According to data from HubSpot's State of Inbound Marketing report, "inbound marketing had a 76 percent likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice for B2B companies," compared to outbound marketing tactics. That's an overwhelming percentage! However, the same report showed that proving marketing ROI is the single biggest challenge that marketers face today.
This disconnect suggests that it's time for B2B marketers to take a step back and look to inbound marketing fundamentals. That way marketers are setting themselves up for success (and showing their bosses the fruits of their labors).
In today's post, we're going to dive into the key elements that make the B2B inbound marketing machines hum.
What is B2B inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your company, often before they are even in the purchasing stage of the buyer's journey. By creating content that your prospects love, you can build brand awareness and preference. By leveraging content that is relevant to your audience and targeted calls to action, you can pull this traffic through the funnel and ultimately drive new revenue for your business.
One of the biggest impacts of inbound marketing—that is often overlooked—is the increased opportunity for customer engagement. By developing content that your personas love, you are also educating and engaging your existing customer base. Too many marketers forget about their existing customers in their marketing strategy, but in leveraging inbound for engagement, you will grow net-new revenue and also increase expansion revenue from your existing customer base.
Unlike direct tactics such as PPC, inbound is somewhat more complicated to measure, so it's incredibly important that you have clear goals at the outset of any inbound program. For B2B companies, especially those with an inside sales team, it's best to work backward from your revenue goals to determine marketing's responsibilities. If you're looking for more guidance on how to do this, you can check out this post, where we discuss these steps in detail.
Data from Bizible has shown that the primary metric for B2B marketing success today is the number of opportunities sourced. So even if sourcing opportunities is the end goal, it's important to realize that content marketing and SEO take time to build. One of my favorite illustrations of this is from SEO Moz, highlighting the "Gap of Dissapointment."
Once you're through that gap, content can provide lasting and compounding returns on your investment in a way that no other marketing channel or tactic can.
The point being, if you're investing in inbound, make sure you give yourself enough time to reap the fruits of your labors. It will take time but once it pays off, it pays off big. And if it helps, you can keep these statistics in mind while you push through the gap:
- Companies with 30 or more landing pages generate 7 times more leads than those with fewer than 10
- Companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies who do not blog
- Companies that have more than 52 blog posts see an increase of leads by 77 percent
Market segmentation and buyer-persona analysis go hand-in-hand. Whether your business is a young startup just getting traction, is looking for a beachhead to cross the chasm, or is an enterprise expanding into new markets, having an in-depth understanding of your audience will be the key to your success. This is especially true when success hinges on consistently producing content that addresses your leads' problems and keeps them coming back for more.
Once you have your goals, take the time to analyze and understand your target audience. Know who they are, and ask questions like:
- Where they fit in the buying cycle
- What their challenges are
- How they would define success
- Where they spend time online
Based on your buyer-persona research, you should have a good idea of the type of content that your buyer personas like to consume. It might be webinars, blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, templates, webinars or videos. The list goes on and on. However, for most B2B marketers, blogging becomes the foundation that attracts potential customers to your site and is the jumping off point to any other content you produce.
When it comes to blogging, it all starts with keyword research. This means targetting longer semantic keyword queries rather than highly competitive and specific keywords. These long-tail keywords are perfect for targeting with blog posts, and allow you to target very specific keywords to your niche to drive highly qualified traffic.
Before you start doing this keyword research yourself, I highly recommend reading Neil Patel's post, on how to uncover hidden gems.
The next question we hear all the time is, "How often do I need to publish blog posts?" First and foremost, prioritize quality over quantity. But when it does come to quantity, HubSpot data shows that B2B companies that published posts more than 11 times/month generate 1.75 times as many leads as those blogging 6–10, and 3.75 times more as those blogging 0–3.
With this strategy in place, you should be well on your way to creating an inbound marketing machine. In part two, we'll dive into creating premium content that will help you convert and nurture your audience down the marketing funnel. We will also discuss how you can amplify content results with promotion and align your marketing and sales teams. Make sure you subscribe to our blog so you don't miss it!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.