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What is B2B Inbound Marketing? (+ Tips to Create Your Strategy)

B2B inbound marketing can sound daunting, but it's exactly what you're looking for to up your marketing game. Learn how to craft the perfect strategy.
What is B2B Inbound Marketing? (+ Tips to Create Your Strategy)
Cristina Rojas Colloridi
by Cristina Rojas Colloridi

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B2B inbound marketing is the process of getting users to come to you, instead of you going to them.

How is this done?

When you’re constantly providing value to your customers through insightful and knowledgeable content, you get their attention. In time, they’ll come and ask for your products. 

Instead, outbound marketing focuses more on approaching who you think is a potential customer with a demonstration of your product or service. Outbound marketing also tends to focus more on showcasing a solution, instead of educating the customer on their pain points.

Inbound marketing is definitely trickier, but we’re here to help you make it easier.  

Inbound marketing asks the audience to take the wheel, while outbound marketing makes the audience a passive listener or passenger in this analogy. 

Think about it, when was the last time you went and bought a product that someone cold-called you about? Probably, that was a long time ago. Instead, think of how many blogs and resource pages you check and might have even become a customer of these brands?

In this article, we’ll go through what inbound marketing is and how to craft a perfect strategy that will make your resources attract the potential customers your sales team has always wished for.

Get comfy because we’re heading in for a fun road trip through the B2B marketing world. Let’s go!

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is marketing efforts that make a customer come to your business. Each resource you make helps towards your inbound marketing strategy if it makes the potential customer:

  • Trust you as an industry expert
  • Learn about their own pain points and struggles
  • Understand the solutions you provide to their pain points

Eventually, all of this will make the avid consumer of your resources choose you as the solution they want to try out and (hopefully) become a lifelong customer of yours.

Three are three main types of inbound marketing, those are:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
  • Content marketing

These types of inbound marketing work by using the following digital marketing channels and tactics to communicate with potential customers and to strengthen your brand positioning:

Different inbound marketing methods like blog posts, SEO, forums and more

Each type of inbound marketing will focus on some of these channels and elements, but many types work in conjunction with one another.

By using inbound marketing you’re ensuring the targeted audience sees you as a trustworthy source of information, gets to know your brand, and eventually decides it’s time to talk with your sales team.

Best of all? Because they’re consuming your content, they’re acknowledging there’s a need for it–so you don’t have to convince them that they have a problem worth solving as much as you would with outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing vs Outbound marketing: what’s the difference?

Infographic showing the difference between inbound vs outbound marketing

Inbound marketing brings potential customers to you, while outbound marketing sees you reaching out to find potential customers. 

Inbound marketing strategies work like a magnet attracting your customers through high-quality content.

Outbound marketing is like a massive speaker, shouting about your products to people that may or may not be interested. 

Each has a place in the buyer’s journey and largely depends on your industry. However, when it comes to the business to business industry (B2B), people prefer inbound marketing. In fact, businesses that apply inbound marketing strategies see 126% more leads than those that only use outbound marketing. 

Why?

In the B2B world your target audience won’t just click ‘buy’ on the ad you show them. They have to:

  • consider your product and your competitor’s
  • convince all the stakeholders of it’s worth
  • pay a monthly subscription–most of the time–
  • risk their company’s outcomes depending on this new product

See why your audience might not want to blindly follow some ads shouting at them that you’re the best at what you do? B2B sales cycles last on average up to four months, that’s the time it takes to win their trust, build up your brand awareness and position yourself as a thought leader. 

Graph showing the difference between inbound and outbound marketing for B2B, B2C and Nonprofit

Source

In the B2B world, content marketing is the king–or queen–of the B2B marketing-activities castle. Content is the main player that will get your users talking about your business.

Let’s explore what you need to do to create the inbound marketing strategy of your dreams! Yes, marketers have these kinds of dreams. 🤓

How to create an inbound marketing strategy for B2B in 6 steps 

B2B inbound marketing strategy checklist

There are a few steps to follow if you want to create an inbound marketing strategy that’s specially designed for B2B.

