How does B2B inbound marketing work? And does it yield a better ROI than the traditional outbound B2B content marketing strategy? Or is this just another passing fad?
B2B inbound or pull marketing is no fad; it’s an alternative way to advertise that’s more in-tune and targeted to a specific persona and their position in the buying process. It’s a B2B digital marketing strategy that attracts high-quality leads by offering highly relevant and helpful content to the visitor as part of their natural research. Whereas outbound or push marketing casts a much wider net at a passive target audience in an attempt to catch a few prospects.
This article introduces the foundational principles of inbound marketing strategies and best practices. But don’t write outbound marketing off yet. It’s still an effective part of marketing for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and Business-to-business (B2B) advertising. That’s coming later, but first, an overview of inbound marketing.
How and Why Inbound Marketing Works
(1) ATTRACT ⇒ (2) CONVERT ⇒ (3) CLOSE ⇒ (4) DELIGHT
B2B inbound marketing is a non-invasive form of highly relevant digital marketing. Its methodology is based on attraction, engagement, and satisfaction. In other words, it first grabs the attention of a target prospect then walks them through the entire buying process to close the sale and delight the buyer.
Happy clients and customers tend to share enjoyable experiences with others, thus attracting new prospects to your products or services. When done well, inbound marketing builds momentum by creating self-sustaining loops.
Let’s go a little deeper into these four digital marketing stages.
#1 Attracting Prospects
The secret behind a successful inbound marketing campaign is the ability to get your content in front of the right eyeballs. First impressions don’t afford second chances, so your content must be positioned in the right place and time to attract your target audience. And, if it isn’t value-based, the prospect will bounce off of your content. So, your social media posts, SEO, and blog posts must quickly grab a searcher’s attention and offer something the prospect wants, at least enough to have them wanting to know more.
The idea behind relevant, valuable content is to convert your visitors into leads.
Inbound marketing is not a simple one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. It’s a broad, all-inclusive term covering multiple marketing formats and tactics, including:
- Interesting blog articles
- Organic social media marketing
- Video presentations
- And many other forms
Understanding your target audience/buyer persona and the way they consume media when doing research as part of the buyer’s journey will help you ensure your content is where they are looking and in the format they want to consume.
Build Trust with Your Audience
Your prospects must trust your brand if they’re to engage further. How easy that is to achieve depends on marketing expertise and the product or service you promote. It’s a challenge because consumer trust in digital advertising is still well below TV, print, and radio according to data published by the German media company, Statista.
US Consumer Trust in Advertising at the last check (2021) Digital marketing platforms in bold.
Once you gain the trust of your prospects, they become regular visitors to your site. Therefore, your focus needs to be first on building trust rather than traffic with your audience.
How to Build Trust
Trust comes in many forms, but these proven marketing rules apply in all causes.
- Be genuine. Showcase photos and videos of your office and your staff. This is all with the purpose of putting a face/voice behind the brand.
- Be a trusted advisor, not a know-it-all
- Understand your buyer’s problems and offer solutions
- Show credibility with testimonials where appropriate
- Give credit to news & information sources
- Be ready to respond and adapt in front of customers
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#2 Convert Your Prospects
The conversion process is the second phase of inbound marketing that turns a curious visitor into a lead. It works by introducing additional high-quality content to help solve the reader’s problem(s). Successful conversion rates pull leads into your sales funnel using a call-to-action (CTA). For example, Download Your Free Copy Now!, paired with a content offering that is “gated” behind a form fill.
You create a proposition for visitors where you provide them an additional piece of relevant and useful content to them for free in exchange for their contact information and agreement to receive additional marketing communication, converting them into a lead.
Remove YOU from the Equation
The only way to convert a visitor into a lead is by offering something they want. Therefore, your content offering and CTA must be focused, enticing, and emphasize the advantages of proceeding with the requested action.
As you prepare your inbound conversion strategies, always ask the question, why should the visitor bother to follow through? What’s in it for them?
|LinkedIn Most Valuable B2B Social Media(SM) Platform
Studies show LinkedIn ranks as the top organic and paid SM channel for generating leads for B2B companies. Around 82% of B2B marketers who use the platform report high success rates.
#3 Closing the Deal
There are several ways to manage your leads to help close inbound leads. Some proven approaches to improving conversion rate optimization are:
- Lead nurturing
- Lead scoring
- Marketing automation
- Introduce more relevant content
Closing the deal turns your lead into a customer, so let’s go over these processes.
How Lead Nurturing Works
Lead nurturing is a process whereby you foster potentially interested leads that are not yet ready to make a purchase. It works by anticipating the needs of your potential buyer. You base this on the user persona and where they are in the sales process. Nurturing is an effective way to keep prospects engaged by using relevant content.
