Inbound marketing is not a new thing, the idea was around long before the catchy term. While it shouldn’t be relied upon to deliver leads on its own, inbound marketing is a useful strategy to have as part of your overall marketing plan because it’s great for filling the top of your sales funnel. From new prospects who aren’t familiar with your brand, to new markets that you’re trying to educate about your business, inbound marketing excels at attracting new eyes to your content and your website. And once you’ve drawn them in, you can use other techniques to move them into the sales funnel.
But by far, the best part of inbound marketing is that you most likely already use it. Yes – you read that right. These common marketing techniques are all considered inbound marketing, and here’s how you can maximize their value.
You might think video is really just more content – and it is. It’s one of the most easily accessible and regularly shared pieces of content (take a look at your Facebook feed if you’re wanting proof). There’s no limit to the amount of reach a video can have, particularly if it’s on a topic that is going to appeal to a broad audience. When it comes to B2B marketing, animated videos that break down complex concepts, crisp, professional mini-movies that explore the impact of an industry, or clever visual gags and puns that entertain and teach buyers about a particular business or brand make the kind of videos that are perfect for inbound marketing.
Promoting User Groups and Communities
While user groups are often oriented around current clients who already own or use one of your products or services, they can also attract new prospects looking to learn more about an industry or business area as well.
If you’ve got an active user group, or are trying to start one, walking that fine line between inbound and outbound marketing is all about branding. Keep in mind that inbound marketing is angled towards a very, very soft sell. It aims to get prospects to engage voluntarily because the content itself is valuable to them, so a good tactic might be to create an industry-applicable group that anyone can join – regardless of what products they use. If you ensure that a few of your users take part, or open up an existing, active user group to the wider industry, your clients can be your best evangelists, and you’ll have access to a huge amount of new content that you can leverage for better prospecting.
Intelligent Social Media
Social media is a central focus for marketers looking to do more inbound marketing, and it makes sense. It’s a largely free, open, global series of platforms for promotion, and if used correctly, it can spread your brand and your message like wildfire. But let’s go back to that last caveat: if used correctly. The problem with social media is that it’s highly subjective, and that can make it difficult to say whether it’s used correctly. While 94% of B2Bs use social media (Content Marketing Institute), not all of them use it well.
When used in the context of inbound marketing, the goal of your social media should be less about generating leads to fill pipeline and more about sharing valuable, interesting content with your followers, and engaging in conversations. This (very fine) distinction is easy to confuse, but it’s important to get the cadence right in order to accurately determine the ROI of your inbound marketing efforts here. Think about what people use social media for, and focus on giving your followers information they can share. Link to your best content in the form of whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, or infographics, or talk about interesting industry statistics and news. These things aren’t product focused, but should have a wider appeal for your target audience.
Sending Out eNewsletters
Opt-in email marketing is another inbound tactic that can be very successful for filling the top of your sales funnel. It’s a great way to educate prospects about your brand by providing a weekly, or monthly series of thought leadership content. Offer new prospects the opportunity to sign up through a blog or a landing page, and once they’ve done so, send them a regular digest of your best content. Include links to helpful or useful resources – so long as they’re not product focused or heavily branded. One thing to be sure to avoid is over-communication. You don’t want to spam – even if you’re only sending useful information, or links to your content. Remember that your prospects are receiving a huge volume of information every day – much of it via email. Instead, if you promise to only send a monthly newsletter, stick to that promise and send the best possible monthly newsletter you can. You’ll build trust with your prospects, and show them that your content is worth consuming.
While true viral stardom is nearly impossible to achieve on purpose, there is a version that’s easier to aim for and should be part of every marketer’s strategy. Highly shareable content combines several elements including timeliness, humour or insight, wide audience appeal, and accessibility. Start by looking at your most shared, viewed, or accessed piece of content. How was it promoted? Where was it promoted? What type of content is it? These questions should give you a starting point for replicating that success with other pieces of content.
One of the benefits of inbound marketing is that it readily works together with other techniques to help you move prospects through the sales funnel. Using a user group to encourage prospects to visit your booth at a conference for example, or offering your eNewsletter through a banner advertisement. It’s important to look at every channel available to ensure that you’re not just attracting prospects, but also moving them through the sales funnel successfully.