Inbound content marketing: Content ideas and strategy guide
Marketers are scrambling to grow their customers, generate more leads, and raise brand awareness. Ads are a great way to generate leads in the immediate future but it can be pretty costly to rely on that in the long term, especially if you need to generate large amounts of leads.
One marketing strategy that might be a better fit for a modern marketing team is inbound marketing.
What is inbound content marketing?
Inbound content marketing is a practice of attracting your target audience by providing them with valuable content.
Inbound marketing doesn’t involve any content that your target audience doesn’t need. In fact, it aims to solve problems that your audience already has and form connections they are actually looking for.
The difference between Inbound marketing vs content marketing
Content marketing, as mentioned above, is about creating content about the subjects your audience is searching for but it is also related to your business in some way. It can be in the form of informative guides, “how-to” video tutorials, eBooks, images, infographics, etcetera. Usually, you’ll need to utilize the power of SEO to get your content seen but you can also use social media to achieve that as well.
On the other hand, inbound marketing is a bigger concept that involves a bunch of tactics such as PPC (Pay Per Click) social media marketing, SEO, and more. If you consider inbound marketing an umbrella then the content strategy will be the handle and poll to hold that.
It’s important to note that content marketing works as one of the vital components of inbound marketing. It undoubtedly can exist outside your overall inbound marketing strategy. However, you’ll be pressed very hard to come up with an inbound marketing plan without incorporating content.
When content marketing work alongside inbound strategy’s other tactics, it allows you to achieve the following:
- It grabs the attention of your target audience if and only if your content is creative.
- It’s specially designed and crafted to be shared widely if it’s valuable.
- It establishes a healthy relationship with potential buyers if it’s relevant.
The goal of inbound content marketing
A well-planned and well-designed content marketing strategy enables you to set priorities and define marketing goals. It also allows you to make sure that all your marketing efforts are goal-driven and bring tangible results.
The ultimate goal of your overall marketing is to improve your profit. But the first milestone that you need to keep in mind while creating a content marketing strategy is to increase your digital presence and bring more customers to your business.
What is an inbound content strategy?
An inbound content strategy is a documented plan of attack that will help you plan, produce, distribute and track optimized content to draw visitors to your website and nurture them over time with insightful content, until they are ready to become customers.
While creating your content strategy, there are certain things that you’ll need to keep in mind to achieve the desired goals. The following section discusses the essentials that a content strategy should include.
What should a content strategy include?
In simple words, your content should ideally address every part of the funnel. A great content strategy basically lays the foundation of different stages in the buyer’s journey. We have divided these stages into three different ways.
Attracting the right people to your business by providing them with valuable content and conversing with them to establish your business as a trusted advisor.
Offering solutions and insights to prospects that not only help them with their pain points but also improve the chances of conversion.
Offering support and help at the right time to empower your customers to satisfy them completely with their purchase.
Types of inbound marketing content
Primarily there are three different types of inbound content marketing and we have divided each with the components it should include.
TOFU (Top of the Funnel) – To facilitate awareness
The content that you create at the top of the funnel facilitates awareness and it addresses the following:
- Blog posts: These are blogs that pertain to specific topics within your niche. If you have a SaaS product, then you might want to discuss certain use cases or industry trends within your topical blogs.
- Videos: Creating a viral video is not something that you can guarantee, but with the right intention, video content, and distribution, you can meet your inbound targets in a stunning fashion. Web-based seminars (Webinars)
- Social media updates: It’s important to share social media posts not only to provide the valuable content that your audience needs but also to keep them engaged. It can be updated regarding your business or even links to your blog posts and videos.
- Infographics: Offering infographics allows your audience to understand new concepts and solve problems in a fun and visual way.
- Photographs: Adding photographs is critical to your content to keep the reader engaged. You can also include them in your blog posts and social media updates.
- E-books: eBooks help establish you as a thought leader within your industry. Creating a comprehensive eBook takes time and effort so make sure you clearly understand the results that the eBook should bring
- Web pages: You can add new web pages to your website and share their links in your blogs, social media posts, videos, and whatnot. For example, if you added a new feature to your product, then a separate web page explaining how it works will make it easy for your audience to understand and use it.
- Audio podcasts: Audio podcasts are another good way to grab the attention of your audience. It allows you to communicate your expertise and knowledge with your audience in a short time.
