All companies who adopt an Inbound Marketing strategy want it to be effective. Not all are willing to undergo the long process of indexing properly on Google before starting to generate ROI. Marketers reluctant to wait sometime make the mistake of spending large amounts of their budget on "money keywords" on Google AdWords at the hope of converting those (high intent) users into customers. At a small volume there's no problem with that, but at a large volume this always results in a struggle to maintain and scale online efforts while remaining profitable.
True magic occurs when combining PPC with an Inbound Marketing approach. When done right you can create an amplified Inbound Marketing strategy that is manageable, scalable and most importantly - profitable. This post will teach you how to do just that. Make sure to read it before setting off to prepare your marketing plan.
The challenges search ads pose
Most marketers rush to set up campaigns on Google AdWords, using keywords that are directed to their exact solutions/services/products. Search volumes are a given reality that the advertiser has no direct control over - once maximized, scaling becomes an issue.
It's then inevitable not to encounter two substantial realities:
- B2B prospects typically don't search for high relevancy keywords of exact solutions/services: B2B sales require trust and a relationship between two position holders at each company. Such relationships are rarely a result of a prospect searching for a product or service on Google and clicking on an ad.
- Extremely pricy keywords - exact solutions/services keywords will usually prove to be highly expensive due to be highly exepensive due to high competition. You are probably not the only marketer out there that thought about targeting those keywords. When many companies compete on a specific keywords two unpleasant results occur:
- Costs per click raise (supply and demand)
- Conversion rates drop (more supply = prospects browsing more options before filling out an online form or transaction).
The result: money is being spent → low quality/un-nurtured leads are generated → handed over to sales → sales waste their time on irrelevant leads that never become customers → classic sales and marketing face-off, blames are being thrown around → company business goals never end up being met.
The challenges Display ads pose
Once the search channel has reached its glass ceiling, the typical next step is to turn to display advertising and launch direct response campaigns on platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, GDN, etc. But consider this - if search volumes for your exact solution are low and quickly maxed out, obviously, the number of users out there that have a direct interest in your solution is very low. What are the odds of placing yourself in front of them using display channels? You guessed it, low.
The result: people see your ads but don't click → very low conversion rates (below 1%) → leads that do end up being generated rarely turn into customers. They simply weren't ready to buy in the first place.
What would turn things around? Applying the core elements of your Inbound Marketing strategy and aligning your paid advertising efforts with the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase (a.k.a the buyer's journey).
Top of the funnel (TOFU) amplification
If you have (or at least think you have) an effective Inbound funnel, amplifying the top of the funnel is usually where the most impact can be gained (the more contacts that will pass through the funnel the more will exit it as customers).
The best way to start amplifying the TOFU is using search advertising.
Assuming you've already developed buyer personas, understand their challenges, and have created the best content offers to help them with their challenges, it now comes down to driving relevant traffic to your content offers landing pages.
Awareness stage keywords aren't as competitive as bottom of the funnel keywords and have higher search volumes. It's safe to say that when providing prospects with value when they are seeking for help, you can expect conversion rates of 15%-30% from click to content offer download.
Since awareness stage keywords aren't as competitive, the actual cost per lead will be quite low. Once you generate such leads, please don't be average and try to sell to them. Remember those leads aren’t qualified or ready to be sold to! Depending on how well you optimize your funnel and campaigns, you should be able to calculate what your cost per customer or cost per MQL should be (depending on your KPIs).
TOFU scaling is quite easy - you can always find another challenge your prospects have, create additional TOFU content offers and drive more traffic from different awareness stage keywords to your landing pages.
Look out for keywords that have high search volumes - their costs per click would be relatively low making them a great opportunity for amplifying your TOFU efforts until the post is properly indexed on google.
The second-best way to amplify the TOFU is via native channels:
Content discovery networks such as Taboola and Outbrain open a door to getting your best performing blog posts discovered. Note that leads generated through native advertising will most likely not be of the same quality as leads generated through search advertising. The reason is pretty straight forward – search leads are actively looking for answers, while native advertising leads may follow up on your suggestion to read a blog post and download a content offer, it may not be relevant to them in any way other than to satisfy their general curiosity. Such leads aren't your target audience and will not become customers.
Lastly, you can use Display advertising to amplify your TOFU. This should be your last resort. As in native advertising, there is a good chance that these leads are just interested in your content but have no intent on taking any further action and will not progress down the buyer's journey. This should be a last result because it will prove to be a more expensive method than native advertising, yet the context will be vague and the quality of the leads will drop.
Middle of the funnel (MOFU)/ Bottom of the funnel (BOFU) amplification
Email marketing is a great way to nurture leads and drive them down the buyer's journey.
If you want faster results and higher conversion rates you can utilize media in order to amplify your TOFU->MOFU->BOFU progression pace and rate. Create remarketing lists that are based on your leads website behavior or on data that you have at your disposal.
Pro tip: Since user behavior is very dynamic, your remarketing lists are bound to change constantly, making management of data based remarketing campaigns challenging. For example, if a prospect progressed from the middle of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, you will need to update the remarketing lists they are part of, in order to keep your messaging relevant. It's possible to automate this process - some advertising channels have the capability to onboard audience data using API procedures making it close enough to real time. You would need to use a third party solution like LiveRamp or to create your own proprietary solution. Using audience onboarding capabilities, turns your CRM into a first party DMP enabling you to target contacts across various ad networks and placements around the web.
Measuring and Attribution
Measuring the success of amplified inbound marketing is one of biggest challenges. There is a lot of money invested in creating content, marketing tools and media spend. Longer sales cycles tend to make the calculations even harder.
For general ROI reporting it’s quite simple:
- sum up all the money invested in all channels (including content creation, media spend, marketing agency ).
- sum up the revenue derived from campaign
- divide the two
The actual challenge is to figure out exactly which channel assisted the conversion more than the rest. Multi-channel marketing on different phases of the buyer's journey poses great attribution challenge.
Attribution modeling is the science of setting rules defining how to attribute revenue to each participating channel in the conversion path. For companies with a short sales cycles (SaaS for example) using Google analytics can suffice. But companies with a long sales cycle and sales that occur offline, encounter difficulties when trying to measure the effectiveness of each channel. The challenge is both technological and logical.
Technologically, this can be solved using a variety of third party marketing tools such as HubSpot and Bizzable.
Logically, this can be solved by trial and error - testing different models to see which model best reflects your business model and sales cycle. One model could be a perfect fit to one company and a misleading report for another.
When done right, inbound marketing can be amplified using paid advertising. In order to scale and generate profit, it's crucial to align your advertising with your prospect's buyer's journey. Don't waste time generating leads that will never become customers and always measure and make sure you know what channel to attribute your efforts to.
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