Business owners who are serious about their marketing know that being intentional about their B2B inbound marketing yields an increase in their marketing ROI. And considering how busy the average small business owner is, anything that increases productivity and decreases costs associated with acquiring new leads is worth pursuing with an almost fanatical focus.
You need a documented inbound marketing strategy
Owners who have a documented inbound marketing strategy — and follow that plan! — are 64% more effective in their overall success. They enjoy more qualified leads, higher traffic counts and a lower cost per lead when compared to their peers.
This is a screenshot of our HubSpot sources report showing our growth here at Visual Creatives. Since we’ve using inbound marketing to grow our own marketing clientele, our traffic has continued to grow month after month. And we are marketing a marketing agency, which sounds like it should be easy, but really isn’t! After all, we are competing against other marketers for attention!
B2B owners can not afford to neglect custom content creation. Your competitors are investing more time and money than ever in their own businesses. 72% of small business owners are planning on investing in high quality and engaging content for the coming year, according to the Content Marketing Institute report for 2015.
What a documented inbound marketing strategy plan should do
Creating a documented strategy will take a little time and research. If you are working with an agency like ours, much of this will be done b the agency in the process of on-boarding you as a client. However, even working with an agency you will want to keep a close eye on these components. No one knows your business better, and getting your plan right from the start is the difference between success and a mediocre return on your investment.
- Align your strategy with your business goals – A good marketing plan will take into account your business goals and their relative priority for your company. If brand awareness is your goal, your plan will look very different than a plan focusing on producing sales qualified leads. Each focus is equally valid, so as an owner you will need to set the course for your team and your plan.
- Benchmark your current sales and marketing metrics – If you are just launching a website, this is an easy task. But if, like many busy b2b companies, you have been letting your website coast along serving as a brochure, you will need to put some work into this component. At the very least you need a program such as Google Analytics in place so that you can get a reasonable assessment of your traffic counts. Decide with your team what the most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are. You may be choosing between site visits, social media shares, Google rankings, lead generation or closing customers. Most likely you will be watching all of them to one degree or another.
- Set traffic, lead and customer acquisition goals – Once you know the KPIs you will be tracking, set some goals for each area. Remember to use SMART goals, and be realistic in your expectations as you start out. The rule of thumb is that it will take between 6 and 12 months of focused inbound marketing before you begin to see the optimal ROI on your efforts.
- Define your ideal lead and customer – Now that you know your goals, look at the demographics of your ideal customers. In the past, who has been the “perfect fit” for your business? Is it certain vendors? Associations?
- Define your buyer personas – Take that ideal customer and create buyer personas. You will want to drill down into their specific language, social hangouts and pain points. It is tempting to assume that you know the buyer persona you work with, but every time we have done this exercise with a client they have been startled by information they obtain from doing research.
- Competitive benchmarking – Run your website through some benchmarking software, and then do the same for your competition. QuickSprout has a great free one online. We take our clients through both QuickSprout and the HubSpot Market Grader.
- Keyword Research and selection – Analyze the keywords important to your industry. Do some keyword research to determine keywords that you could reasonably rank for in Google. Don’t forget long-tail keywords, which are combinations of words your clients are likely searching for. A good long-tail keyword, though much lower in search volume, will yield better results since you are targeting a very specific prospect.
- Search Engine optimization – Go through your on-page and off-page SEO items to make sure that every blog you post and every page you have on your website contribute to your Google rankings and your ability to be found by search engines.
- Website management and content creation – Spend some time listing all the components of your website. Also list the missing components that need to be developed. Assign a person to be responsible for developing each component. Ask for a plan from the responsible owner of each component, and write down your projected completion date. What you take the time to measure will get accomplished.
- Launch and develop your business blog – Put a plan in place for regularly posting to your blog. Your blog is the chief tool in your inbound marketing bag of tricks. When you post high quality content regularly, your customers find you and return often to consume what you are producing. Statistics vary, but it takes anywhere from 5-10 touches to turn a prospect into a client, so keeping your name in front of your prospects is the best use of your marketing time. Blogs can be written in-house or you can find freelancers to help you get them written. Also, consider other kinds of content in your editorial calendar as well. If you are working with an agency to produce content, give them a budget for various kinds of content including infographics and short videos.
- Create advanced premium content and landing pages – You will want to develop premium content offers that will educate your prospects. Each content offer should have a landing page built to deliver it, and a thank you page to confirm delivery.
- Set up social media accounts and build a following – Now that you have a plan in place for custom content creation, you need to work on the social media marketing for your B2B. Choose the channels where your prospects are spending time and focus on one at a time. For starters you will probably want to build out your LinkedIn page, your Twitter account and your Facebook page. Some companies swear by Google+, which has the obvious advantage of being owned by Google. It can’t help your Google ranking to have a Google+ account filled with content!
- Social media monitoring – Set up some streams to monitor relevant search terms to your B2B. You can use software to set alerts on your company name or other search terms. If you see someone on social media asking a question or commenting on products, jump in and help them. This boosts your reputation and builds brand awareness. Just don’t make the mistake of selling on social media. Offer information, but don’t sell.
- Social media scheduling – Use software such as HootSuite or Buffer to schedule your social media. Post frequently enough to keep your name constantly popping up in your follower’s streams. And remember: you can’t really set and forget your social media – always be aware of what is happening in world events and in your local area so that you aren’t the only one blithely advertising your latest service when there is a national crisis or other event!
- Email marketing and lead nurturing – Email is not dead. For the B2B owner, it is one of the most effective tools of communicating with the people who have already indicated an affinity for you by allowing you to have their email address. Use this tool wisely. For documenting your inbound marketing plan, write out how often you will email your list and what topics are appropriate for your particular market.
- Paid advertising – As you evaluate your overall marketing plan, consider a budget for some Pay-Per-Click advertising. Especially when you are first growing your traffic counts and engaged visitors, some paid advertising may help get you to the level of brand awareness you need quicker than if you rely on organic search to build.
- Measurement and Analysis for Continued improvement – Finally, plan to continually measure and analyze your improvement. We run daily, weekly and monthly reports to track the content we create. In addition, we tie every social media tweet to specific campaigns in order to track every brand message. It is a lot of work, but it yields invaluable data.
If you go through the list above and invest the time to document the inbound marketing strategy for your small business, you will be ahead of 60% of your competitors. That’s worth doing!