Inbound marketing is an excellent strategy for B2B tech companies—especially those with complex products and long sales cycle. In fact, a reported 89% of B2B marketers are using inbound and content marketing. Now, if that doesn’t tell you that B2B companies are having success with inbound and content marketing, I don’t know what will!
One of the top reasons B2B brands have success with inbound marketing is because inbound efforts compound over time — that is, every blog that you create, every time you show up on a search results page, and every other piece of your online content can help you with three things...
- Gaining brand awareness
- Increasing your search visibility
- Providing value to your target audience
Traditional outbound sales and marketing has the opposite effect. Each mailer you pay to send, each cold call that goes unanswered, and each unread newspaper advertisement don’t have nearly as much staying power as an awesome piece of online content.
So, want to start inbound marketing for your B2B tech company but aren’t really sure where to start? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading for some helpful guidance for how to successfully develop and manage your first inbound marketing campaign.
Step #1: Define Your Business Objectives
Without a goal, how do you plan to score? Putting this in the context of a business decision – if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, how can you put an effective plan together?
Determine your goal
Think about the business impact you want your campaign to have. Do you need to drive more leads? Increase brand awareness? Or maybe you’re just looking to educate your audience and build a following.
Take some time to really think through what it is that you want to achieve with marketing. From there, define the specific metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to your business goal. For example, you may find that what’s important for you is to track things like:
- Website visits - if your goal is to generate new leads
- Email open rates - if your goal is to engage with your audience
- Social media following - if your goal is to build trust and brand awareness
Step #2: Know Your Audience
OK, so you’ve defined your business objectives and set up the metrics you want to track. That’s great! Now you’re ready to really dig in.
To really be successful at inbound marketing, the most important thing you can do is create really great, really valuable content for your audience. The only way to do this is by having a crystal clear view of who your audience is.
All of your content and offers should be appealing to your target audience and and ideal customer. A great way to “get in the head” of your ideal customer is to create buyer personas. These semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer will help you to understand what type of content will resonate most with your audience.
To hone in on who your ideal customer is, look at who has historically been your best customer. What are the qualities that they share? Set up interviews with some of your current customers to help you gain a clear understanding of their needs and challenges. This will help you create content that they’ll really be interested in.
Step #3: Set Up Your Tech
At its core, inbound marketing is about providing great content for your audience that adds value at every stage of their buyer’s journey. However, great technology has also made it a lot easier to get that content out to your audience.
So, what technology should you have in place to run your first inbound marketing campaign? Maybe not as much as you’d think.
To run your first successful inbound marketing campaign all you need are:
- Your website (with a blog) where you can publish great content
- An email marketing system to engage with your customers
- And a social media account to “join in on the conversation” and promote your content
Step #4: Create a Content Calendar
Alright, now you know WHY you’re marketing, WHO you’re marketing to and HOW you’re going to manage your campaign. Now it’s time to plan your content. It’s important to have a content strategy and a place to organize it. This way, itt can easily be referenced by your entire contributing team.
Your content calendar should provide a clear, at-a-glance view of the content you’re producing and distributing for your campaign. With that in mind, be realistic when planning your content calendar. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start, maybe, with one blog post per week. Track your performance, then scale up from there once you develop a process and have a better understanding of what works.
Step #5: Write (and Distribute) Awesome Content
Now it’s time to create. Your content is one of the most important elements of your inbound campaign, so make sure it’s great by following some best practices:
- Write using your brand’s voice
- Cover topics of interest to your target audience
- Encourage your readers to engage with your brand.
- Use graphics and imagery to make your content more engaging and immersive
The rule of thumb in marketing says that you should spend more time distributing your content (getting it in front of potential readers) than you spend creating it. In other words, don’t just write something, throw it up on your website or newsfeed, and hope that people read it and take action. (Hope is not a strategy!) You have to work for it.
So, now that you’ve written great content, make sure that people can find it. Pick a channel, any channel:
- Social media
- Display networks
- Search engine results pages (SERPs)
Step #6: Track, Measure, and Improve
What would happen if you didn’t measure your marketing performance? You wouldn’t know if it’s helping your business. You wouldn’t gain insights into how your customers purchase. And, maybe most importantly, you wouldn’t be able to see if you’re getting any return for your paid investments. (Which means no job security for your marketing team!)
So, we don’t have to tell you how important it is to track the results of your marketing efforts. Tracking and measuring metrics like traffic, open rates, conversions, and leads converted can help you evaluate how your marketing is affecting business and what you can do to improve those results.
This data will also help you understand the behaviors of your audience, their engagement with your content, and how you can make adjustments to improve in the future.
You’ve got to start somewhere!
Launching your first inbound campaign may feel like a huge, complicated project, but it’s just like riding a bike! Do it once, and soon planning, developing and managing inbound marketing campaigns will be second-nature to you. As with many things in business – and in life – it’s smart to start small, build a process, and increase activity and output as you grow.
Go ahead – take your first steps into being an inbound marketing master! Do so by checking out how the pros make inbound marketing awesome and ROI positive in our B2B Tech Marketer's Guide to Inbound!