, your prospects are ready to make a purchase.
Different types of content are appropriate for the different stages.
For Awareness, you might write SEO-optimized blog posts so that your prospect will find your website when they do a Google search related to their problem.
Once they click through to your site, you might offer Consideration content such as a relevant e-book that helps explain various solutions related to the prospect's unique business challenges. To access the e-book, they will need to enter their email address – at which point you can begin to nurture the relationship.
Whereas the Awareness and Consideration stages are designed to offer helpful content, the Decision stage is where you offer specific information about your products and services that will help prospects differentiate you from other entities.
Each stage of the buyer journey should offer the prospect a 'next step'. The entire process should feel fluid and intuitive. CTAs (Calls To Action) should be clear, concise, and logical.
A better alignment of sales and marketing
In the Inbound methodology, the marketing relationship can be longer than the sales relationship. Potential clients first become subscribers, then a relationship is built through the delivery of tailored, relevant content, until eventually the prospect becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL).
In many organizations, Sales and Marketing don’t integrate with each other holistically (read more about this). As the buyer moves from Awareness to Consideration to Decision, Marketing has a crucial role in taking them through the funnel. This process can improve the quality and quantity of SQLs, and can generate valuable intelligence that will aid in the sales process.
HubSpot offer sales tools that integrate Sales with Marketing through the CRM to offer enhanced sales capabilities. For instance, you can trigger a sales alert based on a particular prospect action that would allow a salesperson to pick up the phone when the solution is still top of mind for the prospect.
Conversion optimization and enhanced user experience
Improving your conversion rate is one of the fastest ways to boost sales. Imagine you have a landing page on your site or an email list that currently converts at 5%. For every hundred people that engage, five become leads, or even make a purchase. If you could optimize that page or list to the extent that the conversion rate increases to 8%, the end result would be a pretty dramatic increase in leads and ultimately sales.
A/B testing is a best practice that can help you raise your conversion rate, and it is an important part of any good Inbound strategy.
Demonstrating ROI with a centralized 'bird's eye view' of marketing metrics
Back in the 1900s, John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.” That’s the problem that integrated inbound marketing and automation help to solve.
You need to be able to tell which of your marketing activities are working and which are not. HubSpot allows you to easily identify the sources of your traffic, and to follow your contacts through their journey on your site. You can see when they engage and how often, where they come from and what they do. Ultimately, you can also track purchases, giving you a direct ROI figure.
Unlike tools like Google Analytics, it can even monitor contacts you met offline at events or pop-ups whose details you input into the system.
So you’ll soon know if your SEO project is paying dividends by looking at your organic traffic, or if it’s your latest email sequence that’s really driving people to your site.
Inbound and B2B
Inbound Marketing is used in B2C (often quite well), but B2B marketing is where Inbound can really shine. Unlike B2C where there is a huge focus on Buzzfeed-style ‘info-tainment’ content, B2B content tends to be much more practical. B2B Inbound Marketing must provide insight, actionable business tips and useful tools.
In the financial services sector, EY.com does a good job of attracting users in by providing a wealth of important and up-to-date information for visitors. The content comes in a variety of formats, is expert-driven, and contains no fluff – it’s full of actionable information visitors need and can use immediately.
Here are some helpful tips on producing effective B2B inbound content.
Is it difficult to shift to Inbound-thinking?
A shift in mind-set is indeed required – but once made, you won't look back. It’s a better choice for your customers because it puts them at the heart of your marketing efforts, aiming to provide genuine insight to them as they make business decisions. It’s also a better choice for your organization, since it helps you build trust and attract new clients rather than simply pushing a message out and hoping for the best.
Can we re-use existing content?
Absolutely! In fact, it’s a great place to start. Audit your existing content and see what has performed best in the past. You can go back to older content you have produced to update and optimize it. It’s a great opportunity to make sure the information is still relevant and valid, that your SEO is strong, and to share it once again on your social channels or to your email list.
