Inbound marketing automation is a strategy that helps businesses attract and convert leads through the use of digital marketing techniques. It involves creating valuable content, optimizing it for search engines, and promoting it through various channels in order to attract potential customers.
Once a lead is generated, automation tools are used to nurture the lead and guide them through the sales funnel until they are ready to make a decision. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at inbound marketing automation and how it can benefit your business.
The Benefits of Inbound Marketing Automation
One of the key benefits of inbound marketing automation is that it allows businesses to target their marketing efforts more effectively. By creating targeted content that addresses the specific needs and pain points of their target audience, businesses can attract leads that are more likely to convert.
For example, if a business sells software for project management, they might create blog articles and ebooks that provide tips and best practices for project management, and promote these resources through social media and email marketing campaigns. This targeted approach helps businesses attract leads that are interested in their products or services, and are more likely to make a purchase.
Another advantage of inbound marketing automation is that it helps businesses save time and resources. By automating certain tasks, such as email marketing campaigns and lead nurturing, businesses free up time and resources that can be better spent on other tasks, such as creating new content or analyzing data.
Automation tools can also help businesses scale their marketing efforts more easily, as they can handle a larger volume of leads and customers without requiring additional time or resources.
In addition to saving time and resources, inbound marketing automation can also help businesses improve their lead conversion rates. A survey by Hubspot found that businesses that have a defined sales process and use marketing automation tools have a 53% higher conversion rate from marketing lead to sales lead compared to businesses that do not use marketing automation.
By using automation tools to nurture leads and guide them through the sales funnel, businesses can ensure that leads are receiving the right information at the right time, which can increase their likelihood of making a purchase.
Automation tools can also help businesses track and analyze the performance of their marketing efforts, allowing them to optimize their campaigns and improve their conversion rates over time.
The Sales Funnel and Inbound Marketing Automation
One of the keys to successful inbound marketing automation is having a well-defined sales funnel. A sales funnel is a series of steps that a lead goes through on their journey from becoming aware of a product or service to making a purchase. By creating a clear and concise sales funnel, businesses can more effectively guide leads through the process and increase their chances of making a sale.
Some common elements of a sales funnel include:
Awareness: At this stage, leads become aware of a product or service through content marketing, social media, or other forms of marketing.
Interest: Once a lead is aware of a product or service, they may become interested in learning more. This is achieved through lead magnets, such as ebooks or webinars, that provide more detailed information about the product or service.
Decision: After considering their options, leads may decide to request more information. This is facilitated through the use of calls-to-action, such as contact forms or purchase buttons, that make it easy for leads to take the next step.
Action: At this stage, the lead makes a purchase or becomes a customer.
By defining and optimizing each stage of the sales funnel, businesses can more effectively guide leads through the process and increase their chances of making a sale.
In conclusion, by saving time and resources, improving lead conversion rates, and defining a clear sales funnel, businesses can increase their chances of success with inbound marketing automation.
Feeling bamboozled by marketing tactics, channels, and buzzwords? There’s a lot to navigate when searching for the best marketing practices for your emerging company. Knowing when and how to get a realistic and effective marketing strategy off the ground may even seem daunting.
In this B2B marketing strategy framework, we provide insights on how to develop a manageable strategy for an early market team. First, we’ll cover the four marketing fundamentals essential for every business to define. Then we discuss the ongoing strategies successful companies use to scale long-term growth.
Let’s get started.
Start-Up Marketing Fundamentals
Before you can develop any tactical strategies or marketing messaging, you first need a clear picture of who you are serving and how you provide value to them. Ideal client profiles and buyer personas are essential building blocks that ensure everything else you build remains relevant to consumer needs.
Define Buyer Personas & Ideal Client Profiles
An ideal client profile (ICP) describes characteristics of a business that make it an optimal fit for your products and services.
Buyer personas are semi-fictional descriptions of the individuals who work at the ICP/businesses that would benefit from your solutions.
Having ICPs clearly defined helps your sales and marketing teams to understand which businesses would make great prospects. Your buyer personas will assist in creating effective messaging that aligns with real customer needs and desires.