- Video podcasts: You can also use video podcasts to communicate knowledge and they allow your business to have more visibility. You can also record your video podcasts and share the important segments as tutorials.
- Print magazines/newsletter: Sharing print magazines and newsletters with your subscribers is a great way to keep them engaged and draw the attention of more potential customers. You need to make sure that you offer valuable content that your audience needs to improve the chances of customer retention as well as conversion.
- Primary research: Top-of-the-funnel content also allows you to gather valuable data regarding your customers and potential buyers to improve your overall strategy. For example, you can find the content that’s generating the best results and the one that’s not performing well.
MOFU (Middle of the Funnel) – to facilitate the evaluation
The middle of the funnel content strategy helps you and your prospects to facilitate evaluation. It helps you to guide your prospects throughout the buyer’s journey by providing them with the content to help them evaluate your business.
It allows your prospects to determine whether they need your service or product. The main goal is to build trust in this state because people don’t do business with a brand they don’t trust. Your MOTF content should explain why people need your service or product.
You’ll need to make sure that your content is generating the desired results by fulfilling the intended purpose. A great way to achieve that is to answer the following questions:
- Is your middle of the funnel content aligned with the needs of your prospects?
- Is your content allowing people to convert or generate leads?
- Is your content hurting or generating your end goals?
Good quality content goes a long way to encourage prospects to make purchases. However, it’s important to note that only one type of content doesn’t usually do all the heavy lifting. Therefore, you should have a comprehensive content marketing strategy by creating multiple types of content and ideally it includes the following:
- Educational resources: Providing your audience with educational resources with real-world examples.
- Quiz/surveys: Conducting quizzes and surveys allows you to collect data to understand what people think about your business. It also allows you to determine your weaknesses and strengths and how to improve your content strategy. It’s important to note that the benefit of quizzes and surveys is more data related to the lead, but it brings value to the person doing the quiz.
- Discounts/offers: Providing your audience with discounts and special offers is a great way to improve your conversion rate. But it’s important to make sure that you offer what your business affords.
- Emails: Provide a reliable way to send them quality content that helps educate them which hopefully pushes them further down the sales funnel. It’s also a pretty great marketing technique to get more people to read any new content you put out.
- Useful resources: Content marketing is all about providing useful content to help each website visitor when they are searching for an answer. As a content marketer, it’s important to evaluate all the resources and make sure you are creating high-quality content that is useful, not a sales pitch.
- Downloads: Tracking the number of people clicking on the links to download the content you provide through r emails or on your website is also a great way to find out how your content strategy is performing.
- Webinar/events: You can conduct webinars and events to judge the level of engagement of your audience. It allows you to directly interact with your audience and take their feedback. webinars allow you to go more in-depth on various topics than a simple blog post. It’s a great way to offer value to the people who attend. It is also important to note that all the people who attend your webinars are directly showing a higher engagement with your service or product. Consider providing the attendants of your webinar with high-quality information for free so that your business will have a group of leads with a high level of interest in making a purchase from your brand. It also means that they will be more qualified than they were before the webinar.
BOFU (Bottom of the Funnel) – To facilitate the conversion
The last type of content marketing takes place at the bottom of the funnel and it’s about facilitating a conversion. The main purpose of the content at the bottom of the funnel is to provide your leads with clear reasons why they should buy your service or product and how it will be a smart decision. You want to make sure that people feel confident while paying their money to do business with your brand.
At this point, the content funnel should work on getting new customers. You can highlight how your service or product is superior by providing side-by-side comparisons in order to influence a purchase. You’ll also need to make sure that you make the entire buying process as easy as possible and your content must also offer a clear call to action.
You can use the following types of content ideas to convert people to sales.
- Demo: Offering a demo to your potential customers that allows them to understand how to use your products and services most efficiently. You can offer video tutorials, infographics, and any other technique to reach your audience with detailed information about your business. If possible then consider offering a free trial to allow people to have hands-on experience.
- Customer stories: You would also want to share success stories of your existing customers with your audience to gain their trust. Explaining what their problem was and how your solution was solved really gives a lot of credibility to your product and brand.
