Gone are the days when you needed double-page spreads in industry magazines and in-person trade shows to sell your products; B2B marketing reigns over digital commerce. Within this atmosphere, many B2B brands have turned to inbound marketing to achieve success.
From engaging email marketing campaigns to helpful blog posts, there are many ways you can get in front of your ideal customers, convert leads, and secure sales. In fact, 62% of B2B buyers said they’re comfortable making a purchase based on digital content alone.
B2B brands can also experience major cost savings, with inbound marketing leads costing 62% less than traditional marketing. These and other benefits can significantly boost conversions for your brand and solidify customer loyalty.
In this post, we’ll explain the ins and outs of inbound marketing and share some insider tips to craft a B2B inbound marketing strategy that yields consistent results.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a strategy that combines organic and paid content sources to make it easy for potential customers to discover your brand. Content is at the core of inbound marketing, so a typical B2B inbound marketing strategy may employ assets like:
- Blog posts
- Pillar pages
- Press releases
- And much more
To ensure your target customer finds these inbound content assets, you can implement amplification vehicles like search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC). The more obvious your content is, the more eyes are likely to land on it.
Ambitious brands need a B2B inbound marketing strategy
Keen to improve your lead gen, but unsure of which avenue to take? A B2B inbound marketing strategy could be your meal ticket. Let’s explore some of the ways incorporating inbound into your marketing mix can be advantageous to your business.
Make your budget go further
Costs can rack up quickly when driving B2B leads. However, a robust B2B inbound marketing strategy can reduce your bill using evergreen content assets.
Since evergreen content stays relevant, it retains value on your blog and can draw in new leads without you having to do more work on it.
For example, you could write a comprehensive blog post on a popular topic, such as SEO or content marketing. Businesses will always be looking to learn more about these topics, which means once you start ranking, your piece can generate conversions indefinitely. Optionally (and I recommend doing this), you can continually edit for relevancy and update any sources and statistics to more current studies.
Win over more shoppers
Inbound marketing is value-based marketing where you help shoppers make informed decisions. By offering your leads advice and support up front, you earn their trust and respect, which leaves the door open for future purchases.
For example, you might run a company that specializes in scaling an eCommerce business. Some of your content can cover common problems growing companies face and how to solve them. Although the readers of this content are likely to be small eCommerce companies, once they grow large enough to avail of your services (with the help of your advice), they will already be familiar with your brand.
This tactic won’t win over everyone, but it builds your brand up as a helpful, informative thought leader in the space. It also leaves the possibility of a future conversion because your reader will remember their positive experience.
Gain more qualified leads
Few things are more valuable in a pipeline than having well-informed potential customers who are ready to buy. That’s the result of inbound marketing: It puts the choice in the consumers’ hands, empowering unfit prospects to disqualify themselves and suitable customers to pre-qualify themselves for your products and services.
As a result, you’ll improve the lead quality of your pipeline, waste less time targeting the wrong customer, and avoid frequent instances of buyer’s remorse.
Supercharge your revenue
Whether you publish a podcast or craft an infographic, one of the main goals of your content is to make money. A B2B inbound marketing strategy not only helps you generate sales, but also builds deeper relationships with your customers, which can increase your overall earnings; nurtured leads generate 47% larger purchase orders than unnurtured ones.
The lowdown on inbound: Paid vs. organic marketing
As consumers spend more time online, B2B marketers are gravitating towards the channels and content they frequent the most. Now virtual roundtables, social media ads, engaging blogs, and more have become the new normal in B2B marketing.
Additionally, companies can choose between organic and paid assets to use in their marketing efforts.
Paid content is a common component of outbound marketing. A distant cousin to inbound, outbound marketing involves reaching out to target customers to drive leads and sales. Typical outbound strategies include:
- Targeting ads to a specific audience so they see your brand wherever they shop
- Cold emailing and calling prospects
- Prospecting at in-person sales events like trade shows
On the other hand, inbound usually incorporates organic methods, such as implementing SEO so your audience finds your blogs when searching for relevant queries.
According to a Demand Gen Report survey, 56% of respondents said a web search was the first resource that educated them about solutions, highlighting the prevalence of inbound marketing in B2B strategies.
For instance, blog writing and podcasting can help you:
- Attract different types of customers
- Drive qualified leads (for free!)
- Build a resilient brand
- Strengthen your community to push sales
- Produce brand advocates
Combining organic and paid marketing
Smart marketers employ a combination of organic and paid marketing to improve their inbound marketing efforts.
