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How to Grow Your Business With Inbound Marketing Channels
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Your company’s lead volume is stagnant but your sales reps are capped. What do you mean simply call more leads? Are you hiring another SDR?
Alas, a tale as old as time.
This is where marketing comes in. If you run mark-ops or are a content marketer tasked with feeding leads to sales, how’s it going?
Is inbound lead generation working for you or are you experiencing lots of sleepless nights?
If you want to expand your efforts or just focus on a core strategy without scatterbrain, you need to know inbound marketing, what are inbound marketing channels and how to leverage them.
So what is inbound marketing, how does it differ from outbound marketing and how can you refine tactics to make inbound marketing channels generate leads so you can hit your goals?
Outbound marketing reaches out to new leads by coming to them, whether it be through traditional advertising, outreach at tradeshows or even telemarketing.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, attracts customers who’ve already started the buyer’s journey (even if they don’t know it yet) by drawing them in to you.
By creating different kinds of content with solutions potential leads are already looking for, you can attract and empower more people to give you more revenue.
Why is this important? Simply put, inbound marketing creates a dialogue with prospective leads. Providing valuable info via inbound marketing channels enables leads to find and evaluate you.
But how exactly does inbound marketing work? And how can you harness this powerful marketing strategy yourself?
We’ll dive into the benefits of inbound marketing, the returns you can expect and investigate the various channels of inbound marketing to take advantage of.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
At its most basic definition, inbound marketing is a strategy to help prospective customers or clients find your business.
Inbound marketing meets customers where they are and guides them towards your products or services, attracting and engaging buyers before they’re even considering making a purchase.
Customers generally start their journey by researching a query online to learn more about their given interest.
For instance, they may be researching new meal recipes, gardening tips or software solutions for their jobs but not necessarily shopping yet.
If you sell a product that aligns with their interest—say, gardening accessories or a productivity software—you can guide them towards your solution.
That’s where inbound marketing, SEO content come in. By providing meaningful and informative content to customers, you can build trust and educate leads.
With an inbound marketing strategy, you’re building visibility and rapport, bringing customers to you rather than seeking them out and selling to them directly, which is outbound marketing.
Through inbound marketing channels, including organic traffic, social media and events, businesses can create brand awareness and generate leads.
Therefore inbound marketing can be a great complement to outbound marketing to increase your revenue. So how exactly are inbound and outbound marketing channels different?
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
While outbound marketing also creates leads and builds revenue, it aligns with more conventional marketing practices like ads, bulk-email marketing or even cold-calling.
The goal for both inbound and outbound marketing is to convert leads, but the approach between the two differs.
Outbound marketing almost acts as an interruption by proactively presenting products or services to people, regardless of whether they’re likely to make a purchase or not.
Inbound marketing instead aims to attract customers with tailored and valuable content.
Inbound lead generation answers questions or provides solutions to problems potential customers want to solve, while outbound marketing pushes out messages to create interest.
In simplest terms, outbound marketing brings your business to customers while inbound marketing brings customers to your business.
While outbound marketing still has its place in a marketing strategy, inbound marketing benefits compared to outbound marketing include cost-efficiency and the opportunity to nurture leads.
Let’s review the benefits of inbound marketing so you know when and how to leverage it to grow your customer base.
What Are the Benefits of Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a long-term strategy. Instead of going right for a sale, it’s designed to attract a lead’s attention, pique their interest and nurture them on their journey to a conversion.
While the benefits are subtle in the short term, a good inbound marketing strategy creates more brand awareness, increased revenue, reduced expenses and better customer engagement.
3 Inbound Marketing Benefits
- More Brand Awareness
- Higher Quality Leads and Increased Engagement
- Efficient Marketing Budget
1. More Brand Awareness
Most consumers start their buyer’s journey by researching online.
With an effective SEO strategy and content that satisfies the queries of prospective customers, you can rank near the top of a search engine for instance and answer their question.
Or you attract their attention by educating them on something they didn’t know that would benefit them or solve a pain point.
This is an example of how inbound marketing generates online sales leads. When customers start their journey, your brand can show up and answer their questions first.
2. Higher Quality Leads and Increased Engagement
Customers expect tailored and individualized experiences. But only 60% of customers think companies provide good marketing personalization.
