B2B marketing, that is, marketing to other businesses is very different when compared to marketing to individual consumers in B2B marketing. This is why B2B marketing requires an entirely different marketing approach.
Obviously, there are various marketing strategies and methods that we can use to generate more prospects and customers for our B2B business, but at the moment inbound marketing remains one of the most effective tactics to grow B2B businesses.
With inbound marketing, we can effectively generate high-quality inbound leads, which can be the key to your B2B business’s growth: not only does it help accelerate your lead generation, but it can also help retain existing customers, turn them into advocates, and ensure accelerated growth.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
To really understand the concept of inbound marketing, we should first discuss the issue with traditional (or outbound) marketing.
It’s no secret that in the past decade, traditional marketing efforts like billboards, TV ads, and even online ads have been losing their effectiveness. Our prospects and customers have ‘evolved’, and even we ourselves are becoming much more effective at ignoring advertisements, promotional messages, sponsored emails, and other traditional marketing efforts. Not to mention, how many of us still welcome cold calls from sales reps we don’t even know?
These traditional marketing efforts are designed to push the promotional messages outwards to reach as many people as possible. The thing is, these promotional messages tend to disrupt what the prospect is currently doing (i.e. a TV ad disrupting the show). This is why people now instinctively avoid and/or ignore these promotional messages they haven’t asked to receive.
This is where Inbound marketing comes from
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is designed to pull, or attract our target audience inwards. In inbound marketing, the prospect is the one proactively looking for information, and we just happen to be available. Thus, we don’t disrupt anything they are doing and will get less resistance.
How can we achieve this? The answer is by publishing attractive content to attract our audience, and this is why there’s the common misconception that inbound marketing is content marketing.
While there’s some truth to that statement, content marketing by itself is not inbound marketing.
Instead, inbound marketing is content marketing that is integrated with other digital marketing channels like B2B SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, and others to maximize lead generation and conversions.
Below, we will discuss how inbound marketing works in the B2B environment.
How B2B Inbound Marketing Works
Below, we will illustrate how inbound marketing works in a B2B environment, so you can get a clearer picture of how it can be applied in your company.
Stage 1: Attract
In the first stage of B2B inbound marketing, we focus on attracting our target audience to visit our website or platform.
This is achieved by publishing relevant and highly targeted content in various forms: blog posts, white papers, video, social media posts, eBooks, and so on. The basic idea is to publish valuable content that can be an answer to your audience’s questions or solve their problems, and they’ll be the ones attracted to this content when they search on Google, other search engines, or even social media networks.
Thus, SEO while targeting the right keywords and consistent publication of relevant content is the key in this stage.
Stage 2: Lead Generation
Now that we’ve gathered the website visitors, now what?
The next step is to convert these website visitors into qualified prospects/leads by offering compelling offers, the lead magnets.
The main method here is to offer something valuable for free, in exchange for the audience’s contact information (primarily email address). These lead magnets can come in various forms: an eBook, in-depth research report, a tool, a template, or even a free trial for your product.
The success of this stage would depend on understanding who your ideal audience is, their needs, and their challenges so you can offer something valuable to cater to these problems and needs.
Stage 3: Convert and Close
The next step is to close these leads into actual purchasing customers.
This will require a proper alignment between sales and marketing teams: marketing focusing on nurturing leads, for example via email nurture campaign, and the sales team can focus on providing social proofs and other means to convince these qualified leads into making the purchase.
An important objective in this stage is to shorten our sales cycle as much as possible via conversion rate optimization (CRO), lead scoring and lead nurturing, as well as maintaining the quality of your content.
Stage 4: Retaining Happy Customers
Last but not least, inbound marketing doesn’t stop when you’ve finally converted leads into customers, but it’s very important to develop healthy, long-term relationships with your loyal customers.
The objective here is to keep your existing customers happy so they can convert into advocates: those who will promote your product or service to their peers and family members, while keep coming back for more.
In this stage, we should keep nurturing customers by recommending personalizing content to your customers’ specific needs and maintain strong engagement and interest with them.
B2B Inbound Marketing Tactics To Achieve Growth
As we’ve seen above, the core of inbound marketing is a thorough implementation of in-depth, valuable content that truly engages your prospect.
Doing so, however, can be easier said than done, and to do this, you can use the following B2B inbound marketing tactics we share below:
Tactic 1: Understanding Your Target Audience
The first, and arguably the most important thing to do in planning your B2B inbound marketing strategy is to first understand your ideal audience: their needs, behaviors, and pain points.
Only by understanding them perfectly, we can create highly targeted, relevant content that can answer their questions and help solve their problems, the essence of inbound marketing.
In this step, we should develop a buyer persona, a semi-fictional description of your perfect audience, detailing their demographics data, behaviors, and other important information.
