Four agile steps to ensure inbound marketing success

The term ‘inbound marketing’ was coined in 2005 to describe the internet assisted marketing movement away from broadcasting brand messaging towards enticing visitors to a website for more information. It began just after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and is based on information sharing, user-centered design, and collaboration.

Today, inbound marketing isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a proven methodology for aligning content, social media, and search engine marketing tactics with the way buyers make purchasing decisions. It might sound complicated, but once broken down into steps, it’s easy to understand how and why it works:

Step 1 – Identify ideal customer traits

Inbound marketing begins with personifying your ideal customer by creating a fictitious person or group of people to represent them. Each persona is then assigned characteristics such as age range, job role, and decision-making power. These personas are typically a combination of current, past, and ideal customers and once defined, they become the audience for all of your marketing initiatives.

Step 2 – Classify lead generation vs. demand generation content

Lead generation and demand generation are sometimes used synonymously as a way to describe revenue opportunities but they’re not the same and neither is the content associated to them. Here’s a quick look at the differences:

Lead generation content is the entry point to an ongoing permission-based relationship. The content is exchanged for an email address with an expectation the user will hear from you again. This type of content typically has a landing page with a form and is commonly referred to as ‘gated content.’ Most e-books fall into this category.

Demand generation content drives awareness for your business, products, and solutions as well as general awareness for your industry’s role in solving business problems. Demand generation content is un-gated and created with the sole purpose of educating consumers. Most blogs fall into this category.

Step 3: Map content types to the buyer’s journey

The buyer’s journey begins with realizing a problem exists followed by a desire to solve it. From there, buyers gather information in the form of un-gated (demand generation) content such as informational blogs and videos they found via search engine results.

As knowledge is gained, they move into the consideration phase of their journey and become more willing to trade contact information for gated content such as e-books or webinars with an expectation they will gain additional knowledge more quickly. At this point, they are moving closer to a buying decision and want content that showcases your company’s ability to deliver the best solution at the right price. End stage buyers are looking for whitepapers, case studies, testimonials, and about pages to satisfy their curiosity about you.

Step 4: Amplify content

Content doesn’t stop at your website. It has to be amplified and intentionally placed where buyers will find it. Tactics include:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – The likelihood your content will be found when a buyer queries a search engine is dependent on good SEO practices.

Social Media – Creating and publishing posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that link to your blogs, e-books, and other content drives traffic to your website and improves your SEO. Social media posts also work for demand generation when you share pertinent industry and product information.

Search Engine Marketing (Pay-Per-Click) – Paid advertising on social media and search engines is an effective strategy for demand and lead generation, but understanding the nuances of paid advertising before getting started is critical.

Inbound marketing is a powerful, long-term method for driving demand and bringing in leads and has stood the test of time because it works. However, investing in the right type of content and amplifying it consistently is the key to your success.