Introduction to Inbound Marketing
The digital age has connected people and information on a global scale. Giving rise to the modern digitally savvy consumer and changing the way we do business forever.
With products, services, and solutions readily available online, the moats that businesses once constructed and enjoyed are now easily hurdled as consumers move freely between offerings.
In this digital environment, the feverish pace of information has exponentially increased competition for an ever-shrinking amount of available consumer attention.
What’s more, modern customers are more discerning, informed, and aware of their incredible consumer authority.
The old ways of outbound marketing and generating awareness are becoming expensive, ineffectual, and obsolete.
Organizations must market their products and services in ways that are seamlessly interwoven into the modern customer’s journey.
This requires finding ways to offer value, build rapport, and generate conversations with the consumer on their terms, rather than attempting to disrupt and distract.
If you want to grow your business in this modern era, while creating an authentic brand that’s seen as an authority and loved by customers, Inbound Marketing holds the solution.
Inbound Marketing 101
“The biggest requirement is a shift in mindset from creating messages that talk about us to creating content that solves problems for the people we want to reach.”
– Ann Handley, Head of Content at Marketing Profs
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a digital marketing strategy that attracts visitors to your website and generates leads by creating relevant, helpful, and educational content—and sharing it over social media and search rankings. With informative and helpful resources built for every customer journey stage, people are “pulled” to your brand as their needs arise.
Inbound marketing is the opposite of traditional outbound (or “broadcast”) methodologies. Gone are the days of endlessly “pushing” out short-term, high-cost, and low-value ads in the hope of distracting your customers long enough to imprint your brand.
A marketing strategy that generates visitors converts leads, and delights customers by helping?! Is it any wonder why inbound marketing is more effective than its traditional counterparts?
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Inbound marketing leverages the demand for informative and educational content to drive awareness and nurture leads through the customer journey.
Educational content is a powerful marketing tool—it is highly sought after, fosters trust with expertise, and reveals buyer intent.
By turning your website into a wealth of information or hub, people are drawn in to solve problems you specialize in and are an authority on.
Providing helpful resources enables organizations to identify potential buyers while creating opportunities to engage.
People don’t download A Website Planning Guide because they want to repaint their house. They are likely in the market for a new website.
Guiding through the buyer’s journey ensures you are top of mind when a buying decision is reached.
Furthermore, when resources are created to support customer post-purchase, inbound marketing becomes an effective tool for creating advocates, increasing customer lifetime value, and lowering service costs.
Examples of inbound marketing content and tactics include:
- Social Media
- Downloads (Guides, ebooks, data-sheets, and case studies)
- Online Events (e.g., webinars)
- Inbound Email (e.g., newsletters)
Inbound marketing boils down to:
- Create valuable and educational content for the entire customer journey
- Individuals searching for insights find your content
- Engaging with content demonstrates “intent” and generates leads
- Sales engages quality leads and nurtures them with valuable content
- Support customers and increase loyalty, word-of-mouth, and lifetime value.
Outbound Marketing is a term for more traditional forms of marketing that we have all grown… annoyed with.
It seeks to disrupt, obstruct, and distract potential customers—invading their lives in the hopes of gaining their attention. You wouldn’t tolerate a friend that shamelessly self-promotes all the time. Why do we think people want this from their brands?
Outbound methods are less effective at motivating customers to action because—in most cases—they don’t speak to a customer’s current focus or objectives.
Outbound marketing methods include:
- Trade Shows
- Email Blasts to purchased lists
- Cold Calling
- Advertisements (banners, television, radio, etc.)
- Digital Ads driven by third-party cookies
These efforts attempt to cast a wide net over a large audience in the hopes of even a small return. Due to the nature of outbound approaches—they are more costly, less effective, and have a lower return on investment (ROI) than Inbound Marketing.
Why Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is incredibly effective at growing traffic, generating leads, and converting customers for several reasons.
First, modern consumers are inundated with a mind-numbing amount of ads.
“A market research firm estimates that a person living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day, compared with up to 5,000 today. About half the 4,110 people surveyed last spring by Yankelovich said they thought marketing and advertising today was out of control.” (Source)
Ad fatigue makes people less receptive and appreciative of these intrusions, resulting in less persuasive outbound ads.
