As the digital world reshapes the industrial world, marketing budgets are on the rise. According to ENGINEERING.com's annual survey of engineering marketers, twice as many respondents reported that their budgets were growing rather than shrinking in 2017.
Like with any investment, marketers and manufacturing companies want to ensure that they are receiving a positive return. We’ve outlined two major areas of return on investment (ROI) that illustrate the effectiveness of inbound marketing — but first, what exactly is the difference between inbound marketing and traditional marketing?
What is Inbound Marketing?
The main idea behind inbound marketing is that you’re creating content and web pages that draw people to you, rather than you going after them. Unlike traditional advertising methods that involve contacting anyone who you think could benefit from your products, you’re tailoring your marketing to the people who have already shown an interest in your services.
But how do these people show an interest if you’re not actively pursuing them? The answer is simple — if you write it well, they will download. (We'll touch more on quality content later.)
As industrial marketing budgets continue to rise, more funds are being allocated to the creation of content — in the form of blogs, eBooks, email campaigns, videos, webinars, infographics, and so on. Good content is the core of any successful inbound marketing program.
Inbound Marketing Has A Lower Cost Per Acquisition
Yes, implementing an inbound marketing strategy requires an initial monetary investment, but in the long run, it actually costs less money to run an inbound program than it does to run a traditional marketing program.
Unlike traditional marketing (advertisements and phone calls), inbound marketing works a little differently to attract leads — it leverages useful customer-focused content that encourages prospects to build a relationship with your company. This is much more efficient for your sales cycle and your bottom line:
- Your content appeals to customers at all stages of the buying cycle.
- Your content is generally hosted on your site and gets you found by buyers with no costs for clicks or impressions.
- Your content creates a relationship and brand loyalty, which naturally fosters repeat business.
Businesses that rely on inbound marketing strategies save more than $14 for every newly acquired customer, which adds up to significant savings over time. Plus, inbound leads cost an average of 60% less than outbound leads. And, with the average cost per lead dropping 80% over five months of consistent implementation of inbound campaigns, savings accumulate quickly, allowing companies to put those resources toward other areas in need of enhancement or improvement.
More Targeted Website Visitors Contribute To ROI
Inbound marketing centers on providing directly useful, engaging content to prospective clients in order to catch their attention and make them more aware of your company; ultimately, of course, the goal is to move them from one stage of the sales funnel to the next — converting them from a website visitor to a lead, and from a lead to a paying customer.
It inverts the model of advertising that attempts to reach buyers when they’re engaged in other activities, and seeks to be more relevant to their needs and bring them to you (more on that funnel in our eBook How Inbound Provides Growth For Manufacturers).
According to a recent report conducted by an MIT Sloan MBA student analyzing HubSpot data, inbound marketing is, in fact, extremely effective in securing valuable leads and getting them to convert. The report found that using inbound marketing software resulted in 3.3 times more site visitors per month within one year, and during this same time period, resulted in 3.5 times more leads. Overall, 79% of inbound customers saw an increase in sales revenue within a year.
How To Increase Your Inbound Marketing ROI
1. Identify And Set Your Goals Up Front
“Return on investment” (ROI) means nothing without targeted goals and benchmarks. The very first step to capturing ROI is assessing your current marketing plan and determining what you’d like to improve. These metrics are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which means the markers on your roadmap to more business. KPIs are typically “big-picture” measurements — things like, traffic to your website, leads generated or customers converted from leads.
Depending on your goals, KPIs can also be more specific. For instance, other ways to measure your company's success include upselling existing customers, increasing e-commerce orders or improving conversions from emails or blogs.
2. Determine Your Ideal Buyer
The next step to beginning an inbound marketing campaign is determining the ideal buyer you want to reach. This is called identifying your personas and involves figuring out who your perfect prospect would be, and tailoring your content marketing to that person. It is not based on any one person in real life, but is instead a conglomeration of your overall audience. Therefore, you should consider a few key traits (industry, job function, age, challenges, etc.) and build a persona based on these qualities.
Once you have all the details figured out, feel free to attach a name and face to your persona. Again, this is not based on a real person, but sometimes it helps to have a visualization of the type of customer you’re hoping to reach. This will help as you move on to the next stage of content creation.
3. Identify Topics That Appeal to Your Target Audience's Problems
Once you have identified the type of person you’re trying to reach and what challenges they face at work, determine how your services can help them. Then, brainstorm content that responds to these challenges. Think back to the last time you had a pressing issue either at home or at work, and needed an answer quickly. If the first place you turned was Google, you’re probably like most people in a similar situation.
Inbound marketing is essentially the reverse engineering of this process. Instead of looking for answers to a problem, you’re figuring out other people’s problems and providing the answers they’re looking for.
With the proliferation of the internet, today’s consumers are more informed than ever. Buyers will actively review each company that can meet their needs and see who is the best option based on numerous factors (aka making it on the shortlist). It’s not just about price or availability of services anymore, it’s also about your reputation and how your online presence ties it all together. Many companies can provide the same products as you, so you need to make sure your web presence is on par, if not surpassing that of your competition.
