B2B Inbound Marketing
This introduction to inbound marketing is for B2B technology companies who already invest in marketing and want to know what inbound is, what it means to their business and the opportunities it offers.
This updated edition of our guide reflects the developments and changes that have influenced the path to inbound success since it was first written.
Download this guide as PDF or read on below.
For several years now, the traditional toolkit of B2B marketers has been losing its edge. Subjected to masses of advertising and brand messages every day, your buyers have evolved.
They’ve become extremely effective at ignoring anything they haven’t asked to receive. Their eyes do not see banner adverts and they can spot the direct mail lurking in their post. Unsolicited email is instinctively, if not automatically, removed from the inbox. And cold calls from pushy sales reps are the least welcome things of all.
Unsurprisingly, the ROI from all these activities, when used as lead generators, has seen rapid decline. Meaning you need a new toolkit.
This may all sound like a marketing nightmare, but actually, its a dream. This is your opportunity to eschew expensive marketing tactics that your customers hate and no longer work. Your opportunity to adopt a new marketing philosophy, inbound, that will propel you and your company to new heights of success.
Inbound marketing replaces ineffective, interruptive, outbound marketing tactics with content driven strategies that help you to attract, convert, close and delight modern B2B buyers.
Why inbound marketing vs. content marketing?
You’ve probably heard of content marketing and might be wondering how it differs from inbound. Both terms are still relatively new, and definitions vary. The way we think about it is that content marketing is a tactic (a great one at that), while inbound marketing is the strategy.
Inbound marketing is the answer to the question ‘how do I use content to win more customers?’
Inbound marketing integrates content marketing with a range of other digital marketing tactics, like SEO and email, to maximise the generation of traffic, leads and revenue.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is the act of aligning your digital marketing efforts with your buyer’s new decision making process. The aim is to expose your company’s expertise to them, when and where they are looking for it. To earn their trust, rather than pushing them away. And to help the right leads become your customers.
The new B2B buying process
All B2B buying decisions go through the same set of stages as your buyer travels from a position of having an as yet undefined problem, through researching it and solutions to it, to identifying and eventually choosing between these solutions.
Buyers may travel the stages of the process at wildly different speeds, depending on what they are purchasing, and may even move back and forth between them, but overall the model holds up and has done for a long time.
What has changed, however, is what buyers do and how they act at each stage.
Buyers have taken back control of their buying process. They have taken control of the flow of information between you and them, and control all communication and contact.
Inbound recognises this change. It recognises that to earn your buyer’s trust, and the right to engage them in a conversation about what you offer, you’re going to have to play by their rules.
Playing by their rules means letting them do their own research online, not interrupting them with adverts or call. And it means helping them to make good decisions, adding value to their research, not selling to them at every opportunity. This is what inbound marketing enables you to do.
The inbound methodology
While your buyer is travelling their buying process, they need information to help them along their way. The type and content of the information they seek changes as they progress toward making a purchase, as does their willingness to share contact details and engage with potential suppliers.
The inbound methodology, developed by HubSpot, maps your digital marketing with the stages of the buying process in a way that helps you to:
- Attract more visitors to your website, while they are researching their problems
- Convert anonymous visitors into known leads as they dig deeper into their problems and seek richer information about potential solutions
- Close customers by supporting their decision making and capitalising on earned trust
- Delight customers by treating them with care, turning them into promoters of your brand
Inbound marketing tactics
When you understand your buyer’s preferred way of making decisions, and see how these align to the inbound methodology, it’s easy to see which digital marketing tactics play a role at each stage. The core principles are as follows:
Attracting new visitors to your website requires you to answer their questions and be found where they are looking.
Blogging is the single best method for driving new prospects to your site. Backing this up with search engine optimisation (SEO), social media and paid social promotion will maximise your blog and website's traffic generation potential.
Capturing anonymous visitors’ contact details and gaining permission to communicate with them directly by offering them something in return.
Content, such as whitepapers, ebooks and webinars, that align to the different stages of the buying process, are effective incentives for conversion. You’ll also need calls to action, throughout your blog and website, that bring leads to conversion optimised pages where forms can capture their details.
Once in communication with your prospect, you need to nurture their interest in you and your company.
Content and offers that are aligned to the later stages of the decision-making process, delivered by timely, personalised messages, are effective here. Pre-populating web forms with known information and customising the content shown to existing leads also helps.
The effects of inbound marketing don’t stop when your prospect becomes a customer.
Making sure your existing customers have access to your latest and most relevant content, through blog digests, personalised emails and social media, can help you keep them engaged with your brand and create opportunities to upsell.
The role of marketing automation
Marketing automation is the software that ties together all of your inbound marketing tactics - integrating execution, measurement and analysis under one roof.
Although it isn’t absolutely necessary for achieving the results of inbound marketing, marketing automation software makes it much easier to do so. Automation makes the creation of data-driven lead generation campaigns, personalised email and contextual web content a snap.
Business benefits of going inbound
Inbound marketing is an excellent way to generate more leads. But, when you market your business in a way that naturally aligns with what your buyers really want, great things happen.
Going inbound unlocks additional benefits that further enhance your lead and revenue generation potential:
- Improved ranking for competitive search term
- A reputation for thought leadership
- Higher lead to customer conversion rates
- Larger, more engaged social audiences
- Greater ROI from events
- More collateral and resources for use by sales
- More value from CRM investments and improved usage
- And much more.
Getting started with inbound
Creating quality content that aligns with your buyer’s questions and needs is at the very heart of effective inbound marketing.
In fact, content plays a key role at every step of the inbound methodology, driving up search traffic, converting leads and helping to nurture and close customers.
Your content can take many forms. Blogs and ebooks are some of the easiest and most reliable formats to get started with. Later you can graduate to infographics, slideshares, webinars, video and many more types of rich content.
With more visitors coming to your website to consume your content, lead generation is your next concern.
Leads do not convert themselves, so you need to create conversion opportunities, lots of them, to help them along the way.
Ideally, every page and post on your website will feature a relevant call to action or conversion opportunity. Calls to action, landing pages, forms and content offers all need to be aligned if you are going to earn a prospect’s trust and obtain their valuable contact data.
Website conversion optimisation is also needed to ensure that your main marketing site isn’t letting the side down when it comes to converting leads.
Marketing automation isn’t just software, it’s an inbound discipline to be mastered.
Learning how to use marketing automation to segment your audience, monitor and engage leads across channels, and build effective email sequences, is an essential component of any successful inbound programme.