Aim to create 2-3 personas and 1-2 client profiles. Your ICPs and buyer personas can be developed based on what you know about past or current clients.
While larger companies may conduct customer interviews to guide the creation of buyer personas, it won’t be as realistic for smaller businesses with less time, fewer resources, and fewer customers. Further, the information obtained from an interview typically reflects just one individual’s problems while an effective buyer persona should be representative of the broader problems your solutions solve.
If you need more insights, look to 3rd party resources such as LinkedIn or online job boards where you can pull information from job listings matching your customer profiles. You can also use professional information sources or industry associations for more information.
What to include in your Ideal Client Profiles:
Demographics including industry, job titles, levels of seniority, location, and company size
In recent years, there’s been a fundamental change surrounding who holds the power in the sales process thanks to the integration of pocket-sized technology. Buyers have access to more information than ever to compare products and services—making high-quality, relevant content that assists customers along every stage of the buyer’s journey essential for your business to succeed.
The goal of the content associated with your website, emails, and social media is to advance buyers through the sales and marketing funnel. The buyer’s journey will help you prioritize the topics covered in your content.
Competitive analysis involves researching major competitor products, sales, and marketing tactics. Often the first objective is to understand their marketing strategies. The second is to see how they position themselves in the market and how you want to position your company in response.
Your competitive analysis ultimately is the research that fuels how your marketing strategy will develop. A well-performed competitive analysis will support data-driven business and marketing strategies, paving the way for you to excel in capturing market share.
Start by defining what questions you have or insights you hope to gain that will assist you in your business and marketing goals. Then gather the information to answer those questions from your competitors’ websites, blogs, social media, and through analytical tools. Reviews can also reveal immeasurable value regarding the positive experiences and pain points consumers have using your competitors’ products and services. Throughout your competitor analysis, consider how you will position your brand in the market landscape.
Set SMART Goals and Choose your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Using the SMART goal framework ensures your marketing objectives align with your business goals. SMART is an acronym used to create goals that include Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely elements.
In the early stages, your goal may be to increase awareness of your brand. As time progresses, your goal should shift to increased leads and ultimately revenue. Examples of KPIs that align with these goals are shown in the table below:
Increase brand awareness
It’s important to have an understanding of how many deals or opportunities are needed in your pipeline to close a new customer. Set your marketing goals using the closest key metric that leads to new opportunities–typically new sales leads.
This is the best place to start as you build your marketing program. In later stages of your company’s development, you may advance to more complex goal setting using revenue attribution reporting. Set your goals further up the funnel until you get to website traffic.
A typical funnel looks like this:
Visitor → Lead → Marketing Qualified Lead → Sales Qualified Lead → Opportunity → Customer
You will need to determine how many marketing-qualified leads you need to generate in order to convert the number of sales leads from your goal. This conversion formula can be modeled up to the top of the funnel at “visitors”.
Foundational Steps Checklist:
Document 2-3 buyer personas and 1-2 ICPs
Map out your buyer’s journey
Complete a competitive analysis
Set SMART goals and identify the appropriate KPIs
These steps will assist you across all decision-making moments in your business.
With those boxes checked, it’s time to talk strategy.
Create Your Content Strategy
“Content” refers to the digital marketing assets associated with your company that demonstrate your expertise within your field and help communicate your unique solutions to potential customers. This may include blog articles, videos, ebooks, case studies, white papers, or reports to name a few.
An effective content strategy aims to assist potential customers by providing educational information that helps solve problems. Creating content that is integrated with search engine optimization (SEO) best practices will assist your website in being discovered by people actively searching online for answers or help. SEO content focuses on positioning your products and services as timely solutions to those consumer problems.
The topics you choose to cover in your content should be based on keywords that align with how your buyer personas define their problems, as well as the topics that establish you as an authority in your field.
Content Strategy Breakdown:
Categories. Identify 3 to 5 categories of information you want to be known for. Start with the broad topics where you want to be viewed as an authority and which align with your products and services. You can add more categories as your company grows.
