When Moz Founder Rand Fishkin and HubSpot Founder Dharmesh Shah came together, they breathed life into an online hub that allows the marketer community to discover great content and to find peers to collaborate with. Initially called “Hacker News for Marketers”, Inbound.org has gathered a substantial amount of data for effective marketing methods.
In its 2015 State of Pipeline Marketing report, which was developed from a survey to over 370 B2B marketers, it was found that inbound marketing tactics generate more leads and drive revenue — compared to outbound marketing — with the exception of conference and events, which are still effective.
Top marketing channels used to generate demand. Photo credit: Inbound.org.
Channels with the greatest impact on revenue. Photo credit: Inbound.org.
From the graphs above, you can see that out of the top 5 marketing channels for both generating demand and revenue, 4 out of 5 are inbound marketing channels. To help your online marketplace gain traction, you’d definitely have to employ inbound marketing strategies. First, let’s explore what inbound marketing entails and break down the strategies for the top 4 most effective marketing channels.
Hubspot has called The Inbound Methodology “the best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters for your business.” Interruptive ads, marketing calls and emails are old outbound marketing tactics. Instead of pushing your product, “inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.”
Photo credit: Hubspot.
Inbound marketing focuses on being relevant and helpful to your prospective customers, and to find out their wants and needs, you have to make an effort to learn about them, be it through interviews, monitoring or surveys — it’s no longer just a one-way street. Before we discuss the specific strategies, try to visualise your buyer personas, which is basically a generalized representation of your ideal customers. Who are they? What are their goals, pain points and interests?
Photo credit: Leadmd.com.
Buyer personas not only puts a face on your customers, but it also makes it easier for your marketplace’s marketing team to target specific groups and tailor content, messages, products or services to the customers’ wants and needs. To get you started, many sites, including Hubspot, offer free buyer persona templates.
An example of a detailed buyer persona. Photo credit: Kulapartners.com.
Once you have you have clearly defined key audiences and objectives for your marketing plan, we can explore the 4 most effective inbound marketing channels:
This cost effective channel allows your marketplace to reach subscribers who signed up to receive your marketplace’s email communications. Unlike unsolicited ads, in opt-in or permission marketing consumers actually anticipate newsletters containing updates on upcoming events, new products or promotions from you. Customers usually opt in at the point of purchase, or through a prompt on a website, so maximize this channel to keep your leads connected and engaged with your marketplace.
In keeping with the goal of inbound marketing, the emails you send should contain more than just sales and promotional information. You usually need to be subscribed to email lists to find great examples of email marketing, so subscribe to your favorite brands or brands similar to your marketplace for inspiration. To add, with email service providers and free tools like Mailchimp, you can easily manage contact lists, send out highly targeted content, and track clicks.
Take inspiration from other brands’ email newsletters. Photo credit: Hubspot.
Content marketing is anything that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content. Ideally, you’d want to create and distribute content that is valuable and relevant to your customers. Your distribution channels — social media, blog, and other channels you own — should act like media publications that serve not only to inform, but also to entertain and interact with your audience.
Content can be presented in a variety of formats: news, e-books, guides, white papers, infographics, video, podcasts, interview articles, blog posts, and even GIFs. Beverage brand Red Bull, for example, has hosted and sponsored events around extreme sports and activities on its own media channels (website, YouTube, magazine, etc). When you’ve established your brand’s own communication medium, you’re no longer highly dependent on paid-media channels.
Social media plays a huge part in content marketing in the present day. Therefore, it’s important for you to establish beforehand what you decide to do with the different channels you own. A good example would be Airbnb reposting user-generated content on Instagram to help its followers visualise different places they can travel to.
Photo credit: Airbnb on Instagram.
The buying process typically begins with search engines. Customers these days turn to Google or other major search engines to answer their questions. To make sure your website is highly visible (or appears in the first page) where people are searching, your content and web pages need to be optimized for search engines. Your marketplace popularity and how user friendly and search engine friendly your website is also affects your ranking.
One of the most important components of SEO is keyword research, for which you have keyword research tools like Google Trends and Moz Keyword Explorer at your disposal. However, to understand the value of a keyword to your marketplace, you still need to experiment and make continual improvements.
Some of the recommended ways to do research is to see which websites already rank for your chosen keyword. It will give you insight into your competitors, and also how difficult it would be to rank for that keyword. High-value keywords typically have multiple search ads above the organic results. You can also buy test traffic through Google Adwords to check for conversion rates, which leads us to the last point:
When you place ads above or around the organic results of a search, you would pay either when your ad is clicked (pay-per-click). Google AdWords is by far the go-to paid search platform for marketers. Additionally, it has the appeal of producing almost instant results. Google offers a step-by-step guide to building successful Adwords campaigns here.
Photo credit: Huffington Post.
Everyone is vying for the top spot of course, as it’s most likely to receive the highest click volume, so be ready to bid for it if you’re targeting a popular keyword. Be advised that paid search is not cheap, but you are able to control your cost to fit the budget you’ve set aside for it.
There are some things that you would need to prepare before launching your paid search campaign, however:
· Keywords. Target traffic that is looking to convert — for instance, think about the difference between “set up a marketplace” and “online marketplaces”. The latter is more general and could end up costing money without delivering the results.
· A highly visible call to action on your landing page. As part of your conversion goals, you’d want visitors to take some form of action once they land on your website. It could be a purchase, subscription to your marketplace newsletter, or completion of a form.
· A compelling ad copy. Ad titles and descriptions matter. They should include the keyword that was searched, and still, it could be a hit or miss. It’s recommended that you create several different versions that are highly targeted — at least one to attract marketplace suppliers and one for customers — and allocate more budget on those resulting in conversions.
Paid searches require constant optimization to keep it performing. Throughout the course of your campaign, you should test different ad copies, keywords, and bidding strategies and see what works for your marketplace. It does require substantial effort, but if you are unable to devote time to it, there are also many professionals who can handle your paid search marketing for you.
Depending on your audience, you marketplace might respond to different marketing mixes. Thus, it’s imperative for you to explore other marketing channels, including offline marketing to help your marketplace get discovered. For more marketing and SEO tips, check out our guide: Compete for Visibility and Emerge on Top.