In recent years, inbound marketing has been a huge driver for marketing and entrepreneurial communities. Inbound marketing is the process of organically attracting customers by putting your brand in places they’d seek out naturally, and has emerged alongside the decline of buyers’ trust in brands and traditional outbound advertising (print, radio, television, cold calls, direct mail, etc.). And it has been a huge success. Inbound marketing for industrial companies has proven to be a far more effective and cost-efficient than traditional outbound methods.
“Inbound marketing,” though, is a collective term that refers to many different strategies that work together in complex ways. These include content marketing, SEO, conversion rate optimization, email marketing, lead nurturing, and social media marketing, just to name a few. There’s no single blueprint for success (not that there ever was for outbound marketing or traditional ads), so many marketers and entrepreneurs feel intimidated to step into this unfamiliar territory.
There are hundreds of articles on this subject, but if you’re looking for the top factors for successfully getting started with inbound marketing for industrial companies, or if you’re trying to refine your approach, these seven fundamentals are necessary for any successful campaign:
1. Understand the Changes in B2B Buyer Behavior
The way that people build trust and arrive at a purchase decision has changed. The rise of Google as a household verb has flipped the traditional buying cycle on its head. It has become increasingly difficult to gain a direct line to the decision-maker. People are getting really good at blocking out the traditional marketing playbook and traditional tactics that used to produce results (like cold calling, direct mail, trade publications, PPC ads, and even email blasts) have been countered with caller ID, DVR systems, ad blocker software, and smart email inboxes.
As a result, buyers have taken the B2B purchase process into their own hands. They rely on social media and their own online research to learn about products, assess their functionality, conduct cost comparisons, and make a purchase decision.
So how can you get started with inbound marketing for industrial companies?
2. Do Your Research, Set Goals, and Develop a Strategy
Start with a well-researched strategy. There are two components to this deceptively simple tenet, and both are vital: “research” and “strategy.” First, you’ll need a formally-documented strategy. It’s not enough to “know in your head” what you’re trying to do, or start off with a basic concept and just wing it the rest of the way. You need to know exactly what your goals are, exactly what resources you’re going to allocate, and exactly who on your team will be responsible for execution. Without this strategy, your campaign will meander aimlessly, and you’ll have no basis of comparison to see what kind of progress you’ve made.
3. Have a Buyer-Focused Mindset
One of the key foundations of inbound marketing is that everything revolves around the buyer, not your products, services or your company. To help maintain this focus, companies can create a buyer persona, which is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research, interviews, surveys, and real data about your existing and prospective customers.
When creating buyer personas, you can include customer demographics, behavior patterns, problems, motivations, and goals. The more detailed the personas, the better. [Here are a few great examples] A detailed buyer persona will help you determine where to focus your time, guide content development, and allow for alignment across the organization. As a result, you can attract the right visitors, leads, and customers to your business.
4. Differentiate Expenses vs. Investments
Traditional ads and outbound marketing have historically been treated as expenses: you pay a fixed amount of money for a given service or opportunity, and you get a finite amount of value in return over a fixed period of time. Inbound marketing strategies, on the other hand, are more like investments. You’ll pour money and energy into them, building measurable equity in the form of online assets, visibility, and reputation, and the more you invest, the more you’ll reap over the course of time. It’s a long-term strategy that usually won’t start paying off right away, so you might be fooled into thinking it’s ineffective if you only think of it as an expense and don’t give it enough time. You’re investing in your brand with inbound marketing, so plan accordingly and be patient.
5. Run on Content
High-quality content is the fuel for your inbound marketing engine. This content should be tied to your buyer personas, mapped to the sales funnel, and strategically tied to keywords that buyers use to search for your solutions. Content can come in many forms, but you should create and deliver content in the format that your buyers want (including lead magnets). Whether that’s blog posts, ebooks, white papers, case studies, tip sheets, videos, or presentations, your strategy should deliver the right content in the right format for your ideal buyers.
6. Think About Complementary Strategies
There are dozens of strategies that are considered part of inbound marketing. While it’s possible to see decent results by focusing on each strategy one at a time, it’s far more effective if you learn how to weave them together, understanding how they complement and enhance each other. For example, using blog content to fuel social media could earn you more shares, which can lead to more inbound links, which will in turn boost your search engine rankings. In this relationship, one move—the sharing of blog content on social media—affects your performance across three distinct strategies (content, SEO, and social). By learning everything you can about all of the different strategies and how they influence and impact each other, you can maximize the value of every action you take.
7. Measure Everything
This should be a premise for any marketing strategy, but it’s especially important in the inbound realm. Regularly take measurements of your inbound traffic, sources of traffic, user behavior, conversion rates, social media metrics and everything in-between. Compare these numbers on a month-to-month basis to see how your strategies are performing, especially over the long-term. These numbers are going to be what you use to determine whether your new experimental strategies are paying off. For example, let’s say you introduce a new type of content to your campaign. How can you know whether it’s an effective addition if you don’t have the data to assess its performance? [More on Marketing Analytics]
8. Adapt and Adjust
You’ll need to adjust constantly if you want your campaign to be effective. Inbound marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. Even with a well-researched strategy, it’s almost impossible to reach your full potential right off the bat. Your available resources, technologies, and audiences will change over time, and if you want to stay relevant, you’ll have to change with them. Be prepared to make adjustments to your strategy, sometimes overhauling major components of it. It’s risky, yes, but you can always reverse your approach if you find your original methods worked better. If you stand still for too long, you’ll either become obsolete or a competitor will soon surpass you.
It’s impossible to reduce inbound marketing to a singular concept, since it can work across so many different strategies, but these fundamental concepts will help you use inbound marketing strategies more effectively no matter what your direction or approach entails. Successfully using inbound marketing for industrial companies takes practice, experience, and refinement, just like any other skill.