Let’s look at what each of these steps are:

Step 1: Establish your goals and know where you stand

Just like a hiker wouldn’t start without a compass, your strategy can’t start without establishing your directional goals.

You need to know exactly what you want your inbound marketing campaign to accomplish. For example, it might be to increase MQLs, increase organic traffic, increase domain authority, drive higher quality leads, or something else.

Once you know what you want to accomplish, you’ll need to measure where you’re at, and even understand where your competition is at.

Knowing the starting point and the desired finish line will help you see where you need to make improvements and reverse engineer how to get there.

Additionally, this will not only help you map your strategy, but it will tell you more or less how long it will take to get to your goals. Checking historical data and knowing how long it takes to see ‘X’ amount of improvement on ‘Y’ are, will help you see the wider picture and benchmark progress.

Step 2: Build user personas

Ideal user persona spider diagram

Source

User personas are the archetypical construct of your ideal customers. Their behaviors, backgrounds, characteristics, and more, are mapped out so you can fictionally understand how future customers will act with your product or brand.

Building your user personas will help you understand who your target buyers are and what they might be needing or looking for–what their search intent is!

This information will be essential to know what type of content buyers are looking for and which channels you’ll find them on.

Step 3: Create high-quality content–inside and out

Content is key. If you’re not solving the questions that your users have, or you’re saying what everyone else is saying, chances are potential customers won’t see you as a thought leader.

Don’t be afraid to ‘spill the beans.‘ The more honest and willing to provide value to your visitors and users the more they will trust you and the more willing they will be to check out your product or service.

For example, Jake wrote a SaaS SEO guide with an Actionable Guide to Building a Growth-Driven Strategy. He didn’t hold back in this article and is sharing a ton of industry secrets most agencies probably wouldn’t want to let go of—yet, here we are, letting go and hoping people thank us for it!

Source

High-quality content does not only mean that it’s valuable and insightful, it also means that it is presented beautifully and provides a fantastic UX experience–up to 88% of consumers are less likely to return to a site with bad UX. 

There are millions of apps out there (think Piktochart, for example) that will help you add high-quality and professional images, presentations and infographics to your content.

Seize these types of tools to make your users want to read or consume your content because they are finding it easy on the eyes, and informative.

Step 4: Use SEO to increase visibility

Search engine optimization (SEO) is taking into account–and improving–all the parameters and elements that make your content discoverable and rankable by search engines. 

Paying attention to your technical SEO–we’ve got a technical SEO guide just for you–means you’re making sure your content is being taken into account by search engine crawlers. 

Additionally, you ensure that you’re giving it a chance with a quick load speed–a site that loads in 1 second has a conversion rate 3x higher than a site that loads in 5 seconds–being indexed properly. You’re also making it readable wherever your audience is–consumers spend 3.8 trillion hours on mobile devices! 

Aiming to be among the first page of the search engine results pages, or SERPs, is no longer a nice thing to have but a must.

Not too convinced about the importance of SEO? Check these stats:

Another thing that’s super important in an SEO strategy for inbound marketing is back-linking. Back-linking is when one website publishes links to another website.

When users see that your brand or expertise is in another page they trust, they’ll start to trust you too. Additionally, Google and other search engines value back-linking as a reference to understand if your page is truly valuable or not on a specific topic.

Link building is not easy, but with the right tried and tested link building tactics for B2B SaaS brands you can outrank your competition.

SEO can make or break your effort, which means doing it alone can be harder than it needs to be. If you’re looking for help from SEO experts that focus on SaaS and B2B don’t hesitate to check Skale, a B2B SEO Agency that’s proven time and time again to be one of the best ones out there.

See some of Skale’s biggest SEO wins

Read SEO success stories to see what Skale can do for your SaaS

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Step 5: Budget to make the most out of your investment

Having a winning marketing strategy can be relatively easy. However, having a winning strategy that fits your marketing budget can be tricky.

In B2B marketing, you’ll have to consider the costs of the following channels:

  • Content marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • Social media
  • Email marketing
  • SMS marketing

Once again, by understanding your goals, you’ll be able to know where more of your budget should go, and where it shouldn’t.

