Inbound marketing drives innovation and success at all levels of business, but like all technology-driven marketing practices, it continues to evolve. The ability to stay at the head of the curve, implementing the newest tactics and adjusting your strategy accordingly will keep you atop your competitors in 2018 and beyond.
Let’s take a closer look at the areas that your business should be focused on most in 2018 to adhere to best practices for inbound marketing.
Persona Development as a Foundational Tool
Persona identification is not new. It’s one of the oldest pillars of a good marketing campaign and is more important than ever for small businesses using technology to target narrow streams of new traffic. But technology is making it increasingly possible to use your persona targeting efforts to improve everything from the language in your nurturing emails to the targeting on your landing pages and blog posts.
Identifying Key Channels Based on Personas – Where are your target users spending their time online? Forums, social media channels and groups, websites, and newsletters – knowing these things can provide key insights into the content they want and the thought leaders they trust.
Building Thought Leader Profiles – In addition to your persona profiles, you can now generate thought leader profiles that illustrate the types of content you should create, the medium and channels through which to deliver those insights, and the types of resources you can build to help your audience.
Optimizing Content Based on User Search Intent – Google is getting better at understanding what a user wants when they search for something, and if your site doesn’t provide it, you’ll rank lower. Persona development allows greater insight into that search intent so you can update existing content and create new content to meet it.
By understanding who your target audience consists of and the language they use to describe their problems you can upgrade your messaging at almost every level – on your website, in your marketing materials, and even in person.
Media Matters More Than Ever
I’m not the first person to tell small business owners that they need to invest in media to support written content, but in 2018, it matters more than ever before. People can retain 65% of what they see in a relevant image after three days, compared to just 10% when they hear something, and in 2017 video content represented more than 74% of all internet traffic. Even more telling, according to an Animoto survey, four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video than read an article.
People are visual creatures and technology has finally reached the point at which we can consume media in the way that best fits that nature. Video is more compact and Internet access is faster than ever. Tools like Canva, Venngage and Designrr are inexpensive and make it possible for even a small business to build visual content without a designer. Whether it’s creation of custom image headers for use on social media, visualizations of data in your articles, or slideshare and video versions of your written content, media matters and should be top of mind in your marketing efforts.
SEO Is a Living, Breathing Organism
Search engine optimization has evolved in ways that few could have expected, even just a few years ago. When Google launched, it measured dozens of factors on a static basis. Smart marketers were able to game that system quickly, and they kept ahead of the curve for more than 15 years, updating their tactics as Google announced and implemented new algorithm changes.
In the last two years, this has changed. In 2016, for example, Google conducted 9,800 live traffic experiments and more than 130,000 search quality tests, resulting in 1,653 search changes and 11 major algorithm changes. In 2017, there were 12 major algorithm changes and Moz’s Mozcast measurement of search volatility was routinely at or above 90-100. The search engine is a living, breathing thing now – constantly updating and revising its measurement of your site and its value based on thousands of known and unknown factors.
Yes, links matter, but you can’t manipulate the system in the way you once could. Even the best SEOs have shifted their focus to what matters most – quality content delivered to answer questions and address search intent. What matters now?
Site quality and user experience
Content quality and frequency
The ability of your site to address the questions and concerns of your visitors
The stuff that always should have mattered – and as the search engines improve their ability to scan your site and determine if it is effectively addressing these concerns, those technical factors will matter less and less.
What can you do? It’s simple. Produce quality content, fix problems on your site, and be actively engaged with users to ensure your content addresses their questions. Look for red flags like high bounce rates, drops in the number of new backlinks to your content, or insufficient engagement from your audience.
Staying Ahead of the Curve in 2018 and Beyond
Content-driven marketing is the core of most B2B marketing departments, but it cannot rely on the same old tactics year to year. Like the search engines and user media preferences, these best practices will only continue to evolve, and your efforts need to keep up.
Concerned your website isn’t ready for an investment in marketing due to these best practices? Download our free guide, 17 Tips to Ensure Your Website is Marketing Ready, and learn what you can do to maximize your marketing investment and generate real ROI.