Subtopics. Identify sub-topics related to the broad topic categories, based on what your audience is searching for.
Campaign roadmap. Create a campaign roadmap based on those topics and define how each campaign will convert across the stages of your funnel.
Distribution. Create a plan for how to distribute and promote your content, such as through email, social media, and paid advertising.
The content your team creates– whether blog articles, videos, ebooks, or case studies– will serve as more than just resources housed on your website. As you distribute the content through the various channels, these assets will serve as fuel for creating demand for your products and services. We’ll discuss demand generation in more detail below.
But first, you’ll need a go-to market strategy.
Develop Your Go-To Market (GTM) Strategy
When preparing to bring a product or service to market, your GTM business strategy should integrate your sales strategy and marketing strategy to position your product as the best solution to consumer problems. Your GTM strategy is developed based on the four foundational marketing steps we discussed at the beginning of this article.
HubSpot offers 4 questions to help you hone in on GTM:
Product-Market Fit. What problems does your product or service solve?
Target Audience. Who is experiencing the problem?
Competition and Demand. Who offers the same service? How much demand is there?
Distribution. How will you sell the product or service?
With your GTM plans in place, you’re ready to start executing your marketing campaigns.
Advance More Buyers Faster with Demand Generation
Demand generation is everything your brand does to create awareness and interest surrounding your company’s products and services. This includes all marketing efforts to help your organization reach new markets, promote new product features, build consumer buzz, generate PR, and re-engage existing customers.
The purchase decision for B2B products and services typically involves extensive online research and comparisons. Personalized online messaging for specific consumer problems is the best place to start when developing content for use in demand generation campaigns.
Below we give brief descriptions of the modern channels for distributing your message and creating demand.
Paid Media.LinkedIn ads, Facebook ads, Google display, paid search, video ads, and other promoted multimedia are effective channels for expanding brand reach, generating more website traffic, and retargeting past web visitors.
Social Media. B2B companies are embracing online brand development and with it, commanding their social media presence to engage, attract and inform their audiences. Your business can demonstrate credibility and nurture customer loyalty through educational content and resources aimed at helping your target audiences. Whether you share blog posts, case studies, e-books, or how-to videos, your social media marketing strategy will be successful if centered around actionable, helpful content.
Email Promotion. Email marketing is the process of targeting your audience and customers through email promotion. Boost conversion rates and revenue by providing subscribers and customers with valuable information to help achieve their goals. Read more here on email marketing tips.
No matter which channels you choose, the key to success in digital marketing remains the same– consistency.
Time to recap! In this b2b marketing strategy framework, we’ve covered:
4 early marketing fundamentals every business needs established
Foundations to content strategy development
Initiating a Go-To Market strategy and creating demand for your solutions
All that’s left is to ensure you can efficiently track, measure, and analyze your data.
Connect Your Tech Stack
You are likely already using a CRM and various marketing tools. Make sure they are set up correctly to track the metrics you’ve defined as your KPIs. If you’re looking for a CRM and marketing tool all-in-one, HubSpot is ideal. It offers a comprehensive integrated system for managing email, social, paid, website, and more all in the same place as your sales processes. HubSpot is also scalable. As your business grows, you can transition from the free version all the way to enterprise.
Your B2B Marketing Strategy Framework
Whew. We gave you a lot of information in this b2b marketing strategy framework. We know B2B marketing may seem complicated. But running a successful startup marketing strategy doesn’t have to be stressful. Download our content playbook to get started.
Demand generation is what a brand does to create awareness and interest. Making the public conscious of their business is a key factor in leading them to want to learn more. It’s any marketing effort your B2B company makes to bring people into your sales funnel, with an emphasis on personalization. As mentioned in our blog post, “The Impact of Demand Generation on Sales Cycles,” the B2C world can use demand generation in areas with longer sales cycles, but it’s most common in the B2B world. B2B products and services aren’t typically purchased impulsively, so commercials and traditional ad strategies don’t always work in such niche markets. So think outside the box when it comes to your demand gen strategies. Try using tools like search engine advertising, SEO, webinars, and free trials. According to the SaaS platform, Integrate, demand generation “supports the entire marketing and sales cycle, from initial prospect interest and lead generation to lead nurturing and sales enablement to first sale and cross-sell.”
