Earlier this week I called out CMOs for their lack of vision and aggressiveness in moving forward with inbound marketing strategies. Let's examine those new media strategies and the rationale for pursuing them in more detail.
According to the MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Study of August 2010 of 297 CMOs, the greatest challenge facing CMOs today is generating high quality leads. If you think marketing automation software is the only solution to generating qualified leads regularly, you're barking up the wrong tree.
Marketing automation software is only a small part of an integrated online marketing strategy. For your company to generate qualified leads on a sustained basis, you need a skilled team that will formulate an inbound marketing strategy and oversee its implementation. You need people that understand your market and know how to reach prospects through various proven online and offline tactics.
So, how do you generate high quality leads these days?
Blogging is a primary way to demonstrate industry expertise, introduce new products to the market, get feedback from clients and increase brand awareness. It is important to blog regularly (and often) to engage both new and returning visitors. However, avoid oversaturating your blogs with sales posts or blatant promotions. Providing valuable content and building relationships with readers is your best opportunity to attract qualified sales leads into the top of your sales funnel.
Content marketing involves creating and distributing different types of content on various media. Reaching your customers through webinars, podcasts, videos, white papers, newsletters, press releases, photographs and slideshows increases your brand exposure, stimulates conversations and generates more leads. Distributing high quality content on various channels like social media, mobile, location based services, content curation sites and industry communities will help you to generate more qualified leads.
Social media marketing is a powerful and cost-effective way of generating quality leads within a short time and at a very low distribution cost. In this age of competitive business, you can't afford to wait for customers to find you through search and referrals. You have to find them. Where do you find new customers? In social media. The use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is an important part of any integrated online marketing strategy. Your strategy should include monitoring social media and quickly responding to requests for information or comments about your brand, people, products and services.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most powerful ways of generating leads without advertising. Granted, it may take some time for your website to get to page 1 of the Google SERPs (search engine results pages), depending on the keywords you are targeting and the competition that you are up against. However, proper SEO on-page optimization combined with optimized content in all of the above channels will increase your search visibility over time and ultimately result in more qualified leads.
Lead generation can be done in a number of ways and through various channels. For instance, you can give away a high quality download in exchange for telephone numbers or email. Most users will not give you their information without an "ethical bribe". Offer content that will help them, perhaps an ebook, a series of videos or a podcast, before asking them for their contact information. Increase your conversion rates by creating and testing a variety of paid search ads, email campaigns, calls-to-action and landing pages using A/B testing, analytics and behavior-driven lead nurturing. Testing and optimization of the sources and conversion pages will generate more leads and improve marketing efficiency.
Marketing automation software completes the set of the crucial tools and methods that should be integrated into any online marketing strategy. Implementing the right marketing automation software for your team, market and strategy will not only save you time, but also help you organize your leads. For example, advanced marketing analytics combined with CRM can help you organize your leads based on first time inquiries, first time buyers, repeat buyers and so on. Based on the lists, you can know which leads are most likely to convert to customers in the near term, triggering a rapid response from your sales team and reducing the overall sales cycle.
It is important to realize that while a good inbound marketing strategy is cost-effective, it is not free. You will need to invest in the best available software to increase your online marketing efficiency. Tools alone will not generate leads. You will need an experienced team knowledgeable in all of the above components to plan and execute a successful inbound marketing program. You will also have to test your strategies over time and adapt to results and change.
It is not too late to take advantage of the astounding success rates many companies are enjoying using inbound marketing, but the clock is ticking. Remember that inbound marketing is a sustainable strategy that builds and improves over time. No other outbound marketing strategy can make that claim.