An established inbound marketing campaign is a powerful thing. Imagine a snowball, rolling down a slope, gathering speed and weight as it goes. Half way to the bottom, it's unstoppable. But how do you get it going in the first place?
The thought of self-sufficient marketing content that generates traffic and leads long after a campaign has ended is the dream for the 60% of businesses around the world practicing inbound marketing today.
But getting there takes patience. Successful inbound marketing doesn't happen overnight. That snowball needs time to build momentum.
Fortunately, most marketing teams are eager to discover ways they can improve their inbound marketing for even better results. If you’re part of one such team, this article (and the experts I’ve tapped up to contribute to it) will help.
First things first: Inbound marketing tips from a specialist
Each of our inbound consultants plays a key role in setting up and implementing their clients’ inbound strategies. To offer you as many valuable inbound marketing tips as possible, I sat down with Lizzie Griffiths, one of our inbound consultants, to discover which rules she swears by. Her first word of advice?
"Don’t be afraid to experiment. Your customers are open to new and emerging channels like live chat, for example, so try different things, particularly things you haven’t done before, and see what works best for you and your market."
That's great. What else?
"You have so much data at your disposal. Use it to your advantage. Oh, and begin with a clear understanding of your goals. What are your traffic targets? What leads do you want? What do you need inbound to do for you? Then match your strategy to those goals."
Lizzie's final words were on the importance of lead quality versus lead quantity.
"Inbound marketing generally generates better quality leads than other kinds of marketing because your prospects are ready to be engaged and they’re coming to you, so make sure you actually look at what kinds of leads your inbound activities are generating. If nothing else, your sales team will thank you!"
Lizzie’s parting shot is especially valuable. Inbound marketing success isn’t just down to you and the marketing team. For lead generation to be successful, you need to know that you’re attracting and passing on the right kinds of contacts. If the sales team is struggling to close your hard-earned leads or it has questions about the kinds of people who’re engaging with your marketing, it’s essential the reps provide you with that feedback. I’m talking about sales and marketing alignment.
Read more about diagnosing the rivalry between sales and marketing.
Once you know you’re attracting the right kinds of leads, how do you scale that up? According to our wider inbound team, here are seven ways to increase inbound leads.
7 ways to increase inbound leads
1. Improve your visibility in the search engines
Let’s talk organic visibility. Tomorrow’s customers are searching on Google for your products or services, and it’s in your interest to show up when they do. Inbound marketing success depends on your target buyers’ ability to find the content you’ve so carefully created for them, but in the rush to stand out on social or cut through the inbox, the importance of optimising your blog content for search is sometimes overlooked.
- Are you hitting the basics in terms of incorporating the target keyword into your header, referencing it in a H2, and working it naturally into the body copy and alt text?
- What about semantic keywords; are you referencing similar or closely related keywords too?
- Have you considered the intent behind the keyword you’re targeting and whether it’s an informational term or a commercial keyword better suited to a product page?
- Does it take the form of a question you can help to answer?
All of this is to say that the way you incorporate keywords into your content continues to change. To perform in the search engine results pages (SERPs) today, it’s no longer good enough to research keywords ad-hoc, as and when you’re drafting an article.
A considered, strategic approach that champions keywords relating to a specific theme or topic works best, enabling you to create a ‘cluster’ of related articles that link well together. Google loves this, and if you get it right, your readers will, too.
2. Be wherever else your audience is searching
Your target buyers aren’t just hanging out on Google. Whichever space you’re in, your buyers are likely to be making informational searches anywhere from Amazon and industry forums to specialist trade magazines.
The benefits of knowing where your audience spends their time — and spending time there yourself — are two-fold.
Firstly, it can reveal choice search terms and questions your buyers are asking that you might not otherwise have picked up on using mainstream keyword research tools. What articles are your competitors publishing in these spaces? What Q&As are appearing? If you find yourself in an industry forum, what are the questions that keep appearing — and how is your audience phrasing them? These are all valuable insights you can build into your content strategy going forwards.
Secondly, it gives you an opportunity to answer their questions and showcase your expertise somewhere that isn’t your blog. Build up a reputation on Quora as a reliable source of information, if not an industry pro. Seek to publish an article once a month in your target audience’s favourite publication. Tell your brand story and build a reputation that will have readers flocking to your website for more insights and information they can trust.
3. Create the content your target buyers can’t wait to read (or watch)
Creating content that genuinely addresses your target buyers’ pain points or answers their questions is a fundamental of successful inbound marketing. It’s also one of the areas where many businesses could stand to improve. Even marketing teams that set out to achieve this can quickly find their subjects straying and their content marketing losing focus when the pressure’s on to produce a video or a member of the senior team is leaning on you to publish something off-topic that they’ve written.
If leads are tailing off or your blog is floundering, go back to the basics: who are your target buyers and what do they want to read about?
