THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO B2B TECH INBOUND MARKETING
Inbound marketing is still a rather “new” marketing concept. Introduced in 2005 by HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan, the term came into existence when Halligan realized there was a problem with the Internet’s “traditional” marketing techniques. Even back in 2005, customers were very good at recognizing and ignoring interruptive marketing and sales tactics like direct mail, email, and cold calls. Consumers were already feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and Halligan knew something had to change if he were to gain momentum in the start-up space.
This realization formed a revolutionary idea: What if companies created a helpful, human, and personable sales process, rather than a disruptive one?
While today, we know inbound marketing works — the term and concept took a while to stick in both the B2B and B2C markets, not taking off until nearly seven years later in 2012. However, the traction it has gained over the past few years is unparalleled, due to its proven success time and time again for organizations of all sizes. Today, inbound marketing is adopted by industries and companies of all sizes, ranging from small organic protein bar start-ups and major brands like Nike, to B2B technology companies like your company.
For B2B technology companies in particular, inbound marketing is more important than ever before.
Inbound Marketing for B2B Technology Companies
As a technology company, you are innovative and hungry by design — two of the required qualities for successful inbound marketing. Inbound marketing promises improved brand awareness and lead generation… but what does it take to get there?
Unfortunately, inbound marketing does not offer the same immediate gratification as seeing an ad in a magazine, or having a (randomly) successful cold call. Inbound marketing takes patience, perseverance, trial and error. Certain inbound strategies, such as content marketing, don’t bring in leads overnight. No, they take time.
Starting an inbound marketing strategy is more like planting the seed of a flower. You plant it, and wonder if it will survive the drought or rain. You can’t always see it thriving from the surface. Then, when you see green leaves break through crumbling dirt, you know you’ve done something right — so you continue to nurture it until it blooms. Then you plant another, and another. Learning from your experience, you’re able to grow your plants faster and stronger each time. Eventually, your garden is overflowing. Your neighbors stare in envy, as they come home with their fully-bloomed Hibiscus from Home Depot. You smirk because you know they took the easy way out, and growing the garden organically brings better results in the long run.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Flower analogies aside, according to HubSpot, inbound marketing is “a method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust.” This big picture definition sounds ideal — but what does it mean exactly in the world of B2B technology?
For B2B technology, inbound marketing is a modern marketing methodology that harnesses numerous components — including content, PR, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, social media, email automation, influencers, and more — to build brand awareness, improve lead quality, close more deals, and increase customer retention.
For start-ups in particular, inbound marketing offers an affordable and effective way to gain brand awareness without investing thousands of dollars into outbound marketing efforts.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
Whether you just launched a start-up or you work at a tech company with a deep history, you might have trouble stepping away from outbound and focusing on inbound. Outbound is familiar. Outbound has, to an extent, always worked. (Otherwise, most businesses wouldn’t still be standing.) Some B2B technology companies see inbound marketing as a risk, with leaders asking questions like:
Is writing a blog really going to sell this product? What do you mean you want us to send fewer emails? Long, plain text newsletters aren’t effective anymore? What will our sales team do if they’re not cold calling?
Getting Inbound Marketing Buy-In
With potential reservations from leadership, getting inbound marketing buy-in is key. In order to boost website traffic, improve lead generation, and increase sales, you’re going to need some resources to do so. *We recommend reading this blog post, complete with seven steps for getting marketing buy-in from your company’s executives.*
Inbound and Outbound: A United Front
According to Guy Kawasaki, “If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing.” And we agree, but — if you have brains and money, using inbound and outbound together as a united front can help build the most effective strategy.
So, tell leadership not to fret too much, as you won’t be dropping outbound marketing from your strategy completely.
As a matter-of-fact, as a agency that focuses on the importance of integrated marketing strategies, we recommend that B2B technology companies maintain some traditional methods of outbound marketing methodology — such as attending high-traffic trade shows — to ensure your message and brand are united across all fronts.
In addition to a cohesive message, uniting inbound and outbound efforts often yields better results. For example, say you attend a trade show, a pretty standard outbound marketing methodology. Rather than following up with a cold call to every single person who stopped by, you could instead enroll those semi-interested prospects in a nurture campaign filled with helpful content. The campaign would send them blogs, eBooks, white papers, etc. that are useful during their buying process.