Second, as consumer tolerance to distraction grows, these disruption methods become less effective. To offset this, marketers cast wider nets over larger sections of the population—or pay expensive sums to target increasingly specific segments of ideal customers.
Third, ads have become so invasive and ubiquitous that there are now entire industries designed around helping people block out “the ad men.”
TiVo, for instance, is beloved solely for the “skip commercials” function.
This arms race between ad blockers and commercials has inflated ad execution price—further lowering the ROI.
Lastly, with the proliferation of available services and products, modern consumers increasingly seek multiple information sources before making a purchase decision.
According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth study back in 2011, “consumers consulted an average of 10.4 sources before buying; this is twice the number of sources consulted just the year before.”
These modern trends have dramatically reduced the effectiveness and value of outbound methods.
Consumer behaviors have changed. Has your marketing?
The True Value of Inbound Marketing? Compounding Returns.
As markets and consumer trends continue to evolve, inbound marketing is proving itself to be the most efficient marketing strategy to build awareness and cultivate leads.
Here are just a few examples of inbound marketing outperforming outbound:
- B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms (HubSpot)
- 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement (Content Marketing Institute)
- B2B buyers do 12 searches on average before engaging on a specific brand’s site (Google)
- Inbound practices produce 54% more leads than traditional outbound practices (HubSpot)
- Inbound marketers double the average site conversion rate, from 6% to 12% (Source)
- A Chief Marketer report found the content most effective at moving prospects through the B2B sales funnel are articles and blogs (Chief Marketer)
While inbound marketing takes time to produce results, typically 5 to 9 months, it has compounding long-term effects. Great content that ranks well on search engine results generates awareness and website traffic 24/7.
According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018, 75% of businesses worldwide choose inbound marketing as their primary marketing approach.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology
The inbound marketing methodology is the process of growing your organization by investing in meaningful relationships with your customers and prospects through a shared success model.
Inbound focuses on providing value and empowering people to reach their goals, overcome hurdles, and discover insights at every stage of their journey with you. That includes both before AND after they become a customer.
The inbound marketing methodology has three distinct “phases” to ensure your customers obtain value throughout their journey.
Attract: Draw in the right people with valuable content and conversations that establish you as a trusted advisor with whom they want to engage.
Engage: Present insights and solutions that align with their pain points and goals, so they are more likely to buy from you.
Delight: Provide help and support to empower your customers to find success with their purchases.
Inbound Marketing For The Entire Customer Journey
The inbound marketing method is a holistic approach to the customer journey.
Marketing doesn’t stop at awareness. When you focus on providing for your customer’s needs rather than continuously extracting value—they’ll reward you with loyalty and engagement.
Inbound marketing strategies provide value and build rapport across the entire customer journey. When marketing supports sales and service, businesses can shorten sales cycles, motivate buyers, increase adoption, lower the cost of service, and increase customer loyalty.
Fundamentals of a Winning Inbound Marketing Strategy
To fully leverage inbound marketing and become a titan of brand equity, you’re going to need to make some investments.
If this is your first foray into inbound marketing, these are the six core concepts you should keep in mind as you develop your strategy.
The six core concepts are:
Build An Authentic Brand Identity
No one wants to read endless content, see ads, and interact with a brand that only self promotes.
Building content that people want to watch, read, and listen to requires that you connect with your audience over something more meaningful than how great you believe you are.
Instead, express your brand and be genuine in your communications. Share passions, invest in a purpose, and get involved—authentic brands are memorable, which is why they generate traffic and stand out.
Adopt A Customer-Centric Mindset
Inbound marketing is effective because it accommodates and anticipates the purchasing behaviors of modern decision-makers and your customers’ needs.
Creating seamless and compelling buyer’s journeys and memorable customer experiences requires that you understand your customers and speak directly to their needs, challenges, objectives, and preferences.
Generate Awareness With Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an often repeated TLA (Three Letter Acronym).
But do you know what it is?