Some paid marketing options include finding the right keywords, optimizing for conversions, and leveraging a content distribution strategy.
1) Find new keywords
It’s unlikely you’ll start your PPC campaigns with a perfected keyword list. However, you can refine your list as you run more PPC campaigns and gain customer data. For example, if the traffic from a certain keyword doesn’t convert well, remove that keyword from your targeted search terms list.
Alternatively, if you discover the exact words your customers use to describe their pain points and your offers, you can include these in your keyword list to test their efficacy.
Google Ads will also put together a set of recommended keywords and phrases to include in your list, along with their click-through rates (CTR) and conversions. If you see one with a high CTR and conversion rate, consider adding it to your PPC campaigns and focusing your organic SEO efforts on it to skyrocket results.
2) Optimize your landing pages
Set up landing pages for each target customer and for every stage in your buyer’s journey. Then, use paid search ads to send traffic to multiple variations of your landing page, and measure which performs best.
Test small changes one at a time. For example, test header copy or the call-to-action (CTA) button color, but not both (or else you won’t be certain which alteration drove higher conversions).
Also, let your tests run long enough to obtain significant results. CrazyEgg shares how to calculate the necessary sample size and when to stop an A/B test to declare a winner.
Introduce whichever landing page variations perform best in your paid search campaign as a permanent installation.
3) Distribute your content
Even though inbound marketing is inherently free — since you’re drawing people to you instead of you going to them — boosting your blogs and other content marketing with ads can supercharge your content distribution and amplification.
For example, you can use organic content within your ad campaigns. You can boost an organic social media post that’s doing well in terms of engagement. Or, if someone visits your website without making a purchase, you can retarget them to bring them back.
Investing in ads to reach new prospects and retarget existing ones can increase the success of your organic content, and great organic content can increase the success of your paid ad campaigns.
Types of inbound marketing
With so many content types driving inbound marketing, inbound marketing is almost synonymous with content marketing. To spark inspiration in you, here are some of the most popular content assets you’ll see in a B2B inbound marketing strategy, along with their pros and cons.
Creating a blog involves regularly writing about topics your audience is interested in to encourage them to take the next step in their buyer’s journey. Incorporate SEO, social media marketing, backlinking, and guest posting to make it easy for your target customers to find your articles. Interesting blogs about relevant topics can encourage prospects to sign up for your newsletter, make a purchase, or perform some other conversion.
Pros of blog writing
- Build an engaged audience you can promote special offers to.
- Create assets that advocate for your brand 24/7.
- Drive consistent, high-quality traffic to your website.
Cons of blog writing
- Results are slower; it can take three to six months (sometimes longer) to see significant changes in traffic and lead generation.
- Creating and maintaining superior quality blog posts demands a lot of time and energy from your team.
- Your blog posts may not rank, and search engines can penalize your website for mistakes.
2) Case studies
A case study spotlights a customer’s journey from before they found your solution to the successes they’ve experienced since discovering it.
Use cases demonstrate how your solution earns results. This requires you to share specific actions that led to the customer’s success to help readers replicate their results and entice them to learn more.
This form of social proof is so powerful, it can increase sales page conversions by 34%. A Content Marketing Institute study also found 39% of content marketers claimed case studies were one of their most effective content marketing tactics.
Pros of case studies
- Highly effective at gaining consumer trust
- Supports other content assets like blog posts and social media posts
- Customers communicate your solutions and results using natural wording that resonates with prospects, creating a connection to your brand
Cons of case studies
- It can be difficult to convince customers to share their results. (You may need to incentivize participation.)
- Your case study data can become outdated over time as you improve your services or change offers.
- Case studies often take longer to create due to more necessary steps. You’ll need to interview customers, verify results, get approval to share, and so on.
Whitepapers allow you to dive deep into important topics and provide objective solutions to trending issues while building brand authority. This content asset tends to assume a more formal tone, and brands often distribute it on websites and landing pages.
Pros of whitepapers
- Produce in-depth research papers based on original data that inspire prospects to take the next step in your marketing funnel.
- Whitepapers position your brand as a thought leader in your niche.
- Whitepapers can help build your email list.
Cons of whitepapers
- Crafting whitepapers can be time-consuming and costly to research and write. You may need to mobilize multiple team members to produce one.
- Some people perceive whitepapers as a dull and outdated way to share information.
- Blending in your target customer’s natural language can be challenging due to the formal nature of whitepapers.