In another example of outbound and inbound working together, webinars and content downloads can lead to less awkward cold calls — let’s call them “lukewarm calls.” (They’re certainly not hot, but they’re no longer cold!) When a sales rep can see a lead’s activity, they can provide a more personal and helpful approach.
Rather than coming across as sleazy sales people, your team will come across as a helpful company in both situations. And your prospect will still buy from you. That is the beauty of inbound.
Why Inbound Marketing Is Critical for B2B Tech Companies
Although outbound efforts will still be a component of your overall marketing efforts, inbound marketing certainly has proven itself to be the most effective marketing strategy for B2B technology companies due to its low cost and high ROI. Here are a few major benefits of inbound marketing:
1. It Improves Close Rates
“Closing the deal” is far and away the most important part of the funnel, and inbound helps exponentially in this category. Take into consideration this comparison: Leads derived from inbound marketing have a closing rate of 14.6%, versus direct mail, which has a closing rate of only 1.7%.
2. It Is Cost Effective
If you have a writer on staff, it can cost virtually $0 to start an inbound marketing strategy by focusing on a blog, SEO, and PR. Long-term, you may need to invest some funds into social media ad campaigns, a dedicated CMS, pay-per-click display ads, or additional team members to handle the demand of your work.
3. It Improves Lead Generation Efforts
According to Eloqua, the average cost per lead drops by 80% after five months of consistent inbound marketing. And according to Pardot, inbound marketing yields three times more leads per dollar than traditional methods. So, in short? More leads. Less money. Now that’s what we’re talking about!
4. It Improves ROI
In general, inbound marketing offers a higher ROI than traditional marketing methods. From increasing sales volume to exceeding sales quotas, when done right, inbound promises exponential growth without exponential investment. SharpSpring, a marketing automation software provider, points out that, "If a brand can build a relationship through relevant content, the consumer will most likely be willing to become a customer."
Don’t Compare Your Inbound Efforts to Other Industries
Maybe you design technology that simplifies transportation logistics for tractor trailers. Or maybe you’ve created a new revenue cycle software to simplify hospital claims and billing processes. Maybe you work in AI or cybersecurity. In any case, most B2B companies struggle with their inbound marketing efforts because “blogging about tractor trailer logistics software is boring”.
But, you want to know who doesn’t think that is boring? The leadership at major shipping companies trying to save costs and streamline efforts.
Most B2B technology companies are successful because they have defined and found their niche. And while this niche won’t seem as “cool” and “popular” as blogging about travel, weddings, food, and consumer electronics, your niche audience does care — and that’s who matters.
So, don’t get hung up on what B2C or even what other B2B companies are doing — focus on you.
That goes for comparing financial SaaS products to healthcare SaaS products. While there may be some overlap because you’re both B2B and SaaS, your audiences are completely different. We guide every new client on the journey to discover their Buyer Matrix. Without this depth and width of understanding of your audience, you’ll miss them and wonder why you hear crickets more than cash registers. With a careful application of your Buyer Matrix, you’ll nurture your audience into raving fans.
Inbound marketing isn’t a trend — meaning, it isn’t going away anytime soon. The marketing methodology continues to gain momentum in the B2B technology space and can offer numerous benefits to your company when implemented effectively.
Components of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing sounds like it might be easy. Just become more personalized and helpful, right? Be more human? You might be thinking. “I’m human. I’ll just be more like myself!” And while in general, the concept does seem to come more naturally once you have momentum, inbound has many components that need to be implemented in order to run like a well-oiled (human-like) machine.
An Overview of Inbound’s Components
Inbound marketing has a variety of foundational components, including:
- Goals and KPIs
- Buyer Personas
- Content Offers (both gated and un-gated)
- Search Engine Optimization Strategy
- Digital Ads (Pay-per-click ads, display ads, and social media ads)
- Landing Pages
- Marketing Automation
Goals & KPIs
No marketing strategy is complete without a set of goals or measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to work toward. A KPI is the numeric value assigned to determine if you are on track for a goal.
