Even in the years before the term had been officially coined, the tactics of inbound marketing were being used largely by businesses attempting to connect with potential customers. It was, in other words—and has been for some time since—largely a B2C (business to consumer) marketing strategy. It involved educating potential customers about the benefits of your product or service by delivering useful, high-quality educational content.
The goal, of course, was—and still is—to drive engaged customers deeper into a company’s sales funnel, and to develop a relationship in which products or services with substantially high price points would be delivered on a regular basis.
Especially for B2C companies, the inbound marketing technique is one that has proven especially successful in today’s always-online world—one in which consumers are increasingly heading to the Internet and conducting their own independent research before making a purchase.
No wonder the popularity of inbound has exploded so ferociously over the past few years. Regardless of whether your company sells living room furniture, lawn mowers, or nearly any other sort of considered purchase, providing free, educationally useful information to the very people who are looking for the products or services you sell is essentially a can’t miss.
But let’s say you operate or own a B2B (business to business) company. Is inbound marketing still a viable option for you? In a word: absolutely. Frankly, it doesn’t much matter if your company sells directly to consumers or to businesses—the inbound marketing process works the same way. If it’s done right, it also tends to have very similar results, regardless of whether you’re operating in the B2C or B2B space. Here’s why:
- Today, a businessperson in search of a particular solution is really no different than a consumer in search of a particular solution. Both will almost certainly begin looking for their respective solution online, by using search engines like Google and Bing, and by taking advantage of the opinions and suggestions of their peers and colleagues on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Only after the information they’ve gleaned through search engines and social media sites have led them to settle on, say, two or three potential solutions, will they search out an actual salesperson to speak with.
- According to a CEB study in which over 1,400 B2B customers were polled, 57% of a purchase decision is made before a customer even considers speaking with an actual human supplier. And according to recent research conducted by Inside.com, 50% of all sales go to the vendor who responds to a potential customer’s pain points first.
What does that mean for your B2B organization? Simply put, it means that if a customer discovers your content online and consumes it before he discovers the content created by your competitors, you have a one in two chance of eventually winning that person’s business. Those sounds like pretty good odds to us.
If you handle marketing operations of any sort for a B2B concern, we’re guessing that all of this will lead you to ask a rather specific question: How exactly should a B2B company create an inbound strategy that attracts qualified leads and actually results in real, ongoing sales? The following is a slightly condensed outline of the process we at IQnection use when developing inbound campaigns for our own B2B clients:
- Produce useful, high-quality content that will answer whichever questions your prospects are most likely to have. Publish that content online—generally in the form of a blog post—and then promote those posts and articles heavily through whichever social media sites your prospects are most likely to frequent.
- Google is particularly fond of websites that are updated frequently with fresh content, as long as that content is of a certain level of quality. So continue publishing as many quality blog posts and informational articles as possible. Over time, your site will rise in the search engine rankings, which will give your content a much better chance of being spotted first by customers in search of a solution to their problems.
- Once you’ve managed to attract the attention of qualified customers, you’ll want to keep those relationships going. How? By creating premium content that addresses customers’ concerns in specific, in-depth detail. “Premium content,” by the way, refers to products like whitepapers, guides, and e-books.
- At this stage, you’ll want to secure your premium content behind forms that require, at a minimum, a name and email address. That way, you’ll be able to follow up with even more premium content offers. You can assume that those customers who continue to download the majority of your premium content are more interested in buying than those customers who’ve only shown interest once or twice.
- Once they do decide to make a purchase, there’s a good chance (a 50% chance, according to the previously mention research conducted by Inside.com) that they’ll turn to the provider who first supplied them with the information they needed to become educated, and to make a buying decision. If you’ve executed your inbound strategy properly, that provider, of course, will be you.
There’s a lot more that goes into a professional-level inbound marketing strategy than the techniques we’ve outlined for you here. Regardless, we hope this article has at least given you a few valuable ideas with which to get started.
If you’d like to learn more about the various ways in which inbound can bring qualified leads to your B2B organization, contact an inbound strategist at IQnection who can answer all your questions, and then some.