4. Coordinate your social media activities
You’ve nailed organic but your social metrics are looking shaky. Remember, it takes time to build up organic presence. Social media is one of the few areas where inbound can really move — when it’s implemented as part of a coordinated distribution strategy.
Document a social strategy with its own metrics and tactics. Make sure it complements your wider inbound marketing strategy and the goals you’ve set out there.
Include a section on process. Who is accountable for creating social media posts? What about publishing and monitoring them? This person/team should run like a well-oiled machine, ensuring the consistent output of social media posts and the timely response to comments as and when your readers engage with or share them.
Which social media platform does your audience favour? When are the optimal times to post there and how are you tailoring the messaging you’re putting out compared to the social copy you’re crafting for other platforms?
Are you only sharing your own content or are you offering a variety of helpful or informative articles, videos, and news from across the industry? Too much of the former, and you run the risk of your social feed looking promotional.
What are you doing to encourage engagement? Try asking questions of your audience or making a statement that will encourage them to stop and think. A discussion comprised of multiple contributors and comments is great for engagement and reach. Add to the discussion with appropriate references to your downloadable content and watch how it increases inbound leads.
Social media activity shouldn’t be an afterthought or something you do to tick a box. There's also a lot more to it than first meets the eye. Show your content in its best light and highlight how it will help the reader by coordinating your social media activities to deliver the results your content deserves.
Find out more about promoting your content to the prospects you haven’t met yet.
5. Build your most valuable landing pages into your content strategy
We both know how important content is in inbound marketing, but it’s your landing pages where most of your conversions take place. According to HubSpot, 'Strategic landing pages are used by 68% of B2B businesses to acquire leads'. To increase inbound leads and keep sales’ pipeline chock-full, think about how your blog content and your landing pages work together.
For a strong relationship, the two should be closely aligned.
"The more closely related your articles are with your landing pages (and the offers they’re promoting), the more natural the link between the two and the more relevant your offer is likely to be to the traffic your articles are attracting."
In the same way that you would go to lengths to mirror the language and the keywords used from a paid Google ad to its corresponding landing page, think about how the flow of your content leads into the conversion point. Also, if you’re using an image CTA, consider how that conversion point is looking on the page and how well that design or those visuals are then reflected on the landing page itself. Make it as obvious as possible to the reader that they’re in the right place and that it’s relevant to them.
6. Make sure those landing pages are optimised to convert
If you’re seeing high site traffic and strong click through to your landing pages, but not much else beyond that, it’s time to take a good, hard look at how your landing pages are set up.
The great thing about landing pages is that even a small tweak can make a big difference to your conversion rates. There’s plenty of advice around optimising landing pages to improve conversions, but when all’s said and done, getting this right and perfecting the landing pages that convert best for your prospects is going to be a case of trial and error.
To set you on the right path, here’s an awesome infographic from the folks at Quicksprout:
7. Create compelling, customer-focused offers (that your leads will actually find useful)
We live in a world of GDPR-driven suspicion and data protection savvy, when a person goes to sleep at night with their email address locked in a titanium chest under their pillow. (Don’t ask where they’ve hidden the key.)
To put it another way, if you want your readers to willingly give up their email address, you’d better be prepare to offer them something meaningful in return. These ‘premium content offers’, as we call them, don’t need to be substantial, but they do need to be valuable and they do need to speak to your target buyer in a way that’s going to tempt them to download.
- In the past, we’ve created short, easy-to-digest checklists that our clients have used to help their target buyers stay organised and save their organisations money.
- On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve researched and written lengthy white papers digging into emerging technology trends, drawing from our clients’ subject matter experts to uncover insights unique to them and their positioning.
- Our own primary offer is an accessible yet comprehensive 80-page marketing ebook, pulling together all the expertise of the team to help the reader understand how to better generate leads that close. In our case, this offer needed to take this shape in order to touch on all the different aspects of a coordinated inbound marketing campaign, never mind rise above the competition’s efforts.
For offers that will sing to your target buyers, go back to their personas and really dig into what they care about, what motives them, what kind of content they most engage with, how senior they are, how time-sensitive they are, and of course, their primary challenges.
How to successfully improve inbound marketing? Smart lead generation
You’ll have noticed two words cropping up repeatedly throughout this article: coordinated and strategy. Successful lead generation doesn’t happen in isolation. An inbound strategy is made up of multiple moving parts; shift one, and it could well have an impact somewhere else, even if it’s as simple as a diversion of resources from one activity to another.
Improving your inbound marketing (and increasing both the volume of inbound leads and those that actually go on to close) means revisiting your strategy to identify where the break in that coordination is. We hope that when you do find it, some of the inbound marketing tips and advice shared here help you to fix it.
Hungry for more? Download our free, 80-page marketing ebook ‘How to Generate Leads That Close’ now and discover how else you could improve your inbound marketing.