Usually a more comprehensive educational resource, an eBook explores a specific problem or topic your target customer is interested in and equips them with actionable suggestions to tackle the issue or obtain better results. Many eBooks also include elevator pitches and CTAs to educate readers on what the brand does and move them further along their customer journey.
Pros of eBooks
- eBooks offer the chance to show brand authority and personality to drive engagement.
- You can easily update and distribute eBooks.
- They’re searchable and can rank in search engines.
Cons of eBooks
- Like whitepapers, it can be time-consuming to gather the data and craft valuable eBooks.
- You’ll need to consider the high costs of researching, writing, and editing to make your eBook outstanding.
- Large eBooks can be difficult to download, diminishing your customer experience and overall completed downloads.
Webinars are online events that discuss trending topics as well as the struggles and interests of your target customer. Your webinar can be a training, presentation, or workshop, and you can run live or pre-recorded sessions.
Pros of webinars
- Expand your brand reach and awareness affordably.
- Allow target customers to consume your content easily.
- You can execute webinars remotely.
Cons of webinars
- Tech issues during live webinars can hurt your brand’s image.
- A lack of human touch and low interaction while learning can be demotivating for some leads.
- It can be challenging to gauge participants’ enthusiasm throughout the event, which could cause some to lose interest.
6) Video series
From creating fresh, standalone shows to repurposing existing content, video has become an integral tool in the B2B space. Video series can address customer pain points and interests while explaining your brand and the solutions it has to offer.
Pros of video content
- Grab your target customers’ attention with eye-catching clips, and hold onto it with thought-provoking dialogue.
- Showcase your brand’s personality to attract your ideal customers and increase conversions.
- Videos rank in search engines, so you can embed videos into other relevant content assets like blog posts to increase click-through rates.
Cons of video content
- It can be costly to produce consistent, high-quality video content.
- The filming and editing necessary to keep videos evergreen can be time-consuming and costly.
- You can distract prospects from the main content piece if you don’t embed video content strategically.
7) Online courses
Online courses allow you to teach your target customer valuable skills and information relevant to your company. You can also use premium courses as an income stream to help prospective customers get results without the need for private consultation.
Pros of online courses
- Build affinity with your target customer by helping them achieve a goal or learn a skill.
- Reduce your customer support requests with helpful resources.
- Attract prospects who are ready to solve their problems so you can sell to them more easily at a later date.
Cons of online courses
- Putting an online course together can take significant time and effort.
- Some leads prefer to learn in person, so an online course could detract from their experience.
- Online courses are self-motivated, and not all prospects have the discipline or drive to complete (or even start) one. This could halt their buyer’s journey and result in lost sales on your end.
Showstopping visuals, interesting stats, and punchy text are all characteristics of an effective infographic. This popular resource shares important data in a way that’s easy to consume and appealing to the eye.
Pros of infographics
- They’re easy to link and share, thus increasing your brand awareness.
- It’s fairly simple to create infographics in-house with tech tools or outsource to a graphic designer.
- Highlight your brand expertise and make it stick in people’s minds.
Cons of infographics
- Search engines tend to overlook infographics, which makes them harder to rank.
- Gathering accurate stats and references can be a mammoth task.
- It can be expensive to craft in-depth infographics at scale.
9) SEO for blogs and web pages
Optimizing your content to draw more eyes to them is the definition of SEO. Whether you strategically place keywords in your eBook landing page or try to rank your latest blog post with thoughtful header tags and links, SEO is a vital component in every successful B2B inbound marketing strategy.
Pros of SEO
- Drive free, organic traffic to your content assets.
- Secure more quality leads through strategic keyword targeting.
- As your content climbs up the search engine ranks, you’ll improve your brand’s standing.
Cons of SEO
- It can take a while to see a return on investment (ROI).
- Keyword popularity and search engine algorithms are constantly changing, so you’ll need to keep up to ensure your content efforts pay off in the long term.
- Regular adjustments to keywords and phrases are necessary to stay competitive, which becomes increasingly challenging as your blog grows.
10) Community building
Building communities involves creating online hubs on social channels where your audience will want to participate. You can share content on similar values, missions, pain points, and other topics your target audience will find entertaining and relatable.
Pros of community building
- Build an engaged following you can funnel into your sales pipeline.
- Secure brand advocates that promote your brand on your behalf.
- Connect with your existing customers to strengthen brand loyalty.
Cons of community building
- You’ll need to assign resources and team members to social listening and engagement.
- The actual value of your community can be hard to quantify beyond the likes, shares, and engagement it drives.
