As an inbound marketing agency and B2B marketing agency, we know the struggle. While there are definitely best practices, there are few hard and fast rules. It takes time to gain knowledge on what works best. That’s why we’re sharing our favourite tips at the minute to make your inbound marketing all the better.
What is inbound marketing?
Before we jump into the thick of things, let’s first look at what exactly inbound vs outbound marketing means.
Inbound marketing strategies are all about getting people to come to you, rather than reaching out to unknown audiences. It means putting your audience (and their needs or challenges) first.
An inbound marketing approach facilitates friendly lead generation by building trust and authority. Instead of bombarding people with unsolicited cold marketing campaigns, it focuses on providing genuinely valuable communications. As a result, people choose to interact with you.
This both builds lasting relationships and helps prospects solve a problem.
Why listen to us?
We’re a B2B marketing agency that uses an inbound approach. We’ve been learning best practices for years now, proven with a whole host of our B2B technology clients. Plus, we’ve made many common mistakes along the way.
With a multi-disciplined team, we can give you inbound marketing tips and tricks covering all areas of the marketing world – from digital and SEO to content and campaign planning.
Insider tips from a B2B marketing agency
#1 Create a long-term plan
Short term plans = reactive activity.
Any marketer likely already knows this, but it’s especially important for an inbound strategy. To build an active audience organically, it takes a lot of activity.
“Around 47% of B2B buyers consume between three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson” – Demand Gen Report
I experienced a great example of this the other day: I’ve been following a recipe account on Instagram and stalking their website for months. I’ve watched dozens of their videos, saved about 20, and cooked about 6. And yet, I only signed up for their email newsletter the other day. It took a huge amount of high-quality content over a long period of time before I was willing to interact.
This is not an exception to the rule – this represents the average customer journey, for a B2C or B2B marketing agency.
That’s why it’s so important to have a long-term plan outlining all your content, events, campaigns, and more. Doing this in advance means you can stay aligned with your overall strategy, and can plan all your activity to be:
Integrated: so it’s all working together.
Aligned: so it’s telling the same narrative.
Purposeful: so it has a clear objective.
Without this, it’s very easy to focus on disconnected activity which, although it seemed like a good idea, doesn’t really achieve anything. Nevertheless, reactive content isn’t always bad, it just shouldn’t be the norm.
How we do it:
Personally, we work with annual plans. Everything in there fits with our digital marketing strategy and has a specific purpose. We also try to avoid activity that isn’t tied to a wider concept; it should also be attached to an objective, a campaign, or a theme of our brand awareness strategy.
These also then get reviewed quarterly. We check whether our objectives have changed, or any last-minute opportunities have come up.
#2 Combine content marketing and SEO
As a small extension of the above, content and SEO should work together.
You can write incredible content, but have absolutely no reach. Or you may have an excellent SEO keyword strategy, but no good content to optimise.
Each plays their role and boosts the other. Your content needs to be unique and valuable, while your SEO efforts should enhance your content’s digital visibility.
This is true even beyond these two elements.
Digital platforms like social media, or factors like your website, brand, SEO, and content all play a part in optimising the performance and appeal of your site.
How we do it:
- Research relevant keywords: We consistently identify keywords that relate to our audience, as well as our services.
- Create content: We use our keywords to help us understand the intent of our audience. On one hand, we use this research to create SEO optimised content, and on the other, we frequently use it to inform the direction of the rest of our content.
- Optimise the website: Our web content is aligned to different audiences, different personas, and buyer workflows. It’s designed to create the most informative and intuitive experience. SEO then informs the topic focus, structure and back-end details, like meta descriptions and responsiveness, of our web pages.
- Monitor performance: Lastly, of course we monitor the performance of our SEO and content. We see what works, what doesn’t, and take away learnings.
#3 Track, assess, optimise
When it comes to creating a successful inbound marketing campaign, you can’t expect to get it right the first time. The best way to optimise lead gen efforts is to monitor your results and make little improvements.
Ideally, your campaign will run over a few weeks at least. This gives you time to analyse the results before making any necessary changes. For example, if after a week you realise your conversion rate on a form is very low, try changing the content or form fields.
A/B testing is also an extremely useful technique. Post a few ads with different design or copy, identify the top performers and redirect your budget into these.