In the simplest of terms, SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
However, there is a great deal of research, nuance, and strategy required to ensure your information gets a high relevance in search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO is critically important to getting your educational content into potential customers’ hands and enabling them to seek out your brand as they search for help with challenges.
Do you know what keywords brought you here? Or how we managed to show up on your search results despite all the companies that generate related content?
That’s the power of SEO, baby.
Create A Robust Inbound Marketing Content Strategy
Your content strategy is another central pillar of your inbound marketing strategy. An adequately outlined content strategy identifies topics, keywords, mediums, and timelines for creating and sharing educational resources.
Effective content strategies can distill a wide range of information and tactics into a concise map that guides all content efforts. There are many aspects to a great content strategy, but the basics are:
- Content needs to solve problems and be engaging.
- Topics and resources need to span the entire buyer and customer journey.
- Match messages with the right audience and channel.
- Utilize multiple mediums (Audio, visual, written) to match learning styles.
- Funnel prospects into “actions of intent,” which generate leads.
- Create webs of content that motivate buyers.
- Link content together to guide viewers and rank highly in SERPs.
- Share content with your audiences over social media, publications, and communities.
Get these right, and your content will be valuable for years to come, providing you with a flow of high-value organic leads and customers.
Tools and Technology for Inbound Marketing
Marketing is no longer just about pretty colors and emotional messaging. The digital age has ushered in a requirement for a high level of technical competency.
Because marketers are, well, marketers, they hide all of these deep inner workings behind beautiful imagery and high gloss experiences.
They do this so effectively that most people take for granted the deep technical chops required to manage effective digital marketing.
A successful inbound marketing strategy relies on a handful of technology solutions we call pillars. These are:
- Lead generation website
- Marketing automation platform
- Sales operations automation
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software
Measuring Performance of Inbound Marketing
Building and implementing a strategy means little if you don’t understand how it’s helping your business.
Without proper measurement of inputs and outputs, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to determine ROI and capitalize on results.
The good news is, inbound marketing is easy to measure and track.
By recognizing early success signs, organizations can quickly pivot to meet consumer’s behavior and stay ahead of the competition.
Authentic Brand Identity
“You’re in trouble if customers can’t place your brand on the map. The worst thing is to blend in with the rest.”
Identify Your Brand Purpose
Before people listen to you, you need to know who you are and what you stand for.
The same rules apply to a brand.
The first step to brand identity is creating a purpose and mission.
Doing so doesn’t require big dramatic statements or overt gestures—just a real purpose as to why you do what you do.
Start with a strong mission statement that lets everyone know who you are.
To make a mission statement that carries weight:
- Create it with your stakeholders so that its a shared vision
- Keep it simple to help it stick
- Avoid generalizations and generic statements
- Make it relatable so it resonates with customers and team members
Whatever you choose, make it unique to you and aspire to be more than just the solutions you provide.
Some great examples of simple missions that evoke meaning are:
TED: Spreading Ideas. TED
REI: Inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. REI
Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Patagonia
These highly recognized organizations foster loyalty and engagement by embracing brand purpose and cause marketing.
Craft Your Authentic Brand Image
Once you know your mission—present it to the world through a unique brand image.
While seemingly superficial, a brand’s visual identity is part of its genetic make-up.
A consistent brand image will cement your brand as memorable, make your content easily identifiable, and lend credibility to your presence.
One of the most impactful things you can do is to ensure fonts, images, colors, logos, graphics, page layouts, and animations are consistent and as unique as your business.
Apply this style to everything you produce (blogs, videos, websites, social media, documents, etc.)
Even if you have thousands of competitors that offer the same services or products, they aren’t you. Make that your advantage.
Findguidlin.es is an excellent resource for some of the top brand’s style guides to provide you with ideas.
Building Your Brand Authority
Share your knowledge with the world.
Weigh in on debates, create informative content, offer free guides, engage in your industry’s community, and be your best self.
Every business in every industry can build authority within its community and customers.
Even if you build industrial packaging—you should make the best industrial packaging and tell everyone why you believe in what you do. Share how you’re different, as well as insights into your industry and trends.
Take on thought leadership and show people where you think the future will hold and how you’re getting there.