Remember the days when marketing was a blood sport? When it required a ruthless approach to your competitors, deep pockets, and a scorched earth approach to capturing your “share” of the public’s attention so you could generate more leads?
Things sure have changed. Like many industries, the Internet has democratized marketing – but unlike other industries, that democratization hasn’t weakened or marginalized career fields (sorry travel agents). Rather, it has strengthened the power of a good marketing team – to the point that the average marketing budget has actually increased year over year for the last five years.
And it’s all about content. Today’s best marketing thought leaders are those that develop powerful, engaging, and most importantly, useful content for their readers. Content that solves problems, builds relationships, and guides readers in their pursuits. It also happens to capture email addresses, enter prospects into sales funnels, and generate significantly greater ROI toward sales than the scorched earth approach.
The best part of all? It’s accessible. You don’t need a six figure budget to write a really kickass eBook. You just need to know your audience and want to help.
If you are new to content marketing and are eager to learn how it works, and more importantly, how all those eBooks and blog posts generate more leads, here are 7 tips to do the same for your business.
Tip 1 – Identify Exactly Who Your Target Audience Includes
Without a doubt, you are probably an expert in your field. You know your business inside and out. No marketing agency or consultant could match what you know about your prospects. Why then are your marketing materials so generic?
An effective content marketing campaign strips out all the guessing, all the broad approach content, and all the 101-level “here you go” content from the start. You need to know exactly who your ideal audience includes and what their problems are.
HubSpot identifies this as a buyer persona and they get so specific as to give their avatars names and back stories. Imagine you are writing your book for one person – what does that one person (your ideal customer) need from you? How can you solve their problems? The subsequent book will be written with much cleaner, more focused language as a result.
If you’re not sure exactly how to break this down, perform an audit of your best customers. Who are the decision makers from those companies and how did you originally approach them? This is the core you’ll be focusing on.
Tip 2 – Answer Specific Questions in the Language They Recognize
The next step is to speak and respond in the language they best understand. Never assume anything when developing content for a marketing campaign. Here’s what we use when evaluating a target audience:
Social Media – How do they interact on social media? Which thought leaders do they follow and what kind of content do those people produce?
Groups and Forums – Visit LinkedIn Groups and industry forums and read the conversations being held. What are the most common problems cited and what language is used to discuss and solve those problems?
Sales Teams – The sales team has the best insights into the problems held by these individuals. Ask your sales team to provide common questions and concerns and the exact language used to describe those. Recorded calls can even help here.
To make your point and ensure someone finds value in that content, you need to provide answers in the same language and urgency with which the questions are asked.
Tip 3 – Create an Automatic Followup Machine
It’s relatively easy to generate more leads with content online. Write an eBook or White Paper and drive traffic to it (which you can do with ads) to capture information. But someone downloading an eBook is not necessarily a qualified sales lead.
Content marketing is an active process that manages a large portion of the nurturing that was historically done by the sales team. Email marketing in particular is incredibly important, with 73% of businesses saying this is crucial to all of their marketing efforts, and overall ROI surpassing social media by 20%.
The reason why is simple. Email allows you to followup with your prospects on autopilot – sending more information to them at set intervals and creating touch points every 2-4 weeks that keep you top of mind.
This “top of mind” mentality is incredibly important because your prospects will go in and out of research mode multiple times before they ever approach “buying” mode.
HubSpot has a version of the above graphic that breaks it down into 3-4 steps. I like this one slightly better because it shows the nuance between stages, but the core concept is the same – A lead is not just a lead.
That individual is in a certain state of mind. The type of content they download from your website and the type of interaction they have with your business will determine what type of lead they are. Someone downloading an eBook about “how IT services work” is an Explorer – someone just getting started.
Even if they download more than one piece of content they are still relatively high in the funnel. It’s when they start asking you specific questions, attending webinars, or replying to emails you send that they approach sales-qualified. But if you don’t followup with an automated machine that creates multiple possible touch points, it’s impossible to know when this will happen.