Inbound marketing can help connect to more potential customers in a personalized way.
When you understand where customers are in their journey and strategize your inbound marketing to their needs, leads are more likely to engage with your brand in meaningful ways.
Writing content with emotional messaging to exhibit empathy with your audience’s pain points is an example of how to grow your business using content marketing.
It connects with your audience on that personal level and translates to better inbound lead generation and higher customer conversion rates.
3. Efficient Marketing Budget
Since inbound marketing focuses on bringing qualified leads to your business, it’s less costly than outbound marketing.
With an effective inbound marketing effort, you can use a relatively small marketing team to make the most of your budget.
By pushing great content through various channels, the results of your efforts will compound rather than diminish over time.
With SEO practices and engaging content, your content will continue to grow and generate more leads, which means more revenue to feed back into your business and marketing budget.
How to Create an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Creating an inbound marketing strategy takes more than throwing money into various channels.
Pro marketing teams consider what channels they should prioritize and how to best facilitate lead generation according to their business needs.
Here are six tactics to create an inbound marketing strategy:
- Define Buyer Personas
- Identify Marketing Triggers
- Determine Keywords and SEO Strategy
- Establish Marketing Goals
- Outline Content Strategy and Structure
- Analyze, Revisit and Optimize Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
1. Define Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your brand’s ideal customers. A single brand might have numerous buyer personas, each with different interests, priorities and goals.
Some elements to include in a buyer persona to ensure your inbound marketing strategy is effective include interests, challenges, goals and frustrations.
Importantly—and this is key for your marketing collateral to hit the mark—map your solution’s benefits to your personas’ anxieties and pain points to attract more leads.
Understanding and defining your brand’s buyer personas helps you better understand whom you’re marketing to. The better you understand your buyer personas, the better equipped you are to create content that resonates with customers.
2. Identify Marketing Triggers
Events, circumstances or pain points that cause customers to search for information about your product or industry are known formally as marketing triggers.
An example would be an anxiety we referred to above when talking about defining buyer personas.
For instance, maybe you sell marketing software to business owners who’re anxious about their busy calendars. That’s a classic trigger for the selling point of “saving time.”
Trigger-based marketing also meets customers at their point in the buyer’s journey, responding to certain actions with specific solutions rather than broad and arbitrary advertising.
Other triggers could include website or email activity, letting you know if your lead is still learning about your solution or is further along, looking at product features.
3. Determine Keywords and SEO Strategy
Once you understand your buyer personas and what causes potential customers to engage with your content, you’ll need to know how you’ll get that content in front of them.
Keyword research is an integral part of an inbound marketing strategy because it enables you to identify the questions and pain points your target audience has when researching online.
Leverage this information to optimize your SEO strategy and design your content calendars to make your content discoverable so more leads can find you.
A good example of improving your inbound marketing with SEO is to investigate common topics your audience researches from keyword research and to create topic clusters.
By focusing on and linking between a few core, common topics, you demonstrate authority and expertise to people and search engines alike on info your target audience will find valuable.
4. Establish Marketing Goals
Set inbound marketing goals by identifying what you want to accomplish by a certain time. Consider traffic metrics, conversion rates and lead sources to start planning marketing goals.
Once you know what to focus on, you can scale up from there. For example, maybe it’s better to start driving brand awareness and improving SEO before tackling goals about customer loyalty.
But whether you’re creating short-term or building towards more long-term inbound marketing goals, you’ll need strong content.
5. Outline Content Strategy and Structure
Impactful content in various formats enables you to accomplish your marketing goals because content is how leads find you and it’s what they engage with when you’re nurturing them.
So content marketing goals are a necessary subset of inbound marketing goals, but how do you create great content goals for inbound marketing?
Basic keyword research will help you design content topics that align with your audience’s interests to grab their attention and provide value.
You also need to understand your audience’s pain points, emotional triggers, needs and wants to compel them, nurture them properly and generate inbound conversions.
If you’re a B2B content marketer, for instance, a great tip for creating B2B content marketing goals is to map your content to the buyer’s journey.
That means optimizing different types of content for each of the stages your leads are in and distributing that content accordingly.