- Comparison/spec sheet: Creating comparison tables and spec sheets provides people with critical information about your products and services. You can create blog posts as well as videos to explain the specs and features of your products and it differs from other similar products.
- Webinars/event: Webinars and events make their way to the bottom of the funnel content marketing strategy as well. It’s one of the best ways to interact with your customers and provide them with solutions in real-time. You can also use this method to facilitate conversion by listening to people and offering them what they need.
How to build a B2B inbound content strategy?
A research report published by the Content Marketing Institute suggests that creating a well-documented content strategy is the key component of your B2B inbound marketing efforts.
First of all, you’ll need to specify the following in your inbound content strategy:
- The financial goals of your business
- Your target audience
- Your OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and metrics for your campaign success.
- Your TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU
- All the possible channels and formats of your content
- The process of content creation allocated budget and timeline
- Your distribution methods allocated budget and timeline
Establishing your company’s objectives
Without clear goals and objectives, you will not be able to produce tangible results. Even if your campaign does exceptionally well, you might not be able to replicate the success later on.
Start out by setting clear expectations of your marketing efforts. Set goals that are achievable, but also push your team to be creative and think out of the box.
Consider answering the following questions to set your targets:
- How much revenue do you aim to generate from all your digital channels?
- How many actual customers you’ll need to achieve the aimed revenue?
- How many leads your business will need to generate to have the desired number of customers?
Additionally, your content strategy must also be S.M.A.R.T. which means:
An example for setting inbound objectives might be to drive 2X more traffic to a company blog that is doing well. One way to increase traffic and make the article more valuable would be to include an infographic that sums up the major topics within the article.
Another option would be to create shareable video content and add it to the top of the article. This is especially enticing for people that are interested in learning about the contents of the blog but just aren’t in the mood to read a 3000-word article.
Creating buyer personas
A buyer persona can be thought of as a fictional/semi-fictional representation of a customer. This representation should be detailed enough to the point where you have a sound idea of this made-up person’s likes and dislikes, their problems, things that matter to them, and a memorable name.
The Make My Persona tool from HubSpot is free to use and easy at the same time. It should give you a thorough understanding of what a buyer persona looks like and how you can make one for yourself.
Identifying pain points
Inbound content marketing is super effective when you, the marketing professional, have a solid understanding of your customers’ needs and pain points. There are four different types of pain points you’ll need to keep in mind:
Productivity pain points
The productivity pain point includes all the problems that a customer can face while dealing and interacting with your brand. For example, if there’s redundancy in your buying process then a customer would feel frustrated. In this case, you’ll need to reduce friction and redundancy by reducing the total number of steps in your buying process to make your business more productive. It’s important to note that most customers prefer easy and convenient services over cheap ones yet less convenient.
Support pain points
This category incorporates all the pain points when your customer is trying to make a purchase but isn’t getting help during the buying process. People usually go elsewhere if they can’t get a timely response from your customer service or can’t find a solution to a pressing query. Poor customer support is one of the biggest reasons why customers switch from one brand to another. In fact, recent stats suggest that 67% of the customers switch because of poor customer support.
Financial Pain Points
Financial pain points as the name implies are time problems that involve money in one way or the other. Here’s a list of some financial pain points that your prospective customers can face.
- Costly membership fees or subscription plans
- Low-quality services that they need to replace
- Hidden fees and charges or lack of transparency regarding the service’s or product’s final price
- Additional charges at the checkout
- A dramatic increase in price after a certain period of time
Process pain points
Process pain points include the customers’ problems because of the friction caused by some sub-optimal processes. For example, your customers need to read a lot of content to find the answer they need about your service or your business offers live chat support only for 6 or 8 hours.
Why pain? Because solving people’s problems is how you get their attention.
Think about the products and services your audience uses right now and how the company you represent could add value to their lives.
It’s best to have several pain points to work with at the start of your campaign. You can then work your way and find a couple that resonates the most with your audience.
Mapping the buyer’s journey
Not all customers are the same. If all of your customers are not the same, then how can you expect them to take the same buyer journey?
You should also be trying to get the point across that they need to map out how a reader goes from reading a blog to signing up to a newsletter to signing up to a webinar to signing up to a demo. Basically, the buyer’s journey incorporates the TOFU, MOFU, BOFU in some way to guide them through the funnel.
