Most businesses use content in some form or another, even if they just maintain a blog or a website. But only 39% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
That’s surprising considering the dramatic shift over the past two decades from outbound marketing to inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing has dramatically changed the way businesses reach their customers. Standing in stark contrast to outbound marketing practices – which are inherently disruptive – an inbound strategy attracts customers by delivering meaningful experiences, informative writing, how-to videos, and other valuable content assets.
Instead of interrupting people’s day with advertisements, businesses can take an inbound approach and let customers come to them on their own time. Organizations that use inbound marketing see a per-lead cost that’s 61% less than those who focus mostly on outbound practices.
Most inbound marketers will tell you that inbound and content marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Content doesn’t just enhance an inbound marketing strategy; content is the fuel that drives your inbound marketing strategy.
Content works well for both B2C and B2B businesses. And these days, content is a must – 78% of B2B buyers consume three or more pieces of content before talking to a salesperson. Meanwhile, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase.
Read on to learn how content marketing can enhance your inbound strategy.
How Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing Work Together
Technically, content marketing can be considered a subset of inbound marketing. There are other types of inbound practices that aren’t strictly content-based, such as:
- Technical SEO
- Interactive tools
- Free trials
- Free consultations
- Public speaking
- Certain types of PPC ads
But without content, it’s almost impossible to do any type of inbound marketing successfully.
You need something of value to offer your audience (for free) if you want to attract them to your website organically. Most companies accomplish this with written materials, such as blog posts, but you can also use other forms of content, such as:
- White papers
- How-to Guides
- Social media posts
- GIFs and memes
- Buyer’s guides
- Pricing/product sheets
- Case studies/competitor comparisons
The content formats you use depend on a few different factors. First, you must consider your audience’s context. If you’re targeting C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies, memes and GIFs may not be the best type of content to use, but they might value a white paper.
Furthermore, each format may fit better or worse depending on where your audience is in their buying journey.
For example, a prospect who is ready to discuss pricing will be better served with sales materials, like a pricing sheet. Someone who has just discovered your website for the first time may not be ready to download a case study, but they might be interested in reading one of your blog posts or how-to guides – chances are, they’re just looking for answers.
Altogether, you can use content to attract visitors to your website, convert those visitors into leads, nurture those leads into customers, and delight those customers so they become promoters of your brand.
Attract People to Your Website
Initially, you want to attract people to your website by posting useful and informational content. This is what’s known as the “Awareness” or “Attract” stage of the buyer’s journey. Your audience is just becoming aware of your brand and is most likely looking for information, not a sales pitch.
The best way to attract an audience is to post content online that shows up in search results. You can also post content to social media.
Types of content to use for this stage include:
- Press releases
- Landing pages and “lead magnets”
- Social media posts
- GIFs and memes
Content at this stage should mostly be informative, or at least entertaining and interesting. You aren’t trying to sell your product or service yet. Instead, you’re trying to act as a trusted resource for your audience.
Engaging content at this stage can also be a valuable source of backlinks. Other bloggers are more likely to link to pages which contain original research or a wealth of useful statistics. You should also practice SEO at this stage, as you’ll need much of this material to show up in relevant search results.
Convert Visitors into Leads
Of course, getting people to your website isn’t enough. You need to convert viable candidates to turn them into leads. That means asking for their content information.
Those who convert will typically only include people who recognize they have a problem that needs solving. They aren’t just looking for information; they’re looking for solutions.
You could ask them to sign up for an email list, but one of the best ways to get people’s contact information is to offer them higher-value content free in return.
Some of the best types of content for this “Conversion” stage include:
- How-to guides
- White papers
- Expert advice
- Digital tools
As you can see, content at this stage is of greater value than content at the “Attract” stage. It must be if you want to convince your audience to give you their information. You don’t want to offer your audience something they can easily find elsewhere.
Nurture Leads into Customers
The “Nurture” stage is also sometimes referred to as the “Decision” or “Purchase” stage. Once you have some promising leads, you can evaluate them to see if they’re good candidates for a purchase.
At this point, it’s usually okay to start talking about your products or services – your prospective customers may even be ready to talk about pricing. Some of the best types of content for this stage include:
- Presentations and slide decks
- Case studies and customer testimonials
- Product and service sheets
- Competitor comparisons
- Third-party research
- One-pagers and leave-behinds
In addition to customer-facing (interacting directly with your customer) content, you should also consider creating content for your sales team. Customer persona documents, sales scripts, and other types of quick reference materials can be a boon during sales conversations when each second counts.
For B2C businesses, all three of these stages may occur in a matter of minutes – a customer may need a product, look for that product online, read a review, then make a purchase. B2B buying cycles tend to be longer, so you’ll need more in-depth content to sway B2B buyers.
Delight Customers and Turn Them into Promotors
Too often, businesses think the job of content is done once a purchase has been made. But there’s one more stage in the buying journey: The “Delight” stage.
The purpose of this stage is to retain your existing customers and turn them into promoters. Since about 80% of your future profits will come from your existing customers, this isn’t a stage you should overlook.
There are plenty of ways to delight your customers.
Developing a comprehensive customer experience strategy is key, and much of your success will occur from the of the conversations your service team has with your customers. You should aim to solve their problems, answer their questions, help them reach their goals, and keep them enthusiastic about your brand.
But you can also accomplish these goals with content. Some of the best types of content to use at this stage include:
- Surveys and quizzes
- Video shows
- Product and service updates
- Exclusive emails
- Social media posts
- Company culture announcements
- A customer resource center
- Searchable knowledge bases
- Customer forums
If possible, you should develop content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Even if you can only manage one format for each, that’s still a great start. You’ll be able to provide your customers with plenty of value until the moment of purchase and beyond.
To do inbound marketing right, enhance it with engaging content. Reach out to us for more value added information today.