Making an investment in a digital marketing campaign centered around the inbound methodology is a long-term play.
Publishing great website content that brings people to your website and converts them to leads, using marketing automation to move them down the sales funnel, and reaching prospects and customers via email and social media is a marketing strategy that works while you’re sleeping. Even better: it's not dependent on a steady stream of advertising dollars.
But it takes time. Google and other search engines give more space on results pages to websites that are already established and authoritative, meaning if you’re just building out your “base” of content, you’re probably not there yet.
If you’re banking on social media to deliver a quick win, the odds are stacked against you. Research shows just half of all content published on the web gets two or fewer Twitter shares, two or fewer Facebook interactions, and zero LinkedIn shares.
But here’s the good news: as weeks and months and years pass, your content strategy will start bringing people to your website.
Google will notice all the new pages on your website and the increasing amount of time people are spending there, and start ranking your site higher in search.
You’ll start to build trust with visitors and some of them – those who best fit your buyer persona – will convert to leads and eventually sales.
Here's an example of what this process looks like when it comes to website traffic. Traffic is very often not the best way to measure digital marketing success, but it does represent success in a way almost every marketer can relate to.
One of our clients started strategic content marketing in March 2014. 18 months later, they were driving nearly 40,000 visits per month with no ad budget. This chart probably represents a best-case scenario.
It’s a slow, steady march. But if you’re consistent about publishing content and good at making it easy for people to convert into leads, it works. It’s been proven time and time again.
In the meantime, you’ll also start to see a few positive things happening on your web spaces. While these “quick wins” may not be the ultimate prize, but they’re among the many reasons an inbound approach to marketing is worth pursuing.
1. You’ll have a ton of social media content at your disposal
My first job in digital marketing was a social media publishing gig, and I quickly learned how much easier my job was when the companies I was working for were producing a ton of quality content.
Finding or creating relevant, interesting social media content isn’t easy. Your inbound marketing campaign will be producing a ton of this kind of content.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
2. You’ll be able to re-engage your email list
Just like social media, email marketing is more difficult when you don’t have a content strategy. You can only hit your email lists so many times with the same sales and product messaging before they start to tune you out.
But when you’re producing blog posts, videos and other content, your email subscribers might not hate it when you send it to their inboxes.
3. That email list? It’s going to grow
Before you started your inbound marketing campaign, your website visitors probably had very little reason to hand over their email and, therefore, allow you to market to them that way.
Now, your website is making a better case.
You now have blog content. If people like your blog posts, they can subscribe and start getting those blog posts delivered straight to their inboxes
You also have at least one premium content offer – something of high value you’ve made accessible on your website only after a user fills out a form. If people like your free content enough, they might be willing to give you their email address (and other information, too) in exchange for your premium piece.
Considering most email marketers identified "earning new subscribers" as their No. 1 challenge in 2016, this seems like a good thing.
4. If you’re doing advertising, you can reach people at different parts of the buyer’s journey with appropriate content
Too often, companies treat digital advertising the same way they treat traditional advertising: all potential customers get the same messaging. In fact, companies that spend the most on advertising are often the biggest perpetrators.
One of the many advantages the internet affords you as a marketer is the ability to laser-target different groups of people based on very specific data, and one of the tenets of the inbound marketing methodology is to develop content for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
The ad platforms of today allow you to target potential customers at each stage of the buyer's journey with appropriate content. Here's an example:
- You publish a blog post and promote it on Twitter, targeting users who already follow you and others with characteristics similar to those users. Here, your goal is capturing the awareness of your potential customers.
- You promote your new eBook - or similar gated content - with Facebook ads, targeting people who have already visited your website or subscribed to your email list. Here, your goal is capturing the consideration of your potential customers
- You use LinkedIn ads to promote a sales webinar or free consultation, targeting people who have visited your website multiple times or downloaded an eBook. Here, your goal is capturing the decision of your potential customers
This approach has been put to work by thousands of advertisers, and has been so successful Facebook itself endorsed it as a best practice.
5. You can finally put old content you've created in the past to work
Even if you're brand new to content marketing, someone in your marketing organization has likely spent a whole lot of time creating marketing content for some other purpose.
Take a moment to take stock of your content inventory. Do you have any of the following
- industry reports
- sales or marketing slide decks
- printed sales collateral
- digital sales collateral
These types of content can be re-purposed for the web and start helping you drive traffic and convert leads.
Digital marketing centered around quality content and the inbound methodology is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time to earn respect and loyalty from potential customers and search engines.
However, your social media and email channels will start reaping benefits right away, and your digital advertising will be more relevant. You'll also be able to get value from old marketing content created in the past.