Inbound and Outbound Marketing Strategies
A proper demand generation strategy involves both inbound and outbound efforts. This means sometimes you make the first touch by reaching out to prospects, and other times you focus on leading them to make the first move.
Both approaches, outbound and inbound, rely on the competent use of your ideal customer research, market analysis, and messaging about relevant pain points as a foundation.
You should start with overall business goals (like increasing sales), then use those as a basis for developing marketing goals (like increasing marketing leads), then use the following tactics as the tools for achieving those goals.
Perhaps the most effective outbound strategy, especially for B2B companies, is employing sales development reps (SDRs) to call on cold leads and leads generated through marketing efforts (marketing-qualified leads, or MQLs).
An SDR’s ultimate goal is to get prospects to take the next step by setting sales appointments for your closers. Before setting an appointment, SDRs qualify prospects against your set qualification criteria to determine that the lead fits your buyer persona. Along the way, they perform prospect discovery, which provides individual insights that the sales rep can leverage. Using SDRs to cold call and set qualified appointments saves time for your closers, making your entire sales pipeline more efficient. If you’re interested in learning more about this process, check out our Ultimate Guide to B2B Appointment Setting.
An SDR team is important to your marketing efforts because they bridge the gap between marketing and sales.
Following up on marketing leads with a live voice from your company can give prospects the extra push they need to look into your solution further.
Many times, this sales development function falls exclusively under the sales umbrella of an organization, although their efforts should be aligned with your marketing goals too. We’ll focus the rest of this section on inbound marketing efforts, so you’ll know exactly how to generate those MQLs.
A Step-by-Step Guide
So, how do you get potential customers to make the first move and contact you? The inbound tactics that are considered most effective for B2B companies utilize both organic and paid efforts working in sync.
The goal for your inbound strategy is to lead prospects to your website, get them to contact you or collect their information through form submissions, then add them to your database for follow up and nurturing.
In this guide, we’ll give you the full rundown on three of the best organic and paid inbound approaches: search engine marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing.
Search engine marketing
By now, you have a validated list of keywords related to your product to target for your search engine marketing (SEM) efforts. Now it’s time to actually implement your well-rounded keyword strategy to help your company show up higher in the search results and draw more visitors to your site.
SEM involves both organic and paid efforts:
Organic search: This is where your hard work on keyword research and content development pays off and gives you the opportunity to attract customers organically.
Pay-per-click (PPC): Paid ads appear at the top and bottom of the search results with an “ad” label and are ranked based on paid bids on keywords, relevance, and quality of the ads.
The success of your organic inbound strategy depends on the continuous development of tactical content built around the keyword strategies we discussed earlier.
We’ve provided some tips for optimizing your keywords and content for search engines throughout this guide, but how do you organize all the different pieces to develop a holistic content strategy?
Content ideation: Use your insights about the priorities and pain points of your buyer persona to identify how you can best help them with their day-to-day work and their long-term goals.
Keyword research: Gather hard data about how your ideal buyers are searching for answers and how much demand there is the information you plan to provide.
Content creation: Understand a searcher’s intent to determine how you can best meet their needs with your content and how your solution ties into their objectives.
Visual support: Develop impactful visuals that add credibility to your content, promote brand recognition, and improve the overall user experience.
Technical optimization: Follow all on-page optimization best practices to help search engines better understand the content on your pages and its relevance to searches being performed.
We don’t just want to try to get our information on the SERP and hope someone will click on it. We want to make sure we provide useful answers to the questions being asked.
The results we’ve seen from our SEO and content efforts based around the keyword “B2B appointment setting” are a perfect example of how the 5 steps mentioned above come together to create more awareness and interest in a brand.
Pay-per-click Google Ads
You may have noticed that we appeared a third time for the “B2B appointment setting” keyword. The top search result we circled is one of our PPC Google ads.
Google Ads are an effective way to supplement your organic efforts through paid efforts. They can be particularly useful early on when you don’t have the luxury of ranking for a top SERP position.
We won’t get into the specifics of our PPC approach here. But we recommend utilizing a well-targeted Google Ads strategy as a component in your B2B marketing campaigns.
Mastering Google Ads is an artform, but you can start with Google’s Help Center as a resource for optimizing your ads as you start building them.
We should mention here how important it is to track the effectiveness of your keywords, especially if you’re using a SKAGs strategy that is focused around specific long-tail keywords. The main way of tracking which keywords are actually leading to conversions is by using UTMs.
A UTM is a simple code attached to the end of a URL that tracks where and how a visitor found your page. You can include the UTM link in your ads or other platforms and use a tool that tracks lead source, such as a CRM or marketing automation platform, to see what the visitor searched and which ad they clicked on before filling out a form or requesting a demo on your site.