Isn’t that just lead generation?
Well, no. But I can see why you’d think so. The best way to describe the relationship between lead and demand generation is that the two strategies overlap. Like lead gen, demand generation is a crucial part of the sales cycle, but the two are not the same. Unlike lead generation, demand gen in and of itself doesn’t involve a deal or a follow-up. Demand gen is what a brand does to create awareness and interest. Lead gen is more like the “how” part of the equation. Now that consumers know what you are, how are you going to make that interest work for you?
How demand generation ties to inbound marketing
In addition to confusing demand generation for lead generation, many people mix it up with inbound marketing. While an effective demand gen strategy will certainly use inbound marketing strategies (and outbound ones, too), it’s far too simplistic to consider them the same. Part of the reason demand generation is confused for so many other aspects of the marketing and sales processes is that it’s not so tangible. There isn’t a set “demand generation” spot on the sales funnel. In many cases, your demand gen efforts are starting to take place before a customer even enters the buying journey. HubSpot refers to demand gen programs as touchpoints throughout the conversion optimization and sales cycles. You could say that it’s present throughout the entire funnel.
All about the content
Creating content is the most common method of demand gen. Most of the time, that content is answering questions that consumers may have, or attempting to solve a problem. Online content like blogs, whitepapers, and videos that are search engine optimized help increase your chances that people who can use your services will find what you have to offer. Demand generation can also be highly interactive. Webinars and event marketing are increasingly popular ways to bring awareness to your brand while engaging directly with consumers. In such a short time, social media has also become a crucial method of demand generation. Gone are the days of boring, bland corporate presences on social platforms. Brands are taking the opportunity of free publicity that social media gives them by creating new, approachable profiles that allow consumers to see them as more than a brand. Having an ongoing presence that keeps potential buyers (and even people who have already purchased) coming back allows you to nurture relationships long term.
The need for relevance
Demand gen is thoughtful and engaging. Cold emails and banner ads certainly have their place in the marketing and sales worlds, but they do not fall under the demand generation umbrella. That’s not to say that you have to completely write marketing automation out of your demand gen strategy, though. Founder of Seas Marketing, Kari Seas, told Marketingland that the right marketing automation platform will still allow you to establish those deep relationships with your leads and make it simpler to have an ongoing conversation with them. The whole purpose of your demand gen strategy is that it creates interest around your brand. That requires your efforts to be relevant to your consumers. Targeting individual customers at specific points in their buyer’s journey is imperative. Allowing your sales and marketing teams to work together on this strategy really helps ensure you’re contacting each lead at the right time. You don’t want your efforts to be wasted on hard-selling a casual browser or have someone who was looking to make a purchase slip through the cracks.
It should be data-driven
All marketers know that data is everything when it comes to refining your process. There’s nothing like cold, hard numbers to let you know if your marketing efforts are driving the progress and revenue you’re aiming for. So why should your sales and marketing teams have to each find out those numbers for themselves? Let’s continue the discussion of how important it is for the sales and marketing teams to work together. Wordstream states that demand generation is a “long-term relationship between a brand’s marketing and sales teams, and prospective customers.” When both teams work closely, they’re able to share pertinent information about potential leads with each other. This allows each lead to be nurtured appropriately. When the marketing team creates content and evaluates its performance, they’re able to relay that information. Doing so allows your sales team to determine which leads are ready to take the leap and which ones need a little more nurturing. Sure, in theory, each of these teams can take on these tasks themselves. But why not combine your efforts and spend that saved time moving your leads through the sales funnel? You know what they say: work smarker, not harder. (Oops, did we mean “smarter?”)
