Sometimes being a marketer can feel like you’re trying to balance a bunch of spinning plates. A successful marketing strategy means managing all kinds of different channels and tactics.
You can get so focused on what’s going on right now that you forget to plan ahead effectively. Or the opposite: if you’re too focused on long-term, slow-burning tactics, you’ll miss opportunities for quick wins.
Ideally, you’re somewhere in the middle – scoring short-term wins while also setting yourself up for long-term success.
“Inbound marketing” has been the big buzzword for a number of years now, but in reality, most marketers are using some outbound as well, even if they consider themselves focused on inbound.
The difference is primarily in how leads end up in your funnel.
Inbound channels place emphasis on letting leads come to you organically by growing your brand authority and presence, nurturing them and bringing them slowly closer to a purchase. This is a great way to warm your leads up, and it can result in excellent customers, but it’s also inherently a slow process.
These sorts of channels include blogs, social media posting, podcasts, SEO, basically anything where the lead finds you organically without you expending effort searching for them. It’s a long-term success strategy, but it doesn’t generate leads all that rapidly.
Outbound, on the other hand, is the opposite idea – you proactively go out and find leads, and let them know that you exist and they should be interested. You probably do more of this than you think.
Some common examples are Google Ads, paid social media advertising and sponsored posts, and outbound email campaigns.
A healthy balance between these channels is what will set you up for steady growth.
Long Term Strategies
When planning long-term, adopt a “slow and steady wins the race” mentality, and be prepared to steadily churn out content. There are some pitfalls on the way, too, and you should be aware of them.
The most obvious tactic in this category is blogging, but many marketers get this wrong. You can’t just throw together posts and hope that people will see them. Likewise, you can’t just put out one or two really solid posts a month and expect to see results.
The secret to blog success is to regularly publish high-quality content that resonates with your target audience. That means posting often and without sacrificing quality for quantity.
Sounds like a lot of work – and it is. It’s worth it, though, because blogging is a very solid channel that does wonders for your slow-burn approach.
When your posts are informative, well-written, engaging, and relevant to the reader, that builds your authority in the space, and grows the reader’s trust in you as well. They’ll keep coming back for more.
Search engine optimization is absolutely central to inbound marketing and long-term strategizing. Unfortunately, it’s also a rapidly moving target.
When we say “search engine optimization”, we really mean “Google optimization”. Google’s algorithm is what determines your fate when it comes to people seeing your inbound content, and they’re constantly updating it.
That’s not hyperbole, either. In 2018, Google reported a ludicrous 3,234 updates. That’s almost 9 per day. Numbers for 2019 aren’t public yet, but it’s a safe bet that they haven’t slowed it down. And every time they update, rankings change.
Of course, not all the updates are huge upheavals – most of them are probably very minor. But combine that with how incredibly tight-lipped Google is about how to rank well, and SEO is basically nothing more than informed guesswork.
There are plenty of things that have been observed to help your ranking – proper headings, alt tags, etc. – but the only true, concrete information Google gives us is to create informative, valuable content that people enjoy engaging with.
While that’s helpful overall advice, it’s also not really all that helpful in a practical sense.
Google’s major algorithm updates can torpedo your inbound efforts without warning, and it can be extremely difficult to come back from that.
Google claims that when you see ranking drops, often it will be because someone published a better article than yours and it bumped you down the list. This is absolutely possible, of course, but the sheer frequency of Google’s updates can’t be good for stability.
Another growing problem with inbound/SEO is that the market is often saturated. It seems like every company has a blog these days, and the bigger companies have so much clout that it can be really difficult to unseat them from on top of the search results.
That’s not to say that inbound isn’t important. It absolutely is still worth pursuing – it’s just also important to realize that it’s a much tougher arena to break into than it used to be, and having other channels in place will provide a much-needed buffer.
Social Media Posting
The advent of social media changed the game hugely for every company. It’s a spectacular space for building your brand.
Today, B2B brands have a whole lot more humanity to them than they used to, thanks to the ability to directly engage with prospects and people in general online. Maintaining an interesting, entertaining social media presence can do your visibility huge favors.
Post interesting articles (they don’t have to be your own) on Facebook, use Instagram to give the world a window into your awesome corporate culture, engage in a bit of Twitter banter – it’s all publicity and brand awareness.
Savvy B2B marketers can take that up a notch and really give their brand some character by using social media platforms as though their company were a person too. B2B is, traditionally, stuffy and stilted. Move away from that and have fun with it, and show the world that you’re fun and interesting as well as professional.
Think of it this way: the professional workforce is steadily getting younger. More and more decision-makers are people who grew up with the internet or have been using social media for years, and tend to appreciate brands that engage with them on a human level.
Pick a problem your target audience has. Write up a really good eBook that genuinely teaches how to alleviate that problem. Upload it, and put it behind a form. Bingo – leads.
Choose a new, interesting development in your professional field, and create a white paper that examines it in detail. Again, upload it, and put it behind a form.
This sort of gated content approach is tried-and-true, and follows the principle that if your content is good enough, people will happily trade their email address for it.
You can make your chances of getting that conversion even better by providing the first bit of your content for free before the form fill. Let the quality speak for itself.
While your social media, white papers, eBooks, blogs and general SEO bring in a steady trickle of leads, don’t forget about bigger, short-term wins. Balancing your inbound with a healthy dose of outbound can make a huge difference in your lead volume.
Social Media Ads
Facebook and its cousins aren’t just awesome at building your branding. They’re excellent lead generation platforms in their own right.
Facebook and Instagram, for example, offer truly powerful advertising platforms that can bring in leads a whole lot faster than just posting will.
All you need is a way to generate some creative. If you want the top tier solutions, Adobe is the biggest name – Photoshop and Illustrator are the industry standard for a reason. That said, you can get awesome results with free software, too. GIMP and Inkscape are free alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator, respectively, that can get the job done just fine.
Split off some of your marketing budget and try out paid social advertising. Pay special attention to your audience targeting, as this is the biggest success factor – make sure your ads are aimed at the right people.
If you’re finding it hard to get your posts up on Google’s front page, Google Ads is a way to make sure you’re right up the top of every relevant search.
It’s a great platform for dramatically improving your reach – just be careful about your bid strategy and budgeting, because if you aren’t careful, you could wind up blowing a huge chunk of your budget rapidly.
That said, with Google Ads, start small – add a few keywords (don’t forget to add them for each match type), give them each a few different ads, and see how you do.
Don’t neglect your landing pages, either. Make sure each ad group has its own dedicated landing page with content that matches the ad they clicked on to get there!
Cold Email Campaigns
This one is often neglected. A lot of people don’t quite get the difference between cold email and spam. One of them is an incredibly effective marketing tool, and the other one is, well, spam.
It comes down to relevance. If you’re sending slapdash marketing to giant lists of random people who may or may not have any interest or need for your offer, you’re spamming. If you’re sending carefully-crafted marketing emails to giant lists of properly vetted contacts that match your target audience, you’re being smart.
Email lead generation is a way to rapidly scale up your lead growth. It’s fast, effective, and can generate more leads at less cost per lead than many other channels.
Balance is the Key to Sustained Success
If you put all your effort into just a couple channels, you’re in huge trouble if something happens to interrupt your ability to use them.
For example, if you’re spending all your time and effort trying to build a strong presence in Google results, and a core update comes along and destroys your ranking, you’ll see a sudden drop in leads that you’ll struggle to recover from.
Having a diverse, multi-channel marketing strategy is a smart move. That way, you can steadily build up your inbound marketing while maintaining your lead generation with outbound.