4. Create Useful, Unique Content Marketing Assets
After identifying common questions and concerns among your buyer personas, think of a few ways you can answer them. Often, you’ll have a number of options to consider — and it's important to be everywhere your buyers are. If your audience is active on social media, you may want to create something visually compelling that will get shared. Infographics and videos are great ways to gain exposure because in addition to your own delivery methods (publishing a blog, email newsletter, social media postings, etc.), visual content is very sharable. Therefore, the direct recipients of your message will be likely to share this information with their audiences, and so on. You’ll still want to attract visitors back to your site so you can track leads and conversion, so make sure that any content you’re creating has a place to live on your website.
Learn More: How To Use Content Marketing To Generate Leads
Your content needs to be clear and unique — ask yourself, "How this will benefit people?" Remember that people will overlook titles that are very long or confusing, so keep it basic, yet compelling. We break down more Why Industrials Use Content Marketing in our blog.
For the text itself, remember that you’re writing both for people and search engines. Think of relevant keyword phrases that people might search for online and incorporate those terms throughout your piece. But, do so in a way that is natural and easy to read. You want people to find you in a Google search, but you don’t want to lose them because your content is painful to read.
5. Nurture Your Leads Through the Sales Funnel
Attracting your audience is great, but it’s not your final objective. Your management is looking for ROI through sales, and as much as you understand the value of retweets and shares, you also know that the purpose of marketing is to provide more leads for your sales team. This is where the all-encompassing aspects of inbound marketing come together.
With inbound marketing, attracting customers to your site is only the first step in the sales process. Unlike outbound marketing, where you’re only addressing a narrow cross-section of buyers ready to make a purchase — inbound marketing appeals to a broader audience, while still targeting your personas.
Once buyers find you through inbound marketing and they're engaged with what they see, they’ll likely want more of your voice, more of your content, and more of your brand. There are a few ways that you can provide this — and make sure that they’ll think of you when they do reach that ready-to-buy stage:
- Email nurturing
- Regular content updates
- Cross-platform promotion
Once you create an eBook, white paper, or other piece of valuable content, create a complementary form, landing page, and awesome CTAs to go with them — they're the must-have mechanics to successful industrial lead generation. After prospects enter their information in exchange for the content, they’ll be considered leads, rather than just strangers. There are four main steps in the inbound marketing methodology: Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. Your content aims to attract visitors, who are “converted” to leads once they fill out a form.
From there, you’ll be able to more easily move them through the sales funnel — this is because when you have their information, you can begin a lead nurturing campaign, and deliver tailored content based on their interests. They will be super informed before the sale call happens, which makes a better conversation.
But the inbound marketing process isn’t over yet!
The last step of the inbound marketing methodology is to delight new customers by continuing to provide them with the information and services they’re looking for. The main idea is to foster a strong relationship that will turn these customers into promoters of your brand and share your content within their own channels to help sell your services for you. Remember, the main goal of inbound marketing is not to sell your services, but to pass along your knowledge. If you do this successfully, your delighted audience will do the rest for you.
6. Set Up Your KPIs And Identify Your Goal Metrics
Based around your KPIs, the measuring step is the most important in quantifying the results of your inbound marketing program. However, your KPIs are just the first step in determining your actual ROI.
You may want to include a number of other factors to make your ROI calculation, including:
- Cost of overall marketing program
- Cost per lead
- Cost per sale
- Overall length of customer relationship (are you getting repeat business?)
You’ll also have specific metrics for each campaign — ones that you can analyze to improve your numbers. Email marketing, for instance, can show you how many people opened your email, what they clicked in it, and whether or not they pursued more information from you. Social media tracking can show you what time of day is best to post, depending on past performance.
7. Report Your Findings Regularly To Track ROI
As with anything new, it can be difficult to get other decision-makers on board to make the investment. The best way to prove the benefits of inbound marketing? The bottom line.
A solid inbound marketing plan will ideally affect both sides of the ROI equation — not only will you see leads coming in more consistently, and converting more often to sales, but you’ll also see your overall acquisition costs decreasing.
New marketing programs built around inbound marketing and high-quality content create resources for you to reuse and repurpose for new audiences.
Digital tracking and reporting tools will enable you to show tangible, goal-focused improvements in your marketing program, so make sure you invest in the right customer relationship manager (CRM) like HubSpot. HubSpot provides reporting capabilities for our sales and marketing team. Your teams will be more aligned from the increased visibility of your campaigns. There’s no better way to answer questions and alleviate concerns than with hard facts. Inbound marketing arms you with those facts, real results, and real business.
Use Inbound Marketing To Help Your Manufacturing Business Grow
If you aren’t yet seeing the ROI you're expecting, work back through each step:
- Set new goals — perhaps more short-term improvements, or adjusted expectations.
- Continue to create quality content — the best content lives on via your website or other outlets to ensure that you keep getting found.
- Engage with your prospects regularly — remember that inbound attracts buyers at all stages of the purchasing cycle, so they just may not be ready to place an order yet.
- Review your metrics and measurements — study what worked, what didn’t, and adjust your methods accordingly.
To learn more about the great ROI offered by inbound marketing, download our guide How Inbound Marketing Drives Growth For Industrial Companies — then contact us if you need help to put your plan in action. We can tailor an inbound program with targeted content marketing specifically suited to your company’s needs and marketing goals.
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