In a previous post, we discussed why inbound marketing results in more effective B2B lead generation than traditional outbound tactics. We explored how, while the inbound process takes more time to come to fruition, it deliver leads that are more valuable to your business.
Here’s a definition of inbound marketing from HubSpot: "Sharing is caring and inbound is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more."
In other words, inbound uses content to attract people, who are already interested in the kind of solutions that you provide, to your website, where you can kick-start the process of turning them into leads (and then customers).
So how can you put the wheels into motion and start generating these inbound leads? Furthermore, how can you utilise content right the way through the buyer’s journey, to nurture those leads and turn them into customers?
Content, content and more content
This is non-negotiable: you simply can’t implement successful inbound marketing without content. Content is inherent in each stage of an inbound strategy. From blog posts to emails; website copy to social media messages; eBooks to podcasts: it’s all content.
Creating interesting and informative content that gets to the heart of your target audience’s needs – answering their questions and alleviating their pain – is the best way to capture their attention and encourage them to enter into a business relationship with you.
Imagine you are a marketing manager, under pressure from the sales team to re-energise your organisation’s marketing efforts and track progress. To start with, you might carry out some research online, where you come across a number of blog posts that discuss the exact issues you are facing. One business’ website, in particular, is very useful, so you read a few more of their posts and then download an eBook that delves further into your challenge by filling out a form on a landing page. You’ve now become a lead.
And content continues to play a vital role after you’ve handed over your contact details. You now hear from the organisation via the weekly newsletters you opted in to receive. They start to offer you content that explores your specific issues in greater detail and outlines how they can solve the problems you are facing, via their marketing automation solution. You decide to book a consultation to discuss your needs in more detail. Finally, after some conversations and further consideration, you become a customer.
The above is a simplified explanation of a modern buyer’s journey but, what it does show, is that content is crucial at every stage. Today’s buyers are already well-informed by the time they speak to a sales person; they know what they want and are seeking assurance that you can provide it how and when they need it.
Content allows you to educate and inform, to underline your relevance to prospects and to demonstrate your company’s knowledge and expertise; in turn, great content engenders trust in your prospective buyers and hopefully, in their eyes, differentiates you from your competitors.
Buyer personas that really mean something
You likely already know that defining your buyer personas is an integral element of your inbound marketing. After all, these represent the people at whom your content is aimed. And if your content gets in front of the right people, your marketing will start generating inbound leads.
But if you need a bit of a memory jog, we’ve blogged in more detail about buyer personas many times before. Here are some of our previous posts:
- The importance of buyer personas to your B2B content marketing
- How to create buyer personas that define your content marketing
- Does your marketing strategy match your buyer?
While you may spend a significant amount of time outlining your personas, it’s all too easy to type everything up into a formal document and then put it aside to gather dust! That doesn’t mean you end up discounting your personas altogether when you’re creating content – but they’re not definitively at the forefront of your mind.
So, each time you’re working on a piece of content, it’s a good idea to have your buyer persona document to hand – for instance, you might stick it on the wall. That way, if you’re questioning whether your blog post, eBook proposal, video idea or the like, is getting to the root of your audience’s problems, or instead going off on a tangent, you have a reference point that’s easily accessible.
A determined mindset
As I mentioned at the start of this post, it often takes longer to see results when using inbound marketing, compared to outbound methods. And that’s ok. But you should be prepared to be in it for the long haul, in order to acquire those valuable inbound leads that you seek.
So how long will you have to wait? It can take about six months before you see a change in your business. You’re building relationships with people through your content, you're looking to build trust in your solution and gradually bringing them around to your way of thinking. Because of this approach, those relationships are more likely to last the course. Patience is the key.
As long as you are consistent, continually creating valuable content that addresses your target audience's needs, you will begin to witness a change. Inbound leads tend to be more useful to your business than leads that are acquired via traditional methods because these people already have a vested interest in the product or solution that you provide. And that means they are more likely to become customers further down the line.