Inbound marketing uses digital assets to attract prospects to a website or landing page with the goal of converting visitors into leads that can be nurtured throughout a marketing and sales funnel. Typically, this is achieved through content marketing campaigns focused on educating prospective customers through high value content pieces which are accompanied by landing pages, thank you pages, and calls-to-action. Once a prospect enters their information into a company’s database, the company can nurture them through the various stages of the buyer’s journey with the end goal of a closed sale.
You've probably already heard about content marketing — the use of content or information as a business marketing tool. BUT do you know the reason content marketing is such a powerful tool, especially in inbound marketing? SEO. Your content is a crucial component that feeds search engine optimization (SEO).
Let's take a step back and review what SEO has to do with inbound marketing as well as content.
Why SEO is the Beginning of Inbound Marketing Strategy
Let's discuss why we, and other inbound marketers, start all campaigns with SEO. Inbound marketing starts by attracting prospects to your site and assets. In order to make that happen, your website and assets need to be created in a way that they can be found online. Yes some of that is accomplished by sharing those assets on social media, in newsletters, as part of your sales tools, BUT the real fun happens when people can find your business organically. When you use SEO practices like keyword research, keyword focused content, on page SEO, and keyword mapping, you expand your current reach and gain the attention of people outside of your circle(s) of influence. All because you appeared on a search engine results page (SERP) AND they liked your page title and meta description that appeared in that SERP result.
SEO begins with Keyword Research
All of the SEO tactics mentioned above start with keywords. They are literally the beginning — the foundation of SEO and a successful inbound marketing campaign. Whether you get help from an agency to determine your targeted keywords or you do the keyword research yourself, make sure those keywords have high search volume and low competition. More importantly, make sure that the intent of the keyword is in alignment with the internet search tendencies or patterns of your buyer persona (sometimes referred to as an ideal client). These keywords are the magnet to your website and content that will attract prospects to your online business. Once they've reached your website, they're in the funnel and your strategic content can continue to pull them in, answer their questions, and move them closer to a closed deal.
So now that you have your keywords in place, it's time to get to work on that strategic content. You should have content that speaks to your personas at every point in their buyers journey. If you don't, they may be looking elsewhere for answers to their questions or problems, and you could miss out on a potential lead.
Buyer's Journey Stages
There are three stages in the inbound marketing buyer's journey — awareness, consideration, and decision. Traditionally, companies focus on the last stage of the journey, the decision or buying stage, most heavily. This stage is often the easiest stage to create content for. You know how great your products or services are and how they can help potential clients solve their problems. But if you're only creating content for the bottom of your funnel, you're missing out a huge number of leads who haven't made their decision yet and are still in the first two buyer's journey stages.
In this digital age, prospects do research online before ever reaching out to a salesperson or company. Think about how digitally savvy you are as a consumer (or how internet fluent your kids, coworkers, or tech-y friends are). If you're not providing content for your leads doing research, they may be bouncing out of your funnel rather than moving down. This is why all companies need to have content for the top and middle of the funnel (the awareness and consideration stages).
Awareness Stage Buyer's Journey
During the awareness stage, buyers identify their challenge or an opportunity they want to pursue. Your online content and education can aid them in becoming aware of their problem, challenge, or opportunity with content that reveals that their obstacle is not unique. The awareness stage is also when your leads decide whether or not their goal or challenge is a priority. Digital marketing efforts in this stage include:
• SEO — Everything begins with search and relevant keywords. Consider what search queries your leads might make to start their research.
• Blog posts — Remember that your lead is gathering information in this stage. Consider topics related to your lead's obstacle(s), trends in the industry, or informative guides relevant to your prospect's interest.
• Speaking engagements — Build your brand awareness and thought leadership while providing in-depth information about your industry.
• White papers — This is a great content option to deliver education on a problem or solution and also create a new lead that can be nurtured.
• Infographics — Visual guides and infographics are an excellent way to provide valuable content to your leads in the awareness stage without pushing a sale or solution they're not yet ready for.
• Landing pages with lead generation forms — This is a crucial one. To nurture your leads through your sales funnel with targeted, valuable content, you'll need to have their contact information.
Consideration Stage Buyer's Journey
During the consideration stage, buyers have clearly defined their goal or challenge and have committed to addressing it. They are evaluating the different approaches or methods available to solve their challenge or reach their goal. Digital marketing efforts in this stage include:
• SEO — What keywords are your competitors ranking for?
• Blog posts — What industry keywords can you use to create valuable content that helps your leads research their options?
• Infographics — Use infographics or guides that compare you to your competitors, explain how your product or service works, and how your leads can reach a solution.
• Speaking engagements
• Landing pages with lead generation forms — Continue to gather lead information and pay attention to which content they're engaging with to more accurately move your leads through the funnel.
• Email nurturing campaigns — Once you have lead information, you can utilize targeted email campaigns to continue offering valuable, relevant content.
Decision Stage Buyer's Journey
In the decision stage, buyers have already decided on a solution category but have not necessarily determined what company to purchase from. Digital marketing efforts in this stage include:
• SEO — These are your product, service, or solution oriented keywords.
• Blog posts — The decision stage is where your content should include CTA's and sales information that helps leads determine that your product or service is the best solution to their problem.
• Case studies — How has your business helped other customers solve their problems?
• Speaking engagements — Include your sales team here.
• Landing pages with lead generation forms — This is the stage where your leads are ready to make a choice. Your landing page forms for this stage can collect lead information for sales to contact.
• Sales demos — Show your leads how your products or services work.
• Meeting links — This is the final buyer's journey stage. Get your sales team involved with meeting links so your leads can continue their research with a live person.
• Comparison charts — How does your business compare to your competitors? How does your solution work best?
By building digital content with your buyer personas and journey in mind, your company will be able to attract, educate, nurture, and convert prospects. With high value content, relevant calls-to-action, and strategic landing pages, your company has an enormous opportunity to create a targeted buyers journey that will attract, educate, and nurture prospects regardless of their current stage of the buying process.
Nurturing your leads with effective content takes strategy and industry insight. The digital world is vast, and to effectively pull in leads, you need to understand your industry, content, and competitors. Our GrowthPlan can help you build your customer base strategically, with a comprehensive look at your own digital footprint, as well as your competitor's.