Take some risks, share opinions—and above all else—make it relatable.
People want to be equipped with the information and skills to make the best decisions for their needs. Provide it for free, and you will draw people to your brand.
People gravitate towards genuine and authentic encounters.
We all want to be a part of movements and experiences that are unique.
Leverage your uniqueness, be yourself, and provide the authenticity people seek out.
Being authentic can seem daunting, particularly in corporate cultures. But embracing what makes your business different will generate more compelling content that people will want to share and champion your success.
Brand authenticity is a major differentiation and a competitive advantage. To tap into authenticity, your brand must be:
Don’t worry about making mistakes as you create your authentic voice. With sincerity and genuine effort, people will be drawn to you and embrace your message.
Know yourself. Express your authenticity. Never look back.
A Customer-Centric Mindset
“It is not your customer’s job to remember you, it is your obligation and responsibility to make sure they don’t have the chance to forget you.”
– Patricia Fripp, Award-Winning Author
The Customer Success Model
When your customers succeed—you succeed.
Shared success is the new paradigm that fosters customer loyalty, creates advocates, and develops virtuous sales cycles.
Inbound marketing efforts must revolve around forming long-term mutually beneficial relationships rather than short-term transactions.
Ensure you are investing in your customers and providing value throughout the customer lifecycle.
By forming these shared success relationships, customers become advocates, spread word-of-mouth, return for multiple purchases, and seek your insights as an expert in future decisions.
Don’t underestimate these advocates for future lead generation.
“Over 90% of consumers trust word of mouth marketing recommendations over any other type of marketing and customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.” (source)
Identify Your Ideal Customer Personas
You can’t speak to, provide value for, or build rapport with strangers.
You need to know who your customers are if you’re going to build trust, anticipate their needs, and help them solve problems. What’s more—if you attempt to fake this understanding, you risk being disingenuous or out of touch, which will repel people and damage your brand.
Build customer personas for every ideal buyer you wish to target.
A customer persona, or buyer persona, is a fictional, generalized representation of a business’s ideal customers. Personas make it easier to understand and tailor content to prospects’ and customers’ needs, behaviors, and concerns.
Effective buyer personas come from market research and insights you gather from your existing customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas or dozens. (Note: If you’re new to personas, start small! You can develop more personas later if needed.)
Make sure you capture:
- Communication Channels
- Common Objections
- Job Role
Define Your Target Market
As stated, knowing your customers is paramount to successful inbound marketing. In that same vein, you need to understand your target market.
Determining target markets makes it possible to speak the language, talk to specific pain points, solve problems, share valuable information, and showcase expertise.
Don’t go after everyone with a pulse. Speak directly to specific segments and help them with their needs.
Part of understanding your customers is recognizing how to communicate with them and on channels where they congregate. Managing this nuance requires an intimate understanding of your customer’s behaviors and needs.
By identifying and speaking to specific customer segments, you’ll be more effective in conveying your message and attracting prospects.
Understand Your Customer Journey
People aren’t static. Their needs change as they move through the buyer’s journey and continue to evolve once they become customers.
Understanding where customers are in their journey and anticipating their needs makes it possible to creates tailored, memorable, and valued experiences.
It’s essential to connect with buyers and customers by adopting strategies to provide pertinent information throughout their journey seamlessly. Consider what engagements, education, communities, and resources are valuable to help your customers achieve their goals.
Failing to adapt messaging to specific needs alienates customers and turns advocates into critics. Savvy consumers will find the resources and information they need, even if it isn’t with your brand.
A well-curated customer journey turns visitors into leads, prospects into customers, and customers into advocates.
Search Engine Optimization
“Today it’s not about ‘get the traffic’ — it’s about ‘get the targeted and relevant traffic.”
– Adam Audette, Chief Knowledge Officer, RKG
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of organic website traffic (non-paid) through search engine results.
It’s the art of making content understood by search engine crawlers and desired by your intended audience. SEO is as much about people’s search preferences as it is about the technical details of making your content understood by search engines. While every website requires a unique approach to keywords—there are fundamentals and hierarchies to effective search engine optimization.
