- Inbound marketing is a fairly new tactic of attracting clients to your business without making it obvious that you are trying to sell them your product or service.
- In order for inbound marketing to be successful for your small business, having a marketing strategy is extremely important.
- Attract visitors, convert them, close the deal and continuously delight - that is the key to good inbound marketing.
It’s a reflection of just how poorly regarded outbound and email marketing is that an open-rate of 25% is considered good while a click-through from these of just 2-3% is then considered outstanding.
But really, it’s not difficult to see why. Achieving cut-through in a world of email or advertising overload is no easy task. In 2015, some 205 billion emails were sent each day; by next year it is predicted to grow to 246 billion. Against this tidal flow, any so-called ‘pushed’ marketing efforts have to work doubly hard to even get noticed, let alone be read and acted upon. Even those that do break through ever-more complex spam, ad blockers and filtering software has to do an almost impossible job – someone has to be considering exactly what they received, right then and there.
But things don’t have to be this way. We believe the best way to advertise your business is not by forcing your messages onto time-short, attention-short executives, or by interrupting them when it doesn’t suit them. We believe it’s far better to excite and inform prospective clients about your products or services by enabling them to find you – and doing so at a time of their choosing. Marketers call this approach inbound marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
It’s where prospects come in (and on their own) to you. Your content is consumed because interest has been aroused by a series of compelling content. Data from the Marketing Mix report found 45% of professionals it surveyed admitted they were interested in inbound marketing – arguably because when it’s done well, its prospects barely see it as being ‘marketed to’ at all.
Most professionals will want to keep up to date with the latest news, trends, and solutions, so when they find you (and are kept engaged by superb content), they’re seeing you as thought leaders or service area experts in a particular field – an association that will stick in their minds.
Why You Need an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
But while the inbound marketing route solves many of the problems of apathy, prospects won’t simply come to you by themselves – getting it right and getting a level of differentiation from competitors still requires a strategy.
The bad news is that many small businesses still fail to have one – some 61% don’t have a strategic marketing plan in place at all according to the latest 2018 Marketing Mix Report. The better news, however, is that SMEs clearly understand the importance of many of the elements inbound marketing needs – like good web development to keep people interested. This comes top in terms of marketing spend, by 63% of SMEs polled in the survey. Social media follows highly too (at 29%), and also regarded highly is search engine optimisation.
How Can SMEs Use Inbound Marketing?
The key is to have a strategy that recognises what you want to achieve – and the model that’s gaining most momentum is that being popularised by Hubspot – the inbound marketing and sales platform provider. It’s one built around the fact that customer acquisition is a four-part journey – around the themes:
- Close, and
The Four Phases of the Inbound Methodology
The attract element is the immediate requirement – and it essentially means having a content strategy. Content is king, and prospects need to find your website as they go about their normal daily business.
It’s worth remembering search engine optimisation (using the same keywords in your web pages that you believe prospects will search for, and also indexing these to your web page titles), will only get you so far. Links from other sites to yours are also growing in importance (Google ranks them one of the top three ranking factors now), bringing in a need to create other connecting content – such as linking to posts on social media or blogs.
LinkedIn is an excellent place to find members of groups that may be relevant to you, and by blogging about updates, industry news, or writing articles, pushes your trusted advisor status higher. The more connections or followers you have, the more people will see your updates, and link back to your own site. Data from Buffer Science proves this works. It finds half of all social media traffic to B2B sites and 80% of social media leads come from LinkedIn alone.
Attraction is one thing, but conversion is quite another. Content has to resonate. Analytics firm BuzzSumo recently reviewed the headlines of 10 million articles shared on LinkedIn and found two specific types of content stood out – those that discussed industry trends, and those that were ‘how-to’ articles. These should be what you concentrate on.
Interactive content (sliders, quizzes, calculators and button giving people the ability to share your content on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.) maintain website ‘stickability’ and increases the potential for referrals – a well researched ‘better’ quality of prospect. Don’t overlook YouTube – for hosting interactive content. According to LinkedIn itself, links to YouTube videos can create a 75% increase in share rates.
Once at your site, these visitors need to earn your trust. Non-salesy ways of capturing information from visitors include hosting download forms (for example, giving people access full-length white papers), or giving visitors the ability to be added to a weekly news update lists. Offering online chat facilities is a further way to lengthen visits to your webpages and be seen as a real thought leader. Some chat boxes can be set to automatically pop up after a few minutes to ask if someone would like help, while others can be permanently in place, ready to be opened whenever the user wants. If you really want to create advocates, sign-ups for webinars you can host is another tactic that could be employed.
Close and Delight
Taking an inbound marketing approach is all about creating remarkable experiences, closing and delighting prospects to become real customers is a balancing act. For prospects to become leads they need further nurturing, and this is achieved by sensible further communication.
This means a background platform analysing what pages prospects are looking at, what they’re downloading, how long they visit for, or how often they repeat-visit, is vital. This is likely to create to a better understanding of the sorts of products/services leads are interested in, and what might be useful for them to be sent more information about.
Who to Create My Inbound Marketing For?
Creating ‘buyer personas’ – specific profiles of prospects, tagged with data including
- How they come to your site (whether it’s through social media, paid advertising sites, organic searches, emails etc.);
- What formats they engage with most; and
- How many visits they make before becoming customers.
All this will help drive further modeling. It will also identify those who are less responsive to further inbound marketing techniques. Those who are identified as most receptive should then be targeted for any further inbound marketing campaigns – where content is amplified by additional content – such as having guest bloggers, or by creating infographics, and/or social media promotions etc.
ROI of Inbound Marketing
While nothing is guaranteed in life, consideration of all these elements will certainly make any B2B inbound strategy far more of a predictable affair. SME B2B marketing doesn’t have to feel forced when the tables can be turned, and prospects can be encouraged to come to you. In 2017, an MIT Sloan research study on the ROI of using inbound marketing with marketing automation found that businesses were generating:
- 3.30x more visitors per month within one year
- 3.50x more leads per month within one year
- 79% of customers saw an increase in sales revenue within one year
As long as you deliver on your side of the content bargain, you’ll be much more likely to have a constant flow of interested, articulate prospects that will – over time – turn into valuable, and ultimately more profitable customers.
Six Secrets to successful inbound marketing
- Don’t forget the basics: Remember what you’re trying to achieve. Back up your content creation efforts by working with an agency partner and with the right CRM, sales and marketing integration to identifying cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
- Educate: According to a poll by The Alternative Board, 75% of businesses expect their suppliers to educate them. Blogging is the best way to achieve this by pulling industry themes together. Hubspot finds firms who use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not.
- Engage Industry thought leaders: According to a recent Demand Gen Report, 72% of business buyers looked at industry peers to research a potential purchase, meaning identifying and building relationships with industry opinion leaders is key. You can get their attention by commenting on their own blog posts and following them on social media.
- Modify for mobile: Mobile devices overtook laptops and desktop devices as the dominant source of internet searches in 2015, so it’s essential your website is mobile compatible. This will often involve re-purposing content or creating new, more mobile suited content, to make it more engaging on a smaller screen.
- Give something for nothing: Content that has a use – training videos, top-tips; downloads; tutorials etc. all make the user experience better. Video isn’t just engaging on its own, but it enriches other media, like social media and blogging.
- Try gamification: Gamification elements – like decision-making journey options; tasks that enable people to see where they are in their buying process; or games that test people’s knowledge all help create a more varied and interesting user experience. Don’t underestimate its importance.