3 Reasons Businesses are Flocking to Inbound Marketing

I was recently talking to a small business owner about how to drive more prospects to her site. "Are you doing any Inbound Marketing?" I asked.

(Sound of crickets accompanied by deer-in-headlights look.)

"What exactly is that?" she finally responded.

Those of us in the marketing world know by now the difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing, but there are still many business leaders who do not.

Hubspot defines Inbound Marketing as a "set of marketing strategies and techniques focusing on pulling relevant prospects and customers toward a business and its products." Think blogs, white papers, case studies, SEO and social media. These are tools used to "pull" customers to your business.

Outbound Marketing - or Traditional Marketing - focuses on sending company messages and advertising at consumers. Think trade shows, direct mail and telemarketing. These techniques are designed to "push" the business at your customers.

In the battle for marketing budget dollars, Inbound Marketing is clearly "pulling" away. Businesses that know the difference are flocking in droves to the Inbound Marketing side.

There are three main reasons why according to Hubspot's 2012 State of Inbound Marketing report.

1. Inbound Marketing is more cost effective.

According to the report, which surveyed 972 professional marketers, the average cost of an Inbound Marketing lead was $135 - almost a third of the cost of an Outbound Marketing lead which was $346.

2. Inbound Marketing generates better leads

Leads from Inbound Marketing  - blogs, whitepapers, SEO - are five times more likely to close than leads garnered through traditional marketing tools. Only about 2% of Outbound Marketing collected leads actually close.

3. Inbound Marketing lands customers

62% of the survey respondents reported they acquired a new customer through LinkedIn. 57% credited their blog. 52% said Facebook and 44% said Twitter.

In the last six months, more than a third of the respondents rated Inbound Marketing as "more important" while a third ranked Outbound Marketing as "less important." That is blatantly reflected in their spending as 89% of respondents say they increased their Inbound Marketing budget last year.

What are you doing with your marketing strategy? Are you "pushing" or "pulling?


Content: The Key to Lead Nurturing

We've all heard the phrase, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." How about "You can lead prospects to your web site, but can you make them buy?"

We all know that the goal of  any Content Marketing strategy is to drive traffic to your site. That increased traffic needs to generate new leads which should ultimately propel converted sales.

How do you ensure that this happens?

One way is to establish a focused Lead Nurturing program.

In a white paper titled "The Importance of Lead Nurturing and Scoring," produced by The Association of Strategic Marketing, Lead Nurturing is defined as "building a relationship with eligible prospects regardless  of their timing with the aim to boost their business when they are prepared."

According to ASM, nurtured leads can increase sales by as much as 20%. Click through rates from Lead Nurturing emails are 8% compared to only 3% from general emails. Despite this increased sales potential, 69% of B2B marketers fail to use a Lead Nurturing system.

A Lead Nurturing program involves several components including Prospect Targeting, Lead Scoring and Ongoing Contact. But not surprisingly at the heart of it all is our familiar friend: content.

Here's why.

1. Content Establishes Credibility

As the ASM report points out, from the buyer's perspective, there is always fear and risk involved with any purchase. "The most important features a B2B vendor must have are trust and credibility," the paper states. "They have to build credibility and reputation by sharing relevant and valuable information."

2. Content Keeps You in Contact

According to ASM, the new generation of buyers tend not to commit to a sale until the last third of the buying process. Therefore, sales and marketing need to be involved throughout the sales process delivering "high quality content and information for prospects that is responsive, timely and relevant."

"The only way that they can maintain ongoing conversation with prospects" is with a comprehensive Content Strategy, the report asserts.

3. Content Helps Drive the Buying Decision

ASM states that 95% of prospects visit a web site for research purposes, but 70% will eventually buy from that company or from a competitor. Not using a content driven Lead Nurturing program is the #1 reason for poor lead conversion. Overall, 79% of marking leads are not converted to sales. However nurtured leads drive 47% more purchases than non-nurtured leads.

The ASM white paper concludes that Lead Nurturing is not about hard selling. Instead, the program involves establishing your credibility in the marketplace, presenting your solution as the most viable and ultimately convincing your prospect that you are the correct choice for them.

As always, the key to accomplishing that is through informative, well crafted and compelling content.

Are you nurturing your leads? Are you drawing traffic but not converting sales?



More on Content Marketing: 7 Points to Ponder

Content Marketing. Content Marketing. Content Marketing. It's everywhere.

Are you using it? If not, you'd better start.

In one of my recent posts, I discussed the concepts of Content Strategy, Content Marketing and Content Management - the Why, What and How of content.