The human element of SEO has to do with what people are searching for and the keywords they use to find information. It is “how” users imply intent. Intent may be in the form of questions, word usage, or phrasing—and all are incredibly important in creating content that meets searcher’s needs.
The SEO equation’s search engine side deals with structuring information so that search engines can index. Search relevance determines how web pages rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).
It is crucial to develop search engine and human-friendly content.
With effective SEO—and great content—users seek out and easily find your brand.
Why SEO is Important to Inbound Marketing
SEO is a critical component of every inbound marketing strategy. By tapping into the vast amounts of online search traffic, you can increase organic visitors.
Organic traffic refers to visitors who purposefully searched and sought out your content and didn’t arrive there via a paid advertisement.
While ads can drive visitors to your website—these tactics are expensive, often appear less credible, and make up a small percentage of overall web traffic.
According to Moz, organic traffic contributes 20 times the total volume of paid per click (PPC) traffic on both mobile and desktop.
Relevant and optimized content that results in organic traffic pays “dividends” for years. Unlike paid ads, where traffic drops once you stop paying, valuable content and SEO efforts contribute to long-term brand and “domain” equity.
Don’t Waste Your Time Playing SEO Games. Focus on Providing Value to Customers.
The last thing to mention on this topic is that while search engine rules can be “gamed,” we don’t recommend focusing on manipulating the system.
Plenty of brands look to play short-term games for immediate benefits. In the medium to long term, they lose out on the SEO benefits of brand and domain equity derived from providing “real” value to customers.
As an organization looking to build an authentic inbound marketing strategy, you need to provide great content that is valuable to your prospects.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re thinking about your content and SEO strategies.
First, Google’s search algorithms change as they continue to hone results and make the process more helpful to searchers. Investing in tactics to game the system often results in efforts that crumble the moment algorithms change-making content potentially detrimental.
Second, traffic gained by “gaming” the system often results in high bounce rates and gets classified as “low-quality traffic.” When tactics and content aren’t aligned to deliver value (and engagement)—the result is often a dramatic decrease in traffic AND conversion opportunities. Additionally, when search engines recalibrate their algorithms, “low-quality” traffic ultimately hurts your SEO score.
Third, search engineers are constantly refining their approach—searching for and rooting out sites gaming the system. Dishonest sites are punished—often resulting in significant reductions in organic search traffic. How well will your business prosper when your whole domain never shows up on Google again?
Lastly, great content stands the test of time. Even if the algorithms change—when you’re providing value that people want—you’re still going to reap the benefits of high organic traffic and engagement.
By outlining and sticking to an SEO strategy that focuses on delivering customer value, you’ll build a resilient brand presence and SEO score that drives growth for years to come.
Effective Content Strategy
“What separates good content from great content is a willingness to take risks and push the envelope.”
– Brian Halligan, Co-Founder and CEO of HubSpot
The Fundamentals of Content Strategy
Effective inbound marketing requires a content strategy.
Before you set out on a journey of creating tens of thousands of words and dozens of hours of video or podcast material—draw yourself a map.
You’ll thank yourself later.
A content strategy will help you align the content you create with the specific needs of customers. It also enables you to scale your content efforts and streamline your current and future team operations.
The goal for your content—as mentioned—is to provide value. Specifically, that means providing visitors/readers with information that educates, alleviates concerns, and helps them overcome obstacles to make decisions.
Your content demonstrates mastery over a given topic—also referred to as authority. When potential customers see you as an authority, their trust in you grows, and they will come back to you based on the engagement and confidence you’ve fostered.
But what does this mean for your content strategy? Very simply, you’ll want to create three varieties of content:
Awareness – Content that will help you get found on search engines and demonstrate your relevance to visitors to engage further.
Consideration – Content that educates and informs visitors, builds your credibility (authority), and visitor’s loyalty in you.
Decision – Content that persuades and drives those engaged to action.
How much content should you create for each of these?
How do these apply to the content types you’ll produce (blogs, podcasts, etc.)?
What topics should you focus on?
All of these questions represent why your content strategy is so important.