Because of the numerous pieces included in an inbound marketing strategy, there are a variety of KPIs you can measure to determine your success. Examples include website traffic, social media interactions, form downloads, and more.
Personas are the foundation of inbound marketing; they ensure you get the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time. Remember, inbound is about being more helpful and more human — and you can’t do either without getting to know who you’re talking to, first.
The process for creating personas can be a long one. Start by asking “who is our target audience?” From there, you can likely come up with a variety of segments within that target audience. For example, a medical device company might say its target audience is hospital leadership. Within that audience, there are segments in clinical, finance, technology, and operations. From there, you need to get even more granular by creating a fictional person based on your ideal buyer.
In order to do this, you need to outline your ideal buyers’:
- Key identifiers (such as demeanor and communication preference)
- Common barriers
- Common outcomes
Of all of the ideas you need to outline about your buyer personas, you must discover the one thing: your persona’s biggest problem. The other ideas help you frame how you communicate to your persona but the biggest problem is the what you communicate. If you don’t address their biggest problem, your persona will not find you as their solution.
Note that there is also difference between buyer personas and user personas, and this should be acknowledged in persona development. Buyers are those who are making the purchase for the product, while users are the ones using it. Sometimes, users are not involved in the buying process, but you should take them into consideration in content development.
Further Reading on Personas:Bring Your B2B Tech Persona to Life: 8 Clues I Learned from Studying Fiction
The Problem with Buyer Personas
How to Segment Content According to Personas
Content marketing is a foundational pillar of inbound marketing. According to The Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is a strategic approach to creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Having a variety of content offers is key to your strategy. You need content offers that drive:
- Organic website traffic, such as blogs and landing pages
- Top-of-the-funnel conversions, such as eBooks and white papers
- Middle-to-bottom-of-the-funnel conversions, such as webinars
Content Marketing Matrix
This content marketing matrix from Smart Insights helps you visualize and map the most effective types of content based on the stage of the funnel/buyer’s journey. Mapping your content makes it easy to set up automation campaigns because you’ll know when to introduce different types of content to nudge individuals down the funnel.
Further Reading on Content Marketing:Content Marketing Matrix for B2B Tech Companies
Top Tactics for Effective B2B Content Marketing
Generating B2B Leads Through Content Marketing
Landing pages need to be set up to house your content offers and lead qualifying forms, and are an essential component of any inbound/automation strategy. In fact, research from HubSpot shows that companies see a 55% increase in leads when they increase their number of landing pages from 10 to 15. Landing pages are the lynchpin of your lead generation efforts, so make the most of your B2B landing page with these best practices:
- Simplify your layout so there are no unnecessary steps for your web visitors to follow
- Ensure your offer is clearly stated so your visitors know exactly what they are downloading
- Humanize your offering by leading with the needs of your visitors, not the technological features of your product
- Optimize your form with the proper number of fields for the value of your download
- A/B test new landing pages to find the combination of text, images, and form that will maximize your click through rate
- Watch your analytics each week to help tweak every tactic used in page creation and maintenance
- Employ remarketing ads to attract visitors that did not convert to another landing page that might meet their needs better
- Be sure to include the emails your visitors receive after converting in your statistical analysis, A/B testing, and tweaking
Further Reading on Landing Pages:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin in a search engine. And most of the time, those searches are “unbranded,” meaning users are searching for some kind of general question or term.
Take a moment to think about your own use of Google. When you’re headed out to dinner while at a conference, you might search for “best sushi in san Francisco.” And when you have a question at work, you might search “how does lead scoring work?”
These unbranded searches are the same searches your prospective customers are using every day for work-related pain points. It is your job to create content that is optimized to appear in these searches.
There had previously been some debate as to whether or not PPC was an actual component of inbound — as all other inbound methods were organic, and PPC is paid. However, PPC offers the same purpose as optimized content and web pages, just with more immediate gratification. We address PPC in detail in this article and our Complete SEO Guide for B2B Tech Marketing.
At the center of your inbound marketing strategy sits your website: your hub for all of your efforts. Your website is the home of your landing pages, blogs, and content offers. It’s the mechanism that has the power to convert someone from stranger to contact, from contact to customer, and from customer to influencer — when done right, of course.
