Be it the fact that the B2B purchasing cycle is long — generally spanning years — or the reality that even a good lead can take weeks, if not months, to materialize into a sale, maintaining a healthy pipeline of leads is crucial. Unfortunately, it’s also very challenging.
Source: Demand Gen Report
However, as much as we might look for the golden egg of generating B2B leads, the one that works is the one that takes a lot of effort and time, especially in terms of waiting.
That one B2B lead generation strategy is building an inbound marketing strategy, i.e., one that attracts potential leads to you, and builds the trust necessary to graduate that lead into a sale.
How to Implement an Inbound Marketing Strategy
In terms of inbound marketing, it’s important to delineate between lead generation and demand generation efforts. You can employ inbound marketing to achieve either, but for generating new leads, you must take specific steps when attracting and engaging traffic.
1. Build Buyer Personas & Define the Buyer’s Journey
To achieve any of what we’ve stated below, you must create buyer personas of each target audience and define a buyer’s journey for each one.
You cannot afford to skip on either one of these ingredients — doing so will lead you to poorly designing and implementing the rest of your inbound marketing strategy.
The buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer, i.e., the person you are targeting as a prospective lead. It’s semi-fictional in that the persona itself is not a real individual, but this persona’s characteristics must come from the real world.
You’ll need to use real-world demographic, firmographic (e.g., industry or market segment information), and other data to capture this persona’s fears, aspirations, interests and other attributes you can respond to with your marketing.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Since the B2B process involves multiple decision-makers and stakeholders, you will not be tied to just one buyer persona — you will need to develop many.
The next step is to define the journey of your buyer personas.
The idea behind the buyer’s journey is to have a pathway for readers who might not be ready to buy (90% of readers don’t know what brand or product to select when starting their search).
The pivotal idea here is that even inbound marketing will bring in people who aren’t yet ready for a sales call, you can nurture them into leads. You do it by engaging with them more and, in turn, push them through later stages of the buyer’s journey.
This is an exercise in patience, so if you can’t be bothered to pursue leads by attracting them to your content and nurturing them over time, this strategy isn’t for you.
2. Bring Relevant Traffic
Your next step is to bring those people who match your buyer personas to your website.
You can do this through three methods: organic, paid traffic, and social media.
You will attract organic traffic by enabling your website to rank on the top of Google (or at least the first page) and other search engines.
You achieve this by employing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. The basic idea of SEO is to rank for specific search terms (i.e., keywords) by methodically including them in your content. Your goal is to rank for the keywords your buyer personas are asking on Google et. al.
The standard SEO strategy typically involves researching for keywords by following your buyer persona’s online activities. You do this by finding their online watering holes, such as LinkedIn groups, forums, industry news websites, etc.
You can also search for those keywords by looking at Google’s recommendations, but to verify the search intent, you’ll need to return to your personas’ watering holes.
Next, examine those keywords’ traffic (to ensure there are people actually searching for it) and the keyword difficulty (to see how much investment it’ll take to rank for it). You can use a range of SEO tools, such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Moz, to achieve this.
A complementary method for organic traffic is leveraging paid traffic.
Simply, you pay Google to get your website to rank. This is a good way to skip the time it could take to organically rank for very competitive keywords.
However, the optimal strategy would be to use paid traffic to push time-sensitive engagements, such as you exhibiting at a conference and a new product release.
If you have the right data about your personas, you can also leverage retargeting — i.e., if your persona visits your website, you can push ads to them when they visit other websites.
If people recognize your brand and congregate on your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms, you can push that traffic to your website as well.
In fact, if your business closely aligns with an actual problem people want to solve, you can build a strong social media presence. Grammarly, for example, aids writers by preventing typos, so its Facebook Page pulls in lots of writers to share ideas and opinions.
You can also advertise on social media. In fact, you can leverage audience metrics such as age, geography, and others to target your engagement to very specific subsets.
3. Convert Using Relevant Content
Pulling your personas to your website is only one part of the battle, you must also deliver on the readers’ expectations. This is where compelling and relevant content is critical.
In general, this could comprise of blogs, eBooks, whitepapers, case studies, podcasts, webinars and much, much more. However, you must not create content haphazardly.
Remember our earlier section on the buyer’s journey? Well, this is where you will need to pay careful attention to ensure each of your readers get to the right content. In specific terms, you shouldn’t have someone who’s not ready to buy reach a sales page.
Source: Demand Gen Report
It’s tough to discuss this section in isolation of SEO. The kind of reader you get depends on the keywords you’re ranking for. For example, a question about an undefined problem is likely to be an early-stage reader, i.e., someone who doesn’t even know the solution, much less purchase.
As noted earlier, early-stage content typically guides the reader into understanding the problem.
For example, you could have a reader dealing with a slow application update cycle where their developers are complaining about too many interconnected parts and other issues.
For this content, you could have blogs that explain how slow update cycles are a symptom of a deeper problem — i.e., obsolete software architecture. In fact, you can create lots of content for just highlighting how oft-mentioned symptoms — such as slow updates, frequent bugs, crashes, etc — are all caused by old ways of developing software.
The next stage is to discuss solutions.
Returning to our software example, you can use blogs, webinars, case studies, eBooks and other content to explain why containerization and microservices are the way forward.
You can also have a whitepaper that outlines the steps your readers can take to transition their old legacy software code to a containerized environment.
You will obviously highlight your own solutions, but don’t shy away from mentioning alternative or competing ones as well. Just ensure that you’re working to debunk them and, in turn, guide the reader to preferring what you have to offer.
The final stage is to convert the reader.
Your late stage content should include content that helps convince the reader that you are the way forward. So if you’re offering development support for containerization, you should offer a case study about how a client working with you was able to roll-out fast updates, for example.
The Longer the Text, the Less Likely it’ll Convert Prospective Business Consulting Clients
Finally, your conversion pages — e.g., sales pages, product pages, service pages, etc — should push the reader into an action, such as contacting you for an assessment. This content should be short in length and simple/accessible in understanding.
Business Consulting Pages Should be Readable at the 6th or 7th Grade Level for Best Conversion Chances
Track Your Results!
There’s no point in investing in this without setting the right inbound marketing KPIs and, in turn, closely measuring them after implementation.
The strength of digital marketing as a whole rests in our ability to return to what we have out there and iterate and improve upon it. However, we can’t do that effectively without data and candor in our work — how can we improve if we can’t identify the flaws?
Once you find those flaws — or opportunities — you should return to the top of this post and repeat the implementation process as part of your iterative approach.