To map buyer journeys, put yourself into the position of your customers and ask yourself these questions to start with:
- How do they find your product or service?
- What is the first touchpoint?
- What inbound content do they first come into contact with?
- How do you build a recurring relationship with each customer?
- What part of your marketing strategy will keep them coming back?
Naturally, your thought process will be a lot more detailed, but these questions are a good starting point.
Keyword research is a critical part of any internet marketing strategy. Think of keyword research like homework that’ll actually help you make better decisions.
When researching keywords for your content strategy, opt for words that are relevant to your audience. Sure, some keywords might have great search volume and low difficulty, but ranking for them might not be a good use of your time and resources. Keyword research will allow you to understand:
- What terms and topics your target audience is searching for?
- How many people search for a specific keyword in a certain amount of time?
- You competitors who are also trying to rank for the same keywords?
- How difficult is it to rank for specific keywords on popular search engines?
- What tactics you’ll need to rank for the selected keywords?
- What techniques your competitors are using to rank for the desired keywords?
Here are three tools that you can check out:
- Google Keyword Planner. (Free)
- Ubersuggest. (Great value for money)
- Ahrefs. (Expensive but worth it)
There are a lot more tools out there, so feel free to explore on your own.
Define which types of content will be created
The next step would be to start creating content. As discussed in the “Types of the inbound marketing section,” there is a lot of variety in the kind of content you can make or have made for your business.
If you have a website up and running, you might want to start by adding a couple of relevant, high-value blogs.
But if your brand is more active on social media, it might be a better use of your resources to create video content and make strategic efforts to make it viral.
Remember that you should create content for a purpose and not for the sake of creating content. The content your business produces should always have 2 goals in mind:
- Give the readers the best experience possible by giving great info that answers their questions and solves their problems
- Strategy created content that guides them further down the sales funnel
Conduct a content audit
A content audit is an evaluation of the content that relates to your brand.
This is done for all the content and messaging that you have to offer. From landing page content, to blog posts, to social media copy to email subject lines and content, it should be a thorough exercise.
Not only should you do this for your own business, but also for your main competitors. You will get insights into the content preferences that your competitors have adapted and if you can benefit from them as well.
Remember Sun Tzu when he said “Know thyself, know thy enemy,” and don’t forget it.
Create a content mix with pillar pages & topic clusters
Your inbound content strategy should have a mix of content. Sticking to just one topic might narrow your options quite a bit.
Pillar pages are detailed blog posts that cover a topic in all its glory.
From these pillar posts, you can extract and repurpose content. Social media posts, infographics, smaller topical blogs, discussion threads, video content, are just some of the kinds of content you can get from a well-made pillar page.
Topic clusters are formed when you have a single broad topic at hand and start adding sub-topics that are related to that main topic.
To get the most out of topic clusters, you should have done proper keyword research and identified content ideas that might help you establish your brand identity. Additionally, you probably want to run your content through a proofreading and editing tool to make the spelling, tone, and grammar all resonate well with your target audience.
Tracking results might sound challenging when it comes to inbound marketing, but with the right mindset and planning, it’s completely doable.
When it comes to tracking results, you will need to set clear goals from the start. Based on the following metrics you’ll need to have firmly established key performance indicators, to begin with.
Metrics regarding the behavior of the users:
- Number of unique visitors
- Average page time
- Page depth
- Bounce rate
- Pages per session
- Traffic resources
- Returning and new users
The engagement metrics include:
- Incoming requests
The metrics regarding SEO outcomes include:
- Dwell time
- Organic traffic
- Keywords ranking
The company revenue metrics include:
- Existing lead touches
- New lead generated
- Conversion rate
- Cost per acquisition
- ROI (Return on Investment)
Let’s say that one of your inbound content goals was to get more people to sign up for your newsletter (because you’re putting out so much amazing content on your blog). Observe the difference in your sign-ups before and after implementing your inbound content strategy.
There are a lot of things that you would want to track.
You should give the highest priority to a goal that’s most important for your business. It can be clicking on the sign-up button or a call now button on your website.
Other results that you should be tracking are your visitor conversion rate, conversions from your landing pages, social media engagement, blog traffic, and engagement, etc.
27 inbound marketing content ideas
- Illustrate a specific part of your service or product that makes you different.