B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing:

B2B vs B2C infographic showing the differences between the target audience of each

Source

Additionally, return on investment is not always easy to calculate in B2B marketing.This is due to the fact that since the sales cycle is longer and you rely more on inbound marketing, it’s not always as easy to say ‘they clicked on this blog and so they became customers.‘ 

In reality a lot of the effort of inbound marketing will take months, and even weeks, to show results and as such is harder to measure compared to B2C.

Step 6: Measure, adjust, and repeat

Once you have your winning inbound marketing strategy that fits your goals, and your budget, you’ll want to measure it constantly.

Marketing is not rigid. It will change with new trends, customers, and new insights. The best thing you can do is to constantly look at the main metrics that will indicate what needs to be changed–and change it quickly.

Here are 11 crucial SaaS marketing metrics you should be considering:

  1. Customer acquisition cost: LTV:CAC ratio
  2. Activations
  3. Signup to paid conversion (12-month period)
  4. Churn rate
  5. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  6. Retention
  7. Annual contract value
  8. Marketing sourced revenue (MSR)
  9. Top of the funnel leads generated by source: organic traffic
  10. Number of active trials
  11. Lead velocity rate (LVR)

Once you measure and adjust, you’ll repeat this process for as long as you want your marketing campaign to run—psst. It should be evergreen!.

Following these steps you ensure that you have thought about every single angle you need to create an effective B2B inbound marketing strategy. All there is now to do is execute the plan, and keep swimming.

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Why is B2B inbound marketing important?

B2B inbound marketing is important because it’s what’s going to attract the right leads to you.

However, it not only attracts new, potential customers, but it keeps your readers and current users happy, which can turn them into ambassadors for your brand and increase CLTV.

This idea that instead of the typical sales funnel, where strangers enter at the top, become prospects, and then customers, is now being challenged by the marketing flywheel.

Infographic showing the difference between the sales funnel and customer-centric flywheel
Sales Funnel vs Flywheel

In the sales funnel, the marketing team focuses on bringing in new leads, and the sales team focuses on converting them from leads into customers. In the funnel, there are four stages:

  • Awareness: users are aware of their problem and become aware of the solution offered
  • Investigation: users do research to find out more about their problem and the solutions available
  • Decision: once they’ve done the research, they are ready to take action
  • Action: the users finally take action and become a customer

Now, on the other side we have the colorful wheel. In this wheel the stages start, but they never really stop. In the funnel. it would be hard to consider getting the customer once again. In the flywheel, it’s a cycle and customers or first time users are inside and don’t leave, they also encourage new customers to enter—turning your B2B SaaS into a product-led growth machine.

The stages in the marketing flywheel are as follows:

  • Attract: by providing valuable and educational content, you establish trust in the company and gain visibility
  • Engage: once in the flywheel, the content will focus more on providing specific solutions to the audience’s pain points, needs and goals–building even more trust
  • Delight: once the first-time user has become a customer you keep on delighting them with your content. You offer them help and support so they can truly succeed with your product or service. These delighted customers contribute towards attracting new customers, making your product growth less reliant on marketing efforts and more reliant on happy users.

As you can see, the main difference between these two models is that the funnel focuses on attracting new customers, but the flywheel focuses on keeping these customers—which in turn, brings new customers

B2B inbound marketing is not only for the first stages of acquiring new customers but it will also help you keep them happier for longer—increasing CLTV and ARPA. Something that is essential in B2B, and very different from B2C where sometimes one purchase is all that’s needed from the customer and no repeat business is sought after.

Now that you know how to craft your own strategy, and you know why it’s important, let’s look at some tips for you to make the most out of your B2B inbound marketing.

Four B2B inbound marketing strategy tips for 2023

Once you’ve created your strategy, you can’t just go for a margarita and look longingly at sunsets for the rest of your days. Getting the B2B inbound marketing strategy is only half of the equation.

From now on, you’ll need to continue on this life-long process of constantly improving and checking your content to make sure you’re delivering great value every time.

