One question we hear fairly often when talking with prospects about inbound marketing is – Why can’t we hire one marketer in-house to do ALL of our inbound marketing? If you’ve ever wondered the same or questioned the need for working with a marketing agency – keep reading to discover why one person can’t do it all when it comes to inbound marketing.
Consumers have developed a new sophistication when it comes to processing marketing messages. They have the ability to fast-forward through commercials and block pop-up ads. Pay-per-click banners are merely minor distractions in their peripheral vision.
Since people have embraced the use of the internet, the way they buy has changed. In the past, companies had all the information on the product or service they were selling and buyers came to them to gather information. Now, buyers do research on the internet, are well informed and usually have chosen who they want to do business with before they ever even contact a company.
Guest Post By Ashley Lipman
Social media has become a celebrated marketing method for many reasons. This is because it is a reasonable investment and there are many free tools to help you get started. The truth is, many marketers and businesses are already leveraging social media to reach their customers and grow their personal brands.
The holidays are over and as we begin to settle into our regular work routines again, we’re looking forward to the new year ahead. As we reflect on the last year, there have been a number of shifts in marketing as well as in our business.
With the student population expected to reach 2.7 billion by 2035, schools are thriving and enrollments are at their highest.
One area that’s rapidly developing is the use of technology to deliver educational content. As an EdTech organization, you know the importance of using the latest technology.
Enhancing Your Inbound Marketing for B2B Software
If you’re responsible for marketing at a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, you may not realize the potential that the inbound marketing methodology holds for your business. If you treat your inbound and content marketing strategies like a buffet, as tech business startups and developers sometimes do, you won’t get the power of marketing as an integrated process.
As marketers, we know that trends and technology are changing everyday. You can’t continue doing what’s always been done, even if it has worked in the past – before you know it, your method might become outdated.
A Snapshot of Trends in Qualified Lead Generation
Every year, the leading venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins publishes a report on Internet trends. This year, the report included some remarkable findings in mobile computing and advertising. The Internet Trends 2017 Report reveals how mobile devices are dominating and growth in advertising is going to a few specific providers, namely Google and Facebook.
The terms inbound sales and inbound marketing often go hand-in-hand. But anyonewho has worked in a company with designated sales and marketing teams knows the two don't always go hand in hand at all. The places where inbound sales and inbound marketing diverge can be a detriment to a company's bottom line if divergences aren't handled or supported effectively.
Inbound marketing is a strategy focussed on bringing customers “in” or attractingthem to your product on the internet instead of purchasing space out there. It does this by offering them the information they need to learn about their problem and make a decision on how to solve it before asking them for anything in return.
Even if you're already pretty savvy with the lingo of inbound, it never hurts to have a little refresher. You may even surprise yourself by learning something new! If you're a newbie, commit these terms to memory and you'll already be ahead of the curve.
Inbound marketing is constantly evolving to meet the needs of consumers and to keep up with the lightning speed of the internet's changing landscape. In order to adapt, more businesses are investing more in inbound marketing than outbound marketing and here’s why...
Your business was founded on the principal that you have a product or service that other people need or want. Fantastic. Now, how are you going to get the word out to said people that you offer this product or service that is tailored just to them?
Inbound marketing tools are supposed to make business life better. Sometimes, though, competitors' tools are so similar that it's hard to tell which one is truly the best fit for your company. The last thing a small business wants to do is fork out a ton of cash on a system that doesn't yield the expected benefits. Or that sits there, largely underused due to steep learning curves.
The HBO Game of Thrones website describes this series, "Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. Follow kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noblemen as they vie for power..."
Hey! Sounds like another day in the sales and marketing trenches!
Small businesses need every tool and trick they can get their hands on. You're working towards profitability in a highly-competitive world - and much of the time, your team isn't as big as the competition's.
Taking advantage of the best tools for inbound marketers allows small teams to play big - with an ROI to prove it.
Inbound marketing is like dating. Like any prospective date, before your customers can you trust what you have to offer, you must first build a relationship of trust. If you don't, it will cost you - literally.
Belief systems are powerful. They can empower you to become more successful than you've ever been before, or they can hold you back - unconsciously ensuring you repeat the same, ineffective cycles over and over again.