A unique thing in B2B inbound marketing, however, is the fact that we are targeting companies or organizations rather than individuals, and within each company, there can be various individuals with different roles that can be involved in the purchase decision.
Thus, we can differentiate this process into two different layers:
Account-level buyer persona
In this layer, you need to identify insights about the companies or organizations that can be your potential buyer.
Obviously, we should begin by discovering basic information like industry/niche the company is in, number of employees, revenue, location, and so on, but we should also answer more in-depth questions such as:
- How will your solution help these companies achieve their goals?
- Which activities inside a company will indicate your solution could be a fit for them?
- What are these companies’ biggest struggles?
To do this, there are basically two simple approaches you can use:
- Make a list of our existing clients and map their buyer’s journey. If you are a brand new company, you can use your closest competitor’s data. This might be harder to obtain but is still relatively accessible.
- Conduct surveys and interview your existing clients and ask them about their experience with your product, use cases, problems, and others.
Your objective is to identify the buying cycle and triggers of your target companies and create an account-level buyer persona for this fictional, ideal target company.
Buyer-level buyer persona
In this layer, we’ll dig in deeper and discuss the individual buyers within the target company, but we can further divide these individuals into two different types: influencers and decision-makers. In some cases, an individual can fit both types, and let us first discuss their differences.
Influencers are the users of your product or service, and they will influence the decision of the decision-maker.
For example, if you are a B2B company selling meat to a restaurant, then a cook might request their head chef to purchase your meat. In this case, the cook is a purchase influencer, and the head chef is a decision maker.
These different types of roles require different approaches to spark interest in what you sell, and each will require different content and messages before they can be engaged.
- Start small. It’s better to create 2 or 3 detailed buyer personas rather than 10 that barely reach the surface level
- Focus on identifying their pain points: what is their challenge in performing their tasks? It’s important, however, not to solely focus on the pain points your solution solves for, or you’ll risk being biased in your judgment.
- When applicable, differentiate between personal and professional pain points and objectives for each buyer persona.
- Figure out your unique value proposition for each buyer persona.
While creating your buyer personas can be time-consuming and challenging at first, it is still a very important step if you really want to build a successful B2B inbound marketing strategy to generate more leads and grow your business over time. Thus, take some time to perfectly execute this step, and gather as much information as you can about your buyer personas.
Tactic 2: Developing High-Quality and Relevant Content
We’ve discussed that the core of inbound marketing strategy is highly targeted and valuable content.
Yet, what types of content should we develop?
There are certainly various different types of content you can publish in various different forms: blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, and so on. However, in B2B inbound marketing, we’d recommend focusing on two things when developing your content: establishing expertise/thought leadership and establishing social proofs by telling our clients’ success.
Establishing thought leadership
In the B2B space, we need to thoroughly convince a potential buyer that your solution is indeed a viable solution for their problems. And most businesses will only consider solutions from brands they deem reputable and/or an expert in the specific niche.
This is why establishing thought leadership is very important, and one of the most effective ways to convince your audience that you are indeed an expert in your niche is by consistently publishing relevant and high-quality content.
Here you should focus on being useful for your target audience: answering their questions, solving their problems, providing the information they seek.
The idea is to convince your target audience that you are a trustworthy source of information in your niche. This way, you don’t even need to try too hard to promote your B2B product or service: if you can prove that you are an established and trustworthy thought leader, they will be curious about your solution.
Establishing social proof
The second type of content you should focus on is stories about your past and existing clients’ successes with your product or service: testimonials, case studies, and similar types of content.
This can be an extremely effective approach in building social proof, and various reports have suggested how social proof now plays a very prominent role in influencing even B2B purchase decisions.
In this type of content, focus on your client’s experience (not your product/service) as the hero of the story. If your client is already established/famous, it’s a huge plus point, but if not you should elaborate their backstory, credentials, challenges, and especially how they stumbled upon your solution in your story.
Tactic 3: Using Effective Lead Magnets To Convert Visitors
As discussed above, a core aspect of inbound marketing is to convert visitors who have consumed your content into leads.
First, what is a lead?
We can say that a website visitor is now a lead when we’ve captured their contact information, mainly email addresses.
So, how can we capture email addresses once they’ve captured our content? The answer is by offering lead magnets.
A lead magnet essentially is something compelling or valuable you’ve offered for free, in exchange for their contact information.
The most basic form of lead magnet in content marketing is to offer a more in-depth version of the content the audience is currently consuming. For example, if they are consuming a piece of content about SEO tactics, then we can offer an in-depth eBook of SEO tactics as the lead magnet.
