You may have heard of inbound marketing, or maybe you haven’t. Maybe you've wondered how the heck it could apply to a B2B company like yours.
Either way, you're probably asking yourself, “What is B2B inbound marketing!?” Or, perhaps more accurately, "Why should I care?"
At a very high level, inbound marketing is permission-based-marketing that makes use of all digital channels. B2Cs and B2Bs use high-quality content and insights on buyer behavior to attract more of their best-fit prospects, and turn them into leads and customers.
Sounds great, but where do you start?
What Is B2B Inbound Marketing?
There are several tactics involved in a B2B inbound marketing strategy, and for them to succeed, they have to work together. For example, you may already have a Facebook page for your business, but what good is the page without any content to share on it?
B2B inbound is about educating your ideal prospects during and sometimes even before their search for a solution.
When you’re making a big purchase, whether it be a 70-inch TV or that boat you’ve always wanted, what’s the first thing you do? Chances are, you head to the internet to do research. If you were buying that product in 2001, you wouldn’t have had that luxury. You would've probably relied on a salesperson to “educate” you about their product.
Instead, inbound relies on the creation of marketing content, and getting that content in front of the right people at the right time:
B2B Content Marketing
Much of inbound marketing revolves around creation of educational:
- Blog posts
- Other webpages
- Social media posts
- Premium content (e-books, whitepapers, etc.)
The main influencer in B2B content marketing is your buyer persona(s). A B2B buyer persona is the semifictional character you create to represent your dream buyers. Through talking with your sales team and current customers, you can learn your ideal buyers':
- Roles and responsibilities
- Pain points (i.e. lead times, costs)
- Sources of education (i.e. LinkedIn, industry newsletters)
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of organically making your website more visible in Google and other search engines. This happens through:
Keyword research & implementation
- Content creation
- UX improvements
- Technical, back-end stuff we'll skip for now
SEO influences many B2B inbound marketing tactics, as the most amazing site will still struggle to boost sales if nobody can find it in the first place.
Similarly to SEO, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is query-based, meaning you try to get in front of prospects by using the terms they're searching in Google.
Unlike SEO, PPC involves paying to be at the top of Google searches (see the image). This is a nice way to level the playing field if you're starting out with digital marketing, or your organic (non-paid) traffic isn't where you'd like to see it. We usually recommend weaning off it a bit once your SEO efforts start kicking in and traffic takes off (12-24 months usually).
What Is Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing? (Hint: Buyer Behavior Has Changed)
The B2B sales cycle is often a long one. Months and even years can pass before a major investment comes to pass. Constant spamming of emails and ads during this time probably isn't going to make a buyer flinch. We've all trained ourselves at this point to block out (sometimes literally) this digital noise.
Luckily for buyers, times have changed. Today’s buyer, thanks to the wealth of information on the internet, knows exactly what they want and how much they should pay -- before they even engage with a sales rep. In a B2B world where companies employ purchasing agents whose only role is to buy a quality product at a great price, education is key.
So, what's inbound vs. outbound marketing in a nutshell? Having leads come straight to you, rather than you desperately banging down their door.
These purchasers need facts and through inbound marketing. Your content can provide them at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
If you want to rely on your website as a source of B2B lead generation, you've got to think inbound.
B2B Inbound Marketing Example in Action
Here’s a basic B2B scenario of how inbound can be successful. In this example, your ideal buyer is a purchaser at a major car company and you manufacture a key component for car engines. It may be cheaper up-front for that car company to purchase that part overseas, but the quality would be far lower.
You know that -- but the buyer may not ... yet. So, how do we get in front of this purchaser using inbound marketing?
- The first step is creating a "premium" (but free) content offer, such as an e-book on how companies are actually losing money by purchasing overseas.
- Once the content offer is complete, you promote that offer. You can promote your offer with a call-to-action at the bottom of a blog post about the dangers of offshoring. You can then promote that blog post through all of your social media channels. This makes your offer visible to those looking for it.
So, when it comes to this example, what is inbound marketing in SEO terms?
- In a perfect world, that purchaser is searching for alternatives to offshoring.
- Your blog post then shows up in a search engine like Google, and that purchaser reads your content.
- At the end of the post, they click on your "get this e-book" call-to-action and fill out a form providing you with their contact information.
- You send them an email with a link to download their e-book.
- This person is entered into your CRM, and from there you can determine whether or not they're a qualified lead.
- If you decide they're a good fit, you can nurture them along their buyer’s journey with marketing automation and newsletter emails.
- Impressed with your expertise, the purchaser eventually sends you an RFQ. Then it’s up to your sales team to close.
Is My Company a Good Fit for B2B Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing strategies can work for companies of all shapes, sizes, and industries. Even ones with "boring" products and services.
You won’t have to worry about knowing whether or not inbound works, because everything is easily trackable. This means you'll know everyone who came to your site, how they got there, and what pages and offers they checked out.
$how Me the Money!
In today’s world, the buyer controls the purchasing process. B2B inbound marketing makes sure you’re there when they’re looking.
Inbound can help you drive quality traffic to your website, and in turn generate some really awesome leads.
To learn more about the steps involved in inbound marketing for B2B businesses like yours, grab the free checklist below. If nothing else, it'll show you how an actual marketing agency handles the very process you're attempting to learn:
(This blog post was originally published in August 2016 and was recently updated.)