What ever happened to the handshake?
At one time in the not-so-distant past, it was the quintessential act of introducing yourself to prospects. In one gesture, you could make a favorable first impression, establish trust, and position yourself as someone who can be relied on to deliver results. In other words, the handshake was the way to lay the foundation of a relationship that could last for years.
It could possibly be a panacea for all things sales. A virtual funnel that leads directly to pre-qualified prospects. An unprecedented platform allowing you to disseminate your marketing messages with strategic abandon. The most efficient and effective way to infiltrate inboxes.
It is, of course, LinkedIn.
You know the drill.
Your sales team wants leads. Your leadership team wants sales. You want to see your website at the top of Google. So you opt for a varied collection of online tactics that likely includes posting quality content, rich with keywords, which are then forced into your other marketing materials. You go heavy on the links. You use Google AdWords. Along the way, attention goes toward a flurry of activity to design and develop a website that is absolutely perfect.
Contrary to popular belief, effective inbound marketing strategy isn't strictly limited to delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.
It's really focused on creating customer success centered marketing strategies – which isn't always easy and usually takes a lot of time to master.
Goal setting. It’s an integral part of any good inbound marketing strategy. Having a road map to follow certainly makes it easier to reach your destination. But how many times have your main marketing objectives been taken off-course by detours and U-turns? Hiccups and lag times after achieving short-term goals can extend the journey much more than you had originally planned.
What's the first thing to come to mind when you think of your house?
The decor? The tables? What about the windows... or the lights? These things may be the most visible and noteable components, but what about the roof, the floor, and the walls that hold everything up and together? Let's face it – without those, the contents of the building wouldn't be of much use, right?
Now, when you think of marketing, you may think of the visible glitz of a quality website, the glamour of a popular social media campaign, or the laudable end results of a job well done. But when you get down to it, your inbound marketing efforts are essentially the invisible support beams of your business.
Delighted. Fascinated. Engaged.
Customers today are expecting to feel all of the emotions above and more. It’s no longer enough to just meet a customer’s needs and go on your merry way. To foster loyalty, you need to make them feel incredibly special to your brand.
Put your ear to the ground of the marketing world and you’re likely to hear the words inbound and SaaS over and over. At first listen these two terms seem to have little to do with each other; one is a customer-centric marketing methodology and the other is a service-based software model.
Instead of calling a family member, people are now heading online first to learn more about their healthcare concerns. The inbound marketing methodology gives medical practices in the healthcare industry a platform to naturally attract patients and build their online reputation.
It is often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. If that is the case, then a video is worth at least 2,000. Videos are so much more engaging and interactive than pictures and text. With modern technology, embedding videos directly into a website, blog or social media account is extremely easy and even a little bit of fun. The key is creating unique video content that is different from the rest.
Just as a vehicle requires a trip to the mechanic for periodic maintenance and up-keep, your social media’s inbound strategy needs to be given a regular once-over. Consider your social media to be the vehicle that transports you and your customers to common ground... not only does the "vehicle" need to be sparkling clean on the outside, but it also needs to have strong horsepower rumbling under the hood.
You have a website up and running, and you are now launching your first blog. Congratulations! A website with a quality blog is an enormous strategic advantage when used properly. The internet has become the most common first-effort search for people looking for insider views, tips, and tutorials for their personal and professional pain points, and search engines are constantly on the lookout for relevant resources that can provide solutions.
There are a number of ways sharpen your blog’s competitive inbound marketing edge when it comes to attracting these visitors to your site:
Let’s face it – as marketers we are always looking for ways to improve, or sometimes just prove, ROI. Using marketing automation software gives us the leg up and increases our chances for success. In fact, those who use marketing automation software are more likely to see a higher ROI than those who don't according to the 2015 State of Inbound report.
In order to discover how many companies are actually actively doing inbound marketing, the simplest, most direct way to find out is to just ask! So, every year, that’s exactly what happens with HubSpot’s annual State of Inbound report.
The South is known for its hospitality. Whether it’s an outdoor picnic of fried chicken and potato salad or a peaceful Sunday afternoon on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea, Southerners exude a welcoming attitude that says, "Come sit with me, let’s chat."