It works best when you provide leads with a regular touches to check-in, discuss where they are in the buying process, any issues or questions they have, and provide support in helping them make the decision. Tactics here include product demonstrations and free trials to help build a lead’s confidence that they are making the right decision by purchasing your product or service.
How Lead Scoring Works
Lead scoring helps B2B marketers allocate precious time and resources more efficiently. It works by assigning a lead with a value based on their level of engagement. Then, if they reach a predetermined score, you approach them to close a sale. It’s a highly-effective strategy for filtering out dead-end leads. That way you spend most of your sale generation time focused on the leads that are most likely to become customers.
|B2B Lead Scoring Tip
It’s possible to score leads manually, but it can be a laborious, time-consuming process that results in data inaccuracies. Thus, a customer relationship management system (CRM) and other marketing automation tools are wise investments that save time and deliver accurate scores based on your lead scoring model.
Only you can decide which attributes to assign points to. The best place to start is to break your scoring criteria into demographic and behavioral (action) categories.
|SMB LEAD DEMOGRAPHICS||SMB LEAD BEHAVIORS|
|– Geographical location
– Age of lead
– Size of company
– Job title/position
|– Email opened (uses tracking)
– Email subscriptions
– Web page visits; time-on-page
– Downloaded content
– Form submissions
– Requests free trial
– Engagement on social media
– Webinar registration
How Marketing Automation Works
Successful marketing automation campaigns automatically send highly relevant content and personalized communication to leads based on auto-collected data. Use automated marketing to send notifications, countdown reminders, invitations, and more… automatically. Marketing automation can help keep your staff spending their time engaged in high-value sales interactions to convert leads with high lead scores.
Here’s a breakdown of automated marketing benefits all SBOs should know:
- Automation saves time, money and reduces human error
- Helps to build new and trusted relationships
- Compiles invaluable data by tracking interactions
- Personalized marketing messages to targets and segments
- Tracks campaign performance by reviewing analytics
- Posts messages to social media channels at predefined dates and times
- Revise, tweak, and optimize campaigns based on the data
- Follows up on potential sales
- Builds product/service awareness through brand advocacy programs
- Simplifies communication with chatbot (chatterbot) software
A sale is not the end of a successful marketing campaign. By continuing to use inbound techniques, you get to engage with your new and existing customers to foster loyalty. Plus, it’s easier to keep an existing customer or client than earn new ones. And if you look after them, they can become your brand advocates and promoters. These brand evangelists help provide high-value social proof and referrals to your business to continue growing.
So, the way to delight your customers is to engage and offer support and reward tactics long after their first purchase.
Some of the proven inbound marketing delight strategies are:
- Send timely thank you messages
- Follow-up with personalized emails
- Free newsletters that offer tips, tricks, and industry updates
- Free or heavily discounted eBooks
- Offer member-only discounts and incentives
- Send out customer satisfaction surveys
- Request feedback
- Engage on social media
- Invite to webinars
- White papers
Be Present Post Sale
Take time to engage with your customers and clients even if there’s no direct benefit or sales. Consumers love to be noticed and valued, and they recommend trusted sellers to others. It may surprise you how many qualified leads you can get through good word of mouth.
Offering continual help and support empower your customers, strengthens trust, and leads to repeat business past the initial purchase. Done well, your current customers will stop researching and considering alternatives to your offerings when you prove yourself to be a great partner for their needs.
When you get it right, inbound marketing is an excellent investment that pays for itself many times over, providing dividends for years to come with a significant decrease in advertising media buy.
Inbound Marketing Vs. Outbound
Outbound marketing is old-school, while inbound is the new way of advertising to a digitally-evolving world. But the outbound marketing approach isn’t dead. Here’s a simplistic breakdown of the two approaches.
|INBOUND MARKETING||OUTBOUND MARKETING|
– Permissive (asks permission)
– Highly targeted
– Free, quality content
– Pulls (Attracts) marketing
– Interruptive (forces ads)
– Less targeted
– Cold calling
– Marketing email campaigns
– Push marketing
Outbound marketing is a numbers game, casting a very wide net in the hope of catching a few fish. And it usually does, but the conversion numbers are often low because it does not consider the interest of the target audience. On the other hand, inbound marketing is more focused on attracting targeted leads who are already showing they have a problem your offerings can address. As a result, the target audience is smaller, but the conversion rates are higher.
When done well, inbound marketing offers a higher ROI than outbound. But outbound marketing can also be helpful to capture qualified leads that you can then introduce to your inbound process. Thus, many SMBs use a combination of the two methods. Which strategies work best will depend on your industry, audience, and marketing expertise.
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