- It can be overwhelming for small teams to manage communities when paired with other marketing duties.
11) Email marketing
From glitzy promo campaigns to educational broadcasts, email is a surprisingly versatile content marketing star. Although traditionally considered outbound marketing, it’s also vital to enhancing your inbound marketing results.
For example, if someone visits your website (thanks to proper keyword targeting and SEO), but isn’t ready to purchase, you might convince them to subscribe to your email newsletter instead. This will help you maintain a relationship that you can then nurture toward conversion.
You can use emails to drive awareness, nurture leads and close sales, and reengage past customers.
Pros of email marketing
- An affordable and sustainable way to reach your target customers
- Build an email list your business owns (Unlike social media profiles, you maintain access to your target customers unless your prospect opts out.)
- Phenomenal ROI (brands typically receive $42 for every $1 they spend on email marketing)
Cons of email marketing
- It can take a while to build a healthy email list you can segment and test.
- Design issues can hinder deliverability and viewing, which diminish your customer experience and brand credibility.
- Some people find emails annoying and could report your business as sending “spam,” which could lead to email hosting sanctions if you receive too many such complaints.
7 Steps to build a winning B2B inbound marketing strategy
We’ve explained why inbound marketing is essential for B2B brands along with the top content assets to make. Now it’s time to create a rockstar inbound strategy. Let’s break down the steps you need to take to create a lean, mean inbound marketing machine:
1) Learn who your dream customers are
The first step (and one of the most important) is to determine who your target customers are. This will tell you what they want to learn and consume online, as well as how and where to reach them.
If you need some ideas to kick off your research, below are a few ways to base your strategy on customer facts, not assumptions:
- Talk to your existing customers to unearth their struggles, goals, needs, likes, and dislikes.
- Check in with customers to see how they consume and apply your content to gain knowledge on subjects that resonate with them, help them solve their problems, and achieve goals.
- Instead of superficial personas, create buyer personas rooted in the “Jobs to be Done” (JTBD) framework. This theory focuses on the tasks consumers buy products for rather than the product itself. To build a well-rounded persona, combine appealing product features with the JTBD tasks.
- Conduct consumer trend analysis on Google Analytics to find the topics your consumers are most interested in right now.
- Launch industry surveys and focus groups to discover upcoming customer trends, problems, and developing interests.
2) Create high-quality content
To hit the ground running with your inbound marketing, prioritize publishing content that helps your target customer solve their most burning problems. Answer questions clearly and provide concrete, actionable steps to help them overcome their struggle.
Once you’ve resolved these customer pain points in your content, your next objectives should be to:
Introduce your products
Explain your offers and use CTAs and subtle brand shout-outs. Reassure shoppers with clear counter statements about their objections and reservations.
For example, say you sell cold emailing software, and your customers express difficulty securing new, qualified leads. You could craft content outlining how to write cold emails and headlines that capture their target customers’ attention.
You could also share sales and marketing tips to help your customers close more leads. Then, seal the deal with information on how your cold emailing software takes the manual labor out of attracting new business.
This is your opportunity to show off your products or services and emphasize their strengths to convince shoppers you’re the right solution for their problem.
Prioritize readers over bots
Resist the urge to write solely for SEO. Search engine algorithms prioritize the reader experience and content relevancy over keyword placement. So, write for your readers, then optimize for SEO with relational keywords. These are words your target customer uses to describe their pains, wants, needs, and your product(s).
Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to achieve positive ROI from inbound marketing. An active blog screams trustworthiness, and your efforts compound over time to generate more leads and sales.
Establish a realistic publishing schedule and stick to it. For best results, outsource your content creation to a reliable freelance B2B writer or content marketing agency so you always meet your production goals.
Be unique in your content creation
Even if you cover topics that have been discussed many times before, use a different format, introduce original or recent data, and add a personal spin to it.
3) Invest in multiple content formats
Repurpose content in the various formats your target audience enjoys. For instance, if you discover during your customer persona research that your customers want infographics, quick sheets, and checklists, you could turn your most popular blog posts into these content assets.
However, content is more versatile than simple text and images. In 2021, video was the most used content type for marketing activities. What’s more, in a survey conducted by Wyzowl, 88% of respondents reported they were swayed to purchase a product after watching a video.
That same survey revealed consumers watch around 19 hours of content per week — tons of screen time you could direct towards your business.
By combining content types, you can reach more customers through the channels they like, and generate more conversions. Whether you repurpose a popular post into an engaging video or create a video library on key topics in your niche, video content is a must.
