For most startups, breaking through and becoming a major space in the B2B industry is a major challenge. Not only do you have to outspend some of the world’s corporations, but you will also encounter a credibility problem as larger competitors inevitably receive more weight in the eyes of potential business customers.
Of course, difficult is not equivalent to impossible. There is a reason that every now and then, we see startups break through and become major players in the business customer space. Before Slack became countless businesses’ preferred inter-office communication tool with a valuation of $3.8 billion last year, it was just another Silicon Valley startup looking to make ends meet.
The key to success as a small business in the B2B space is simple: marketing with a strategy. If you can out plan your competitors, smaller budgets won’t mean much. In fact, you can even turn them into a crucial advantage and pathway to success. That’s exactly what inbound marketing can do for your startup.
Understanding Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing has gained rapid success and popularity across industries in recent years for a simple reason: it accounts for increasing advertising and promotional fatigue among audiences of all kinds. The increasing popularity of ad blockers in internet browsers is only one indication that increasingly, we’re tired (and weary) of advertisers telling us why their product is our best option.
Inbound marketing, at its purest completely abandons these ‘push’ promotional tactics. Instead, as its name suggests, it looks to draw audiences into the company out of their own interest, compelling them with relevant content to become leads and, eventually, customers. Here’s how Marketo describes the concept:
To replace outdated “renting attention” marketing tactics, companies are deploying new methods geared at building awareness, developing relationships and generating leads. In short, inbound marketing attracts customers to you so you are not chasing them down. It helps prospects find your company in the early stages of their decision-making process, leading to a stronger influence on their future buying decisions.
Do it right, and you can build a valuable brand presence in the minds of your audience. That’s particularly important in the B2B space, where credibility is especially crucial.
Building Credibility in the B2B Space
Without a doubt, credibility in marketing is important across industry. But B2B marketers feel its effect significantly more than their B2C counterparts. The reason is simple: your audience makes their buying decisions based on rational, not emotional factors. They will only trust your claims if they trust you. For startups, that can be a considerable challenge.
Your product or service probably helps your potential customers and clients improve their marketing, supply chain, accounting, or any other types of business process. You may offer cheaper, or higher quality, equipment and materials for manufacturers. But without any additional evidence, your potential buyers will not trust your claims on being better, cheaper, or more popular than your competition.
Large brands have made a name for themselves, and they have a reputation to lose. You don’t have that luxury yet. Building credibility, in other words, is crucial, but difficult to achieve.
Fortunately, through content marketing (an integral component of the inbound philosophy), you can achieve that credibility much quicker. Simply put, you focus on relevant rather than promotional content, seeking to give your audience insights that go beyond your product or service and toward their industry. 88% of B2B marketers now use some type of content marketing for that exact reason; inbound marketing helps you fully embrace the concept.
A Focus on Organic Leads
Content marketing and inbound marketing, of course, are not equal. One focuses entirely on creating high-value, credible content. The other leverages that content into organic lead generation. For a startup in the B2B space, that function can be immensely valuable.
Lead generation is among the most urgent business goals for most B2B marketers, and for good reason. Because of longer sales cycles, you probably need to engage your prospects over a longer period of time. At some point, personal outreach may even be required. And yet, only 22% of these marketers are actually satisfied with their lead conversion rate.
The reason is simple: most lead are simply not high-quality enough to ever become customers. That’s especially true for purchased leads or prospects, who have no incentive to follow the sales cycle through to the purchase. Organic leads, on the other hand, are much more likely to do just that.
Organic leads, of course, are contacts who have entered your database voluntarily. They have expressed at least some interest in your company, and are willing to learn more about it. You can generate these leads through gated content, such as whitepapers or webinarsthat are free but only accessible with a sign up page–a crucial component of inbound marketing.
Maximizing Your Lead Conversion Effectiveness
But inbound marketing does not stop at lead generation. In fact, a full embrace of the philosophy also includes nurturing your existing leads to the point of becoming qualified for a sales call. Through a number of email sequences, you can continue to provide your existing leads with relevant content, while slowly nudging them toward a sale.
Typically, these email sequences are automated, requiring only set up resources. In addition, you can use the process to score your leads based on actions they take with the content you send them, helping you understand which portion of your leads should be prioritized in your sales efforts.
Lead nurturing can and should play a significant part in your B2B marketing efforts. 67% of B2B marketers state that they have seen an increase of at least 10% increase in sales opportunity, with a good portion of those opportunities increasing by 30% or more. According to another study, businesses who nurture their leads saw an increase of 451% in sales opportunities.
The Financial Benefits of Inbound Marketing
In other words, inbound marketing can help your B2B startup increase its credibility, generate more organic leads, and help those leads convert to customers at higher rates. But all of those benefits would be worth little if they cost as much as traditional marketing tactics; a budget most small businesses just starting out simply don’t have.
Fortunately, the inbound philosophy is not nearly that expensive. In fact, companies embracing inbound spend on average $20,000 per year less on marketing than those using traditional, outbound ‘push’ promotional messages. Break it down by individual contacts, and you arrive at a 61% decrease in cost per generated lead compared more traditional marketing methods.
Blogs, social media, and search engine optimization lead the way in the most affordable types of digital marketing available. And surprise: they’re all vital part of a successful inbound marketing plan. Through blogs, you can share the type of content that will increase your credibility. Social media allows you to link to your website, while SEO helps you gain exposure for relevant industry phrases. And we haven’t even mentioned email, the core lead nurturing tool that, for organic leads, can be entirely free.
In short, inbound marketing simply makes financial sense for any startup in the B2B space. By also elevating the other aspects of your marketing strategy, you can use it to successfully build a profile that turns you from a nobody into a powerhouse in your industry. Embrace it now, and your business growth will thank you later.