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B2B Marketing
Demand Generation

Mastering Inbound Marketing: Get Leads for Free!

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8

minute read

September 4, 2023

Imagine opening up your laptop on a Monday morning. A bunch of new leads flowed into your inbox over the weekend, all ready to talk. If you implement Inbound Marketing well, this could be your future within the next 12 months.

Inbound marketing is a customer-centric marketing approach that aims to attract and engage potential customers with valuable content. This strategy gained popularity in the digital marketing sphere recently, and promises great results for companies that want to grow, even on a budget.

In this blog, we’ll first explain what inbound marketing is, and present some key definitions of its little sister content marketing. Then, we will walk you through the 5 steps of implementing a successful digital inbound strategy: goal setting, consumer research, strong content creation, SEO optimization and lead nurturing.

To start, let's define inbound marketing.

What is inbound marketing?

The difference between inbound and outbound marketing.
The difference between inbound and outbound marketing.

In order to understand what inbound marketing is, it is first important to understand what it is not. The opposite of inbound marketing is, as you may have guessed, outbound marketing. In this commonly-used marketing strategy, it is the company, and not the consumer, that initiates the conversion. It entails the use of, for example, paid advertising, cold calls, and sponsored talks at events.

Not only is outbound marketing relatively expensive, but the return on investment (ROI) is also often low.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, builds on the principles of content marketing. The main objective is to create and distribute relevant, valuable and consistent organic content to generate organic traffic and engage a specific audience.

For example, you write a blog series with tips to help your audience solve a problem of theirs. You discuss the latest industry trends in a podcast. Or you share your latest ground-breaking research on a congress.

By creating content that is useful, innovative, or sometimes merely entertaining, your audience will voluntarily consume it and actively search for your brand online to find more. When inbound marketing is executed effectively, it positions your brand at the forefront of your potential target audience's minds.

Types of content to use for inbound marketing

  • Blog posts
  • YouTube videos
  • Social media platforms
  • Website articles
  • Podcasts
  • Whitepapers & ebooks
  • Emails

Inbound marketing builds on the principles of content marketing and goes one step deeper. It combines content with other marketing techniques, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email marketing, and lead conversion.

Therefore, grasping the basics of content marketing is essential before delving into the best practices of inbound marketing.

Building blocks of content marketing

The building blocks of content marketing.
The building blocks of content marketing.

The goal of content marketing is simple: create and distribute valuable content for a target audience. But to understand which content you need to produce, there are 3 key building blocks: buyer journeys, leads magnets and gated content, and lead nurturing.

1. Buyer journey

A typical buyer journey looks like this:

  1. A person realizes they have a problem.
  2. They start looking into solutions for their problem.
  3. They make a short list of potential suppliers.
  4. They choose their final supplier.

Note here how you would need different pieces of content for each phase. In the awareness phase, one would need to read more general tips on how to recognize or solve their problem. Only later, is it key to convince the reader that your company is the proper solution.

2. Lead magnets and gated content

Very much related to this whole notion of buyer journeys are ‘lead magnets’, also known as gated content. Lead magnets are larger pieces of valuable content that people would leave behind personal information in order to read it. It is content behind a ‘gate’. Examples are webinars, ebooks or whitepapers.

3. Lead nurturing

Once you have gathered an email address with your lead magnet, you can start ‘nurturing’ the lead. This means that you consistently send them relevant content pieces alongside the phase in the buyer journey that they are in. Starting from general content you go more and more in-depth on the problem. Eventually, you start introducing your company and your selling points, which is an absolute no-go in the awareness phase.

Now that you understand the buyer journey's implications for inbound marketing, let's dive into developing the strategy.

Developing an inbound marketing strategy

Developing an inbound marketing strategy.
Developing an inbound marketing strategy.

An inbound marketing strategy consists of much more than simply some content pieces. Preparing yourself and following up on the new leads you are generating, are just as important. Here is the process in 5 simplified steps:

1. Set SMART goals

The first step to any marketing strategy is setting SMART goals. How else would you know when your strategy, and the resources you invested in it, are paying off?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. It's a widely-used framework for setting goals that ensures they are well-defined, attainable, and time-limited.