Most importantly, take note of your learnings – especially if the results were lacklustre – and apply them to future campaigns. What were the best performing ads? Did you have to adjust your audience? Where did people fall out of the funnel?
How we do it:
We do exactly as we outlined above. We’ll create several core pieces that our campaign will centre around, like a guide or PDF to download. Then, we create multiple different ads and landing pages – varying the design, ad copy, captions and so on.
Our digital team then monitors the performance of all of this and adjusts where to focus resource.
#4 Understand your buyers
If inbound marketing means answering your audience’s pain points and meeting intent, then you need to know them inside out. The premise of this approach is to give your potential customers relevant content. Give them an asset that solves a problem, or a provoking article that they relate to. This draws people in without the need to shout or flail around to get noticed.
Without a good knowledge of who your audience is, your inbound marketing efforts will not be as effective as you’d like.
It’s also important to understand the buyer cycle (as noted above). This will help you curate activity that is better suited to each buyer type (discussed below), and each buyer stage. Here are the stages every consumer goes through when interacting with a brand:
- Awareness – Discovering your brand for the first time. This person likely wants interesting, eye-catching material to interact with.
- Consideration – Researching or interacting more with your brand. This person likely wants informative and challenge-specific material.
- Decision – In their final stages of a purchase. This person likely wants specific brand material to help make their decision.
- Retention – An existing customer. This person likely wants engaging and experiential material that rewards their loyalty.
How we do it:
As a B2B marketing agency, we are always thinking about the many buyers at hand! We know it’s complex, so we take a great deal of care to sort them all out.
Interview stakeholders: Don’t guess at who your personas may be. Talk to your sales team, your CEOs, your customers, and anyone else who may have answers, to research your target audience. You can also do market research to understand new themes in the market, but this won’t be as specific as talking to real individuals.
Create personas: Using this research, we create personas. These are short bios for each potential type of buyer in your target audience’s cycle, including; the Economic buyer, the Technical buyer, the User buyer, and the Influencer or Coach. This helps us to clearly identify the needs, challenges, desires, and strategic priorities for everyone we target.
Create cheat sheets: This is an optional step – but a useful one. A cheat sheet is a document that summaries and templates all the key messaging that each persona will be interested in. It’s a good idea here to list all their primary concerns and create your branded responses for each item in a question-and-answer style.
Create content: Next, we create valuable content designed to address these different needs or challenges. If they are struggling with ROI, then we may create a guide with practical tips and free tools to improve it, or an article about why ROI is such a struggle these days. We ensure we have a good balance of activity for each persona – because each one will need to be equally engaged and nurtured.
Targeted campaigns: Finally, our campaigns focused more heavily on specific personas. Often, we create a campaign that targets each persona about a single theme; for example, branding. We’ll create custom content aimed at each buyer type for an entire workflow – from initial engagement to final closing sale.
#5 Always be authentic
Inbound marketing (and any marketing technique really) works best when you are authentic. Even if you’re a marketing agency rather than an independent brand.
This doesn’t mean radical honesty or being a person-of-the-people – although this is your prerogative. It means being true to your brand at all times. Once you’ve figured out your brand strategy and personality, use these as guidelines to evaluate all future activity.
Ask yourself; does this post sound like us? Is this something we would comment on? Is this somewhere we can add value? And if the answer is no; try to avoid it.
Not doing so can result in several consequences:
Inconsistencies: An inconsistent brand can be confusing for your audience. They don’t really know what they’re getting or who you are.
Reputational damage: Being inauthentic can damage your position as a trusted brand. This may simply be because of inconsistencies in your messaging, or it could be because your activity feels contrived and manipulative as a result.
Poor engagement: People can tell if a brand is putting on a show. If you aren’t genuinely invested in what you’re doing and saying, your audience won’t be either. Or, without a strong, clear point of view, you may simply be forgotten.
How we do it
This is tricky to define! We worked hard on our brand handbook because we wanted to ensure our brand was authentic, always. This guides us on content, digital and design, aligning all our work.
We also continuously touch base as a team to keep each other on track. This includes the small activities, like proofing each other’s work, and the big things, like having strategic meetings to revisit what makes EV, EV.