Like all things digital marketing, an effective inbound marketing strategy isn’t as simple as just blogging or posting quirky images and videos on social media. Spending too much time creating content that gets no long-term traffic (from Google search or anywhere) and sinking resources into simplistic or unorganized efforts to draw attention to your website will not get in front of your prospects regularly enough to benefit either your audience or your sales growth needs.
Inbound and outbound marketing differ in the approach they take toward potential customers. While more traditional “outbound” marketing focuses on pushing your message out and hoping to catch the attention of a certain audience, inbound marketing is about attracting your potential clients to come to you. Think about television ads, telemarketing calls, and unsolicited emails in comparison to social media, reading an article, listening to a podcast, and downloading a useful ebook.
Which is more likely to pique your interest in a company?
We have gathered 13 of the most effective inbound marketing examples that will grow your business the fastest. While the ultimate objective of inbound marketing is usually to drive traffic (usually through SEO), build brand awareness, and generate leads, each type is suited for various situations.
Because of the effort required to employ inbound marketing, you may need help from an outside writer or agency rather than doing it in the house, depending on your manpower. However you decide to approach it, inbound marketing is worth the effort in the long run to build credibility while acing your SEO game.
Just make sure you are committed to this over the long haul. Hear me when I say that it is not worth pursuing if you are going to expect results in 6 months. This journey will take 12, 24, or even 36 months to pay off, but pay off it will in building you a lead generation machine!
Disclaimer: This article does contain affiliate links. If you purchase a tool through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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What is an Inbound Marketing Funnel? 4 Phases
The inbound marketing funnel takes the classic visualization used to describe sales funnel and applies it to the inbound marketing strategy. This illustration shows how you progress through the stages of converting potential clients to leads, customers, and promoters. The four main phases are
Attracting new visitors to your website and its content is the foundation of this form of marketing. Rather than intruding on the lives of potential customers with ads (push marketing), the goal is to attract them by providing useful information about topics in which they are interested (pull marketing). The main focus in this stage of the funnel is to figure out what people are searching for in search engines, and then create quality content that meets their needs.
Conversion is an important step in the process that often gets missed. Just because you attract someone to your website doesn’t mean you’ve won the sale. 80+% of website visitors leave, never to return again.
In order to convert them into an email lead, you need to get their contact information and give them a reason to stick around. This can be done using a call-to-action, where the guest provides contact information in return for useful information pertaining to the content that attracted them in the first place (e.g. a tip sheet, downloadable e-book, or white paper). This is a natural way to start to solidify the relationship between your business and move them through the funnel towards a potential client.
The third phase is where you nurture your leads and close the sale. Once you’ve established your credibility, people will be much more willing to hear how you can also help solve their problems. It is important to note that inbound marketing is not meant to replace what your sales team is doing. A well formulated email drip nurturing campaign should both accompany and amplify their work in order to boost your business and close more deals.
For example, this phase is the time to nurture your email leads, which can be done through email marketing automation workflows. Your CRM will score each lead, and then you can have your salespeople follow up with those who have the highest lead scores (or show most interest in your product or service). This is a much more strategic and efficient approach to sales that incorporates both your marketing and sales team to benefit your company as a whole.
But remember, there is a fourth step! Though closing may turn leads into clients, your work doesn’t stop there.
The final stage is to delight your customers. Satisfied customers are a wonderful thing, but you are looking to exceed expectations and elicit true delight. When someone is delighted, they become promoters of your product or service; word of mouth is invaluable to any business. Carrying out your marketing all the way through this final phase will result in promotion that pays for itself many times over (2X, 3X or higher ROI).
Inbound marketing turns the traditional outbound ad model on its head and is a way of building a relationship with customers unlike anything previously seen. These 13 examples will arm you with the most effective ways to start drawing prospects to your website and draw them into your lead generation system, which will transform the way you and your sales team does business.
1. Blogging + SEO = Inbound Flywheel
It seems like everybody has a blog these days, but is yours consistently generating leads?
You may be wondering how a blog will benefit your business when they’ve become so commonplace, but the numbers don’t lie. According to HubSpot, you are 13 times more likely to get a positive ROI when you make blogging a priority.