For your website to be “inbound-ready,” there are a few boxes you’ll need to check.
Download the checklist “Get Your Website Inbound Ready”
- First, your website needs to be optimized for the keywords that matter most to your company. Spend time doing your own keyword research, or hire an agency to help you out. These keywords will inform the title tags and meta descriptions for each of your pages, your page content, blog content, and even your PPC campaigns.
- Second, you need optimized layouts for your landing pages. Landing pages require their own layout and need to be optimized for conversions. You can use the templates provided to you through your inbound marketing software such as HubSpot, purchase a secondary software such as Unbounce, or work with your designers to develop a template.
- Third, you’ll need two sections of your website dedicated to content. If you plan on creating content offers, you’ll need to develop a section on your website for your blog, as well as a separate section on your website for your resources.
- Fourth, you’ll need two types of “lead-qualifying” forms. A lead-qualifying form for most B2B technology companies is a “request a demo” form. But, if you want to capture leads earlier on in the funnel, you’ll want to build content around a softer sell, such as a “consultation” or “audit”.
- Lastly, integrate tracking. While you will likely be using Google Analytics to monitor website traffic, you can integrate tracking calls-to-action and other links into your website content to monitor lead engagement more closely.
Further reading on optimizing your company’s website for inbound:
Lead Nurturing through Marketing Automation
Think of an inbound lead as a person driving a car in an unfamiliar state. They have their car — but no direction of where to go. It is your job to provide direction — and this is the purpose of lead nurturing through marketing automation.
Lead nurturing through marketing automation is the process of carefully “nurturing” a prospect with the right content and messaging at the right time to slowly move them through the funnel at a pace that seems natural, human, and organic.
To learn more about lead nurturing and marketing automation, read our complete guide.
Inbound marketing has a variety of components, each of which play a key role in the success of your company’s strategy. A successful inbound marketing strategy isn’t truly complete without each of these foundational elements.
Phases of the Inbound Marketing Funnel
If you’re familiar with inbound marketing, you are likely familiar with “the funnel,” and “the buyer’s journey.” Inbound marketing provides content at important trigger points to move buyers from one stage of the funnel to the next.
Inbound marketing has three main phases:
In past versions of the inbound marketing funnel, engage was divided into Convert and Close. While this newer interpretation seems simpler, there is a vast difference between individuals converting at the top of your funnel, and those closing at the bottom of the funnel.
How Inbound for B2B Technology Companies is different
The inbound funnel for B2B technology companies doesn’t necessarily look any different than the standard inbound marketing funnel, but it does have some unique qualities that you should be aware of as you build out your strategy.
- In general, the B2B tech sales process is longer than most. When a company is investing in new technology, numerous individuals (personas) are involved in the process. Whether someone enters your funnel as a new contact or an SQL, inbound can help speed up the process — but it will likely still take a while to close the deal.
- When someone comes in as an SQL in the engage phase, they still might not be ready to buy. Just because someone requested a demo does not mean they are ready to buy. For B2B tech companies, SQLs might need as much nurturing as a new contact or MQL to keep them engaged throughout their buying process.
- Your leads might not be your buyers. Depending on your company’s audience, the individuals filling out forms and engaging with content may not actually have any decision-making power. Take HubSpot’s software for example. In most cases, companies will need a CMO or director to make the decision to purchase the software, but many other individuals at the company, such as a social media marketing manager or content manager, are likely engaging with content. It is important for a B2B technology company like HubSpot to use these contacts to get in touch with the right person so as not to waste time.
- If you have been a sales-centric organization, you may need to adjust your expectations on conversion rates. Sales conversations with referrals from existing customers or colleagues already have an endorsement of your product or service. Those coming in through inbound needs must get to know you better. Don’t confuse a first conversation with an inbound lead to produce the same results — or event next steps — as the first conversation with a sales referral.
Phase 1: Attract
Due to consumers’ reliance on Google, your prospects are spending a lot of time in their own “research” phase, which mirrors your “attract” phase. Because of the wealth of knowledge available on the Internet, prospects may visit your site a number of times without ever filling out a form, as they gather information, and well…research.