The heart of inbound marketing is not that different!
If you're finding it difficult to make your business known in the ever-growing online environment, it might be time for you to learn a little more about inbound marketing. This strategy for marketing has subtlety and helpfulness at its heart and will require a shift in your expectations. Since it is a unique formula for every business, having it deliver measurable results takes a little trial and error at first in order to establish a firm foundation.
Paid ads and inbound marketing together? Say it ain’t so Joe!
For years we’ve talked about how you should focus on drawing traffic to your site through relevant content. Build it and they will come. Provide relevant content that resonates with your target audience and they will love you for it. But what if you want to jumpstart your inbound lead generation efforts through paid ads? Promote it and they will come... faster.
A constantly growing website and an integrated social media presence are both critical components for generating virtual smoke signals that e-searchers can find in the jungle of online options for solutions to their business's problems. A business's online presence must be multifaceted, and a single page website simply will not do in today's overcrowded online space. The incorporation of social media in conjunction with a solid website increases the extent of your reach, and strengthens your inbound marketing impact.
While inbound marketing is a fairly recent phenomenon, those who would like to learn more about how it works should think of it as similar to online dating. Inbound marketing is all about knowing what you've got going for you, knowing what suitors want, and connecting with them. Yet the beauty of inbound marketing is that it's similar to an online dating experience. What would you do to attract an ideal suitor? You would likely do things to heighten your odds of finding just the right person – and avoid the things that would attract the wrong types or cause you to have to settle for whoever shows up out of desperation.
As marketers, we have to make decisions about how to accomplish several things in one campaign:
- Give the best user experience
- Delivering the right message in the right context
- Meet marketing and sales goals
With HubSpot, we have a lot of tools at our fingertips to accomplish all of these; smart content is the biggest tool in the marketer’s toolbox.
Why use it?
Smart content allows you to personalize the user experience far beyond just a simple personalization token (“Hi Joe!”) in an email or on a landing page. It can be built around country, device type (desktop, tablet, smart phone), referral source, or a specific list membership or lifecycle stage. This flexibility allows you, for example, to deliver a different experience to a prospect than you would a customer.
Inbound marketing certification from HubSpot has come a very long way since I first discovered HubSpot's Inbound University in 2009. Back then I was just getting familiar with the term inbound marketing and trying to understand how and why marketing online was so different from traditional offline marketing.
A few years ago when HubSpot rolled out the HubSpot Academy certifications, we recommended that one of our new clients go through the Inbound Marketing courses. Interestingly enough, the client came back to us and said that he found it so valuable that we should require everyone for whom we provide inbound marketing services to go through the certification process.
When you decided to add inbound marketing to your marketing mix, how did you determine what you would do first? Did you make a plan before you started, or did you just start checking off the boxes: blogging, social media, emailing, etc? It is really easy to become engrossed in the activities rather than making a plan first.
How Can You Write for My Business?
When talking to prospective clients, something I hear frequently is, “We can’t have a blog! We don’t have time to write them and you can’t write for us, because my business is too complex. You just don’t understand it.”
If you’re actively engaging inbound marketing then layering in content personalization should not be a big hurdle for you. Since the first step is identifying marketing personas, you already know the people you’re talking to and you’re already aiming your content to speak directly to them. That’s nice, right?
Personalized web content. No doubt you’ve experienced it. Most likely when you visit Amazon for the umpteenth time to purchase something on your Prime account. For instance, during my visit I might see what I previously searched for, in addition to suggestions for outdoor fitness products, bird toys, and dog treats. All of this is based on activity from my previous visits. In addition, I see suggestions for things I’ve never purchased but are based on my gender and, I’m sure, based on what they have inferred from items that I’ve searched for or previously purchased. The big question is - HOW do they do that? The bigger question is - How can YOU do it for visitors to your site?
If your website is built on the HubSpot CMS, you have the ability to do this type of personalized content right now. But, hold on… Don’t just rush out and start adding personalization to your web pages. If you don’t do it correctly it will have the opposite effect of the inbound marketing best practice of delighting website visitors and instead drive them away. There are steps that need to be taken before your website delivers the message “Hello Rebecca” on your homepage to welcome me when I visit.
