content marketing

Use Inbound Marketing to Generate Hot B2B Leads

A pipeline full of hot leads is the only indicator of an active and successful B2B business. B2B sales unlike B2C products require much research and evaluation before the actual purchase. How can B2B businesses engage with prospects online and turn them into leads?

pied-piper

Apart from the usual business networking, B2B companies have been using traditional channels like telemarketing, DM and email. But these marketing channels need a considerable investment. Therefore, B2B marketers have started using alternative marketing methods that need much less investments compared to the traditional methods. These tactics involve attracting potential clients by creating and sharing content that interests them and then following up with those who engage with it – an approach popularly known as content marketing. Here are top 5 inbound marketing tools that I feel are most constructive in building decent traffic to your website, hence contributing to a healthy pipeline:

Write blog posts that answer customers’ questions

We know that our customers have lots of queries. Write blog posts that highlight your knowledge and understanding of inherent industry issues. Share customer cases (you could withhold names and just mention the industry) where you analyzed the problems and implemented solutions. It’s always great if you share the results achieved in specific numbers or percentages. The more blogs you publish and share on your social network profiles, the more keywords your blog posts will rank for in search engines; the more referral traffic you will get from other websites and the more online audiences will get to read your views and know your company better.

According to research done by Salesforce , B2B companies that blog regularly generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t. Other research shows that number could be higher if you’ve got a strategy behind your blogging. Earlier this month, Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute shared that his organization’s latest study found that, “84 percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing said they have no documented strategy. B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).”

By publishing as much content as possible and maintaining top quality, you’ll better educate your prospects. This is especially effective in industries where most companies typically don’t blog very openly. You can really differentiate yourselves from your competitors by sharing your knowledge, and demonstrating expertise through your blog.

Organize webinars that capture and hold audience

Webinars have become the most popular and effective online method for inexpensively communicating new ideas to large audiences. To use them effectively, select topics specific to your target audience and keep titles that are easy to understand and click immediately. They could be hosted by one speaker or be presented like discussions but it’s it’s important for the presenters to be compelling and charismatic who can captivate the audience despite the lack of face-to-face interaction.

Remember not to use too many jargons and have a recorded version for posting later. These could act as additional content on your site, plus you ensure that those who could not make the live event can still see your webinars. While delivering the presentations, make sure to ask questions after every 6-8 slides that are direct and meaningful that every participant can respond to. These frequent “engagement” questions help you gauge their level of engagement and interest. Give participants sufficient time to respond, summarize, or discuss one or two responses, and then move on.

Ensure a glitch-free experience for every attendee — and that means testing every element of the webinar process before you show up for the real deal. You could run participant surveys (tools are typically available to do this) and record them as well. At the end you will have the contact details of all participants – ready to use leads, and an excuse to get back to them with survey results and a copy of the proceedings.

Share white papers that exhibit your strengths

White papers are clearly not blog posts; so they are a lot more serious in tone, very descriptive in nature and discuss problems whitepaper iconcommonly faced in your potential customers’ line of business while providing successful, effective strategies for success. White papers are a great opportunity to create an image of expertise and insight that will help your readers. Therefore, give them something of value by filling your white paper with useful tips and information.

To catch their attention, it’s imperative to captivate them from the very beginning. Pique their interest with a summary of your white paper and an organized list of topics at the beginning that will clearly prepare them what to expect and what they’re going to accomplish by reading your white paper.

Finally, as shared by Contently, White papers are great tools for generating credibility. Customers respond better to informative write-ups than they do to blatant ads. The trick is to make sure your white paper is organized and well thought out so that you will create a natural and genuine interest in your services.

Upload valuable Slideshare presentations

Slideshare is an online resource for viewing of thousands of informative presentations. Again pick a subject relevant to your target market, and create a presentation which shares some genuine knowledge. Ensure also that the title uses relevant search keywords as Slideshare performs well in search rankings. Host the presentation on Slideshare, but also on your own website or share their links on your website. Some more points for great presentations include:

1. Use fonts, color scheme and themes that go well with your line of business. It’s best not to use more than two fonts in your presentations and use headlines in bold.
2. Make your presentations look engaging and strong with a succinct headline that is both intriguing and direct.
3. Draw audience and hold their attention by balancing text with thoughtful images as well as use charts and graphs for better understanding.
4. Tell a story in your presentations with a well-defined narrative and key takeaways. Lead with a strong cover page that teases the audience and follow it with engaging and relevant information.
5. Don’t forget to put a strong call to action with a link to a lead form at the end.

Use LinkedIn with a planned strategy

There is no better way for marketers to leverage the benefits of social networks than by building their own social-business-communities & groups based around an “interest” or “subject” close to the hearts of your would-be-clients, partners and Linkedin-groupscustomers. Businesses need to develop a comprehensive and consistent LinkedIn marketing plan to achieve long-term, sustainable success.

To create a business presence on LinkedIn and enhance your visibility, you first need to build a LinkedIn company page. Use that page as an extension of your business website with focused graphics, information on key products and services and job opportunities. Invite existing employees, clients or customers, vendors and partners to follow your page.

LinkedIn groups are ready-made discussion forums without the hassle of hosting or privacy. To implement a successful LinkedIn group strategy, assign a group manager/moderator to pre-approve discussion posts, ask great questions and determine which members get accepted into the group. Share messages with your group members once a week and engage them in healthy business-related discussions while adding value with compelling ideas and tips. Every new person joining the group is effectively a lead; those that take part in discussions are warm leads.