As a matter of fact, online buyers go through between 57% and 68% of the buying cycle on their own without talking to anyone in your company. This means that the first time you actually hear from a prospect, they might already be in a consideration or decision-making phase, weighing their options between you and two or three of your competitors.
What matters most at the attract phase of the funnel?
- A blog that is optimized for search: According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of business decision makers favor getting brand information via an article series more than ads.
- Keywords for organic and paid search efforts: According to MarketingSherpa, 83% of online tech buyers found their vendor via Google search.
- Top-of-the-funnel content offers, such as a short white paper or guide related to their search: Having top-of-the-funnel content offers that require someone to provide you with their name and information puts you at an advantage to slowly nurture these individuals who are knee-deep in research.
Phase 2: Engage
Once someone has engaged with your brand, now is the time to build trust. This doesn’t mean immediately passing the individual off to your sales team. No, now is the time to share content and resources that they would find helpful in their journey. Keep in mind that at this point, individuals are in a stage of consideration.
What matters most at the consideration phase of the funnel?
- Calls-to-action: Not everyone is ready to click a button that says “request a demo” or “contact us.” Consider what kinds of calls-to-action you can create that appeal to someone not ready to commit. Maybe attend a live webinar, download a piece of content, or subscribe to your email list.
- Landing pages with forms: Research shows that companies see a 55% increase in leads when they increase their number of landing pages from 10-15. (So, if your only landing page is for “Request a Demo,” it is time to up the ante.) It is important to vary form length based on someone’s level of commitment, as well. When you’re trying to get someone engaged with your brand through content, keeping your forms at 5-7 fields (or less) is key.
- Content offers: While content offers are essential at all stages of the funnel, they are the “tipping point” for getting a new contact in your system that you can nurture into an MQL or SQL.
- Move to decision: Even though “close” is no longer a part of the HubSpot nomenclature, you must still close the deal. In order to engage your visitors enough to create customers, make sure you are creating:
- Automated email workflows: Sure, automation can’t replace human interaction, but it can help get contacts from an initial visit to close. And, as mentioned before, B2B technology sales are unique because of the length of the sale and the numbers of individuals involved. Even those who are “ready to buy” may need some additional nudging with automated workflows.
- Lead scoring and nurturing: Lead scoring is an effective way to determine which of your contacts is “ready” to buy.
To learn more about lead scoring and marketing automation, read our complete guide.
- CRM integrations: Good marketing starts with good data — which means your inbound marketing platform and CRM need to speak to one another to avoid any confusion on your sales rep’s end.
Phase 3: Delight
Everyone knows that it is cheaper to retain a client than to obtain a new one. However, small tech companies often lose sight of the importance of creating customer-focused content and emails that keep customers engaged with the brand. When the focus is always on client recruitment, it is easy to make current customers feel left out.
What matters most at the delight phase of the funnel?
Focus on continuing to make your customers feel valued. Keep them engaged through multiple touch points, including emails, social media, and customer-driven content.
- Social media: While we can’t promise you that a social media presence will increase client retention, it does give you an easy way to stay in touch with your clients. While you can focus on organic posts across popular channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, you may also find it beneficial to create a user group on one of these networks to connect your current community of clients.
- Emails: Email marketing is still a force in B2B tech marketing — both for customer acquisition and retention. Keep your current customers informed with a simple monthly newsletter, complete with software updates, product best practices, upcoming events, and any other information you’d like to share. There are also current customer workflows you can build around upgrading their software, etc.
- Customer-driven content: In the process of creating content optimized for the “attract” stage of the funnel, we often lose sight of client-focused content. Creating content that helps your customers use your product better or do their job better is key. If you are blogging three times per week, make one of those posts customer-focused. Keep in mind that some blogs are relevant to all audiences!
Is Your Funnel Broken?
If you feel like inbound marketing isn’t working for you, it might not be your process as a whole. As a matter of fact, it might be one small component that needs work. Think of it as a “crack” in your funnel. If you can find it and fix it, the funnel still works. But, if you can’t find it, the problem grows and grows until the funnel can no longer be used.
Let’s take a look at some “red flags” that might indicate where your funnel needs some repair.