Why it matters
Integrate pointed out that even though you can have lead generation without demand generation, you shouldn’t. Including both strategies into your marketing efforts will help you attract more quality leads and engage potential leads to the point of becoming sales-ready. “Using wider demand generation tactics typically leads to more intelligent lead generation efforts due to a deeper understanding of bottom-funnel performance,” Integrate also stated. “By closing the loop on marketing performance, demand marketers can fine-tune their lead generation efforts to capture more qualified opportunities. With better brand authority and customer trust, they may increase their visitor-to-lead conversion rates.” Simply put, demand generation streamlines and refines your marketing strategy, ensuring your market qualified leads are nurtured at the right time (and your other leads are on their way to becoming MQLs!). As a marketer, it saves you time and minimizes the guesswork, allowing you to target effectively. What could be more important than that?
The concept of lead nurturing is marketing 101. Whether you’re part of a SaaS or Management Consultant company, the objective is always to move prospects through the sales funnel. As we discussed in our blog post, The Impact of Demand Generation on Sales Cycles, demand generation strategy is all the activities that bring attention to your company in an effort to bring prospects into your sales funnel. Closing a deal isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, so the way you nurture your buyers plays a huge role in your strategy’s success. Drip campaigns are probably the most popular method of lead nurturing. Typically in the form of emails, drip campaigns are automated and are sent to your leads regularly in an effort to stay at the top of their minds. While this such a popular method of lead nurturing for a reason (it’s pretty darn easy) there are a few drawbacks that should keep you from relying too heavily on them. If your emails are overly promotional, without actually offering anything of value, not only will your leads stop moving through your funnel, but they’ll probably unsubscribe. Think about how many times you’ve opened your inbox and seen yet another sales email from a store you’ve only casually shopped at. No coupons, nothing of value — did you scroll to the bottom and unsubscribe? Or better yet, check your spam folder and see how many marketers your email provider already made that call for you about. Luckily, there are many more effective ways to nurture your leads.
1) Make it personal
While you don’t have to personally write a tailored email to each of your leads, a little bit of personalization can go a long way. At the very least, it’s helpful to choose an email template in your CRM that allows you to include your recipient’s name. That’s not all you can do, though. The great thing about paying such close attention to your demand generation strategy is that you likely have a general idea of specifically how you can be of service to each of your leads. If you’ve identified potential client’s pain points, don’t hesitate to make them known in your lead nurturing efforts. Nobody likes to feel like a number, so if you’re reaching out and expecting them to open your emails, make sure what you have to say to them is relevant. While you might think this seems like a wasted effort, HubSpot, found that leads nurtured with targeted content produce an increase in sales opportunities of more than 20%. There are plenty of segmentation options in all of the main CRM systems that you don’t have to cast such a wide net.
2) Use more than one medium
Sure, email is most common and it’s certainly a medium to make sure you pay attention. However, it’s not the be-all, end-all to lead nurturing. Honestly, even though content marketing has become associated with digital marketing, the internet itself isn’t even the limit when it comes to nurturing your leads.
In addition to mail, both e- and direct, you can use social media, blogs, webinars, and videos to help move your leads along their buyer’s journey. Be active and engaging on your social channels, keeping in mind that while it might feel mundane to devote time and energy to your Twitter presence, this is a common way that leads might actually discover your brand and product. You can also look into targeted ads or initiate connections with leads on social media yourself. This also gives your brand a personal edge that can help you build relationships.
3) Check your stats
Your lead nurturing efforts are only worth it if they’re actually doing something for your demand generation strategy. Sure, you can automate some emails and tweet some Tweets, but if you’re not checking in on how effective these things are, you’re probably wasting your time. If you’re finding that only 5% of email recipients are actually opening your messages, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy. Very few people get their audience’s needs right on the first try, so there’s no shame in starting over. Play with different subject lines, put more of an emphasis on personalization and see what makes a difference in your engagement levels.