Automation can be done in a number of ways. The simplest is with an email autoresponder that sends canned messages every 1-2 weeks. There are more, however. Website content that matches or changes to match the customer’s information is a great starting point as well.
Tip 4 – Diversify the Content You Create
Content is a broad term. It can mean any number of different mediums – blog posts and eBooks to be sure, but also infographics, videos, social graphics, and even audio clips. Visual content is processed 60,000X faster than just text by the brain and can have a much stronger impact when trying to capture someone’s attention online.
Additionally, keep in mind that not everyone learns the same way. Some people prefer to listen to information. Others are more hands on and want to do something with the information they are given.
There is no single type of content that will cover the needs of your target audience. Diversify with the same message across multiple mediums and you’ll provide a more complete solution.
Tip 5 – Be Consistent and Highly Active in All Channels
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a content marketing campaign is the “burst and wait”. So much work goes into creating a single good piece of content that people tend to get very excited and blast it out as soon as it is completed.
The problem with this strategy (or lack thereof) is that once you send out your content – by email, blog post, and social media – what’s next? If you don’t have anything else on tap, all of your freshly engaged leads will quickly dry up and find their information elsewhere.
A good content marketing campaign relies on two things – relevance and consistency. So your content needs to be engaging and relevant – targeting the specific problems you know this audience has – and it needs to be delivered at set intervals.
Frequency will depend on your audience, but a good starting point is to have weekly touch points of some sort. Here’s a breakdown of what we recommend as “minimum” engagement benchmarks:
Social – Daily
Blog – Weekly
Email – Bi-weekly
Download – Monthly
With four tiers of content delivered at varying intervals, you can engage with your prospects constantly without spamming them through a single channel. There is some overlap here (you will likely send an email and write a blog post to drive traffic to your new eBook), but the end result is upwards of 10 new touch points per week for your prospects, depending on where they connect with you.
Tip 6 – Ignore All of Your Preconceptions
It’s easy to make assumptions about your audience. You are, after all, an expert in what you do. But marketing is a tricky science. I’ve been working with business leaders and fellow marketers for more than ten years and in that time, I’ve been wrong as often as (and probably more than) I’ve been right.
The Achilles Heel of any good marketing team is assumption. Assuming you know how something will perform or making decisions based on what you’ve seen work or not work in other campaigns or on competitor websites can pigeonhole you to the point of failure.
Data is incredibly important in what the top inbound marketing companies do. I don’t make decisions without having a mechanism in place to test my hypothesis or at least run it through a smell test to determine if it’s wroth investing in.
It’s also a very effective way of trying something new for your organization without getting pushback from other decision makers. If you’re only “running a test”, there’s no long term commitment. If the test works, you look good and are given the thumbs up to continue. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t want to continue anyways.
There are a number of mechanisms you can use to test your ideas. Just be sure to actually do it before investing in an idea.
Tip 7 – Create a High Converting Machine on Your Website
Last but by no means least is the machinery used to deliver your content.
If you want to generate more leads with the content you create and ensure that people not only find it, but engage with it so you can followup in a sales capacity, you need a good machine on your website to do everything listed above.
There are three components to a good website “machine”:
Strong user experience that engages the visitor
Technically sound platform to perform in search engines
High converting CTAs and landing pages to drive conversions
Each of these points lies with a member of your marketing team – #1 with your designer, #2 with your SEO, and #3 with the strategy and CRO experts.
Unfortunately, it’s number 3 that frequently gets overlooked. The “sexiness” of a new website or high Google rankings often overshadow the utilitarian value of a revamped headline on your top converting landing page, but here’s why this is arguably the most important part of the formula.
The average website converts at between 0.5% and 1% when we start working with it. This is historically what I’ve seen from the majority of “fresh” sites that have minimal digital marketing history.
A good benchmark for a B2B website after update is 1.5% to 2%. That number can be achieved through redesign and content optimization. I’ve seen new sites launch before that instantly doubled conversions, simply through revamping user experience and clarifying conversion points.