But you can’t just set up a blog, add a post here and there, and expect to see your web traffic skyrocket.
Keyword research is also critical when determining what to blog about. Your blog is the ideal place to answer questions your target audience is asking, and you can use it as a platform for many of the other inbound marketing techniques already covered. The more quality content you are able to produce and provide for your potential customers, the more you build trust and solidify your status as an authority in your field.
Take a look at Hubspot’s blog for an example of how to up your blogging game.
2. Case Studies Build Monster Trust
Arguably one of the most intensive types of inbound marketing, case studies are an impactful way to build your brand’s reputation and offer useful information to your audience. A case study is a detailed analysis of a situation, audience, product, or other topic that demonstrates how you’ve helped a customer, meaning they require extensive research and fact-checking.
That being said, a solid case study can not only draw the attention of those seeking answers or information, but also draw attention from competitors or others in the field. This can lead to online discourse between your brand and theirs, which garners even more attention.
This type of content proves your case through the use of examples and precise data to back up your claims and is very powerful for building trust!
3. List Posts: aka Listicles
List posts can be tricky when trying to create quality inbound marketing content, as this type of article can be evergreen, short-form, or topical. In order to foster long term SEO growth, your list post needs to focus on something that has staying power. Think of them as an evergreen article, only in an easily digestible numbered-list format.
This list of content marketing agencies that I compiled is a relevant example, as content marketing is something people are always researching and searching for, and the list will only need minor updates as content marketing companies develop and new ones emerge. This particular list also does a thorough job of providing more general advice that won’t need to be tweaked nearly as much as an overly-technical list on content marketing would need to be.
If competitor’s lists are 10, 13, and 23, then you might want to make yours 31.
To help your list remain as timeless as possible, try to focus on the more general aspects of a topic that are unlikely to change. If you’re going to be tackling a technical subject, lists can be a nice supplement to a more in-depth article, but be prepared to update them more regularly as things change.
4. Evergreen Video Killed the Radio Star
As the name implies, evergreen videos stand out from typical video content because they have staying power.
Video is a powerful tool in inbound marketing, and video has the potential to impact your long term SEO, focusing on something people will almost always be searching for. The above explainer video, “How and Why To Build a Brand: It’s Not Just a Logo,” from HubSpot, exemplifies timeless video content, as it will always hold true and requires no updating. Even as businesses and marketing strategies change, learning how to establish your brand will remain useful and relevant.
Explainer videos may not work for every situation, but the evergreen video treatment can be applied to most other video content models: testimonial videos, “About Us” videos, case study summaries, and more.
For some quick SEO tips to sharpen your YouTube video SEO game, check out this Brian Dean article.
5. Expert Roundups Amplify Promotion via an Expert’s Audience
Expert roundups, a collection of expert opinions all pertaining to a topic or question, are an excellent way to strengthen your SEO and have huge potential for backlinks and social shares.
When creating an expert roundup, start by finding a question or hot topic that relates to your brand. Next, reach out to numerous experts in your field and ask if they will weigh in on the topic. They will usually agree as long as your “ask” of them won’t take too much of their time to create because they are looking to grow their influence, brand awareness, and backlinks just like you are.
Finally, compile these answers in a presentable format and be sure to link to all of the experts’ social media pages and sites. Then reach out to them to show them the article and ask them to share it with their audience.
Naturally, expert roundups are a social media magnet. By featuring so many experts in a single piece, you have numerous “authors” who are likely to share the piece on their own social media pages, giving your site and article exposure to all of their audiences, in addition to your own.
Not only this, expert roundups can also spark discussion in the comments on your site, especially when they pose a difficult or controversial question. More people commenting on your site means more people likely to dive into the discussion and share the article. The best part is that you don’t even have to do a lot of writing.
Simply stitch the answers together in a way that makes sense and frame the entire thing with an intro and closing paragraph.
6. Longform Infographics: aka Guestographics
Not every marketing infographic is as interesting (and relevant) as this one by Imaginasium, but all infographics should be pleasing to the eye, visually engaging, yet not too cluttered in design, and dispense information in an organized manner.