Overall, your content strategy should outline and describe the following elements:
- Goals, objectives, and focus (short and long term)
- Essential brand and messaging points
- Content types you will produce (blogs, podcasts, videos, infographics, etc.)
- Structure of those content types (Where they live on your website, pillars, topic-clustering, etc.)
- Voice and messaging for each content type (May vary)
- Primary content categories
- Primary content topics
- Key customer personas and segments
- SEO focus keywords (5 or 10 main keywords, long-tail opportunities)
- Channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, email newsletter, etc.)
- Conversion strategy and structure (How and when sales gets involved)
- Measurement & Reporting (How and where do you present KPIs and dashboards, HINT: Marketing Automation)
With these elements documented at a high level and agreed upon among your organization’s leadership—your content strategy will serve as a guide throughout your inbound marketing journey.
Outlining Your Content Strategy Goals, Objectives, & Focus
Your content strategy should convey your current primary objectives to anyone who will participate in your content marketing. Define your goals, outline your approach, and provide some general guidance in a quick, bite-sized format.
If you’re just beginning the content marketing journey—your primary goals will likely generate increased awareness and web traffic.
Here is an example outline:
In Q1 and Q2 of 20XX, our primary goal is to build out a conversion funnel around <insert topic/keyword here>. The objective is to increase organic website traffic and improve our keyword rankings around <primary topic> and the primary keywords outlined in our SEO focus keywords (section).
Primary Goals Include:
- Complete <primary topic> conversion and pricing pages
- Generate X pieces of content per month (minimum)
- X long-form piece (pillar or cornerstone)
- X short-form pieces (supporting blogs)
- X news article or press release
- X conversion download (whitepaper, guide, or checklist)
- Set benchmarks and measure website traffic, downloads, and conversions (Marketing Qualified Leads)
- Increase organic website traffic by XX%+
- Rank on Page 1 of Google for at least two keywords
- Streamline efforts and create SOPs for content generation efforts
Secondary Goals Include:
- Identify X future content opportunities (topics for engagement, thought leadership, content types, etc.)
- Identify X additional valuable SEO keywords for optimization
Once we can consistently meet these goals—we will analyze and determine alternate forms of content to optimize the funnel, increase engagement, and produce more leads.
Additional Thoughts On Your Content Strategy
As outlined above, there are many more aspects to an effective content strategy. We won’t go into every one of those here, but we’ll touch on some of the most critical elements.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Keywords
SEO research and planning must be woven into the very fabric of your content strategy. You may create the best content in the whole world, but if no one is looking for those search terms online—you’re not going to get the results you want.
Planning out your most essential keywords upfront will help inform every downstream marketing decision you make, from primary content categories to topics, page titles, meta descriptions, how you insert hyperlinks, etc.
Simply knowing which search terms get the most traffic, which one’s performs best for click-through, and how fierce the competition is will boost your inbound game.
Content Types, Categories, & Topics
Plan out the types of content you can create around your chosen categories and topics. Determine how frequently you will produce content to drive traffic and meet your goals.
What types of content and mediums are you best equipped to create?
Will you create blogs, podcasts, videos?
How will each of these contribute to your ability to generate awareness, educate, and promote action?
Channels, Content Promotion & Socialization
The next step is to determine through which channels you will promote your content. Social media, business networks, and listings, and email marketing are among the most popular.
For each channel, define how your message best applies to that specific audience. For example, you may want to leverage more authoritative, value-based language for LinkedIn while staying informal and letting your images speak for you on Instagram.
Make sure that you have a strategy to publish and promote your content on a variety of channels. Marketing automation tools can help expand your reach—but the point is—other media have a lot more traffic than your website alone. You need to spread the word.
The Role of Advertising in Your Content Strategy
Generally speaking, inbound marketing is a medium to long-term strategy for growing domain equity, organic website traffic, and high-quality leads.
While it can take months to see a significant impact in organic traffic due to your inbound efforts—advertisements can help bolster your efforts and produce results much sooner.
If your marketing budget permits—you can test out segmentation and promotion strategies using your strongest foundational and conversion content—even early on.