Inbound marketing leads typically fall into three stages:
- Awareness. Leads look for general information about a topic and you’ll want them to discover your brand with content that they find valuable
- Evaluation. Leads discover more about your brand & services and gradually engage with more content about benefits or features so you can move them closer to a sale.
- Buying. Leads more strongly consider what your company can offer and interact with bottom-of-funnel content specifically about your product, services or buying process.
By creating content that responds to the separate lead stages, you can meet customers where they’re at in the buying journey and better personalize each experience.
ROI of Inbound Marketing
When designing a strategy to kickstart your inbound lead generation, you also need to focus on achieving and measuring a return-on-investment (ROI).
Not every inbound marketing channel is conducive to precise measurements and specific quantifiable metrics.
But creating a baseline, even if it’s based on estimates, is a great start to help with forecasting and finetuning your strategy decisions.
How Cost-Effective is Inbound Marketing?
Compared to outbound marketing, inbound marketing is cost-effective: small businesses see an average cost-per-lead savings of 64% and medium-sized companies enjoy a 68% reduction.
That’s partly because you’re not exhausting extra expenditure to deliver your message to potential customers, using content to instead let them find and evaluate you.
Therefore, it’s worth it to build an infrastructure to measure your inbound marketing ROI.
When you can bring tangible profitability estimates to your decision-makers that demonstrate this cost-effectiveness, you can access more resources you need to hit your goals.
What Is the ROI of Inbound Marketing?
It’ll take time to see how your content connects customers to your brand and generates leads.
Search engines gradually crawl and index content, rewarding high rankings to content that’s regularly optimized to answer users’ questions.
Keep in mind that content can have a lasting impact. Performance often compounds over time as you build an authoritative domain through more strong content properly interlinked.
The bottom line for inbound marketing ROI comes down to how much you’re spending to convert leads into sales.
For example, say you spend $3,000 on content that results in six sales at $3,500 each. That’s $21,000 in revenue at an average cost of $500 per sale.
But this breakdown is often too simplistic. The formula is looking at total investments; content is one piece of a puzzle that leads to a sale.
So how do you build a system to take a properly holistic view at measuring inbound marketing ROI?
How to Measure Inbound Marketing ROI
Instead, build a system on an attribution model that weighs channels and content collateral by various touchpoints.
For example, an analytics tool can connect a touchpoint on a blog post or an email campaign to an event like a demo signup, a trial request, a newsletter subscription and more.
Manual solutions could involve UTM parameters for inbound marketing ROI on conversion links and then tying the data in a spreadsheet to revenue metrics from a sales software.
With a comprehensive approach, you can cross-reference revenue with other metrics like social media engagement or email signups to get a full picture of your inbound marketing strategy.
So how does this all add up to generating more inbound marketing leads? We know what goes into a successful strategy and measuring ROI, but what are the channels of inbound marketing?
We’re going to shift into looking at the most common inbound marketing channels and how to use them so you can level up your content game and scale lead generation for your business.
What Are Inbound Marketing Channels?
An inbound marketing channel is a scoped set of resources and tools to deliver content from a company to your audience. In other words, how content goes from production to consumption.
Inbound marketing channels comprise the various ways businesses connect with their audience via content, from discoverability online to nurturing leads through emails or social media.
Knowing which inbound marketing channels to focus on and how to leverage them helps leverage ways to generate online sales leads with inbound marketing, so let’s dive in!
7 Important Inbound Marketing Channels
- Organic Traffic
- Social Media
- Paid Advertising
- Referral Marketing
- Website Resources
1. Organic Traffic
Organic inbound marketing is the most common and generally the most important channel available. It refers to website traffic of users who find you “organically” via a search engine.
Your company’s website is the main hub connecting your services to customers. Blog posts and services pages can generate organic traffic with the right content marketing and SEO strategy.
When potential leads look for info, your brand can educate them about the topic to build trust or provide value by highlighting benefits related to their query.
This is what makes your website discoverable on search engines to generate organic traffic and more prospective customers to your website.
Tailor your website’s content to your buyer personas and study the keywords and phrases that can guide people to your website.
Generate content for all stages of the funnel too. For example, top-of-funnel pages specifically target leads in the awareness stage by discussing content similar to your business categories.
