Two ingredients are 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 as 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 customers 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 in unison.This requires tight alignment between sales, marketing and customer success. Marketing must generate the right number of qualified leads, sales needs to provide adequate pipeline coverage to close, and customer success must properly onboard, deliver on sales promises and prevent cancellations.
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 its competitors.
In this scenario, while it may excite you to be written about in TechCrunch isn’t going to move the needle far. That is “vanity PR” and does very little in regards to demand generation among potential target customers.
In an early stage marketing team that supports a growing sales team, there likely isn’t a separate “sales operations” function. Managing the infrastructure and intake of data often falls on the marketing team. For example, the sales team goes to a conference and comes back with a list of leads that need to be nurtured. How do those leads end up in the CRM and marketing automation system, enrolled in the right nurture campaign and tagged with the right field values (e.g. persona and lifecycle stage)?
While it sounds like a simple process, there are many opportunities to make a mistake when importing data. To ensure it gets done right, let’s break down that process, step by step:
With the right structure in place, interns can be tremendously impactful in an early stage B2B marketing team. A few prerequisites are needed for success when hiring an intern. Specifically, prior to an intern starting, you should:
Have the infrastructure (automation, CRM) in place
The lead in a B2B startup marketing team should be building the basic infrastructure prior to making any core marketing hires. This ensures the lead has an intimate understanding of the machinery that powers an inbound marketing engine. An intern will be most impactful once that machinery is built and humming.
As you map out the B2B demand generation strategy, you’ll find that leads can come from a variety of sources driven from inbound marketing campaigns. These sources might include:
Direct web traffic
Paid (Adwords, display ads)
Generating leads through these sources requires a lot of work. Depending on the industry, you may be able supplement your efforts by leveraging partners. These could be companies that offer complementary services (i.e. you sell to the same persona) or that have an established integration with your product. Let’s break down the benefits for you and the partner:
An inbound marketing strategy typically involves many types of content: PDF guides, ebooks, webinars, infographics, videos and more. Among cornerstone pieces that your team will create to help tell your product’s story are ebooks. Put simply, an ebook is often just a long guide or a combination of multiple blog posts, well-designed and packaged as a downloadable PDF. Just using the label “ebook” packs an additional punch that may intrigue targets and drive downloads.
As your inbound machine starts to crank and you are producing volumes of content (guides, ebooks, infographics), webinars can be useful to provide variety and connect with targets who may not be interested in reading an entire ebook. Depending on your target persona, webinars are surprisingly popular and can generate quite a bit of buzz in your industry. They also require significant logistics and planning, so let’s walk through the process of hosting a successful webinar:
1. Identify the topic
Each webinar should tangentially relate to one of the core points of your story (i.e. your product’s value props). A great strategy to get started is pairing a webinar with a written piece about the same topic. For example, my team wrote an ebook about the future of technology for health clubs. We’ll host a webinar about the same topic that essentially walks through the content of the ebook. That’s effective because some targets will want to read the ebook and others would rather consume that content in webinar format.
Over the last 10-15 years, marketing has become far more measurable and analytical. Using closed loop reporting and marketing automation systems, marketers can quickly zoom in on key metrics that indicate whether they are executing effectively. Here is a breakdown of 9 metrics to consider tracking:
MQLs by source
The key funnel metric that you (and your VP of Sales) will care about is marketing qualified leads (MQLs). As a reminder, MQLs are leads that “raise their hand,” indicating they are ready to talk to sales by filling out a demo request form on your website. The more MQLs you can feed to your sales team, the more swings at bat they have to start a conversation. Additionally, you can segment MQLs by source (e.g how many leads came from your email marketing campaigns versus your paid online ads) This can all be tracked by the marketing automation system.