Inbound marketing is the process of attracting strangers to your website, converting them into leads, nurturing them until they are ready to buy and closing them as customers.
One of the most important features of any successful inbound marketing strategy is content.
Content draws prospects towards your site and initiates their relationship with your business. A content strategy turns a static website into the marketing asset that it should be - working hard to deliver a return on investment.
The concept of "content marketing" has been around for years and, according to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends Report (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs), there is a strong correlation between the most successful B2B marketers and their adoption of content marketing.
Despite that fact, the survey found that even in 2018 a whopping 66% of B2B marketers still felt that their approach was less than "mature".
One of the reasons, I think, is that marketers struggle to create an efficient content plan that really works.
In this blog I am going to touch on some of the principles of inbound marketing, using a "pillar & cluster" blogging strategy to optimise SEO, and the use of "gated content" to attract leads.
Here are a few best practices you can follow to ensure that your content will attract the right readers, build your business’s visibility and generate sales leads.
1. DEVELOP CONTENT WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE IN MIND
Amazingly, some marketers write about their solution, their product, their people, their business - all without regard to the interests of their target audience.
Others simply focus on creating a regular consistent output based on whatever broad topics come to mind with the idea that churning out content to build out a bigger website is fine.
Smart, successful content authors create content that addresses every stage in the buyer journey for each of their buyer personas, optimising that content for SEO along the way.
There are six steps to this:
- what are their specific pains / what keeps them awake at night?
- where do they seek advice? and from whom?
- what would it mean to them to solve these problems?
- what are their interests both in and out of work?
- how does our solution help them specifically?
Step 2 - Document the buyer journey
The second step is to work out the appropriate order of the information that they will need - depending where they are in their buyer journey. You can use this information to map out workflows to nurture leads with relevant information until they are ready to buy.
In general terms, for B2B marketers that means thinking about content to help each of their buyer personas by:
- defining the problem(s)
- explaining the impact of solving the problem (e.g. the potential for growth, increased profitability, cost reduction....)
- exploring alternative solutions (e.g. spreadsheets, doing nothing, in house development..)
- providing the proof that your solution will work for them (e.g. case studies in their industry)
- providing information about your solution
Note: this could be seen as a matrix of content with multiple buyer personas each facing different problems. Some content (eg case studies) may be shared, others will be specific to each buyer persona and buyer journey stage.
Step 3 - identify the main subject areas (topics)
The third step is to group the information into a few different topics and link that content together to provide an inter-connected set of content that will help Google recognise your authority on that topic.
Step 4 - create "gated" content for each main topic
Gated content is hidden behind a form. This is content that your audience would consider valuable enough to read in exchange for giving you their contact details.
That content could be an eBook based on some original research or thought leadership. It could be a summary of lots of information that is already in the public domain but packaged so it's easy to consume. Whatever you decide on, it should be worth completing a form to obtain.
Your objective is to create at least one piece of gated content for each topic.
Step 5 - create one piece of "pillar" content for each topic
For great SEO, create one piece of content that is freely accessible (i.e. not gated) for each topic. This could be a long blog, or a detailed web or landing page, and should be written to show you as an authority on the topic.
You should aim to have lots of links (both internal and external to your website) to that pillar page, because, among other things, Google ranks content that has lots of links and relevant content.
Your pillar content should have a call to action to your main piece of "gated" content for that topic.
Step 6 - create a list of blog titles to drive traffic to your form
Blogging is a great way of driving people to download your content. Give them a snippet from the content, talk around the subject, provide useful information in the blog that let's the reader know you are an authority before they even consider hitting the download button.
Blogs can be quite short, but each one should be linked to your "pillar" content AND have a call to action to a piece of "gated" content.
There's no maximum number of these "cluster" blogs that you should create around your "pillar", but aim to think of several, at least.
(HINT: HubSpot's SEO tool will help you document this.)
Now start writing!
Here are a few tips:
- use keywords liberally
- use the language and tone that you feel your buyer will enjoy
- use proof - statistics, facts, 3rd party quotes to back up your views
- create links to other content, especially your own!
- link each blog post to one of your pieces of pillar content
- add a call to action to each blog post to drive the reader to a piece of gated content
2. VARY THE TYPE OF CONTENT YOU PRODUCE
We all know that variety is the spice of life so why do so many marketers just churn out the same content in the same old format?
Blogs do need to be quite wordy to address Google's appetite and optimise your pages for SEO, but you can add infographics and other graphics for human consumption.
The good news is that HubSpot has found that even short blogs work. Anything from 300-2000 words is fine - just remember to stick to your "pillar and cluster" strategy and link every blog to a pillar.
HINT: If you use images, remember to set alt-tags - Google reads these too!
As for gated content, there are a whole host of formats to choose from including eBooks, Videos, Slideshares, Mind Maps, Infographics, recorded webinars and podcasts.
Think back to your buyer personas - what sort of content are they likely to enjoy? Something they can download and read at their leisure with detailed facts, tables and complex theories to absorb? Or something more visual or a podcast to listen to as they commute to and from work?
3. REUSE AND REPURPOSE YOUR CONTENT
But marketers, I hear you cry: "I don't have time to sit and write content day in and day out".
Fear not - you don’t have to write more content, you just have to work on getting the content you already have to work harder for you!
When developing a new piece of content, think about how you can you can reuse the content in different formats and channels. Here are a few examples:
- If you've developed a series of blog posts, you could turn them into a comprehensive eBook.
- Or turn an eBook into several blog posts.
- Create emails for each of your blogs.
- Turn blog posts into slideshares, newsletters or a series of social posts.
- Create short video clips or podcasts out of blog posts.
- Use survey results to create a report, an infographic and several blogs.
- Take a case study and create a downloadable PDF, a blog, a video clip and an infographic.
- Turn a sales presentation into several slideshares.
- Turn product information into "how to" blogs and emails.
And, of course, you should update and republish content at intervals.
HINT: I find it really efficient to create blogs, emails and infographics as soon as I have completed a piece of gated content. Whilst the background information is all fresh in my mind, I often create several blogs and emails and store them for later use. I often draft social posts at the same time.
4. SHARE, SHARE, SHARE
Creating your content is only the beginning – you have to share it to be effective.
If used right, social media can be an incredibly powerful platform for driving traffic to your website.
Make sure you plan what to share and where in order to ensure your content reaches the right people. Again, go back to your buyer personas to work out where and when to share, and LinkIn with your customers and find suitable groups to join.
Have a plan in place for the optimum times of day to post content, and monitor the frequency of posting. It's not the same across the board so find out what works best for your business and stick with it.
To summarise, creating fresh, relevant content that is engaging and "remarkable" can be a challenge. Our experts work with clients to create content marketing plans, and content, that improve search engine rankings, attract more website traffic, capture and nurture leads.
Are you new to all this and would like to know more about how inbound marketing could help you drive more leads?
Or would you like help to optimise your content marketing as part of your inbound marketing strategy? Start by requesting a comprehensive inbound marketing audit.