The core principle behind inbound marketing for B2B brands — whether in healthcare, technology, software or others — is that the content created is designed to have value to prospects and customers. It is not strictly focused on selling something, but rather on teaching or reaching leads in a way that shows how they can best use your product or service to improve their own bottom line.
Often the central piece of content is a downloadable asset or offer. It is this piece of valuable information, insight, or assistance that triggers conversion and online lead generation.
In most campaigns, you will want to start with a top-of-the-funnel offer that focuses more on non-branded information your prospects are seeking than specific products or services you offer. Instead, it will help them learn or do something to improve their own work or their company’s performance — but with the side benefit of introducing them to your brand in a nonthreatening way.
In our Creating A Winning Inbound Program sample campaign, you will see that our partner Primaris used a whitepaper as the basis for their campaign, but there are many other content formats you can use to kick off an inbound marketing campaign.
Along with whitepapers, ebooks make up a bulk of many inbound marketers’ resource libraries. These basic building blocks of marketing content typically provide introductory information to a topic, offering tips or instructions for how to do something or an explanation of how a process works. Our own library includes How to Get Your CEO Published and Six Steps to Creating Enviable Brands.
Don’t be afraid, in promoting your ebooks and guides, to appeal to humor at times. While B2B technology marketing may be serious business, Samsung’s Insights blog and content page takes a light-hearted approach to how it presents and promotes some of its downloadable assets, including a category under its resources just for “comics” like this one. Notice that the page also contains a call-to-action for a top-of-the-funnel downloadable asset: a webcast on mobile platform security.
Tip for today: While many business buyers still access B2B marketing content on a desktop or laptop computer, more than half say they prefer content optimized for mobile viewing. Consider creating your ebooks in a format that can be easily read, regardless of screen size.
While whitepapers and ebooks are suited to handling more text-heavy topics, sometimes you can get your point across in a less intimidating manner by using a slideshow or presentation that offers bite-sized statistics or steps with a visual element. JONES partner HubSpot — a leading B2B software and technology company serving the marketing needs of businesses—pulled together 4 tips and 24 examples in this blog post.
Tip for today: Think beyond the idea of creating a slideshow for your prospect to view. Instead, think about creating a slideshow they can share or use. Create a customizable template that your prospect could use to argue the case for why they need a solution (like yours) to a challenge they are facing. For example, a marketing director may need to convince the CEO that it makes sense to hire a HubSpot-certified agency to launch an inbound marketing program.
3. Video or webinar
Visual content is rapidly growing in popularity, both with content marketers and with consumers. In fact, even 35 percent of business buyers say they prefer audio or visual content they can access on demand. (Source: DemandGen)
While your first instinct for video may be offering it on YouTube or your homepage, video content can also be gated behind a landing page for lead generation, especially valuable educational materials such as webinars. HubSpot offers a webinar about (believe it or not) webinars. You can access it here.
SaaS provider Zuora, focused on enabling businesses to launch, manage and transform into a subscription business, offers an extensive library of educational videos and webinars covering everything from “future-proofing” finances to determining pricing in a subscription model. While some videos, such as customer success interviews, are openly available, others are gated behind landing page forms to convert visitors into leads.
Tip for today: Many of the same topics you might write about in an ebook can be covered just as well, and possibly even more effectively, in a video. Options range from animation, to live interviews with company representatives and current customers, to screencasting a how-to video on using your software or completing another process.
4. Checklist or cheat sheet
Time is a limited commodity for everyone, including the prospects your marketing content is intended to reach. While same may still want detailed, in-depth content, others are looking for quick, easy-to-digest information. In fact, 46 percent of B2B buyers told DemandGen they prefer shorter formats. That is where checklists and cheat sheets come in, including the tip sheet used by Primaris in our sample campaign.
Tip for today: While some checklists fit well as top-of-the-funnel awareness level content, others may be helpful when used in the decision stage of your lead nurturing workflows. These would include checklists that highlight the criteria a lead should use in evaluating and comparing service providers in your industry. Our example: Choosing A HubSpot Agency Checklist.
5. Template or tool kit
While ebooks and whitepapers give guidance on what to do, we have found that many of our readers prefer tools that help them actually do the things that make marketing more successful. Our most popular downloadable assets are the templates and calendars in the “Do” section of the Inbound Marketing Learning Library.
When you provide your leads with tools that help them do their jobs more easily, you are showcasing both your understanding of their problems, and your expertise in solving them.
Tip for today: Consider promoting your useable downloadable assets (and all of the others as well) in a number of ways, including social media posts pointing directly to landing pages. One way to provide a short-term boost to conversions might be using the power of scarcity and the idea of getting something extra by creating social media CTAs offering a tool kit, in which you combine several related templates or tools and offer it for a limited time only.
6. Original research report
If you have access to data that no one else has, it can be a power lead generation opportunity, in addition to driving additional content such as blog posts or contributed articles that build brand awareness. JONES has helped partner West build an impressive content marketing program and public relations strategy built on original research and data about healthcare care in America. JONES worked with West to coordinate surveys of more than 2,000 providers and 3,500 patients that were the basis for a series of nine original reports offered on the company’s website. (Download the case study here.)
Tip for today: Don’t simply write a report. While gating the full report behind a landing page is needed to capture leads, you can use the research in a myriad of ways to building brand awareness and industry influence, from creating infographics to be distributed to the media (see how West turned its report stats into a USA Today mention) to developing explainer videos highlighting the statistical background for your offerings. For West, the reports were just the beginning of how they used the original research as the basis for their inbound marketing in the healthcare IT industry.
As you brainstorm the assets you will use to capture leads online, remember that the downloadable asset is only one component of the campaign. Other campaign components are designed to attract visitors and drive search results — think social media content and blog posts that link to the landing pages where prospects can download the offer. From there, you will also need lead nurturing workflow emails that continue the connection with your new lead, and possibly even more assets that are designed specifically for leads in the consideration or decision stages of the sales funnel.
See how each of these pieces fits together in a lead generation and sales conversion puzzle by walking through an actual campaign in Creating A Winning Inbound Program.