Think about what it is that you want to accomplish, why, and how you are going to achieve it. If you need inspiration, look at your overall business objectives and align.

Some examples of good, SMART marketing goals:

  • Generate 5 new leads per month through a combination of social media advertising and email marketing campaigns.
  • Increase social media engagement by 25% over the next quarter by sharing high-quality content and actively responding to audience comments and messages.
  • Increase content shares and virality by 50% through the creation of shareable and emotionally resonant content pieces within the next three months.

The trick here is to be realistic. Of course, we all want to get in hundreds of new leads, preferably by yesterday. But marketing is much like farming. If you plant the seeds now, you can expect to harvest no sooner than 3-6 months.

2. Conduct consumer research

You probably already have a decent idea of who your target audience is. Most companies know their consumers in terms of job titles, company sizes and reasons for buying. However, the trick to any successful inbound marketing strategy is to know all about your audience’s goals and challenges, rather than demographic information.

Why? You want your content to be valuable. And to do that, your content needs to solve a problem for your consumer, rather than explain your product features.

Some good questions to ask current customers in an interview:

  • What are your current goals and priorities?
  • What obstacles are you facing in achieving those goals?
  • When do you consider yourself successful?
  • What do you need in order to be more successful?
  • What topics do you like to read about?

Tip! Combine all answers in one customer profile, also known as a buyer persona. Give your persona a name and a face (stock photo) and place the picture frame on your desk. This way you’ll never forget about your customers when writing content!

3. Start content creation

Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and what your target audience wants to consume, it is time to start the content creation process.

Content can take on many forms, but most of them involve some sort of copywriting. Therefore, some general copywriting tips:

  • Write short & simple.
  • Focus on consumer goals & pain points, rather than product features.
  • Get specific. Avoid boring overgeneralisations.
  • Use a lot of white spaces, headings, and bullet points.
  • Dare to take a stance. This will make you stand out.

Overall, remember two keywords: Valuable and relevant.

Also, don’t forget that any written content should always be accompanied by a beautiful visual or video. Have a look at Canva if you do not have a designer in-house.

4. Incorporate Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Producing valuable content is one thing, enabling people to find it is a whole different ball game. Although it is a well-kept secret how search engines e.g. Google, YouTube and LinkedIn precisely operate, it is generally known that they make use of keywords.

If you are on a tight budget, you can conduct keyword research yourself using Google. Google Trends is a free application to explore what people in a certain geographical area are currently searching for. And you can also make use of the Google search bar itself. Notice how Google will autocomplete your search query if you type in one or two words.

If you have a bit more money to spend, you can start exploring SEO tools. SEMrush, Ubersuggest and Yoast are popular tools used by content marketers.

5. Lead nurturing

Anyone in your target audience that shows interest in a piece of your content is a potential lead. Imagine the waste if you would not follow up.

That’s why you need to think bigger and wider than awareness content only, when you are developing your inbound strategy. A person read your blog, now what? Consider using lead magnets and gated content (see ‘Building blocks of content marketing’) or landing pages to gather email addresses. Now you can set up email flows to nurture your lead - help them from their problem identification through to choosing your business over competitors.

Conclusion

Inbound marketing offers various advantages for businesses that want to grow. Content creation is - apart from the man hours - completely free, and since it is valuable and relevant to your target audience it may even be more effective than paid media.

As long as you have your goals straight, and know exactly what it is that your target audience wants to know, it should be straightforward to create the actual content. Make sure that your content is easy to pick up for search engines and don’t forget about lead follow-up. Have a plan ready for what you want people to do after consuming your content.

Last but not least, inbound marketing, like any marketing strategy, is a process of continuous experimentation. Try different things, gather data, ask for feedback, and learn from your mistakes. That is the true key to a successful inbound marketing strategy.

Good luck with implementing your inbound marketing strategy to drive growth!

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