But there’s more. When landing pages are overhauled, rewritten, and targeted to the very specific people that they can most benefit, the conversion rate reaches upwards of 3% to 3.5%. Top performers cap out above 4% conversion across the website.
Imagine what that means. If your website goes from 0.5% to 4% conversion rate, you will be generating 8 TIMES more leads than you were before the updates were made. That’s a substantial difference. I’ve seen businesses get overwhelmed by the new volume, unable to keep up with the influx of people who need to be called every single day. It’s that powerful.
A good landing page will make a huge difference in your lead generation efforts. Don’t overlook just how important this can be.
What’s the Next Step
With all of this said, there are a number of things you can do right now to get your website marketing ready and start benefiting from the value that good content can offer.
We’ve crafted an eBook to get you started that discusses the 17 things you can and should do to make your website as Marketing Ready as possible for the new visitors that you hope to drive there. From content creation to SEO updates and conversion page optimization, these are 17 quick tips you can work on right now to start improving your conversion rate and using content to generate leads for your business.
Your website is more than just a brochure. It is a digital manifestation of your business. It represents not only who you are as a company, but who your customers and prospects are and what they need.
That’s why it’s so important to have a clear plan in place before spending thousands of dollars to drive people to that website. If it doesn’t fully represent all of those groups, you may as well throw that money out a window. Let’s take a look at some of the things that an internet marketing expert pays attention to while crafting the right strategy.
There are three core things you can check on your website to ensure it is ready for a marketing campaign right now.
Does It Speak the Right Language?
Forget your brand for a moment. Your website needs to transcend it and represent something more. This is an automated tool – you don’t have the benefit of a salesperson guiding someone through every click and explaining things not immediately clear on the site.
Your website needs to perfectly capture two things in the way it communicates:
The target personas and audience you want to be your customers.
Your marketing message, spoken in a way that is relevant to these personas.
More than anything else, your website needs to clearly communicate what you can do that is different from your competitors to solve your prospects’ key problems.
Forget the bells and whistles, the shiny new coat of paint on your website, or the features you’ve been slaving over for years (however cool they might be). Does your site clearly communicate WHY those things matter specifically to your target audience? If not, this is the first thing to address.
Does Your Website Provide Value to Your Prospects?
Now that you know who your target audience is and what they need, does your website provide them valuable content that specifically addresses their needs and desires? If you’ve pinpointed the key pain points of your target persona, why isn’t every piece of content on your site about resolving that pain?
That doesn’t mean you need to rewrite your entire site, but revising and refining the language to match those needs is incredibly important.
At the same time, the content you create should be desirable enough to require registration. You want contact information so you can follow-up later, build relationships, and nurture new leads. This is where downloadable marketing offers come in. EBooks, video series, newsletters, whitepapers, and checklists – the kind of stuff that your prospect can download, take away and use to resolve their problem further.
Do You Have Recurring, Targeted Traffic Sources?
Finally, you need a way to get people on to your site, and more importantly, to engage with your content.
Getting traffic is easy. In fact, it’s probably the easiest component of any marketing campaign, if only because you can just pay for it. But getting GOOD quality traffic that matches your target persona, driven to the right pages of your site where they will engage with content you’ve curated just for them…that’s much harder.
Fortunately, by identifying who your target audience entails, what they are interested in getting from your website, and how they would most like to engage with that content, you can seek out traffic sources that allow you to drive just that to your site.
Is Your Website Marketing Ready?
Just having a website is not enough. You need a website that communicates who you are to the people you know you want to be your customers. Whether your website’s copy is too generic, or you just aren’t quite sure yet who that ideal audience entails, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate how to build a communications strategy that works.
You can get started in the next few weeks with an upcoming series of Webinars from LeadConnect Marketing. Featuring our owner – Anthony Chatfield, a leading digital strategist – our Marketing Ready webinar series will dig into the five steps needed to ensure your website is ready for a full blown marketing campaign and how to start making changes today that will improve the traffic you already get.
Register now to join us for this special 30 minute presentation: