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Perspective: Inbound Strategy for B2B Companies

Oftentimes when I’m asked about inbound strategy, it’s tempting to give a wishy-washy answer like, “It depends on the situation” “It depends on the company” “It depends on the goal.” This kind of deflection helps no one improve, create, and measure their strategies.

What I’ve learned through my years crafting inbound marketing strategies is that there are actually a few ways to simplify and clarify strategy creation, with trends and best practices that tend to apply to most inbound scenarios.

For example, if you’ve arrived on this blog, you’re likely experiencing one or more of the following:

  1. You’ve tried the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” tactical approach to digital marketing and realized:
  2. It’s not yielding results 
  3. You can’t tell if it’s yielding results. 
  4. Or, on the flip side, you’re realizing your company’s digital marketing performance is lackluster (website hasn’t been updated since 2015?) and want to begin to win search results over your competitors but need a plan to get there.
  5. You’re in charge of formulating a marketing plan, but lack some resources, tools, or skills on your team to get the job done and aren’t sure what to prioritize first.
  6. You are a master at strategy and your marketing is performing wonderfully! You just want to brush up on some tips and tricks to make it even better or are looking for a partner to expand production.

If any of those sound like you, I’m glad you’re here! Usually, our clients fall into one of those four buckets and we help them generate the strategy and provide the capacity they need to reach their marketing goals.

How? 

Well, today I’m going to share some of those trade secrets with you. 

Goal-Driven Strategy Creation

Before ANY strategic pen is put to paper, it’s important to establish and be aligned on the goals and what performance metrics are green flags for stakeholders

In most cases, the reason a client comes to us for help is usually one of these four scenarios:

  1. Brand / Modernizing “My website hasn’t been touched since 1996 and I’m noticing my competitors outperform me on Google.” “I know marketing is important, but in-house we haven’t had the resources to dedicate and need some support.”
  2. Traffic “I spent $x to have my website redone, but I only have 100 visitors per month.” “My brand offers such a great product, and is an OEM, but no one in the space seems to know who we are.”  “We’ve heard that leveraging the Internet can be great.”
  3. Lead Generation “My salespeople are bored, we never get leads from our website.” “We have an industry we want to target with a new technology we just developed, we have so many USPs in that space.” “Our typical lead sources aren’t bearing fruit.” 
  4. Sales Support “The pandemic has shown me that we need a better management system for our contacts.” “We have a lot of leads coming in, but don’t know how to follow up with them and/or we don’t have the bandwidth.” “We have a specific market to target.” “Our data is messy.” “All of our salespeople have unique processes.”


It’s not uncommon for a client to come to us with a combination of the above concerns. 

 

Notably, these four categories also appear in the usual suggested order of operations for each item to take place. For example, it can be difficult to focus on account-based marketing (ABM) or sales automation without first adjusting the website to ensure it’s functional for the leads you’re contacting. Similarly, without traffic, lead generation may be difficult to achieve. 

Setting KPIs & Tracking Strategic Success

KPI setting is dependent on goals! Some common KPIs to track based on goals include:

 

BRAND / MODERNIZING

  • Impressions
  • Feel of the site
  • Customer surveys

 

TRAFFIC

  • SEMRush health scores
  • Domain authority
  • Traffic numbers
  • % of organic traffic growing 

 

LEAD GENERATION

  • Leads
  • CRO improvement
  • Quality of traffic/form submissions 
  • % MQL → SQL

 

SALES SUPPORT

  • CRM adoption
  • % SQL → Opp
  • Automation engagement 

 

Pro Tip: It’s also possible to work backward from the KPIs and determine where your goals are aligned based on the success metrics deemed by stakeholders.

3 Common Inbound Marketing Strategy Types 

“Strategy” is such a buzzwordy and vague term in the marketing space. To be fair, it’s used to define any number of initiatives and plans. 

Let’s break down the most common types of strategies our team accomplishes for our clients ( one of the strategies is likely what brought you here): 

  • Initial plan
  • Quarterly strategy
  • Year-over-year strategy

1. Initial Plan

A broad, overarching strategic plan created after data is collected and goals for the year (or another substantial length of time) are determined. 

 

As an agency, this is accomplished after a 2-month onboarding and learning phase with a new client. During this time, we collaborate on the production of the following resources and data points to inform the strategy: 

 

  1. Website health – Run a site audit and determine what your starting point is, and what your top needs are. 
  2. Domain authority – Check the domain authority to help with your specific numeric goal setting and understand growth feasibility. 
  3. Competitor audit – Carefully analyze the digital position of each key identified competitor. This also gives us keywords to begin working toward accomplishing search engine rank.
  4. Search Console / Analytics – In these tools, we analyze: What’s currently working? What are you ranking for? Where on the site are you losing people? These tools help diagnose the highest impact starting points.
  5. Buyer persona and journey information – We develop an ideal buyer profile and analyze every aspect of their journey to give us a target audience to reach with our content.
  6. Existing assets – Are there any old resources to refresh and republish? Are there any physical assets that can be digitized and gated?

 

Pro Tip: If you are starting the ball rolling on a brand new strategic initiative, I recommend accomplishing all of the above with your team to help give you a starting point.

 

2. Quarterly Strategy

The digital space can feel instantaneous, but the truth is it takes some time to see results and if your strategy is performing. 

 

Quarterly strategies are likely less comprehensive than the initial strategy or a yearly strategy but still focus on the data and next steps at the heart of it.

 

Stay tuned for an upcoming resource that pertains to quarterly strategy creation -- including a real-life example!

 

Pro Tip: We recommend checking in on the data monthly but only making major strategic adjustments on a quarterly basis.

 

3. Year-Over-Year Strategy

As I mentioned, performance takes time. Thus, making judgments and decisions on a strategy’s efficacy is an ongoing and long-term affair. 

 

The yearly plan is the perfect place to take a deep dive and reflect on what’s transpired, and use the data to inform where the future will go.

 

These strategies should keep in mind any major sales and business goals for the upcoming year, and use that as a jumping-off point for strategy setting.

 

Best Practice Tips for Writing Your First Strategy Roadmap

Quick caveat: Do not use the below tips as a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, these are some baseline ideas/frameworks to help you get started.

 

Here are some best practice tips:

 

  1. Have your “where you’d like to be in a year” goals in mind while creating. The working backward approach can be incredibly helpful for figuring out where to begin. Sometimes, I think it can be helpful to picture what the roadmap would look like a year from now, and then pair that back and back until you reach the roadmap that reflects the starting point. It’s important to remember there is a 0% chance that the first year will go 100% as planned.

 

  1. Don’t work more than 3 months in advance. Your final version of the strategy document should only have a detailed 3-month roadmap. It’s helpful to have your Year #1 plan handy for reference, but keeping it to the first 3 months for the client is best.

  2. Explain the why for EVERYTHING. Everyone is different, but I find it abundantly helpful to put an explainer section into each strategic recommendation in the document, especially early on to help your internal execution team. Here’s an example:

To Do: Blog Creation

Activities: Create a subdomain or subdirectory for the blog and add it to the
the main navigation of the site.

 

Impact:

  • Analytics. Creating a subdomain or subdirectory allows us to grab analytics quickly and easily for blog pages on the site, and remain agile in our approach to blogging.
  • Efficiency. Our content team will be able to quickly and easily publish and edit approved blog posts as needed, without bringing in our Web Developer. 

 

  1. Give examples where pertinent. Especially with web design, it’s helpful to have examples of the types of assets you’re talking about creating. Provide examples of a good capabilities and services page, of what a technical eBook looks like, of how an RFQ page should function. This helps to get buy-in from your stakeholders and increase comprehension of your delivery team.

Deciding on Activities: Align Strategy with Tactics

To get you started, I’ve broken down some suggested activities to potentially include in your strategy roadmap depending on your client’s goals:

 

BRAND / MODERNIZING

  • Web redesign OR migration
  • Brand guide creation
  • Media work 

 

TRAFFIC

  • Creating blog content
  • Creating/expanding on website content 
  • Creating pillar content 
  • SEO work

 

LEAD GENERATION

  • Placing forms on the site
  • Creating pillar and premium content 
  • Creating dedicated persona hubs
  • Gating ‘tent
  • Developing marketing automation 

 

SALES SUPPORT

  • Building templates 
  • Helping clean / segment lists 
  • ABM
  • CRM training 

 

As I mentioned previously, a lot of these activities overlap or need to take place in a logical sequence. For example, SEO work will also ultimately help with lead generation. You shouldn’t just jump into placing a bunch of forms on the site and hoping for the best if only 50 people are visiting the site per month. Get my gist?

Feeling Overwhelmed?

For internal marketing managers, sometimes the hardest part of the strategy is finding the right people to execute the finer points and keep up with a delivery cadence that supports success.

Partnering with an agency isn’t for everyone, but can help take the stress of strategy creation and delivery out of your hands and into the hands of experts.

If you’re looking to learn more, click the button below for a no-pressure brainstorm to talk about your goals, and if an agency would be the right fit for you:

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