If you sell workout equipment online, for instance, building content topics around workout routines and bodybuilding advice is a great way to target top-of-funnel leads.
It’s also important to know how to optimize content for SEO. Common tactics include keyword research, focusing on quality and ensuring you demonstrate expertise, authority and trust (E-A-T).
If you don’t pay attention to keywords and an SEO strategy, it might not matter how much high-quality content you produce.
If content doesn’t match users’ search intentions, search engines won’t rank your content and your website might not get the traffic it deserves.
2. Social Media
Why is social media an important part of inbound marketing?
Social media is a fast-growing channel for inbound marketing, and for good reason. A unique benefit to social media for inbound marketing is the ability to foster relationships with customers.
Social media content establishes a meaningful relationship between customers and businesses and facilitates two-way conversations.
With platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more, you can engage directly with customers, gaining insights into what they need from products and services.
What are ways to use social media as an inbound marketing channel?
Provide valuable threads on LinkedIn and Twitter to show your expertise or create a Facebook community for customers to demonstrate your commitment to customer experience.
There are also ways for how social media helps SEO.
For example, you can gain backlinks through viral posts when you amplify your content to people who can share your links on their websites.
Search algorithms will view such shares as a sign of credibility, enhancing your search rankings. Your social profile pages themselves can also rank for relevant keywords.
3. Paid Advertising
Advertising is often considered an outbound tactic, but it can be useful for inbound marketing strategies too.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on platforms like Google Ads allows you to target specific buyer personas by criteria like demographics, location and previous touchpoints on your website.
You can further customize your targeting by controlling when and where your content or ads appear.
This level of personalization enables you to hone in on potential leads already looking for info that you can provide. And ads are a proven tool to nurture inbound leads already in your funnel.
It’s also easy to attribute PPC inbound marketing to conversion events and revenue metrics. These analytics are handy for measuring and optimizing the success of your content strategy.
Although PPC can be costly, you only pay for each click you get.
Costs also differ per platform. LinkedIn tends to have higher click costs than Facebook or Google, but the lead quality tends to be stronger too since it targets business professionals.
And if you’re a local business that provides a home service, you can qualify for Google Local Services Ads.
One reason why this type of advertising is great for small business owners is that Local Services Ads charge per lead instead of per click, so you only pay for qualified leads, no junk.
Events are another example of a marketing channel that appear outbound, but they overlap with inbound techniques to a large degree.
Popup events associated with experiential marketing closely resemble outbound marketing, but participating in conferences and sponsoring events is all about attracting leads to your brand.
Why is event marketing an integral channel for inbound marketing? Because event marketing involves multiple touchpoints to educate and nurture leads like other inbound channels.
Setting up a booth at an event to entice passersby with a solution to their problem isn’t much different from blogging about that solution to entice search-engine users with the same problem.
And when booth attendees sign up for a demo or request more info, this should place them in a sequence with collateral like emails and ads, with unique landing pages about the event.
Once you get more digital assets involved, like QR codes, you can also initiate attribution tracking to measure event ROI too!
The key is how you are leveraging events to enable potential leads to find you and intrigue them with your hook. From there, educate them with materials also used for other inbound channels.
Podcasts are increasingly prevalent among even small- and medium-sized businesses as an inbound marketing channel.
Podcast inbound marketing is effective because it helps you cement your brand by giving your company an opportunity to develop and show off your personality.
Another positive for podcasts is that podcast listeners actively engage with brands. Podcasts compel people to listen attentively, so they’ll likely become a fan of your brand personality.
Also, podcasts are an additional avenue for you to establish your expertise.
For example, if you’re an SEO agency that sells digital marketing services, starting a podcast to share SEO tips would build trust with prospective customers, showing them you know your stuff.
And podcasts are hugely popular with consumers.
The most recent year-over-year data shows the percentage of adults who regularly listen to podcasts jumped from 37% to 41%.
If that increase looks unimpressive, consider it was at 32% the previous year and is expected to hit 47% within the next year. That’s a consistent annual growth rate of over 10%.
But starting a podcast can be intimidating and time-consuming for first-timers. Plus, with more podcasts constantly popping up, it can be difficult to stand out in a saturated market.
