Inbound marketing is all about attracting targets to your website, providing them with valuable content and capturing their contact information when they download, thus making them leads. Once you have leads, your goal is to further educate them about your product until they request a demo to talk to your sales team, becoming a marketing qualified lead (MQL).
So what happens between when you get a lead and when they become an MQL? The key is to nurture them in a systematic, automatic and effort-free way.To do this, you need to build lead nurture workflows. This is simply a drip campaign of emails: a series of emails that are scheduled to send in a series, one after another, until the lead takes a desired action, like requesting a demo.
Setting up lead nurture workflows is straight forward. Let’s break it down:
As you are developing marketing in a startup, you typically start with a budget of $0. It involves a small team, with people doing multiple jobs at once and stretching resources thin. As the team grows and you want to accelerate growth, you need to determine how you can invest in marketing and earn that money back with new customers. To do that, you need to craft a marketing budget: typically a spreadsheet of what items you intend to spend marketing dollars on monthly. To start, the budget should consist of the following items:
The Content Calendar is often the most-used document on the marketing team. It is the master schedule of content production and distribution. You use the Content Calendar to manage design, writing, and marketing automation campaigns distributing content, such as ebooks and webinars. As the team grows, it’s critical that you maintain an organized, up-to-date Content Calendar. Here is a breakdown of best practices:
Inbound marketing requires a variety of different content types to appeal to personas in your audience. Some people enjoy reading long ebooks, while others would prefer watching a webinar. One of the more popular content mediums is infographics: well designed graphics that visually display data to tell a story.
Infographics have the potential to be virally shared because of their visual appeal and ease of consumption: targets can glance over them quickly to get the idea without applying effort to reading a book or watching a webinar. However, infographics can be difficult to create, especially as a startup. Here is a breakdown of best practices to get started:
When you first start building an inbound marketing and demand generation program, every lead feels like a huge success. When I first started, I had every MQL emailed to me, and I would click through their source detail to see the exact journey they took from target > lead > MQL. That is awesome when you have just a few leads.
As you successfully build a pipeline of qualified leads, you’ll quickly find that (A) you don’t want an email alert for every one and (B) not every lead is created equally. A real lead pipeline mandates that you begin sorting and scoring your leads, only delivering the most qualified to your sales team. Lead scoring is simply identifying which leads are the best leads, and delivering them to the sales team first.
You should start lead scoring when you:
Generate more leads than the sales team can handle
Get feedback about “bad leads” from the sales team
For a modern B2B startup, it almost seems taboo to consider advertising in print. After all, digital is more cost effective, easier to measure and the way of the future. However, print can still be an effective part of a brand building and demand gen strategy. Let’s breakdown when it is appropriate to consider print:
When you need to establish your band
Brand recognition is this hazy, nebulous “thing” that CFOs often despise because it’s so difficult to measure real ROI. However, there is no doubt that if you are the new kid on the block as a startup, targets recognizing your brand is going to create more trust and accelerate conversion on content downloads and demo requests. Being seen in a widely read industry print publication regularly helps to build that trust and recognition.
There are 2 ingredients needed for a killer inbound marketing strategy fueled by content: writing and design. While in the early stages some startups outsource design, as you scale it becomes far more effective to have designers be an integral part of a B2B marketing team. Design is exceptionally important because marketers use it to:
Connect with a target persona
One of the first things you need to do in B2B marketing is define your personas: a detailed description of your target customer, outlining their demographics, behavior and preferences. The persona helps guide you on how to best interact with your target customer to motivate them to take desired actions, such as exploring your product. Design is a critical tool you can use to visually appeal to your persona. According to designer Kimi Yamamoto, “design shapes both the conscious and subconscious experience.” In other words, it has a tremendous impact on how a person feels.
Modern B2B startups look at sales and marketing as one cohesive unit responsible for generating revenue. Marketing owns the top of the funnel (generating leads), sales owns the middle of the funnel (converting leads to opportunities and customers) and in the SaaS world, customer success owns the bottom of the funnel (retaining and upselling customers).
Successful organizations understand that in order to convert leads to customers, and retain them, each stage of the funnel must work together in unison.This requires tight alignment between sales, marketing and customer success. Marketing must generate the right amount of qualified leads, sales needs to provide adequate pipeline coverage to close, and customer success must properly onboard, deliver on sales promises and prevent churn.
There is a common misconception that lots of PR is critical for B2B startups to grow. While PR is certainly a valuable marketing channel, and in some cases can be a huge driver of new leads, it’s important to break it down and apply your marketing dollars effectively.
The #1 mistake I’ve seen in PR is getting press in publications not read by your targets.
For example, suppose you sell software for restaurants and your initial targets are fast casual establishments (i.e. Chipotle). Your target persona is the CIO of Chipotle and it’s competitors.
In this scenario, while it may get you excited, being written about in TechCrunch isn’t going to move the needle exceptionally far. That is “vanity PR” and it does very little in regards to demand generation among potential target customers.