An important ingredient to successful inbound marketing is variety. Some targets will prefer to read ebooks. Others will attend every webinar and re-watch the recording. In order to appeal to a wide range of targets, you need to build content in many different mediums. One of those is online courses.
While on the surface it may sound like a big undertaking, launching an online course is pretty simple. In most cases, it is just an automated campaign of emails that link to content (i.e. articles or “lessons”) that is dripped to the lead in chronological fashion, guiding them through the lessons. Here is a breakdown of how to get started:
1. Identify topics
Start by figuring out what topics the course should include. This should be based around your company’s core story and positioning. For example, for my business that sells mobile apps to health clubs, we might launch a course on “How to Grow your Club with Technology.” Throughout the course we’d outline best practices for launching new technology, including (but not limited to) mobile apps. This way, the lead is getting educated and nurtured.
The CRM and marketing automation system are the two most important software packages that make up the modern marketing stack. Together, they serve as the core infrastructure required to operate a successful inbound marketing program. Therefore, it’s critical that you tightly integrate them, sharing data so leads get the right message at the right time.
For simplicity, the automation system is home-base for marketing and the CRM is home-base for sales. Ideally, the sales team is rarely — if ever — interacting with the automation system. Your goal is to only present the information most relevant to the stakeholder. For example, the sales team should only be focusing on MQLs and opportunities, not leads higher in the funnel.
There are two integration paths to consider:
Sync all incoming leads
In this model, every time a target fills out a landing page form to download content or register for a webinar, their contact information will be synced to the CRM.
For every piece of content in your inbound marketing strategy, there is a landing page hosting, displaying and providing the ability for targets to download. The landing page is a critical gateway to your content. Depending on design and copy, it will make or break the conversion from targets to leads, a crucial step in the marketing funnel. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to how you develop and optimize landing pages.
This post outlines some best practices in building and scaling landing pages for B2B startups:
1. Always use the marketing automation system
Landing pages are tightly integrated with other components of inbound marketing, controlled by the automation system. This includes CTAs, content distribution, lead capture and the automations that run when a target converts to a lead by downloading content. While it may be tempting to use a separate service specifically designed for landing pages, it’ll make your life so much easier to keep it all under one roof. I use Hubspot to handle everything.
If you are operating a B2B startup, your website still reigns supreme among the most important communication channels. It is the most visible public display of your messaging, story and products. The website is also the primary gateway to engaging with your inbound marketing content, typically through a linked blog. Not surprisingly, building a website is often at the top of the early stage marketing to-do list. It is also one of the more challenging, time-consuming and expensive endeavors.
There are many online resources outlining how to design and develop a website, from being mobile-first to creating content that is optimized for search engines. This post will instead focus on the general approach a marketer should take in launching a website, and some pitfalls to avoid:
1. Prepare the fundamentals
Prior to building a website, you need your messaging, positioning and story solidly outlined. The website will simply be repeating the same core story over and over again, in text and graphics. Once you have it defined, making the website is a lot easier.
An exciting step in a startup’s growth trajectory is when you start expanding internationally. From new laws to currency exchange, international growth brings a fresh set of challenges to the team. For Marketing, international expansion can be intimidating… will you have to run many simultaneous campaigns to address different regional markets? Getting started with marketing internationally is actually fairly simple. Consider the following pointers to kick off:
1. Pay to get started
Some paid acquisition can go a long way. Start by identifying who the major publications (print/digital) and events are, and secure a few sponsorships. If possible, set up a booth at a local event. You need to kickstart your international marketing with an initial list of targets, so manual efforts like paid email blasts and events can get the engine started. This can compliment a locally targeted digital campaign on Facebook, Google and retargeting.
When you are building a product in startup mode, nobody knows who you are. If you’re following an inbound marketing playbook, you’re creating a story, establishing your messaging and creating content to attract targets to your website to convert them to leads. As you create more content, you’ll start to earn more brand authority and trust in your market. If you are creating quality content that provides unique and valuable insight to your target persona‘s problems, you will start to become a thought leader. Here is how it works:
1. Identify your thought leader
To establish a thought leader persona, you need to identify a person that will be the face of your brand and the go-to “thought leader” for whatever problem your product is solving. This may be your CEO, VP of Marketing or Founder. Once this person is selected, they should be the face of content. That means:
With the right tools and technology, marketing effectiveness can easily be measured. Gone are the days of “50% of your marketing is working, you just don’t know which half.” In this series, I’ve outlined some of the top metrics that B2B startups need to account for when measuring marketing. However, those metrics don’t mean much unless stakeholders from marketing, sales and leadership can easily access them and draw conclusions. To make that happen, you need to build dashboards.
Your marketing automation system is typically the tool used to create and view dashboards. As you are getting an initial view of your marketing metrics set up, consider the following:
1. Configure in the marketing automation system, CRM or BI tool
Build your dashboards using the reporting tools in the marketing automation system (e.g. Hubspot), CRM (e.g. Salesforce) or business intelligence (BI) tool (e.g. Birst). Typically this tool is pretty straightforward to use. Here is what Hubspot looks like:
Throughout this series on marketing, we’ve covered quite a bit about crafting a startup’s story with marketing and positioning. This translates into ebooks, webinars and other inbound campaigns. However, there is a critical source of information during the buyer’s journey that marketing does not have full control over: what messages the sales team conveys. As a marketer, you need to put effort into training the sales team on your messaging and positioning. You need them to embrace your brand’s story and make it their own. It’s essential that you conduct effective training for sales. As you do so, consider the following:
1. Make the story a part of the onboarding process
Every time a new employee joins your team, you need to educate them about your story. It should be hammered into their mind from their first day on the job. You need a comprehensive slide deck that marketing presents to new hires, breaking down the core concepts of your story. Depending on their role, it may be valuable for new hires to read your ebooks, listen to webinars and join sales demos to see the messaging in action.
Ah, swag. It’s the seemingly limitless supply of plastic junk that we pile into tote bags at events. Companies spend thousands of dollars on branded swag as giveaways for prospects and customers. The goals are noble: attract people to your booth at events and get your branding front and center as their desk decoration. Swag can certainly be beneficial, but alone will not make an event booth a winner. I’ve always been wary of investing heavily in swag, so let’s outline how to get ROI from swag and the best approach to selecting items for your business. Consider the following:
1. Candy can’t lose
I admit it, I have a sweet tooth. But hey, so do a lot of us, so keep candy in mind as a simple, inexpensive and effective giveaway. Stick with the big bag of assorted name brand chocolates. I’ve tried printing branded candy… the chocolate is usually low quality. The wrapper ends up in the trash, so just stick to better candy that people actually enjoy.
One of the most frequent requests that the marketing team receives from the sales team is for new collateral. It seems like whenever a new objection is encountered or new use-case identified, additional flyers or ebooks are requested. Needless to say, a growing company’s collateral can quickly become unorganized and disjointed. In order to maintain structure, consider the following guidelines:
1. Define an owner: Product Marketing
The ideal owner for collateral is the Product Marketing Manager (PMM). They should be listening to sales calls, interviewing customers and crafting the company’s messaging and positioning story. While many stakeholders will be pushing for different collateral items, the PMM needs to act as the central hub, prioritizing the collateral roadmap.