Inbound Marketing Guide

There is allot of talk around “inbound marketing” and as a guide to what it means to a business. Social media marketing agencies and practitioners seem to have developed a language of their own as digital marketing has become the dominant channel. Terms such as marketing automation, marketing qualified leads, social selling and lead nurturing are now common place words in the quest for business to find more customers. Here we will try to help you understand some of this vocabulary.

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To start with, most inbound marketing plans would focus on five key stages

Attracting visitors/web traffic to a site,

Converting visitors to leads,

Convert those leads to paying customers,

Turn the customers into repeat purchasers,

Analyse KPI’s and metrics to improve results,

Some reasons that have boosted inbound as a marketing tactic would include the fact that companies with a content driven strategy have 50% more website visitors than those that don’t and

leads captured from inbound marketing cost 60% less traditional forms of lead generation.

The reality is that an inbound marketing strategy has more or less the same goals as outbound marketing so the difference between them is not what any company wants from the marketing effort but how it goes about getting it. Inbound marketing is focused on attracting IN buyers to consider a brand usually with content as the bait (articles, videos, images, whitepapers etc) while outbound marketing employs diversion tactics (online ads, direct mail, cold calling) to get buyers attention. Most businesses would use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A worrying trend is that some effective outbound activities like prospecting and lead generation via sales people is becoming dormant as too many start-ups or small businesses rely exclusively on inbound marketing to deliver leads and sales.

For a whole host of reasons, inbound marketing is now the primary channel deployed to engage buyers when considering a purchase due to the more non-interruption nature of inbound marketing.

Below are a list of activities and terms relating to inbound marketing, so next time a social media marketing agency speaks about how to put in place a plan then you will be well prepared to talk about it. While content is the rock upon which inbound marketing is built there is more to this strategy than articles, it also includes the use of social selling, targeting long tail keywords, interest sharing, engaging in social network conversations, attracting social media influencers and managing multi platform social channels.

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So here are some inbound buzzwords to improve your marketing speak.

 Inbound Marketing Plan;

The inbound marketing plan is basically a publishing calendar of activities including goals and targets covering blogging, content themes, articles, and whitepapers, landing pages, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and engagement in social media conversations.

Growth Hacking;

A recent term added to the marketing vocabulary. Mainly a tactic employed by start-ups in the App or SaaS space, growth hacking works on out of the box thinking blended with technology to try to achieve massive growth in numbers in a short pace of time. The sole focus of using this as a strategy is to grow big (web traffic, social media followers etc but not revenue) quick so every action is designed to drive that growth.

Viral Marketing;

This is about taking a marketing campaign, seeding it to other people and hoping the content appeals on a large enough scale to make the campaign grow rapidly. It is the multi level marketing of the digital age. Think “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Lots of marketing people go to bed at night dreaming about their image, video or article going viral. However the reality is there is little control when it comes to what will go viral. To try and make viral marketing work the key is to create some unusual content that will get lots of people to promote it for you. The more people who share your content will lead to increased brand exposure. It boils down to encouraging people to plug you to their social media audiences.

A/B Testing;

This refers to the testing of two different versions of the same email template, landing page or call to action (CTA) to figure out which version delivers the best results. A/B testing is something all marketers should do. Examples would be to take a call to action and test it with different strap lines, colours, text, and or with a different image. This allows you to determine which call to action performed better. So don’t guess as different messaging works to different audiences and even geo-locations. Always be testing as even a small percentage increase in leads or traffic can have a huge impact on sales (depending on your average order value).

Content Marketing;

Content marketing is the seed that will grow to capture future opportunities for web traffic, leads and customers. It is the bedrock upon which inbound marketing was formed and still powers. It involves the creating and distribution of valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly) to attract buyers with the goal of getting the customer to take some predetermined actions. The content created is heavily keyword/SEO orientated the majority of time for a start-up and a high percentage of the time for companies with larger databases.

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Marketing Automation;

 Marketing automation is software that is used to automate large parts of the marketing process like lead nurturing, content publishing to social media or auto-responder emails. This software usually appeals to mid-sized upwards companies with larger databases or well trafficked sites.  Marketing automation is mostly used to improve the nurturing, conversion and closing stages of the sales funnel and is not a one fit fits all solution. The hard work of getting traffic and creating content is still yours to complete.