- If you are struggling with earning more website traffic, your issue is at the top of your funnel. A lack of optimized content means there aren’t enough individuals finding your site. Focus your attention on optimizing individual pages, as well as creating blog content. You may also want to invest in PPC for some immediate gratification.
- If you’re struggling with earning a conversion, the issue lies within the engagement stage of the funnel. While you’re getting individuals to your website, landing pages, or content offers, there is something about what they find that isn’t enticing enough. It is now time to evaluate your website’s design, the quality of your content offers, and the length of your forms.
- If you have a ton of prospects in your pipeline, but you can’t seem to close them, the problem lies of course, within the backside of the engage stage of the funnel. Now is the time to evaluate your automated workflows and lead scoring. Many companies fall into the trap of pointing fingers between sales and marketing. If you’re having closing problems, instead of blame shifting, hold a workshop to build upon sales and marketing alignment.
- If your referrals are down, you may not be “delighting” your current customers enough. While this can’t necessarily be solved with emails and social media, you will want to take this opportunity to evaluate your company’s support and email response times. A net promoter survey may provide some insight into your happy and unhappy clients — and you can use this to your benefit. Reach out to your happy clients for referrals, and reach out to your unhappy clients to see what you can do to fix the matter. Remember, inbound is all about being human!
The marketing funnel is rather standard across all industries, but for B2B technology companies it stretches just a bit longer, with individuals spending more time in the attract and close phases than most other industries. That being said, having a solid foundation of content, emails, and automation working can help shorten the process, or at least improve your close rates.
As with any marketing strategy, the metrics you set to measure success are key. For inbound marketing, there are a variety of KPIs that you can establish to gauge success.
Suggested Inbound KPIs
Inbound marketing has three main sets of KPIs: top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel, and bottom-of-the-funnel. Top-of-the-funnel KPIs gauge your brand awareness and influence, and can be measured in your overall website traffic. Middle-of-the-funnel KPIs gauge the success of your content and website and are measured in content downloads, conversions, MQLs, and SQLs. Bottom-of-the-funnel KPIs gauge the success of your sales and marketing alignment and are measured in closed deals.
1. Organic Website Traffic
Keep track of your website’s organic website traffic on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Run simple comparisons in Google Analytics to see if your organic traffic is on the rise now that you’re implementing content and optimization tactics. You’ll want to keep a close eye on:
- Total organic website traffic
- Bounce rates of organic traffic
- Top entrance pages for organic traffic
- Total organic blog traffic
- Bounce rates of blog traffic
- Top entrance pages for blog traffic
When investing in social media, display, and pay-per-click ads, your total cost per click can tell you a lot about the effectiveness of your traffic-driving search and social campaigns. Typically a lower cost per click means a higher-performing campaign.
1. Content Downloads
When you put time and effort into creating content, it is important to measure each piece’s success. We recommend tracking the overall total number of downloads, as well as the total number for each individual piece of content to gauge popularity.
2. Conversion Rates
The term “conversion rate” is a catch-all for a variety of KPIs that you should be tracking. Your lead-qualifying forms have conversion rates. Your content downloads and webinars have conversion rates. Any page that has a form needs a related conversion rate that you can measure.
In terms of answering the question: “what does success look like?” You will likely want to consider setting KPIs for:
- Overall website conversion rate
- Overall landing page conversion rate
- Overall content download conversion rate
- Overall webinar/event registration conversion rate
In addition to measuring the success of your efforts overall, it is important to keep an eye on the performance of these pages throughout the year. Pages with high traffic but low conversion rates are typically a red flag that the content or layouts need immediate attention.
3. Total Number of New Contacts
Content marketing and SEO are two of the most important components of inbound marketing. Measure the number of new contacts added to your database through inbound marketing efforts that may not be a sales-ready lead. And, monitor your new contacts on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
4. Total Number of MQLs
In between a new contact and a sales-qualified lead (SQL) lies the marketing-qualified lead (MQL). Tracking MQLs provides insight into how well your funnel is “working.” Keep an eye on your total number of MQLs on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
5. Total Number of SQLs
Your total number of SQLs provides great insight into how well your inbound funnel and marketing efforts are working! An SQL is a bit of a grey area, as you may have an SQL come in directly from a lead qualifying form, or they may have gone through your funnel. In this case, you would be measuring the number of SQLs that have converted from new contact, to MQL, to SQL.