4) Sharpen your SEO
A great way to reinforce your B2B inbound marketing strategy is to hone your keyword targeting. Shoot for long-tail keywords; while these may generate less traffic, they increase your content’s relevance, helping you attract your target customers.
Other low-hanging fruit to improve SEO include choosing keywords with low to medium competition and considering your domain authority during your keyword selection. As your brand establishes itself online, you can shoot for more competitive keywords.
When editing your content, look for ways to make your content easy for search engine crawlers to find, understand, and index. For example, you could use on-page SEO optimization tactics like H1, H2, and H3, a table of contents, and internal linking.
This approach will also help others find your top content at the right time — when they’re looking for a solution. It’ll improve your reader experience as well and increase the odds of Google selecting your content for a Google Snippets feature.
However, look beyond your website as well to produce a winning B2B inbound marketing strategy. It’s essential to create a backlink strategy to gain high-quality links from reputable sites related to your niche. Some techniques you can deploy include:
- Guest posting
- Backlink exchanges
- Podcast interviewing
5) Connect your content and marketing channels
To achieve optimal content distribution in your B2B inbound marketing strategy, it’s critical to link your content to multiple marketing channels.
This approach will help your target customer find more of your content once they’ve heard of you.
For example, your ideal customer could discover your brand through a search engine query, read a blog post, register for a webinar, then sign up for a demo. To begin merging your content with distribution channels, complete the following steps:
- Create pillar content pieces. These are your most valuable, in-depth pieces on key topics and top-performing keywords. Pillar pieces provide a solid base to expand your content and create assets for each buyer journey stage.
- Amplify content on multiple social media platforms with paid and organic marketing. For example, if your target customers spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, you could publish blogs and social posts regularly and launch Sponsored Messaging and Sponsored Content ads.
- Link every content asset to an optimized landing page that ushers visitors into the next stage in their buyer’s journey. This could look like a page to download an awareness stage eBook or a consideration stage case study.
- Encourage likes, shares, and engagement. Also, incentivize brand advocacy and share user-generated content like reviews and testimonials to increase customer trust and confidence in your brand.
- Add relevant CTAs to every content asset with links to landing pages (three to four for long-form written content).
- Work with partners, such as co-marketing partners and influencers, to share out key content pieces on their channels as well.
6) Engage on social media platforms
Behind the screens are real people with unique thoughts and opinions on the topics you cover and the content you share.
So, invest time in getting to know your audience. Pick one to two channels your target customer spends the most time on and build a community there. This tactic keeps your inbound leads hot and nurtures them toward conversion.
Some ways you can interact consistently with your audience are to:
- Run polls
- Ask questions
- Host Q&As
- Collaborate with influencers
- Post engaging content
- Hold competitions
- Collaborate with complementary brands in giveaways
Determine which social media key performance indicators (KPIs) to track based on your brand’s business goals and monitor them regularly. Taking these measurements will ensure your engagement efforts yield positive results, as well as identify where to double down or slash your efforts. For example, a start-up’s goal could be to increase brand awareness, so they could track KPIs like reach, engagement, and leads generated.
7) Set and track realistic content KPIs relevant to your goals
It’s crucial you identify and set realistic KPIs to understand what efforts are performing well and identify areas for improvement in your B2B inbound marketing strategy. A KPI’s relevancy will depend on your company’s goals and beliefs. For example, 60% of marketers determine the success of their content according to the number of sales it produces, so they’re more likely to choose KPIs that deal with this element. As a starting point though, some critical KPIs to track include:
- Pages per session
- Average session duration
- Bounce rate
- % New sessions
- Conversion rate
- Referral sources
- Community engagement
- Individual page performance
- Average order value
Wrapping up — Crafting a B2B inbound marketing strategy for eCommerce success
From engaging roundtable sessions to informative mega blogs, there are countless ways for you to leverage inbound marketing to attract your dream customers.
To succeed though, you have to research thoroughly and adjust regularly. Lay a solid foundation with your B2B inbound marketing strategy by researching your target customer’s struggles and ambitions, then use that information to guide your decisions. Test multiple content types, topics, and keywords, remembering to tweak your strategy as you gather more data on what resonates with your audience.
Finally, use PPC and social media to spread your content far and wide. Soon, your B2B inbound marketing strategy will become the gift that keeps on giving. Your brand will pull in leads from all directions and you’ll pad your bottom line.
Published: December 11, 2017
Updated: June 2, 2022