It's no secret that I spend the majority of my waking hours with dogs - five of them to be exact. They help me out during the day by keeping me company while I work. They make sure I don't sit at my desk too long and remind me that "playtime" is just as important as “work time”. Occasionally, their antics actually inspire an article or two.
Below are five content marketing lessons that I've learned from them.
Years ago, I don't want to say how many but it is more than quite a few, I worked in the newspaper business as an advertising account executive.
Business to business marketing techniques are more important than ever in today’s sluggish economy when companies are looking to succeed and thrive so that they can make sure that they keep the doors open and maintain a steady flow of revenue. The Internet is one of the most crucial areas for business to business (B2B) marketing so that companies can bring in customers, but it is important to understand the unique challenges of on the web and how to approach this task.
Someone once said, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I’m certain that everyone has heard that at least once in their lifetime – probably from a parent, close friend or someone else that had their best interests at heart. In fact, I would even bet that you have probably given that same counsel to someone.
You know what I mean. It’s the “no-need-for-exercise diet pill”, or the “no-need-for-sleep energy drink”, or maybe even the “first-page-of-Google guarantee”. (By the way, there isn't really a “first page” of Google for a keyword these days. Each person can get a personalized bucket of results unique to them)
The truth is – there are no “magic beans”.
Or "magic pills" or “easy buttons”. Everything in life from which you expect to get real results requires work – hard work - and time. From the athlete who wants to compete in the Olympics to the business owner who wants to build a successful business, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an investment and it requires long-term strategy. We all know it. Yet, everyone wants a shortcut.
The first step is realizing there is a problem. I can't tell you how often we hear it when we prepare to launch an inbound marketing effort for one of our customers. "Well, everyone can use our products" or every business etc.
Everyone or lots of someones can use your product but do you really need ALL of them to make the purchase in order to be successful? Not usually, and it would be unrealistic (although really fun to dream about) to expect everyone to buy from you. More often there is a specific range of new customers needed to justify staying in business.
When the time comes to consider a web design agency to put you on the track toward inbound marketing success, it’s easy to be swayed by a vast array of digital flash, bells and whistles. But the agency best for you is not necessarily the one scattering around the most pixels. Instead, choose a design consultant based on knowledge of how qualified lead generation works – and how it can work for you.
Sometimes when it comes to balancing the books and juggling cash flow we get so caught up in counting pennies we don't even notice the dollars being lost. Unmeasured losses are perhaps one of the biggest enemies of businesses (especially small ones) and marketing is particularly vulnerable to them.
The Internet has changed the way people buy. Blog articles, for instance, help buyers make well-informed purchasing decisions. Unlike traditional advertising, these type of content are more educational than commercial. They are so effective that more and more business owners are starting to publish blogs for potential and existing customers. What makes them effective, however, is the inbound marketing strategy that perfectly fits into the business plan.
From its beginning, inbound marketing strategy has focused on the difference between chasing a lead at random and letting a qualified lead find you.
Oftentimes, the biggest hurdle to garnering your share of online attention is properly utilizing the dynamics of site optimization.How to get found online is a common frustration of most business owners. You have the website, you’ve identified your target audience, and you’ve force-fed all the clever methods of crafting your online pitch, yet they still won’t come.
86% of B2C marketers report using content marketing, and content marketing expenditures are expected to top $118 billion in 2013—with good reason. 70% of consumers say content marketing makes them feel closer to the company providing the content, and 60% say they feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its website.
Certainly, you don’t need to be told that knowing your customer is the first, and most important, step of the marketing process. That’s been the cardinal rule since advertising’s Ice Age. But getting to know the customer in a digital age… that’s where the rules are evolving, and it’s where inbound marketing can help.
Eyes on the target
Today’s online marketplace uses the word “target” a lot, and if you imagine a target, you appreciate how small that bull’s-eye seems. And you’re not the only one looking at it. Countless competitors from both near and far firing their arrows at the same target, so taking careful aim is of the essence.
The basis of inbound marketing is getting that target customer to discover and appreciate the great content – blogs, videos, white papers and more – that ultimately leads them to your landing page, where they may offer their contact information. But you have to make the first move.