Starting with a small budget, run experiments to identify users who engage with various promoted content types. It’s essentially a short-term stimulus package that will get valuable content in front of viewers. The traffic generated can then be analyzed to optimize messages and identify customer segments.
Updating and Revisiting Your Content Strategy
As you produce and develop content over time—you’ll need to come back and revisit your content strategy. Perform a content audit at regular intervals to update goals, optimize content, and refine the approach.
Likely, you should revisit your content strategy at least once every six (6) months. If you’re aggressively investing in content marketing to drive significant growth, it might be better to revisit every quarter—or even every month.
Tools & Technologies for Inbound Marketing
“Marketing isn’t magic. There is a science to it.”
– Dan Zarrella
Inbound Marketing Utility Belt
Successful inbound marketing requires organizations to build and manage content that addresses specific customer needs, is widely distributed, and speaks to multiple audiences.
Managing the array of activities, processes, and operations needed to generate traffic and convert leads is a complex endeavor, particularly at scale.
However, with suitable systems and marketing tools, these efforts become easily managed, well-curated, and effective campaigns for driving your business.
Lead Generation Website
Not all websites are created equal. A brochure website won’t cut it; inbound marketing requires a website designed and optimized around an inbound strategy.
A lead generation website maximizes your content efforts, draws in traffic, and converts visitors into leads.
A lead generation website and a brochure site have some similarities.
- Present high gloss image and finish
- Easily navigable and intuitive
- Speak to your value proposition on core pages
- Digital representation of your brand
Lead generation websites differ from standard websites because they are:
- Built from the ground up with search engines in mind (SEO for structure, keywords, and metadata)
- Optimized for high performance
- Equipped with a content delivery engine to manage, distribute, and organized content
- Strategically designed to nurture and generate leads through landing and conversion pages
- Designed around campaigns
- Integrated with analytics to measure traffic and empower decision making
Without a lead generation website, your organization will struggle to generate high volumes of organic traffic and be unable to generate conversions and leads effectively.
If you do not see your digital marketing results, despite the high value and consistent content generation—likely your current website isn’t up to the task.
Marketing Automation Platform
Managing large volumes of content is a difficult proposition for any organization. When you compound these efforts with multiple segments, channels, audiences, schedules, and campaigns—it becomes overwhelming.
Marketing automation platforms enable you to tame the content marketing beast by streamlining, automating, and managing content at scale.
Effective marketing automation platforms enable an organization to:
- Tailor messaging to specific target audiences and lead segments
- Create automated email campaigns for prospects and customers
- Engage prospects and customers over channels beyond just email
- Manage relationships and personalize experiences of customers
- Make better strategic decision through reporting and analytics
- Measure engagement with video, email, and content tracking
- Focus on the entire funnel from awareness to customer
Marketing automation platforms drive value and empower your inbound marketing strategies to fill the pipeline with leads and keep current customers interacting and primed for upselling.
Sales Management Software
Effective lead generation means little without the tools to empower your sales team to follow up and convert prospects into customers.
Sales automation software streamlines workflows, automates administrative work, removes redundancies, and ensures accurate data capture.
Without sales automation:
- Leads to go unnoticed
- The sales experience is inconsistent
- Value propositions, information, and materials vary
- Successful tactics and strategies are underutilized
- Deals progress and forecasts are inaccurate
When implemented correctly, sales automation tools benefit the customer and enhance the buying experience while also providing deep sales leadership insights.
Sales automation provides:
- Qualification, notification, and lead handoff
- Email automation and templates to remove redundant work
- Schedules and reminders to keep sales team members following up
- Detailed playbooks that guide sales team members to effective strategies tailored to specific customer needs
- Easy-to-use mobile systems that remove the administrative work of keeping CRM’s up to date
- Automated workflows that enable specialist and closers to assist in closing deals
- Deal management automation to generate quotes and discount approvals that remove the hassle of escalating every deal
- Email, calendar, and meeting integration to ensure your customers never get left out in the cold
- Seamless data capture
Effective sales automation isn’t about reducing or removing sales team members. The need for soft skills, direct human engagement, and skillful negotiation isn’t going away.
