Inbound marketing encompasses a wide array of tactics, goals, and metrics. The key ideas here are to increase awareness, drive better leads, and convert more often. Inbound marketing paves the golden road for consumers to find your brand, engage with your brand, and love your brand.
Some key ingredients to inbound marketing include:
- Content Creation & Delivery – Producing white papers, ebooks, infographics, guides, or other content that is gated and serves to collect contact information
- Contact Capture – Capturing information about site visitors via analytics and via web forms.
- SEO – Optimizing your site and content for core and long-tail keywords that make you and your services more findable online by your target audience.
- Social Distribution – Ensuring your high quality content gets in front of the right people by publishing to social channels for maximum exposure.
- Editorial Outreach – Reaching out to industry-relevant blogs and publications to submit thought leadership and guest pieces. This offers new exposure to your target audience on new platforms and positions you as an influencer.
- Calls-to-action (CTAs) – Ensuring your content, landing pages, product/service pages and other key parts of your website have embedded images and buttons that drive users to take an action (download, free trial, learn more, etc.)
- Marketing Automation – Regular email outreach to people who have filled out a form or otherwise signed up for these communications. This serves to regularly “touch” interested leads and move them through the funnel with additional content and helpful information to aid in their decision-making process.
- Landing Pages – Visually appealing, SEO-friendly web pages that users “land” on and that include relevant information about an offer, content piece, or other promotion.
- Contact Management (CRM) Integration – A place to store, access, and share contact information once it’s captured.
The top priority with inbound marketing is to connect to the right audience with the right message at the right time.
The operative word here is inbound. Where outbound marketing seeks to push interruptive messaging, pitches, calls, emails, and other communications in front of a prospect (regardless of whether they’ve asked for it), inbound marketing looks to pull prospects in by personalizing messaging delivery based on behavior and preferences.
Inbound marketing uses data and analytics to learn about a prospect’s motivations, habits, interests, and activity in order to tailor content and storylines in a way that will resonate with that prospect and perhaps compel him to take a desired action. In this way, inbound marketing improves the customer experience, creates brand credibility and builds trust. This, in turn, fosters interest, engagement, and consideration.
Where Does Content Fit In?
As you can see in some of the core components listed above, content is a big part of inbound marketing. Producing high-quality content that resonates with your target buyers—and that gets in front of those buyers at the right place and time—is integral to effective inbound marketing.
Content often serves as the pulse of your company, as well as a way to earn the trust of your audience. We’ve talked before about the importance of “being human” in your content as well as the key ingredients to successfully connecting with your core audience in a meaningful way. In the digital era, content needs to be personable, as it’s often a stand-in for face-to-face interaction. Think of it this way:
Jack is in Industry X. There are 15 important networking events in Industry X each year, but Jack only attends one. When he shows up, he is sloppily dressed, in jeans and a t-shirt. The first person he talks to asks about what he does. He provides a brief, muddled response that is confusing and full of pre-packed industry jargon. The second person he talks to gets a completely different explanation about what Jack does. Jack goes home with no business cards.
Your content is Jack. If you are only blogging once a year (or even once every several months) and your messaging is incoherent or lacks unity, people will be confused. They certainly won’t be compelled to further interact with your content or your site. More than anything, they have questions and problems they’re hoping you can answer and solve. Don’t be Jack. Be prepared to answer and solve your audience’s most pressing and painful issues in a cohesive, meaningful, and engaging way….using content.
So What’s The Connection Between Inbound Marketing, Content, and Sales?
It’s pretty simple: content feeds the inbound marketing machine by presenting compelling, interesting, engaging, and well-packaged information to your audience. That audience responds to that content by continuing to engage with your business. The inbound marketing wheel keeps turning and facilitating smarter communication and interaction when that audience willingly provides additional information.
And what about sales?
We are all aware of the stereotypical divide between marketing and sales as well as their different tactics in engaging with prospects. While their immediate and granular goals may not be on the same page, their foundational goals are: growing the business.
It’s important not to let departmental goals and KPIs crowd out this fundamental idea. When this happens, teams stop communicating, efforts are not aligned to this unified goal, opportunities and sales are lost.
The idea of marketing and sales aligning their efforts is not just a cliche. SiriusDecisions reports that B2B companies with tightly coupled marketing and sales efforts can achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth.
Bridging the gap is as simple as producing quality content that speaks to their core pain points and priorities. When this content gets in front of the right audience at the right time, they are more compelled to have a meaningful conversation with your sales team.
To reach this nirvana, internal sales and marketing teams need to work together on ideating messaging that will positively impact prospects. Marketing can create content for every stage in the customer journey—from awareness, to interest, to consideration and decision—to move prospects through the funnel to become a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). Marketing can also help produce content that transforms that MQL into a sales-qualified lead (SQL).
For this to happen, sales needs to be connected enough to a) know that content exists, b) help inform future content based on sales call feedback, and c) actually use the content in presentations and other interactions. Much of the content created for inbound marketing efforts can be repurposed into content that fits the sales team’s objectives, like sell sheets, presentations, and case studies. Open lines of communications between both teams are essential for success here.
If inbound marketing does a great job of charming your audience with your vision and your story, the sales team has an easier job of convincing that audience that your business is the right fit for their needs. It can shorten sales cycles and help people make purchasing decisions more easily. The sale then becomes a natural progression that happens seamlessly.