Social Selling;

Social selling is a great inbound tactic, despite its name it is not focused on sales but rather selling oneself or a brand to raise awareness to buyers of what you offer. It is a subtle and patient tactic where time is spent building up trust or “emotional lodgements”. It works on the premise that social media accounts are a fantastic broadcast channel while also a place to gradually build relationships and make connections. The key is to share content from other sources (not just your own), like other articles, participate in social conversations and provide regular updates. Social selling can be used as the key to unlock sales calls if used correctly, otherwise you are seen as a smash and grab merchant.

Lead Nurturing;

This is the marketing or sales process that is set in motion after someone downloads or fills in a form (newsletter, white paper) on your website. In the B2B sales environment it could be a series of emails together will social selling and direct sales contract. In B2C it usually involves a series of emails. The skill here is that when someone downloads a piece of content from your site, you ask (and give reasons) for them to provide their email address. Now with the verified and opted-in email address, you can implement a series of emails to be sent to them in the next days, week or month after they first signed up to downloaded something. Lead nurturing is important as it reduces your cost of customer acquisition and allows you to build a relationship as you know what they are interested in from your offerings. Be careful not to over expect the speed of developing the relationship or put too much urgency into the nurturing as their initial sign-up could only be a top of the funnel action.

Long Tail Keywords;

This term usually applies to your content marketing efforts and is the SEO keywords you have selected to target. These keywords are normally three plus words such as “social media marketing in Ireland” and are not as competitive in Google as a one word keyword such as “marketing.” Google also auto suggests long tail keywords so research these as part of your content strategy. Can I target hot or one word keyword, you ask? Sure as lots of people are probably searching on that word daily but on the flipside your competitors are targeting these keywords too. It could take years to even get on page 5 of Google for a heavily trafficked keyword. Ten or twenty well indexed long tail keywords when combined will deliver just as much traffic in the medium term as a single keyword. So when creating content titles and web URL’s, choose longer, more detailed keywords. If you research your buyer profiles well enough you will get clicks and views from potential buyers from your target market faster than you think.

The above is not a complete list of phrases as new words and terms come into play all the time around inbound marketing but hopefully by the time you have read this article, some of them are still relevant. Thanks for reading.

Inbound Marketing Strategy

Every business today needs an inbound marketing strategy. In the digital world nearly all marketing efforts are focused on actions like growing web traffic, increasing visitors, gathering sales leads, driving up conversions and securing buyers and customers.   Inbound marketing strategies deliver on all the same marketing goals but in a different way. Traditional marketing or push marketing  is really about interrupting buyers, trying to get their attention with TV or radio ads, online advertising, cold calling, direct mail to name a few.  Whereas inbound marketing is focused on “pull marketing”, devising marketing tactics to get buyers permission to share information as to add value to the buyers journey when researching products or services.

Every business will most likely use a blend of inbound and outbound marketing tactics to deliver the targets. Every marketing focused company including marketing automation companies like Hubspot, Marketo, Oracle and SAP all use both outbound and inbound marketing tactics. Indeed  outbound marketing activities like cold calling and lead generation by sales teams is nearly a forgotten weapon in customer acquisition as too many companies (especially newer technology focused companies) rely too heavily on inbound marketing to drive the sales pipeline.

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As a percentage of traffic and sales leads, inbound marketing is now the main driver in getting a brand into the buyer’s awareness and consideration steps when looking for a product mainly due to the non-interruption aspect of inbound marketing efforts.

Listed below are some inbound marketing tips to compliment the marketing strategy in pulling in buyers to a business. The golden rule of inbound marketing including social selling is that is it about sharing not selling, help not hype.  A business of any size can deploy inbound marketing with some good content and a few whitepapers to start but be aware that inbound marketing will take time to take hold however once traction starts happening , inbound marketing will deliver better qualified and less expensive sources of sales than outbound marketing.

The cornerstone of nearly all inbound marketing strategies is “Content” and sharing quality content alone on social networks will go a long way to increasing traffic and leads to a business or website.  But like all great strategies there is more to inbound marketing than just publishing content; inbound marketing should also include whitepapers, research publications, social stories, social selling, article sharing, social conversations, reaching social media influencers, article seeding and participation on the social networks.

