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Inbound marketing strategy: 5 essentials for 2018

Inbound marketing – touted as the holy grail of B2B lead generation. There are countless articles and reports claiming its value in B2B and yet there are many companies still pouring budgets into fragmented outbound channels like print advertising and contact lists instead of inbound marketing. Whether the challenge is budget constraints, lack of internal knowledge, low bandwidth, or proper infrastructure, I still see B2B companies spending their time on disjointed outbound efforts. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or if your sales team claims transactions take place in person and on paper, your prospects are online researching long before a purchase and need valuable information to do their jobs better. Manufacturers, I’m talking to you too—this blog post from Equinet Media, explains why manufacturers need an inbound marketing strategy. Yes, anything digital can be an intimidating topic in B2B healthcare and manufacturing—with an overwhelming number of tools and tactics, and not to mention resistance to change what “has always worked”, where do you start? Well, I’m here to tell you the beauty of inbound marketing is you don’t need to boil the ocean to receive value.

But first, a definition: HubSpot defines inbound marketing strategy as “an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful – not interruptive…By creating content designed to address problems and needs of your ideal customers, inbound marketing attracts qualified prospects and builds trust and credibility.”

Quality content focused on users’ needs and an integrated promotion strategy that aligns with their buying journey are the critical components to an inbound marketing strategy. It’s an authentic method to build credibility that unifies owned, paid and earned media with consistent content and experience. Now before you go sweating about how complicated that seems for your organization, keep reading. There are a number of small things you can do in 2018 to show immediate results, while laying a solid foundation for a longer-term strategy. And if properly executed, these quick wins can provide you with data points to build a case for more budget and support in the future.

Here are five ways B2B healthcare and manufacturing marketers can start to build the case for inbound marketing in 2018.

Amplify activities you’re already doing (in new ways)
Going to a trade show? Increase your booth attendance by promoting your presence a few weeks in advance and put a few bucks behind targeting trade show registrants online. Do you have an application guide or a strong customer story? Add it to the resources sections on your website and think of ways to give it more visibility, such as linking to it on the home page and sharing it on social media channels. Integrating “traditional” marketing activities with digital channels can increase results and build a case for a larger integrated marketing strategy in the future. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Starting somewhere with the commitment to improving over time is the first step.

Publish and contribute more thought leadership content online
One of the easiest, most cost effective ways to boost your website’s search rankings and draw prospects in is to publish high quality thought leadership content on an ongoing basis. If you have published one or two stories in the past 12 months, you’ve already taken the first step. Now, keep the momentum going and start to work on your next piece. If you don’t have the ability to publish owned content on your website, start with contributing content to trade publications or blogs with backlinks to your website. However, stick to valuable information from your experts on the industry that educates and informs your target audience – no product features and benefits.

Optimize existing website for search beyond what you are doing today
Small SEO tweaks can make a big impact in your rankings and increase inbound traffic. You don’t need to be an SEO expert to make significant improvements. Crawlability and indexability updates are a good place to start and can showcase the value of a dedicated SEO strategy down the road. Start with the following audit and improvements at least twice a year or even once per quarter:

  • Fix broken links and redirect old pages to remove 404 errors.
  • Improve interlinking structure to ensure all content is connected vs. having “floating” landing pages under your domain that aren’t linked to any other pages.
  • Update URLs, tags and meta data with relevant keywords that your prospects are searching. Find relevant, high search volume, high cost long-tail keywords in your market using Google Keyword Tool or Google Trends data.
  • Link out to related, relevant content and resources within your website content.
  • Increase referral traffic by linking to your site in social posts, add annotations and links to descriptions on YouTube videos, and insert hyperlinks in bylined earned media articles and press releases.

Incorporate strong Calls to Action
Are your business objectives reflected in your website and other digital marketing channels? For example, if your goal is lead generation, do you have methods of capturing leads online? If not, start incorporating stronger, more visible calls to action (CTAs) throughout the site that link to relevant lead capture forms, such contact us, find a rep or get a quote. If lead gen isn’t a goal, CTAs are still a great way to understand the effectiveness of your content and increase current customer engagement. Ask prospects to follow your social channels or to opt-in to your email newsletter. Track the clicks and conversions of the CTA links to understand which content and copy is creating inbound leads and engagement.

Build your database
Email marketing is an important component to nurturing leads and bringing them further down the sales funnel as well as staying in front of your existing customers. But it requires a database of contacts. Buying lists used to be a common quick fix, but is no longer a best practice. In fact, emailing purchased lists can be harmful to your systems – and who likes receiving emails they didn’t sign up for? I’ll spare you the rest of the lecture because the good news is there are several ways to gain authentic consent and build your email database organically. Even if you don’t have an email system or strategy in place yet, you can start to build a list of opt-ins by putting a form on your website with the CTA to subscribe. Once you have a large enough database, start segmenting it and using email as a way to promote content and move new leads down the funnel or stay top-of-mind with your current customers.

Take a tip from Facebook’s company philosophy: Done is better than perfect. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and treat your content marketing and digital programs as never-ending projects, infinitely learning and tweaking to provide users what information they need when and where they need it. The first step is a quick win to show the value and lay the foundation for longer-term impact and success. If all else fails, start somewhere by taking action and ask for forgiveness later.

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