At the heart of it all is your content and what it needs to do for you.

Here are seven things to consider regarding the Content Marketing explosion and how it affects you.

1. More May Be Less - According to Doug Kessler (@dougkessler) of Velocity Partners, nine out of 10 B2B marketers will be producing more content this year than last year. The problem is a lack of talent out there to generate all the required material. That will undoubtedly result in an effluence of poor content muddying the waters for the truly helpful content that drives traffic and sales. Kessler says the key will be to find writers and creators that "get content, understand context and can actually produce things that audiences want to consume."

2. Lead On - A study by B2B Magazine found that inbound marketing - of which Content Marketing is a key component - produces 62% lower cost per sales lead. The study also noted that 51% of marketers found Content Marketing to be the most effective tool for generating leads better than Brand Awareness, Thought Leadership and Sales.

3. Content Still Rules - Ben Hollom (@benhollom), Marketing Director at M2Bespoke says that "content is now the single most important aspect of a business' website."

4. On Your Mark, Get Set, Blog -  Where to begin? "If you're insisting on a practical starting point, a blog should be your content cornerstone," says Barry Feldman (@feldmancreative) President of Feldman Creative. Organizations seem to be heeding that advice. According to Wordpress, 402 million people view more than 3.5 billion blog pages each month.

5. You Can Run, But You Can't Hide - If you're still trying to "hoard" your useful content so as not to "give it away" then just stop. Angie Sanders (@pronouncedALJ), partner at esolutions360, points out that "if your audience doesn't get information from you, then they'll perform a google search and find someone else who'll give them the answer."

6. Been Searching So Long - With the advances in Google and other search engines, emphasis continues to move away from standalone SEO. Content Marketer Marcus Sheridan (@TheSalesLion) predicts that "over half of the SEO companies that are around today will be gone within two years." He goes on to say that "Any SEO firm that cares about their clients and the future success of an organization is now starting to talk about and implement content marketing."

7. Building Your Foundation - Susan Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau), founder of Explore B2B, says that "Content Marketing is about building a reputation by showing expertise, knowledge, moral character and demonstrating superior communicative skills through the content you provide."

Have you started your Content Marketing plan? Where will you begin?

5 Reasons You Should Be Blogging

"Why do I need a blog?" It seems I get some variation of this question from one of my clients nearly every day. They hear that blogging "is the thing to do" but are not sure of the tangible benefit.

Part of the hesitancy is their reluctance to embrace the new reality of marketing in general and content marketing in particular. They have yet to realize that customers today want to be informed and educated and not simply "sold to."

Another reason is that they're overwhelmed with what is already on their plate and aren't thrilled about adding another task to their "to do" list, especially one that requires an ongoing commitment.

My answer is always the same.

Their customers want to hear from them in ways that they haven't in the past and blogging is the key first step. More ominously, I warn them that the new interactive requirement is not going away and although they may resist, their competitors certainly won't.

They need to get in or they will be left behind.

Here are the five major reasons why they - and you -  should be blogging.

1. Blogging increases traffic to your website - The first step in making a sale today is getting people to your site. Regardless of how visually attractive your site may be, people won't be going there unless there's a compelling reason for them to do so. According to the Pew Research Center, one in three internet users read blogs. Providing a well-written blog that informs is a key factor in getting people to visit.

2. Blogging sets you up as an authority - You obviously are competent in your field or you wouldn't be successful. Share your knowledge with your prospects and customers and they will come to look at you as an expert in the field. When it comes to their buying decisions, most people want to be comfortable before parting with their hard-earned cash. They want to buy from people who know what they are doing. Sharing authoritative content will set that tone.

3. Blogging provides a personality - People buy from people. Whether dealing with a one person operation or a multi-site global organization, your prospect's buying decision ultimately comes down to one person buying from another. Producing a well crafted blog provides a voice and personality that will make your customers more comfortable doing business with you.

4. Blogging opens a dialogue - The days of hiding in the back office or behind a monolithic impersonal website are long gone. At least from successful companies they are. Customers want to have input rather than a lecture. Your blog, while informing, can also solicit feedback from your customers - feedback that is crucial to developing and growing your business.

5. Blogging works - There's growing data which shows that posting regular blogs with informative content ultimately generates incremental sales. According to research done by Hubspot covering 2011-2012, companies that blog attracted 55% more visitors to their sites. That same research showed that 46% of those companies generated revenue as a result of their blogs. According to a University of Texas report, the top 50,000 blogs generated $500 million in revenue.

What do you say? Are you blogging? If not, why not?