With all the talk about Account Based Marketing, cold outreach, and flipping the funnel, many B2B marketers are starting to ask themselves the question – is inbound marketing dead?
The definitive answer is no.
While trends are certainly changing, the tried and true strategy that has been employed by thousands of B2B marketers still has immense value – it just needs to be done better than before.
In this post, we’ll discuss the definition of inbound marketing, a real-life use-case, and how inbound marketing compares to other marketing tactics.
Let’s take a deeper dive into inbound marketing and where it stands today.
What is Inbound Marketing?
The coining of the term “Inbound Marketing” is generally attributed to the people over at Hubspot.
They define Inbound Marketing as:
A method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust.
Inbound marketing is generally thought of as a strategy to get people to engage with your content, provide their email address so that you can continue to market to them in a more personal way.
Here’s a simple graphic used by Hubspot:
Inbound Marketing is essentially a way to visualize a simplified marketing funnel.
Top of the Funnel
This is the stage of the funnel in which you attract people to your content and, as a result, your brand/product/service.
Often times, prospects in this stage of the funnel are unknown – they are visiting your site/blog and have not given their information yet.
These folks are driven to your site or content from a variety of sources – usually search, social, or a link from another site.
Top of the Funnel content is generally free and not requiring any sort of information, such a blog post or video.
The focus on Top of the Funnel is to push people towards filling out some sort of form to gain access to valuable content, such as an eBook, white paper, or eBook.
Middle of the Funnel
Once “known” these leads are now in the Middle of the Funnel and can be marketed to through a variety of channels, in a more contextual and personalized way.
In addition, technologies such as marketing automation enable marketers to identify leads’ level of interest based on their actions (such as opening a certain number of emails or visiting the website several times).
Middle of the funnel tactics includes tracking leads in their journey and nurturing them as they go, which requires a marketing technology stack, with the most important aspect being a robust email marketing platform.
Middle of the funnel content will be more focused on the product/service that you offer, and why they should choose it.
Case studies, in particular, are effective tools for pushing people through the middle of the funnel
Bottom of the Funnel
Bottom of the funnel is purely focused on getting a prospect to the finish line.
You want them to request more information or a demo of your product/service.
Sales sheets, one-pagers, product webinars are all great tools for bottom of the funnel leads.
Once a lead either signals their intent explicitly, such as requesting a call or demo, or they have reached a pre-defined level of interest (based on actions), then they are ready for the sales cycle.
Inbound Marketing Example
The quintessential use-case for inbound marketing is the promotion of a piece of content that is gated behind a form.
Let’s take a white paper as an example.
In this instance, a B2B startup has access to proprietary data from their user’s behavior.
Leveraging that data, the startup then created a research-based paper that includes graphs and insights that are unique and useful to their target audience.
The content is then put into a well-designed white paper, in PDF form.
Once the white-paper is designed and ready for distribution, a landing page is put up that explains the major points included.
Here’s the important part:
Include a required form to be filled out in order to get access to the white paper.
Note: As per GDPR rules, you’ll want to make it clear that by filling out the form, they are agreeing to get marketing emails.
Now, drive traffic to the landing page and you’ll start getting inbound leads.
In order to maximize the amount and quality of inbound leads generated, a good amount of A/B testing will need to be done.
A/B testing, better known as “split testing,” is done by having two versions of something and testing them against each other to see which one performs better on whatever metric or KPI you are testing for.
For example, you could test 2 landing pages:
Landing Page A: Highly designed with images and styling
Landing Page B: Purely a form with no design elements to it
The most important aspect of an A/B test is to make sure that there is only one variable that is different between the two. In this example, if Landing Page A performed better, we could assume that the fact that it was designed was the driving force behind its better performance.
Continued iteration – meaning constantly testing the winner of a test against a new variant – will help you increase your conversion rate and bring in more inbound leads.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
While inbound marketing is about attracting prospects to come to you and provide their contact information, outbound marketing takes a different approach.
“Outbound Marketing” is often used interchangeably with cold outreach.
And, for the most part, that’s correct.
Outbound marketing is essentially the practice of collecting lists of prospects, creating tailored outreach campaigns for them, and pushing them down the funnel.
Outbound marketing has now been overtaken by a similar, but more robust strategy called Account Based Marketing (ABM).
Inbound Marketing vs Account Based Marketing
ABM has taken the marketing world by storm over the last few years. However, in concept, it isn’t all that new.
In Account Based Marketing, you essentially flip the funnel.
For inbound marketing, you attract prospects – you make them come to you – and then qualify them.
With ABM, you first create a target list of “accounts”(prospects) that are pre-qualified and then go after them. This is quite similar to a generalized outbound campaign.
However, it is done in a more robust, calculated way.
Can B2B Marketers Still Find Success With Inbound Marketing
The answer to this is decidedly in the affirmative, there is no doubt.
B2B marketers have more tools and tactics to benefit from inbound marketing today than they ever have before.
In addition, the level of granularity that technology has provided us with enables the kind of contextualized marketing that inbound marketers of years past could have only dreamed about.
The real challenge for B2B inbound marketing is to seem geniune.
You need to provide marketing material that is relevant to the person recieving it.