Sales automation is about providing your sales team with the tools to delight customers, identify and engage high-value leads, ensure follow-up, and increase transparency.
Know precisely where your growth opportunities are and the best ways to convert customers with sales automation.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platforms
With the golden record of all customer activities, a well-constructed Customer Resource Management (CRM) platform is the backbone of your customer experience. A CRM makes it possible to customize experiences and accurately measure and record your interactions along the customer journey.
When a CRM supports marketing and sales efforts, team efficiency and business growth reach new heights.
Without an integrated CRM, your sales and marketing efforts are inconsistent, leadership decisions happen without accurate data, and opportunities slip by.
These are environments designed for obscurity, customer disappointment, and—ultimately—failure.
With an integrated CRM, tracking customer interactions, tailoring interactions, running campaigns, and aligning teams become seamless. Never miss a beat with customer experience data that traverses the entire customer journey.
Measuring Performance of Inbound Marketing
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
– Peter F. Drucker
Measure and Develop Your Inbound Efforts
Inbound marketing is a long-term strategy that compounds value and pays dividends over time.
Due to its distant horizon, it’s essential to develop strategies that set targets, discern progress, and measure results.
Without a system in place to measure your inbound marketing efforts, it’s easy to miss opportunities and trends that have huge growth potential. There is also the risk that your content slowly slips into obscurity, taking months of effort to correct.
Thankfully, the nature of inbound marketing makes it very easy to measure success and determine areas of opportunity.
Before we jump into what you should be measuring–let’s discuss metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
Metrics are goals that you set and the measurements you take to identify progress.
KPI’s consist of leading and lagging indicators that identify specific and tangible results.
- Leading indicators are predictive measurements that influence change
- Lagging indicators are an outcome measurement that shows what has occurred
Each is required to navigate where you’re going, how far you’ve come, and when you will reach your goal.
Setting Metrics and Measuring Inbound Performance
You haven’t started until you’ve defined a finish line.
A practical goal identifies a specific result you wish to achieve.
Most people say, “I want to increase website traffic, or I want to move up on SERP rankings.” But these are just lagging indicators in disguise and often lead people to short-term solutions.
Your goal should be something along the lines of, “I want to grow my business by doubling my conversions from 50 a year to 100 in 12 months.”
From here, setting up a metric to measure progress is simple. You can measure how much your lead conversions have increased compared to your goal—and how much time has passed at a regular interval.
Time-bound and easily measured goals provide the framework for determining ROI and managing growth.
I spent “X” over “Y” time and got “Z” out of it.
Common KPIs for Inbound Marketing
Next, you need to figure out leading and lagging KPIs.
These will vary based on your specific goals, but typical useful indicators are.
Examples of Leading KPIs:
- Organic website traffic month over month
- Bounce rates
- Click through rates (CTR)
- Highest ranking conversion page
- What channels are producing the most clicks and engagement
- Landing page conversion rate
- Nurturing funnel completion rate
- Keyword rankings
- Inbound email statistics
Examples of Lagging KPIs:
- Visitor conversion rate
- % change in conversion rate
- % change of each landing page conversion rate
- Total site conversions
- Conversion won/lost
It’s essential to consider both leading and lagging KPIs to understand the complete picture.
Not measuring the complete picture creates blind spots that increase the risk of wasting resources, neglecting high-quality conversions, and missing opportunities to capitalize on trends.
Final Thoughts on Inbound Marketing
“Success is making those who believed in you look brilliant.”
– Dharmesh Shah, Co-Founder and CTO of HubSpot
Inbound marketing is a holistic strategy that aligns your content with modern consumers’ behaviors, needs, and authority.
Successful integration of inbound marketing into your business requires changing how you think about your customers, provide value, and build lasting relationships.
Once established, it is the most cost-efficient and effective way to generate leads, foster customer advocacy, and build brand awareness.
Through strategic, thoughtful, and customer-focused content creation, you can draw customers to your brand as a valued authority instead of just a solution provider.
Few more impactful steps exist that an organization can invest in to grow its brand business.
Your customers are out there looking for you. Are you ready to be found?
Learn more about Inbound Marketing.