Keep up to date with SEO guidelines and changes

SEO is not a rigid thing. As people’s interests change and search engines become smarter the algorithms will keep updating and modifying and you need to be on top of it. Understand what Google is doing, but also all the other search engines–yes, YouTube counts as a search engine.

Keep up with content trends and technology

A few years ago people would have said that virtual reality is just a thing for video games. However, now that the metaverse is quickly becoming a reality and might become our second home, you need to be aware of the constant changes going on around you.

  • Do you need to start paying more attention to voice technology?
  • Should you start thinking about metaverse marketing and content?
  • Is augmented and virtual reality something you should consider too?

Ride out that innovation wave and give your team time to be innovative. Perhaps there’s a bandwagon to be built, rather than you hopping on the back of another one.

Consider all content channels and platforms

Maybe you think TikTok is only for Gen-Z influencers and cute cat videos. Maybe you think Instagram is only for selling but not really for educating. Maybe you think Twitter is only for political fights.

Don’t miss out on potentially huge digital real estate. Maybe your stakeholders are hanging out on Instagram or Twitter for finding new blogs, newsletters, or webinars. Maybe your blog should be just as important as the 10-min live Q&A that you do on TikTok.

Maybe, those other channels are what’s going to attract a younger generation of future stakeholders that might be emailing you sometime soon to know more about your brand and product.

Consider mobile friendliness and accessibility

You need to consider two key aspects:

  • Mobile-friendly content: there’s mobile-device supremacy going on. in 2020 68.1% of all website visits came from mobile devices, and increase from 2019’s 63.3%. Ensuring your content and website is properly seen from all mobile devices is crucial.
  • Accessible content: creating accessible content means you’re taking into consideration that not all internet-users are equally abled, and you’re making sure you’re including everyone.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking: asking what your current visitors and customers think about your content, or allowing them to say what they would like to see more of is a great idea to provide them with what they ask–no guessing game, just honest feedback.

There are many ways in which you can learn what your users think of your brand, content, and what they would like to see:

  • In-app surveys
  • On-page surveys
  • Email surveys
  • Social media and other platform comment sections

Remember that inbound marketing is about being user-centric, so put them where they deserve to be, at the center of your strategy! 

B2B inbound marketing strategy is not a trend but the future of B2B marketing

Your B2B inbound marketing campaign can truly make or break your business. However, there’s one simple thing to keep in mind: bring real value to your users.

Inbound marketing is not just about having X amount of pieces on your blog, or making them look nice, and have all the keywords in. No.

It’s about showing your users and visitors that you see them and hear them. That you understand who they are and what they’re struggling with. Ultimately, you care about them and you need to put effort into providing them value first before annoyingly shouting for them to give you money for your products or services. Invest in your strategy, both with your people and with your budget. 

Thankfully, you can always come back here to be reminded of the things you need to coordinate to make the most out of your inbound marketing strategy.

Hopefully, this has been a useful ride through the inbound marketing world, and now you can take the wheel and make yours an astounding success!

B2B Inbound Marketing FAQ

1. What are 3 types of inbound marketing?

The three types of inbound marketing are:

1. Search engine optimization (SEO): using technical, on-page, and off-page efforts to improve the search-ability and ranking of websites in search engines
2. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC): using paid advertising that focuses on including the keywords that match the user’s intent
3. Content marketing strategy: creating high-quality content that truly brings value to the user is key for inbound marketing, without it no amount of effort will work in any of the other areas of inbound marketing

These types of inbound marketing work better together than separately.

2. What are examples of inbound marketing?

Companies that have and provide valuable content to the users and are keeping the content fresh are great examples of inbound marketing. For example, a blog full of useful posts, guides, and educational content that first time visitors and long-time customers enjoy alike.

3. How do I start inbound marketing for B2B?

The best thing you can do to start on your inbound marketing strategy for B2B is to truly understand who your ideal customers are, and what your marketing goals are.
By establishing your user personas you’ll be able to produce content that really matters to them. Additionally, by knowing which KPIs to measure you’ll make sure you’re making progress constantly and not just jumping from one place to another.

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