1. Total Number of “Inbound Leads
This one is easy! Track the number of individuals who fill out your lead-qualifying form — such as “Request a Demo” or “Contact Us.” These are also, technically, SQLs.
2. Contact-to-Customer Ratio
This metric shows you your entire funnel — from website visitor to signed contract. Keep track of each time a new contact is added to your database as a result of your inbound marketing efforts. New contacts may be from a lead generation form (such as Request a Demo), a webinar registration, or content download. By measuring the number of new contacts, you will have a baseline for measuring your funnel’s conversion rate.
For example, say your inbound campaign yields 1,000 new contacts in year one. However, only 100 of those new contacts become customers. Your contact-to-customer ratio is 10%.
Once you have this data, you can determine whether you want to focus on getting more individuals into your funnel (increasing the number of new contacts added), or improving your lead nurturing processes to improve your contact-to-customer ratio.
These are just some of the inbound marketing KPIs that we suggest keeping an eye on — and are certainly enough to get any B2B technology company started. Keep in mind that all of your KPIs should follow the structure of SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Should You Hire an Agency for Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing was once seen as a fad, but the concept of pulling customers in, not by force, but by their own choice has caught on . Educating and nurturing your audience has proven to be effective and profit-building.
For many organizations, the “traditional” methods of marketing still have a foothold. Inbound marketing requires many months of investment before the ROI kicks in. A myth exists stating, “If I just create all the inbound tools, sales will convert.” Also, there are at least a dozen practices to learn and each has their own learning curve. Learning inbound can be like a French soccer player learning American football and the English language at the same time.
Working with an agency well versed and experienced with inbound can reduce your ramp up time. While many activities are like seeds planted in the ground (remember chapter 1), an agency can serve as a skilled horticulturalist in your soil.
Why Work with an Agency
While every company’s inbound marketing efforts will be laser-focused on its individual goals, the tactics remain the same. Working with an agency can help you avoid trial and error and move straight to the application of best practices. It’s like adding super effective fertilizer to your flower garden. An agency can help you set realistic goals — especially how long wait before a stalk pokes up through the ground. You will learn faster and deeper from an agency acting as a mentor than you would going it on your own.
Farmers spend many hours (over many generations) learning how to get a greater yield from their crops. They maximize irrigation, seed density, and tune in their pesticide use. Hiring an agency partner greatly increases your yield — ROI. Take for instance content creation, one of the biggest pieces of inbound practice. One of the hardest skills to learn is also the greatest determiner of success — using the right keywords at the right time. Hiring an agency skilled in inbound tools will help you take advantage of their expertise for your bottom line.
Many believe inbound marketing to be expensive because of the number of people needed to effectively conduct operations and the need for a marketing automation platform to maximize the reach of the inbound tools. An agency can offer your B2B tech company more support, brain power, and expertise at a lower cost than hiring individual specialists for the inbound disciplines.
The Golden Spiral Advantage
We are an integrated marketing agency. Our diversified team of inbound experts works daily to sharpen each other in every area. We have all-stars at every position — strategists, SEO experts, public relations professionals, graphic designers, web developers, and writers. Each all-star is trained and committed to inbound marketing. You will be hard-pressed to find all of these disciplines on one team elsewhere. Some agencies may have a specialty, but will hire subcontractors and consultants for the tasks outside their core. Our team can supply all of the marketing strategies and tools from under our own roof and bring your solutions to market.
Our integrated nature also gives us flexibility. Some clients hire us to be their marketing department. We help them with strategy and provide all of their services. Others come to us because their team is missing inbound marketing as a specialty. We plug in right where they need us. Plus, these clients also benefit from our integrated behavior and our industrywide knowledge.
Our clients appreciate that we are a focused company. We don’t take every potential opportunity that walks in our digital door. We are zeroed in on B2B companies with technology solutions.
Inbound marketing—and marketing as a whole—isn’t a short game. It’s a commitment. We’re ready to help you accomplish your goals. Discover the Golden Spiral advantage for yourself.
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