Here is a list of inbound marketing tips that will hopefully improve Inbound Marketing results for you

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  1. Develop a complete inbound marketing plan. Inbound marketing includes blogging, articles, whitepapers, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and social media conversations. Which of these tactics can be improved?
  2. Implement all inbound marketing tactics. A business should never rely on one or two tactics even if you are getting good results from current inbound marketing tactics, implementing all tactics will drastically improve desired results.
  3. Don’t forget the “awareness phase”. Social media using content as the lead is where people become aware of your business and they delight in the quality of the content being read. The awareness phase is where you engage customers and prospects for future purchases and opportunities, even in B2B marketing. A business needs to have blog posts that delight, social media content that engages and messaging that keep customers or clients coming back. Before you get a lead or a sale, you need to build awareness.
  4. Share the content. Simply posting a new article or blog post and then leaving it to chance that it will be picked up by search traffic or prospects are wasted opportunities. Social media networks opens up the ability to immediately collect traffic and leads based on a new article published not to mention the long tail SEO impact. There is more to sharing content than posting to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Sharing content takes time and effort, share across all social networks, forums, groups, while seeding the article on relevant sites like Reddit, Scoop.it etc.
  5. Love your social media accounts. Spend time attending to all your social media account, yes they are fantastic broadcast channels but also more importantly a place to build relationships. Have a constant presence and it need not take a huge chunk of time. Share content from other sources, like other articles, reply to messages, engage with conversations and give regular updates.
  6. Stay tuned in as Inbound marketing, social media marketing and SEO are in a constant state of change. What is the latest social platform, the coolest social network, what type of content (words, images, videos) are best of which audience? To keep inbound marketing firing on all cylinders, marketing teams have to stay on top of changes and make sure to adjust to new opportunities while refining old ones.
  7. Embrace analytics and reporting- The numbers produced from marketing tactics are the key to what is working and what is not. Data and numbers should be checked against goals on a regular basis be it daily or weekly. Ensure all the metrics and KPI’s are in aligned to goals, actions and activities. By viewing the numbers, a business can see where it needs to make adjustments to improve results.
  8. Solicit feedback. Chat to customers, other departments (sales), prospects and industry peers about inbound marketing. Where do they go to be made aware, what delights them, and why do they consider one over another? Also sometimes we can fail to understand how integrated inbound marketing can be with other aspects of the business, from outbound marketing campaigns to sales calls to social selling and customer retention for future purchases. How else you can use inbound to get great results?
  9. Write quality content. Content marketing in the inbound marketing mix is the main conduit in bringing in search traffic and leads. While content will bring in a level of traffic regardless of the content quality, the bounce rate will be high and the consideration rate low. In a digital marketplace where everyone is sharing content, every blog, article or whitepaper needs to be specific, well researched, well written and above all informative. Search the web for blog ideas and to see what social influencers are reading (and interview them to get in-depth information for future social posts)inbound-marketing-terms
  10. Commit time and resources. Inbound marketing takes time, if it is a real marketing strategy for your business, then investment in time and resources to make it happen is a must. Do not let other activities take priority. Every business that is successful with inbound marketing takes the time to follow through on all tactics, methodologies, strategy and implementation; otherwise inbound marketing contribution to the business is just a wish.
  11. Give to get considered. Once awareness levels rise (traffic, reads, likes), start to give more to get into the buyers consideration phase. Offer more giveaways, free trials, deeper white papers, studies and reports. Make it easy for them to consider you, use landing pages, webinars, free samples, and contact us forms so you can move the prospect to a qualified lead.

So as you can see, there is more to inbound marketing than a simple promotional blog and posting it on Blogger. Words sometimes can be hard and time consuming to craft, but words are powerful, fun, enlightening and engaging. These words constructed into quality content and shared as articles across deep reaching social networks will drive your whole marketing and  inbound marketing for today and into the future.  Inbound marketing works as you HAVE READ this article right DOWN TO THE END.

Brian

The Bitter Business.

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a series of tactics that deliver agreed goals for the business

First thing for any small business to note is that marketing plans do not have to be a complicated fifty page document. Marketing plans and go-to-marketing strategies may get more advanced and complicated as a business grows but for the vast majorities of companies a simple, effective marketing plan will suffice. Do not write a marketing plan to please an investor or bank manager, write the marketing plan as your best bet to get customers interested into what you are selling.

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Most small businesses will usually find one key marketing tactic that produces a consistent return on investment (ROI) plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together allows the business to grow revenue. The key marketing tactic can range from trade-shows, SEO, PPC, inbound marketing, social selling to advertising. The key marketing tactic selected is the marketing foundation and it needs to be solid, deliver consistent results and removes any fear of the marketing plan failing.