Which other inbound marketing tactics are you using to attract and develop new B2B leads?

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Tips for Businesses to Reach New Heights with Content Marketing

Content marketing has become one of the key marketing vehicles for brands in different sectors, with budgets ranging from zero to many millions!

BBC on multiple formats

This revolution and realization has come into effect when businesses saw that connecting with customers is not different in B2B set-up than in a B2C set-up because we are essentially dealing with like-minded people. For any brand to click with potential buyers, it needs to speak their language – it could be a local salon, a health-club or a real estate agency, the first and foremost requirement to get the business rolling is to connect!

It is important to develop the relevant content, to use the right media vehicles and support it with perfect visuals and videos! Let us discuss it in more detail.

Increased focus on content marketing tactics

According to some research findings shared in a recent blog post by MarketingProfs, most marketers (71%) plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2014, as per a recent report from Curata. The report was based on data from a survey of 502 marketers conducted in fall 2013, with 53% of respondents focused on B2B marketing, 12% on B2C, and 28% on both.
Respondents see content marketing as being most effective in the upper part of the customer acquisition funnel—especially for awareness-building and customer engagement. However, its impact on the lower part of the funnel is also quite significant, with nearly two-thirds of marketers indicating they’ve seen an increase in lead quality and quantity due to content marketing.

content marketing tactics planner -curata

The ideal desired content marketing mix for 2014 consists of 61% created, 27% curated, and 12% syndicated content which is not very different from the content mix desired currently.

Add value and eyeballs with curated content

Do you think curation is easy? It is a tedious task that involves going through large amounts of information and filtering key elements, arranging them and publishing them in proper channels. Content curators pick the best content that is important and relevant to share with their community. Marketers are slowly starting to like curated content as they feel it helps increase their brand visibility, thought leadership, aids in search engine optimization and increased web traffic at the same time improves customer and buyer engagement.

As explained by Beth Kanter, Content curation is a three-part process:  Seek, Sense, and Share. Finding the information or “seeking” is only one third of the task as Mari Smith points out in this video about why curation is important and some tools for doing it. Making sense of the information is just as important. Sense making can be writing a blog post using the links (like this post) or summarizing the key points in a presentation. However you create meaning, but it has to support your organization’s communications objectives. Finally, the sharing – is about giving the best nuggets of content to your audience in a format that they can easily digest and apply it.

Express distinct points of view to draw feedback

While sharing content, you can produce original content along with curating existing content by other authors and/or marketers. Adding your distinct points of view to curated content can add an extra edge to your content marketing strategy and could work very well in drawing out people’s opinions and feedback making it more like a discussion instead of a monologue. This is especially appropriate when a brand may want to “bundle” three or four articles in a package and then, perhaps, write a short post contextualizing these articles with an opinion. Or, the brand may want to provide a complete “event” as a bundle and package it as a microsite. As Beth states you could also storify your content. It is a way to add context to content collected from various social media vehicles. You could use social media data such as tweets, photos and videos and collect and use individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers.

Empower and engage audiences

The CMI/Marketing Profs study shows that 52 percent of marketers “want to produce the type of content that engages”. Content marketing needs to be done in the context of the user by creating experiences for users informed by the terms they type into a search box, their previous purchases, even their social network history and preferences. It’s about connecting with users exactly where they are comfortable instead of pushing generic messages onto prospects. And that requires creating a personalized and engaging experience.

To cultivate engagement, Coca Cola has re-launched their corporate website, Coca-Cola Journey, as a highly visual, sharable digital magazine. Featuring content themed around pop culture, social media, brand history, marketing campaigns, recipes, career advice, and more the website presents content that resonates strongly with its core audience.

coca-cola-screen

Brand stories like background on marketing campaigns, historical stories about Coca-Cola, or information on the jobs people have within the company, all generate a high level of readership, proving that company specific stories still have a relevant place on the new website. Strategies like these are paving the way for future communication with more about the customers and less about the brand. After all, brands are people first.

Let visuals do all the talking

Image-based updates have engagement rates that are many times higher than posts that contain only text and video content is close behind. This gap is only getting smaller with time. Whether it’s infographics, GIFs, still images or video, visual content is driving brand interactions online. This is not to say that text or other content types aren’t worth sharing, but visually appealing posts are likely to become the bread and butter of content strategies.

Visual content isn’t just for the visually based social networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram, it improves your interaction rates on pretty much all social networks. For example, simply attaching a photo to a Facebook update generates 53% more likes than the average post, and this can be done simply by sharing a link to a blog post or news article and uploading the image from the post along with the text update. Instead of creating a text-only status update, upload the photo or video from the post, and then include the post title and link as a description of the photo/video.

website visual

By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled. In case you don’t have the time or resources to regularly post photos and videos on social media, then at least shoot some simple product videos or videos of your store, some team events, etc. and if that seems difficult then you could add a few photos on your website’s landing pages (generally pics from your actual operations or products have more impact). Landing pages with a video increase average page conversion rates by 86%. While photos don’t produce results that are as dramatic, but landing pages with pictures still do better than ones without any visual content at all.

Which content marketing strategies are you using and what kinds of returns have they produced? I shall look forward to hear about your content marketing experiences.