How can I make sure that I am fueling my funnel with the right content? And how will I produce it?
Good, strategic, helpful content is the key to the successful implementation of an Inbound marketing strategy, so these are critical considerations. Whether you go internal or external, you need to make sure that you have a well-designed content strategy.
Make sure that whoever you work with (internal or external) is Inbound-certified, and able to put together and manage a content strategy that will align tightly with your business goals. Make sure you have the resources available to actively promote the content.
Quality is more important than quantity. Aim for a minimum of 2-4 times per month and pump it up higher if you can, but never take shortcuts on quality. If you need to start slow and ramp up, that's OK – as long as you know exactly where you are going.
How does Inbound relate to SEO?
More than ever, content is critical – but in a new way. Things are changing in SEO. The new reality involves AI-based algorithms that work to interpret intent regardless of keywords, and to match those inquiries with content that has topic authority.
Learn about topic clusters in this short video:
While SEO strategy can be complex and requires expertise to execute properly, a good marketing automation platform can help you get the most SEO benefit from your content.
Do I need a marketing automation platform to do Inbound?
No. Inbound is a way of thinking about marketing that can be beneficial regardless of what platform you have or don't have. It's simply a more intelligent, effective way of aligning your marketing efforts around customer needs and experience.
A marketing automation platform can be hugely beneficial to getting the most out of an inbound strategy. One of the biggest advantages is having a centralized place where you can access and administer all your marketing tools, and easily pull reports to show metrics, KPIs and most importantly, ROI. This makes 'reporting up' a lot easier.
We work with companies to supply inbound content and strategy regardless of platform. We chose to become a HubSpot Agency Partner because we prefer the platform's deep capabilities and ease of use, and HubSpot - as the original innovators of Inbound - are continually ahead of the curve in adding new features and capabilities to enhance it's effectiveness.
Is HubSpot expensive?
HubSpot brings together a variety of tools you’re probably paying for separately right now into one, user-friendly interface. The ability to track and monitor your leads and prospects the whole way through the process is invaluable.
Instead of having one tool to build your site, another working as your CRM, a social media management system, a landing page platform, and a separate place where you track everything and measure it, you’ll have it all in one place.
When you add up all those costs – not to mention the cost of the time you invest in managing these disparate systems – there’s every chance that it is in fact a better choice for you financially. But that's the baseline. Add to this the potential value of increased traffic, conversion rates, and ultimately sales.
The bottom line cost depends on your specific needs.
What if we already use a different CRM?
Not a problem. HubSpot can 'talk' to any CRM so you can continue to use the one you've got, while leveraging all the marketing capabilities, benefits and reporting.
That said, if you need a CRM, or if you are revisiting how well your current CRM is working for you, this one is an extremely powerful and user friendly tool. And there is no limit on the amount of users to whom you can provide access.
A quick overview: Learn how you can view contacts, companies, deals, and tasks.
What if we are already on a web platform like Wordpress?
Again, not a problem. HubSpot has a very simple integration that will allow you to get get full HubSpot functionality across your entire site including features like live chat, lead flows, CTAs, and detailed metrics on user behaviours.
Campaign landing pages, blogs, content pillar pages etc. can be hosted on your site, or on HubSpot.
Should I manage Inbound or HubSpot internally or externally?
This is really a question for you and your organization – there are some important questions you should ask: What abilities have you already got in-house? What gaps have you identified? Do your people have the background and bandwidth to do all of this properly? If not, is increasing new employee headcount an option?
And if you go external, can you trust that the vendor you've selected will back up their service promise to ensure you are getting the most benefit? Who will they have working on the account? Will they make it easy for you or your team to access and work with the platform? There are important considerations to each approach.
If you would like to have a conversation around your organization's goals, needs and options, schedule a no-obligation introductory strategy session with us today.
We are based in Toronto, Canada with a North American footprint working with a variety of well-known brands.