Don’t panic if your business is new or it has not found one yet, please read on.

A great tip to identify what type of marketing plan is right for a business is to ask this question “What is the lifetime value in profit of a customer we sell to?”

I suggest you then assign your business into one of these three customer lifetime profit value categories

  1. Sub €200 profit
  2. Sub €2000 profit
  3. Above €2000 profit

This is important as it defines your cost of customer acquisition (what it costs a business to get a customer to buy from them) and how much a business can afford to pay for clicks, traffic and a sales lead. The business should also figure in customer churn, do not over calculate how often or how long a customer will stay loyal to a business. Depending on the business model, the marketing plan also affects cash flow, because you pay for marketing upfront with a lag over weeks or months to get an ROI on the tactics.

  1. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €200.
    The products or services sold may cost €50 to €200 or higher AND as a business if you sell to that customer two, three, four times over a three year period, the profit on that customer would be less than €500. An example of this could be an online florist. A bouquet of flowers costs €55, but the customer is probably going to buy two or three times a year means the likely profit from that customer is less than €200.
  2. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €2000. The vast majority of businesses fall into this category. The premise here is that the product or service costs an amount that will generate a €2k profit, OR the average customer buys more than once over a period of time with the total purchases adding up to more than €2000 profit. An example here is an online SaaS software company. The average monthly subscription is €50. That is €600 a year over three years = €1800. With a 60% profit margin this comes to €1080 for the lifetime value (profit) of the customer.
  3. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is ABOVE €2000.
    This category usually applies to large one of consumer purchases or a B2B sales environment. The calculation here is that the sale or number of sales over a period of time (36 months) will generate in excess of €2000 profit for the business.

So, now that you have assigned your business to category 1, 2 or 3, here is some suggested key marketing tactics as the foundation to drive the business growth.

If a business is a 1 – Referrals/Local/AdWords

The key marketing KPI here is can you generate leads/traffic/enquires for less than €1 and the cost of customer acquisition (getting a sales or purchase) is no more than €10. A simple marketing metric is the business sold to 100 customers in a month and spent €100 on marketing, so the cost per sale was €1.

Maybe distribute flyers door to door with special offers, advertise locally online with free samples, and optimise your website for local target keywords. Ask customers for referrals to add to your email marketing newsletters. Send OUT newsletters to your existing customers. Attend local events and business organisations. Find one key marketing activity that generates enough customers where it costs the business as little as possible to get a sale.

If a business is a 2 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media

In this category the sales cycle could be longer or need sales intervention. The business will need to generate a high enough volume of leads to generate the ROI needed to be successful. SEO work can be critical here but this should be part of an inbound marketing tactic. The use of social networks for social selling and content marketing to influence buyers should be considered. A good email marketing solution and a resource to work on social media campaigns is probably a must. Budgets permitting, Google Ad Words will deliver the quickest bang for your marketing buck alongside social media tactics.

If a business is a 3 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media/Events/Sponsorship

Depending on your market segment, where customers generate a profit north of €2000 usually involves more lead nurturing, heavier buyer influence, bigger social media reach and plans for a more guided sales cycle. I have seen companies successfully use events as their key marketing tactic even if the sales cycle and cost per lead required more investment. The biggest success tactic from a marketing activity now used in this category is content marketing. Maybe consider putting a lead generation person on social selling to generate customer interest. A business needs to invest in resourcing the writing and publishing of well executed articles and whitepapers to set the business as a thought leader in their industry. While the cost per sales lead and cost of customer acquisition can be higher, the marketing plan tactics needs to deliver more solid leads or higher qualified customers as the marketing investment in this category can seriously impact the cash flow of a smaller business.

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Regardless of 1, 2 or 3, the key to making a marketing plan work is to be: CONSISTENT.

Plans take time, for a plan to work it must be implemented with both the heart and the head.  Every marketing plan has to have KPI’s and metrics. Implement, stick with it and adjust where necessary. Do not adopt the “give it a whirl” approach or alter course before the data supports the decision. In a digital world, social media marketing has overtaken sales and even brands as the core business driver. The buyer-supplier relationship has moved on, fast, the marketing plan needs to address how to deliver a consistent return on investment (ROI) via a key marketing tactic plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together matches the business strategy for growth.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.