Make sure to research podcasting tips for beginners so you feel comfortable getting started.
For instance, find the right equipment and figure out how to plan the scope of your podcast episodes.
Returning to the SEO-agency example, the SEO-podcast space is a competitive market. Maybe you mostly cater to local businesses, so you can establish a niche around tips for “local SEO.”
6. Referral Marketing
Referral marketing can produce a high volume of quality leads for lower costs than other inbound marketing channels.
That’s because you’re leveraging the reputation of other brands potential customers already know and trust.
By tapping into businesses and social circles around you, you can broaden your reach, get leads recommended from partner companies and find influential people to vouch for you.
Broadly speaking, this is what referral marketing is: it encapsulates anything that involves other people or companies bringing prospective customers to you.
Examples include customer referrals, influencer marketing with social media heavyweights or partnership marketing with companies that aren’t competitors but target the same audience.
One of the easiest ways to begin a referral program is to harness your existing customer base.
Provide your existing customers with a unique coupon code to share with a friend. They’ll likely spread the word if there’s a benefit for them, like a discount for each new referral.
The beauty here is that you only need to pay out rewards once the new customer actually makes a purchase, so you’ll still see revenue growth that’s profitable.
Influencer marketing uses endorsements and mentions from social media users with large followings, otherwise known as influencers.
With established trust from their followers, influencers can generate traffic to your business by recommending your products and services to their followers.
While influencer marketing is a lucrative inbound marketing channel, managing the shifting trends and demographics can be challenging.
Different demographics have their own aesthetic preferences, meaning you might not reach your ideal buyer persona if you don’t partner with the right influencer.
It doesn’t need to be as complex as paying a celebrity a lot of money to publish an ingenuine tweet about your product.
Find people your target audience respect, perhaps experts in their field, and engage them in a dialogue to see how you could help each other out.
If you sell products online, for instance, a great way to work with influencers is with ecommerce influencer marketing.
Find influencers who are right for your brand. If you sell makeup online, why not partner with popular YouTubers who give makeup tutorials?
When you partner with another business to refer customers between each other, that’s called partnership marketing.
For example, Apple and Mastercard came together to integrate Mastercard into Apple Pay when it was first introduced.
This made the Apple Pay app viable but also boosted Mastercard’s image as a forward-thinking leader in the payments space.
You don’t even need to create an integrated product line with another company.
If you sell accounting software, you can simply build an interdependent referral program with another company that targets accountants with a different type of software.
If you choose to partner with another company, make sure you’ll be reaching new customers and the relationship is truly a win-win.
7. Website Resources
In addition to blog posts and social media content, for instance, it’s important to create other pieces of inbound marketing content to nurture leads at all stages of the funnel.
For instance, once leads find you, they’ll want to learn more about your specific product category. This is known as middle-of-funnel marketing.
Content optimized for the top of the funnel answers users’ queries about their pain points and needs before they even know about what your product is or does.
But then after they find your brand, they’ll then want to learn more about how a solution like yours works.
As we mentioned previously, blog posts can represent “top of the funnel” marketing, drawing users to your site from search engines.
Informational resources like podcasts and webinars target customers in the evaluation stage—the middle of the sales funnel.
Ebooks and white papers provide in-depth educational content beyond that of the average blog post. You should reserve these resources for your most sophisticated content.
They take more time and funds to produce, but they’re necessary to win sales when you have a more complex buying cycle.
And for leads who already know what they’re looking for at a high level, these resources can be perfect as an initial touchpoint.
Since potential customers often find them more valuable than top-of-funnel content, they’ll more likely give their contact information so you can follow up with—and close them—later on.
Harness Inbound Marketing Channels for More Leads
Inbound marketing is an impactful tool that strategically connects businesses and customers.
By using channels like blogs, social media and referral marketing, you can target customers at their individual stages in the buyer’s journey.
This results in improved brand awareness and preference, ultimately leading to greater lead generation and conversion rates over time.
To create an effective inbound marketing strategy, you’ll need more than a few blog posts. At the heart of every inbound marketing strategy is quality content.
With content writing services, you can cost-effectively generate the content needed to leverage inbound marketing at scale and attract more leads to your brand to grow your business.