When I say infographic, I’m not talking about 2 or 3 sections of illustrations with a few facts sprinkled in. You need to go all in. While it will take more time and investment to create an 8-10 section, high quality, engaging infographic, it is well worth it because it will undoubtedly be shared and linked to much more than a short one.
Infographics, much like the list posts described earlier, are a useful way to present complicated topics in a visual manner. Unlike articles and videos, infographics can be quickly digested without any reading or taking the time to sit and watch a video. This makes them perfect for sharing on social media. In fact, infographics reach 54% more readers than blog posts.
The downside to infographics is that they require a lot of work. First and foremost, you need a skilled designer who can make your infographics attractive and simple. Plenty of infographics are flashy but difficult to digest. On the other hand, some are simple to interpret but not visually pleasing.
Your designer must be able to strike a balance between the two. You also need to do extensive research and collect stats for your infographics based on the topic, taking into consideration similar infographics that are already getting shared (and what they include and look like).
I use Buzzsumo to identify infographics that are currently trending and select a topic from what is already successful.
7. How-to Guides: Walk Them Through a Step-by-Step Process
Like the name implies, a how-to guide explains how to tackle a certain problem or accomplish a task. Just like an explainer video, a how-to guide should address a subject or problem that people will be searching both now and long into the future.
Unlike the list post, a how-to guide is a great place to cover more in-depth or technical subjects where you need to show and walk them through each step in a process.
This guide from Imaginasium unpacks a difficult and very in-depth subject: developing a strategic marketing plan. This particular guide goes the extra mile by using relevant videos and catchy images to keep the reader engaged throughout the post.
Another example is this piece on starting a social media marketing agency. Broken down into 7 chapters, this ultimate guide is like a small book, except it is packed with multimedia content, easily digestible tips and step-by-step instructions.
If at first you don’t feel a how-to guide would be appropriate for your brand, do keyword research and see what kinds of questions people are asking about within your industry. The odds are pretty great that people are having some kind of issue you know how to solve.
8. Topical Content Clusters = Pillar Post
Today, the pillar post is a super list of sorts, filled with H2s and H3s that all relate to one overarching subject. These lists can focus on solving a particular problem, or they can also be more comparable to a tip or how-to post.
The key to creating this type is to find clusters of keyword phrases all related to one topic, so creating a post of this nature can be challenging since you must identify these first. Otherwise, there is no reason to create a pillar post at all.
Check out these examples that I’ve done for my clients and then come back, and I will explain the process further.
- Can You Guess the 27 Most Popular, Different Leadership Styles?
- Get a Clutter-Free Garage With 61 DIY Garage Storage & Organization Projects
Did you notice that most of the headings for each section were external links?
These links are in the H2s and H3s, which are the secondary and tertiary headings throughout the post. What makes this approach so powerful is incorporating keyword phrases with a high search volume (beyond the primary keyword) into the headings and then demonstrating to Google and your audience that you are an authority on the given topic by adding external links that are authoritative and ranking well themselves.
Many pillar posts would stop there, but a final step to take your post to the next level is to create an internal post for each of the H2s and H3s you originally linked to externally. But those new pieces of internal content must be much better in quality and depth than the other links or Google won’t see them as authoritative, lessening the overall impact of the master pillar post.
If done well, this approach can create thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of visitors per month.
Take a look at this example created by another company:
9. What is a White Paper & How to Use It
While blogs are designed to be approachable and often take on a more casual tone, white papers are your opportunity to get a little more technical. The definition can vary, but essentially a white paper is an in-depth report or guide created to inform your audience about a complex issue in order to deepen understanding, solve a problem, or make an educated decision.
Providing educational content is a way of offering something of value that establishes your authority within your market and gives you an opportunity to move people further down the inbound marketing funnel.
Because a white paper is a well-researched, technical document, you can require contact information in exchange for the download. You can then build the relationship further through e-mail marketing and continue to reach out in an effort to nurture the relationship.
10. Podcasts: Who’s Listening?
What’s your favorite podcast?
