Picture the marketing red carpet… Outbound Marketing is ready to make her typical grand entrance but gets blocked, ignored, and quickly ushered away. This approach – once a red carpet darling – looks expensive and tired and appears to have rubbed former fans the wrong way. In walks Inbound Marketing, and she stuns! All eyes are fixated on her voluptuous promise of “free” communications through digital content and social media. While she certainly looks the part of a flawless marketing method, is she truly Oscar-worthy? What if we peeled away the hair extensions, fake eyelashes, Swarovski crystal gown, and Jimmy Choos? How would Inbound Marketing look then (insert image of a make-up free selfie)? She’d be imperfect, of course, but still very much a marketing shining star.
Are you intrigued by Inbound Marketing’s allure as an “inexpensive” approach compared to advertising, direct mail, pay-per-click, and other pay-to-play methods? Take out a tissue, rub your eyes, and please take a closer look. It’s not as cheap as you might think, with larger costs hidden in professional salaries and marketing technologies. In fact, some might argue that resources invested in the creation and distribution of content should be used in other important ways including customer service. But even after taking all soft costs into consideration, Inbound Marketing — done well — is worth the investment and does indeed deserve special recognition.
Here are my 10 Tips for making your B2B Inbound Marketing program a winner:
- Secure Thought Leaders: Don’t venture down the Inbound Marketing red carpet without willing and able subject matter experts. With the volume of digital content on the Internet, there’s only one way yours will stand out. It has to be enthusiastic and exceptional! I was once asked to keep a company’s blog on life support because executives viewed it as a necessary evil rather than as a vibrant portal through which to engage existing and potential clients. That request was the catalyst for my walking away from an eight-year, six-figure account.
- Learn Content Strategy: The ultimate purpose of Inbound Marketing isn’t to educate. It’s to generate leads. Without a clear strategy, the chances of doing that successfully will be greatly diminished. Time is money! Don’t let your people create content in a random fashion! Need help with developing a content strategy? Tap a strategic marketing consultant to accelerate your learning curve and set you on the right path.
- Train Your Content Creators: Writing a blog that gets panned by colleagues – marketing or otherwise – and ultimately flops after going live is a momentum killer. Failed authors will not want to walk the red carpet again, and others will not want to risk their time and egos (yes, we are all human) to do so either. Host one or more training sessions to equip your thought leaders with the knowledge they need to be successful.
- Establish an Approval Protocol: Every content creator should be given some creative freedom. However, content that is technically incorrect or riddled with bad grammar and typos can be a liability and is definitely counterproductive. Establish an approval protocol for content in advance so that valuable thought leadership doesn’t get buried for weeks under the unnecessary red tape (another momentum killer) and to ensure a quality level that reflects well on the company brand.
- Create a Content Calendar: What doesn’t get planned usually doesn’t get done. Tap one of the many content calendar tools out there — lots of them are free — to plan your monthly, quarterly, and even annual content production.
- Invest in Marketing Automation Software: Power your Inbound Marketing efforts with marketing automation software such as HubSpot or SharpSpring to make creating landing pages, calls-to-action, email blasts, and blog posts – all necessary components of Inbound Marketing – a snap!
- Join Inbound.org: Want to take your Inbound Marketing efforts from average to exceptional? Join org, a community created in 2012 by Rand Fishkin (Founder @ Moz) & Dharmesh Shah (Founder @ HubSpot), to read about and share what’s trending in the marketing world.
- Power-up LinkedIn: When I ask B2B executives how they are using LinkedIn, the typical response is, “I respond to requests to connect…but only from people I know.” Using LinkedIn in such a reactive and limited manner is a real waste of valuable time. LinkedIn is a highly powerful tool when used proactively. Connect with current and potential clients. Connect with potential referral sources. Double the size of your network within the next 6 months so that you have a large opt-in network ready to receive your company’s thought leadership. LinkedIn is only as effective as you work to make it. A few minutes each day can make a world of difference!
- Invest in Social Media Software: The power of social media for a B2B company is almost limitless. Everyone in the company can actively build connections and help to spread the word. Tools such as PeopleLinx help, too, putting relevant, easily shared content, including your company content, conveniently in the inboxes of your employees. If you have 100+ employees, think of the potential reach of your message!
- Measure and Reward: It takes time to create and distribute content and build social networks. Everyone involved will want to see results. B2B companies can and should measure the effectiveness of their Inbound Marketing efforts by keeping a close eye on open rates, page views, click-through rates (CTR), downloads, new contacts from organic search and social media, and movement in keyword rankings. Watch for content that is resonating and create more of it. If someone creates a blog post that knocks it out of the park, share the news enterprise-wide! This will encourage current content creators to do more and non-creators to join the party. One of my clients sent an email to me after his white paper received 100+ downloads within an hour saying, “I enjoy the download notices — bonus endorphins that stimulate the desire to produce additional content.” Who can argue with bonus endorphins?!
Is your Inbound Marketing program Oscar-worthy? Follow my 10 Golden Tips to improve your chances, and then get your acceptance speeches ready. And remember… If you have prospective clients downloading, reading, and sharing your content, that’s even better than gold!
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