How many times have you taken the plunge from a casual browser to a full-blown customer in a single website visit? You can probably count those instances on one hand. Impulse shopping isn’t as common online as it is in person when you can think about a product revisit a website at any time. Of course, it helps push you along when you happen to come across an ad for exactly what you were looking at the next time you’re on your phone. Sorcery? Mindreading? Nah, just retargeting. Retargeting is a form of paid advertising that puts your brand in front of bounced traffic even after the person has left your website. This is a great way to keep yourself at the forefront of leads’ minds, without actually having to do anything yourself — not because you don’t want to put more effort in, you’re just too busy with personalizing your campaigns, obviously.
5) Follow up
We all know how frustrating it is to continuously have to press certain numbers on our phones when all we really want to do is talk to a human who can help us with our problem. What a relief it is when you finally get to talk to someone. Be that relief for your leads. When your potential customers are nearing the end of their buyer’s journey, engaging with your emails, taking an interest in what you have to offer, don’t make them reach out to you. Nudge them along with a human contact. Of course, this will usually be over the phone or via a personal email, but Databox suggests attempting to actually meet with potential leads in person when it’s possible. “Technology helps advance the conversation, but it will never replace those human interactions that build trust over time.”
When you read the term “demand generation,” it sounds like it just means that you’re “generating demand” for your product. While in some ways, that is accurate, there’s a lot more to demand generation than that. Plenty of things you do as a marketer each day fall under the “demand generation” umbrella.
What is demand generation?
Think of it as any activity that brings attention to your B2B company to bring people into your sales funnel. It’s about keeping in mind where people are in their buying journey when tailoring your marketing materials to them. You’re not going to launch into a hard sell to someone visiting your website for the first time. And you’re not going to leave out important details for someone who is potentially looking to close a deal. Demand generation is truly your sales and marketing teams working in tandem. After all, the sales cycle of a B2B customer is quite different than a B2C customer. So it’s imperative that efforts to educate, nurture, and convert potential leads take place at the appropriate time.
Where it all starts
The B2C world can use demand generation, especially in areas with longer sales cycles, like home or car buying. However, it’s most common in the B2B world. The whole process begins with getting the word out. B2B companies probably won’t be filming commercials or taking traditional ad space out, so it’s essential to think outside the box. Some common ways B2B companies build awareness of their brand include tactics like:
Investing in search engine optimization: One of the best ways to allow people to discover your business is to help them solve a problem. Using keywords in your website content that people might search for while looking for a solution will get them on your page and potentially land you a customer.
Advertising on search engines: I know, it’s like Google is the gatekeeper to business and we have no choice but to play along (unless you choose to use like, Bing or something). But it would be silly to ignore the impact search engines have on business. Shelling out some cash to have your business’s information at the top of relevant searches is a way to kickstart your web presence.
Hosting webinars: Similar to investing in SEO, hosting webinars is an effective way to demonstrate your value by offering a solution that your potential customers may be looking to solve. Webinars are a low commitment way for people to see what you have to offer and how you can help them.
Free trials: How many free trials have you signed up for before actually investing in something? From streaming services to gym memberships, free trials are one of the best ways to get someone’s foot in the door. For a B2B company, this could be a consultation call or a free e-book that gives potential customers a taste of what you can offer, without giving too much away.
How demand generation fits into the sales cycle
If you think a lot of these demand generation tactics sound like inbound marketing, you are correct! HubSpot’s simple explanation for this is that inbound marketing is a type of demand generation activity. It’s effective, too — HubSpot found that inbound leads are five times more likely to become customers than outbound leads. That’s not where the connections between the two end, though. WordStream states that demand generation is a “long-term relationship between a brand’s marketing and sales teams, and prospective customers.” Once the marketing team has created content and used that content’s performance to determine prospective customers and taken it a step further with projects like email campaigns, these contacts are passed along to the sales team. From there, the marketing and sales teams can determine where in the sales cycle each of these leads are. Then they can tailor their marketing efforts accordingly. Lead scoring, ranking, and routing are all a part of the sales teams’ role in demand generation. Determining which leads should be contacted ups the chances that a sale will be made by focusing energy on the most promising leads.
Demand generation is everything you do to get customers excited about your company’s product and services. Demand generation programs can help your organization reach new markets, promote new product features, build consumer buzz, generate PR, and re-engage existing customers. (more…)