In practice, however, lead magnets can come in various forms, and in the B2B space here are some common lead magnet types to consider:
- Free-trial/product demos/free consultation
- eBooks and white papers
- Educational video tutorials
- Case studies
- Tools and templates
- Product discounts
And more. You can be creative in offering your lead magnets according to your audience’s preferences and needs. However, an effective lead magnet should be:
- Solving your prospect’s problems
- Compelling and valuable for your prospects
- Providing immediate or at least quick value
- Clear and specific in what it does
- Easy to comprehend
- Effective in demonstrating your brand’s and product/service’s value
Tactic 4: Cover The Entire Sales Funnel
It’s very important to develop your inbound marketing to cover the whole buyer’s journey: from when a website visitor stumbles upon your content until they’ve made a repeat purchase.
In short, your inbound marketing efforts should be holistic, which will also allow your whole team from content marketers to account executives to salespeople to fully commit to the effort throughout the entire customer’s lifecycle.
Thus, your content should provide value across as much of your target audience as possible, including but not limited to:
- Total strangers that might be interested in your solution (cold prospects)
- Those who have been aware of your product/service
- Lost prospects who’ve shown interests in your product/service in the past
- New customers who’ve just made their first purchase
- Loyal customers with repeated purchases
- Lost customers who might be interested in another business with your
The basic principle is that your content designed for the top-of-funnel should be specific and narrow, highly targeted. However, content targeting the bottom of the funnel should be as broad as possible so you can maximize its value.
Tactic 5: Link Building To Improve Content Reach
Since the core concept of inbound marketing is to attract instead of pushing our messages outwards, working with a B2B SEO agency will be a very important aspect of any inbound marketing strategy.
On the other hand, backlinks remain the most important SEO ranking factor, and so we have to ensure our content is getting more backlinks to ensure it can climb higher and higher on Google’s SERP.
The thing is, Google is getting smarter at understanding the context of your link profile, and so the quality of your backlinks is just, if not even more important than quantity: it’s no use getting 50 different links if they are coming from low-quality websites that are totally unrelated to your website.
So, we have to ensure that the links are coming from reputable websites that are also related to your niche, but as we know, this can be easier said than done.
However, above anything else, the secret of getting more backlinks is the quality of your content. If your content is relevant and valuable, you’ll get these valuable links sooner or later.
On the other hand, no amount of link-building tactics can help low-quality content without any value.
You can, however, enhance the chance of your (already good) content of getting backlinks by including link hooks; a hook, a reason for others to link your content, which can be:
- Unique data or information not available anywhere else. For example, a unique data as a result of your original research
- Interesting story not available anywhere else
- Aesthetically-pleasing assets like photos, infographics, videos, and so on
- A unique take on a topic
And so on.
Only after you’ve ensured your content quality and included a link hook, you can consider the following link building tactics:
Outreach Link Building
Outreach link building is about reaching out to potential backlink source individually, and there are various approaches you can use, including:
- Link reclamation: check for uncredited brand mentions, and ask them for a link back to your site.
- Broken link building: using various tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush to find broken links in sites that might be potential backlink sources for your site, and offer your content as potential replacement.
- Affiliate link building: search for your content’s primary keyword on various tools and find 20-25 articles targeting the same keyword. You can then outreach the authors of these articles and offer to link theirs, in exchange that they’ll link yours.
Promotion-Based Link Building
- Forum/comment posting: still effective, but you shouldn’t only aim to promote your content, but you should focus on providing valuable conversations to any forum/comment section you are posting to. Build relationships, and promote your content only when it’s appropriate to do so (if it’s related to the topic at hand).
- Infographics: create a great infographic, then outreach relevant sites asking if they want to post this infographic.
Exchange-Based Link Building
- Guest posting: still effective when done right. There are various ways you can try to get more guest posting opportunities, but you should focus on sharing valuable and new information with your guest posts.
Tactic 6: Monitor and Evaluate
Inbound marketing is a long-term game.
Thus, it’s very important to monitor your progress continuously so you can make adjustments when required.
You can track the following B2B inbound marketing metrics according to your objectives:
- Keyword ranking: should climb slowly but steadily. Also monitor your organic traffic and make sure it’s also increasing along with the climb in ranking
- Traffic by source/medium: via Google Analytics we can track how users are finding your site.
- User experience: time on page (dwell time), bounce rate, number of pages per session, new/returning visitors, and so on.
- Link profile: check growth in link profile, especially backlinks
- Generated leads: set up goals in Google Analytics to track lead conversions, for example the number of people who sign up to your email newsletter, demo requests, etc.
- Impressions and CTR: You can track impressions and CTR via Google Search Console, which will provide information of whether your content is actually effective in generating impressions and clicks.
By now, you should’ve understood the value of inbound marketing for B2B companies, and how the B2B inbound marketing tactics we’ve shared above can interconnect with each other to help grow your business.
It’s important, however, to remember that inbound marketing is a long-term game, and so it’s important not only to commit to your inbound marketing strategy, but also to evaluating your strategy’s progress along the way so you can make the necessary adjustments when needed.