Take a look at the UTM that tracks visitors landing on the EBQ Appointment Setting page after clicking on one of our Google Ads:
“utm_medium=paid” tells us that the visitor found the page through a paid ad
“utm_source=google” tells us they found us on Google
“utm_campaign=appointment_setting” tells us the ad is part of our campaign called “Appointment Setting”
“utm_term=b2b_appointment_setting” tells us they found the page through the search term “B2B appointment setting”
You’ve likely seen these long strings of code in URLs you’ve visited before, but most of us pay them no mind. However, UTMs are a powerful tool for marketers to tackle one of the biggest challenges in marketing, attribution—knowing the origin of the leads that you generate.
Tracking information about how users find pages helps us know which keywords and channels are effective, so we can confidently continue doing what works and revise tactics that aren’t working.
You can feed all of this information into your marketing automation platform and CRM to see the exact point a prospect converts to an MQL (and later, a customer) and determine which of your long-tail keywords are directly contributing to your pipeline and revenue.
Social media marketing
In many ways, social media has completely changed how companies market their products and services. Even for B2B companies, social media is a powerful tool for engaging ideal customers in a place where they come to express themselves and participate in an online community.
The wider your reach across channels, the better, but that doesn’t mean all social networks are created equally for B2B. LinkedIn is by far the most effective social platform for B2B marketers, and its users will be the most relevant for your messaging (you can probably guess why).
Similarly to SEM, marketing on social media encompasses both organic and paid efforts:
Regular updates & content
Posting on social media sites organically (as opposed to sponsoring posts) can be hit or miss, especially with how often social networks update their algorithms. But it’s still worth posting updates about your company, your original content, and sharing relevant posts to show users that you have an active online presence.
Like most things in marketing, building a following and a community around your brand takes time. But more importantly, it requires you to actively engage your audience and stoke the conversations happening there.
In many industries, the decision-makers you should be targeting are logged into LinkedIn during the workday and are already in the mindset to consider new solutions that will help them reach their organizational goals.
Other major social sites like Facebook and Twitter are better for B2C but can be worth pursuing, especially if you post frequently enough, work toward building your community, and interact directly with your audience. It all comes down to determining who your buyers are and how you can reach them best.
For the best results from your paid social media marketing, however, we’ll focus exclusively on LinkedIn and the targeting capabilities it provides.
We’re not just speaking from our own experience when we say LinkedIn is the most effective social media site for B2B marketers. In fact, 59% of marketers generate B2B leads on LinkedIn versus the 26% who do so on other social platforms.
B2B professionals spend a lot of time with content on LinkedIn, and running ads on the platform can help you seize this opportunity to reach and convert your ideal customers.
Long-form content provides a fruitful opportunity to capture new leads on LinkedIn. The content offered in your ads should be informative pieces like guides, ebooks, and whitepapers, which give visitors new ideas to take away from each piece.
A few of our general tips for advertising long-form content on LinkedIn:
Write thought leadership content—an innovative perspective that shows you’ve done your research and know what you’re talking about in your particular space
Focus on providing value for your ideal customers instead of trying to actually sell your products through your ads
After collecting contact information from leads on LinkedIn, promptly follow up with outbound SDR efforts
Offering valuable content is never about the hard sell. Though it is an exchange of goods and services, in a way. The goal is to reach users who are willing to exchange their personal details for the insights you provide, selling content for the price of contact information.
LinkedIn makes it easier for both marketers and users to complete this exchange by offering embedded forms that leads are more likely to fill out. See below:
You can integrate LinkedIn forms with your own database or marketing automation platform through a tool like Zapier. When users click “Download” on your ad, a form is opened directly on LinkedIn. This form looks more trustworthy to your buyers and typically autofills the details from their LinkedIn account, reducing the number of steps they have to take before submitting the form.
Another significant benefit of using LinkedIn ads is their unrivaled targeting capabilities in the form of account-based marketing, a key component for B2B marketing.
You can target LinkedIn users based on dimensions like job function, location, industry, and seniority:
You can also upload your own lists of specific contacts or companies for a more hyper-focused account-based marketing strategy.
You can also use a retargeting ad strategy through LinkedIn, targeting users who have already visited your website or even specific pages on your website. This tactic is especially useful for reaching buyers in the consideration or decision stage of their buyer’s journey, who need just a little more encouragement or a reminder before purchasing from your company.
Once you’ve generated leads through LinkedIn, it’s time to continue nurturing those prospects not only through outbound efforts but also through email marketing, which we’ll discuss in our final chapter.