Chances are, you have multiple ones you listen to regularly. Why? Because they are entertaining, informative, insightful, interesting. Everyone’s reasons for tuning in may vary, but most people will agree that it’s hard to beat a good podcast. In fact, 68 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, and 16 million consider themselves to be avid podcast fans.
One of the best aspects of podcasting in comparison to other forms of inbound marketing is that it allows your brand to convey personality more than just the written word. You want your brand to be more than just an authority, you want it to be relatable, as well. When potential clients feel a personal connection to your brand, they are much more likely to do business with you.
Not to mention, podcast listeners are generally avid social media users and more likely to promote brands and companies. So boosting your podcast listenership could potentially boost your following on social media and subscribers to your email list, as well, which creates a ripple effect of growth in your web traffic and visibility as a whole.
And if you are worried about how much time, energy, and other resources you will have to invest to keep up a podcast, the requirements are fairly minimal. You don’t need any fancy (or expensive) equipment, just a few mics, a laptop, and someone with a face for radio! Even publishing just a 30 minute episode a month could make a major impact on your marketing efforts.
11. E-books for Everyone
E-books play a similar role in inbound marketing to white papers and follow the same general concept, the main differences being their target audience and the depth of their content (e-books are usually much longer than white papers, though they are not always). While white papers are geared more toward experts on a given topic and are useful for B2B marketing, e-books are easier to read and designed for non-experts.
Again, the way e-books offer something of value to your potential customers, usually in exchange for their email address or for purchase. This is mutually beneficial, providing them with useful information and you with an opportunity to follow up and get them to take the next step in the buyer’s journey.
Speaking of e-books, don’t forget to check out my collection of Why Stuff Sucks™ business books.
12. Host a Live Webinar
Looking for a way to tie together the technical know-how of a white paper or e-book with the personality punch of a podcast? Ever considered hosting a webinar?
A webinar is exactly what its name suggests: a seminar on the web. It is a way of presenting educational content to a private audience via the internet using a lecture-style format that enables you to engage potential clients in a personal way. Typically, you offer a Q&A session at the end of the webinar to give attendees a format to ask their burning questions.
When a client can put a face, or even just a voice, with your brand, they are more likely to feel an emotional connection that might ultimately result in their working with you. Hosting a webinar is an invaluable opportunity to connect with your target audience and gather new contact information to grow your email list.
13. The Strengths of Social Media
It is a saying you’ve probably heard, and most of what we have covered here has reiterated the importance of quality content strategies. However, while well-written and carefully researched content should naturally draw new visitors, social media can play a significant role in publicizing your content to potential leads and others in your field.
Social media is central to the society in which we live, used daily by millions of Americans and billions worldwide. Every effective inbound marketing campaign needs to include a well developed social media strategy in order to achieve increased visibility and utilize all that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the like have to offer.
There is more than one way to use social media, as well. Your social media plan should include a mixture of paid and organic strategies to help you best achieve your marketing goals. For example, you can promote your content on your own social media pages, pay to promote your page and boost your posts on Facebook, and reach out and respond to customer feedback and queries to nurture new and existing relationships.
In addition, you can run paid ad campaigns on social channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. to promote your content. Social media is a powerful tool when used intentionally or if you hire some of the top media buying companies, it will open limitless possibilities for engaging and connecting with potential leads and expanding your reach.
Discover more about paid social media strategies!
Ready to give inbound marketing a go?
Outbound marketing still has its place in your marketing arsenal, but inbound marketing is taking over as the predominant approach that prospects prefer. It’s time to make the switch!
While some of these inbound marketing examples are straightforward and relatively easy to carry out, some can be a little tricky to master on your own. If you just don’t have the time to:
- Delve into the complex details of SEO
- Select which types to create
- How to identify the topics that will generate the most leads from your visitors
- How to setup email drip automation campaigns that effectively nurture leads
…that’s where I come in.
I have the experience and know-how (as well as the results) to help you find the inbound marketing strategies that will generate leads month-after-month, year-after-year. I can help you get inbounds so that you can start attracting more web traffic and boost your business like never before.
I’d love to chat about how I can grow your leads and sales, all with a positive ROI on your investment!