- Grab a video testimonial from your customer.
- Create a flowchart of how your product works.
- Write a blog by covering a list of the most common mistakes that people make in your industry.
- Craft an interesting timeline to explain how to use your services to increase ROI.
- Create a post that answers the most common question that people ask in your industry.
- Create a list of benefits that people will get by using your products or services.
- Create a cheat sheet that explains the most complicated terms used in your industry.
- Host a webinar.
- Create video tutorials.
- Create a PDF that contains your product catalog.
- Create a timeline that explains your company’s story.
- Create a list of conferences, awards, and achievements of your business.
- Create a Q&A page on your website.
- Interview one of your customers and share why they want to work with you.
- Ask your customer(s) for a short video reviewing your product.
- Share photos of seminars, workshops, and conferences you conduct.
- Create GIFs by using a sequence of multiple photos.
- Share a blog post explaining the most common missteps that people take before reaching your business.
- Create a fact or stats sheet related to your industry.
- Create infographics that contain facts about your business.
- Share opinions and suggestions of your industry experts.
- Share a case study and offer insights to achieve success.
- Share the latest research about your industry.
- Share the list of your most renowned clients.
How do you measure inbound content marketing?
The very first step to measure your inbound content marketing is to set up a metrics tool such as Google Analytics which will display all the traffic that you bring to your website through various forms of content and strategies.
The Main strategy of inbound content marketing is to provide great information for free at each stage of the marketing funnel with the goal that you can convert that visitor into a lead.
The following are the 3 main areas to measure success.
- Keep track of where your traffic is coming in through UTM codes. You can determine which source of traffic is the best as well as which content performs the best.
UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes are small code snippets that you attach to the end of your URLs. These code snippets are used to analyze the performance of your marketing campaigns.
- Measure the interest of your traffic in the topic by analyzing how long they stay on the page as well as how far down the page they go.
- You’ll also need to measure whether or not your content successfully converts a visitor into a lead based on the goals your company has set.
You can use these tools to define your goals that will represent different actions taken on your website to define performance. For example, a visitor making an online purchase, downloading an eBook, or filling out a contact form.
The average conversion rate for a service or product-oriented website should be about 6 to 10%. You can measure your conversion rate in Google Analytics by:
- Login to your account.
- Go to the left-hand navigation bar and click on the “Conversion” option.
- Choose the “Goals” option to view your conversion rate
If your conversion rate is lower than the recommendation then you most probably have a traffic quality issue and you’ll need to address the more targeted audience.
Other metrics to keep track of
Data collection is an important initial step, but now comes the hard work. Web analytics solutions will provide you with hundreds of various metrics regarding how your website visitors behave and where they go.
Social Media Activity
At the core of your inbound marketing, is the creation of high-value content that draws an audience and improves your brand visibility. This is mostly accomplished through the use of social media. As a result, if your activities are gaining momentum, you should see a pretty quick increase in social media engagement.
It includes social media activities by your audience including shares, followers, likes, and comments. Posting more regularly, adding popular hashtags, and interacting with followers more frequently are simple ways to get your social media engagement started. You can use HubSpot to measure your social media activity.
Blog Keyword Rankings
Blog rankings are an essential inbound marketing metric that you should measure. If you’re spending time and money on blogging and your material isn’t appearing in search engine results, it’s probably not going to be found at all.
You’ll need to optimize all your blogs by using the most relevant long-tail keywords, then track them in the Google search engine. If your blog posts still don’t appear on the first page, consider adding additional material. Then, analyze your rankings to determine if they had the desired effect. You can use Google Search Console to measure your blog keyword ranking.
The main goals of blog keyword ranking are:
- Use Google Analytics to track how long they stay on the page and if they go to more than 1 page.
- Track where your blog post ranks in search engines through keyword tools.
- Track what areas of the page they click on as well as how far down the page they go through a heatmap provided by Mouseflow or Hotjar.
Inbound Email Statistics
You need to nurture your prospects for a long period of time and email marketing is one of the best ways to achieve that. The unsubscribe rate, click-through rate, and open rate are the most important metrics to indicate success.
The more relevant and targeted your email campaigns, the better the results they will generate. That’s why it’s critical to measure inbound email statistics and you can use HubSpot, or MailChimp for this purpose.