When you think “typical customer,” do you envision a faceless, nameless set of statistics? Or does "Mr Smith" come to mind? If you think of customers as people, not just profit, you’re halfway to accomplishing part of your goal of qualified lead generation – creating marketing personas.
Even if TV, radio, display ads and direct mail worked in the past, each of these media are in decline. Your target market has migrated to an online environment, turning to their laptops, tablets and smartphones to research vendors – B2C and B2B.
In an earlier article, 8 Ways Inbound Marketing Is Just Like a Physical Fitness Plan, we outlined getting yourself in the right frame of mind to prepare for an inbound marketing campaign. This time we're sharing the specific steps for a strong and fit inbound marketing plan:
You know how it is when you set out to get yourself in shape by making changes to your diet and exercise routine, right? Well, the same frame of mind applies to inbound marketing strategy.
Getting things “off the rack” may work when you’re shopping for a coat, but when it comes to your website, blog, social pages and other inbound marketing content, you want something a bit more tailored to fit your budget and your business.
Inbound marketing is a big, robust, ever-evolving discipline, which means there’s as much potential for mistakes as there is for success. Teaming up with a proven SEO company is a good step toward getting the ROI of your dreams. At the same time, you can take inspiration from some inbound marketing best practices.
Content best practices
Sometimes it seems that a fine line separates “cool beans!” from “this again?” Because a best practice of inbound marketing involves publishing content consistently, the temptation to cut corners is always there. Content that becomes less customer-focused and more sales-pitched can turn off your audience.
One good way to forestall content burnout is to diversify not just your subject matter but your authorship:
Ask employees or colleagues to contribute articles written from their perspective.
Star your customers in how-to videos.
Join forces with an industry organization to create a more credible white paper.
Update older blogs with new information.
Any contemporary target market strategy takes into account the enormous influence of the digital marketplace. Even if your direct mail, broadcast or Yellow Pages campaigns worked in the past, today's customer goes online quickly and definitively to help them make purchase decisions.
When you enter search terms into your browser, Google spits back a page that contains high-ranking results tied to the SEO keywords. The first thing you’ll notice is that at the top of the page, some results are housed in an orange box, and others are in another box running down the right margin.
These are paid ads – pay per click (PPC) ads, to be exact – and they serve as an alternative to the “organic” (non-paid) results that populate the rest of the page.
Before you can get sales, you have to get leads. Before you can get leads, you have to get traffic. Before you can get traffic, you have to get found on the Internet.
Once upon a time, a newspaper display ad represented the typical successful marketing tactic. No matter what the product or service, the ad basically said, “Hey, everybody! Look at the good stuff we offer!”
Having good stuff to offer; that never gets old. But the “Hey, everybody!” part; it's just not going to work in the digital marketplace.
A target market strategy in the digital age can challenge even the most experienced marketer. After all, the Internet has changed the way we communicate, relate, do research and shop. And the “common denominator” approach of years past simply doesn't work well in an online environment.
But customer personas? They work
Personas are representations of your target market – characters created to humanize the target and help you customize content to them.
Whether your business is B2C or B2B ... no matter how many years you relied on radio, coupon books, Yellow Pages, cold calls, fliers and newspaper ads … when you’re talking about today’s marketing, you're talking about digital (or internet) marketing.
Consumer behavior bears this out: according to the marketing authority HubSpot, 50 percent of shoppers spend 75 percent of their time online before ever making a purchase.
If you're like many sales managers or business owners I know, the closer we came to the end of last year, the bigger the push was to close the sales that had been pending throughout the year. After all, they had to meet the sales goals set at the beginning of the year.
In every business in every city around the globe, CEOs, CFOs, directors, managers, sales people (and possibly YOU) are responsible for setting a sales and revenue goal for the next year, quarter or month. It happens on a daily basis. (We do it here too, for ourselves as well as our clients.)
We all want to generate more leads from our websites, right? Well, this is how long you have to do it….one, two, three! You have three seconds to grab the attention of your website visitor and guide them in the direction you want them to go on your website.
Three Seconds! That’s why it’s so critical to use best practices for optimizing lead generation on your website. The overall strategy for lead generation online is called inbound marketing. Here is a list of five must haves to get things rolling: