Marketing for IT and technology companies will always be challenging. Especially for companies that don’t sell physical products (technology services, software, etc. ), it can be difficult to provide proof of value to our target audience. On the other hand, in the tech industry, virtually all of your competitors have the know-how of digital marketing, and so competition is stiff.
In the face of this increased competition for attention, IT and technology companies both in the B2C and B2B sectors will need a thoroughly planned marketing strategy in order to succeed.
One of the best marketing techniques for capturing the audience’s attention amidst all the noises is inbound marketing. In fact, in today’s saturated digital marketing environment, it’s virtually impossible to stand out and attract the attention of your ideal prospects without an effective inbound marketing strategy.
In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about inbound marketing for technology companies, and by the end of this guide, you’d have learned about:
- The definition and concept of inbound marketing
- Why inbound marketing instead of traditional (outbound marketing)
- Key principles of inbound marketing implementation
- A step-by-step guide to implementing inbound marketing specific for IT and technology companies
Without further ado, let us begin right away.
What Actually Is Inbound Marketing?
The term “inbound marketing” has been a major buzzword throughout the 2010s, and has been a part of many organizations’ digital marketing strategies in the decade and up until now.
But what actually is it?
To really understand the inbound marketing methodology, we have to first discuss the major issue faced by traditional (or now called outbound) marketing activities in this social media era:
Traditional marketing efforts like advertising are designed to push the promotional messages outwards to reach as many people as possible.
The thing is, these outbound marketing activities are interruptive. You are interrupting the target audience’s activity with the promotions: we want to watch a YouTube video, but we are interrupted by an ad we’d have to “skip.” We want to listen to a song, but we are interrupted by a Spotify ad, and so on.
These disruptions are obviously annoying, but in the past, we didn’t have too many options: if we wanted to watch SNL, we had to stick to the TV station, or we’d risk missing parts of the show. Nowadays? Consumers have so many different options in the palm of their hands. Too many ads on a YouTube video? They can easily switch to different videos or even switch to another platform. Websites showing too many ads? Simply install ad blockers.
Not to mention, with the number of ads we’ve seen over the years, many of us have now grown resistant and will automatically ignore advertising, a phenomenon we call banner blindness.
The inbound marketing methodology is essentially developed to counter this issue.
If outbound marketing efforts push the message outwards, inbound marketing is designed to pull the highly-targeted audience inwards. In the inbound marketing methodology, the target audience is the one proactively looking for information, and so we are not interrupting their activity.
How is this possible in practice? At the core of inbound marketing is content, and below we will discuss the basic concept of the inbound marketing methodology.
Inbound Marketing Methodology for IT and Technology Companies
The inbound marketing methodology is designed based on the typical buyer’s journey experienced by customers in the digital era, which can be visualized in the form of a funnel. These funnels can vary depending on the business model and what products/services the business is selling, but the AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action) funnel is considered the most basic example:
As we can see, in the AIDA funnel, a typical consumer (including organizations as B2B consumers) will go through four main phases:
- The consumer is aware that they have a problem and is now actively searching for a solution
- While researching for potential solutions, the consumer is now interested in one or more potential solutions (products/services)
- The consumer compares the different solutions and now has the desire to purchase one product/service
- The consumer finally takes action and makes the purchase
The inbound marketing methodology simply leverages this purchase funnel in several stages:
- Attract: attracting consumers who are aware of their problems, mainly by publishing content that is optimized for SEO. When the said consumer searches for a potential solution, the goal is so that this consumer will stumble upon our content, so they are also aware of our brand.
- Convert: after introducing our brand to potential prospects via our content, we offer something valuable to this consumer (i.e., a free-trial offer, an ebook, etc.) in exchange for their contact information (email address), converting them into a lead.
- Close: convincing the lead that our product/service is indeed an ideal solution for their problem so they’ll take action and make the purchase.
- Delight: keeping customers happy so they stay loyal to our brand and might refer our product/service to their peers.
For each of these phases, we’ll use various channels and tactics to create a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy. These tactics may vary depending on the business model and the product/service sold by the business, but for a technology company, here are the typical tactics and channels:
- Content marketing, the core of any inbound marketing strategy: blogging, social media posts, videos, podcasts, etc.
- Ads to support the content marketing performance
- Influencer marketing to support social media content
- Offering attractive lead magnets
- Lead scoring to identify qualified leads
- Email marketing to nurture leads
- Chatbots and marketing automation
- Continuous publication of relevant and valuable content
- Email marketing to provide valuable information/promotion and maintain loyalty
- Marketing automation to maintain interest
As you can see, the inbound marketing methodology for IT and technology companies should be a holistic and continuous effort. Your job doesn’t stop after you’ve acquired a new lead, but you must maintain their loyalty and turn your loyal customers into advocates that, in turn, will promote your technology solution to others.
This will create a natural inbound marketing cycle which in turn will provide your tech business with a sustainable source of leads and customers.
Inbound Marketing for Tech Companies: Step-By-Step Guide
At the core of any inbound marketing strategy is content.
That is, we have to ensure a regular and consistent publication of high-quality content to establish credibility and thought leadership.
Obviously, in practice, this can be quite a challenging feat, but here is a step-by-step guide you can use:
Step 1: Identifying and understanding your target audience
Since inbound marketing is about attracting and pulling your audience inwards, it’s very important to first know who your target audience is and understand as much as you can about them: their pain points, problems they are facing, behaviors, needs, and so on.
The more you understand your target audience; the more effective your inbound marketing strategy will be.
Start by developing a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional model of your ideal audience, which should include detailed information for this model buyer, including demographics and behavior data, preferences, online activities, and other information.
There are several basic approaches you can use when identifying your ideal audience:
- If you already have an existing customer base, then you can analyze your existing clients and try to map their buyer’s journey.
- If you are a brand new company with zero customers, then an alternative approach is to obtain and analyze your competitors’ customer data. This may be harder to do but is still relatively possible.
- If possible, try to interview your existing clients (or send out surveys) and ask them about their pain points/problems, experience with your product/service, and how they use your product/service to solve their problems.
If you are a B2B IT and technology company, it’s important to consider that you’ll be targeting businesses rather than individuals, and there can be multiple individuals with different roles involved in each purchase decision. Meaning, you may need to create multiple buyer personas covering different roles.
When determining target audiences for B2B businesses, we can differentiate buyer personas into two different types: buyer-influencers and decision-makers:
- Buyer influencers are typically the direct users of your product or service who will propose the purchase of your product/service to their higher-ups; they will influence the decision of the decision-makers.
- Decision-makers are those who will either approve or decline the purchase decision (i.e., a CEO or a finance manager)
Consider these two different types of buyer personas when developing your B2B buyer personas.
Don’t skip the process of developing your buyer personas. While it can be time-consuming and challenging at first, it will be worth it in the long run.
Step 2: Establish a content creation strategy
Again, content creation is the core of inbound marketing strategy, so take this step seriously.
First things first, nowadays, we have many different types of content published on many different channels: text-based blog posts, podcasts, videos, and social media posts, among others.
In inbound marketing, you should mainly focus on text-based blog posts, but other forms of content will also be useful in supporting your blog posts.
Nevertheless, no matter what types of content you are publishing, the purpose is to establish credibility in the form of thought leadership. The basic idea is that if your content consumers feel that your content is helpful and credible, they’ll be convinced that the product/service you are selling is also credible.
So, focus on consistently publishing high-quality content that is useful for your target audience by providing the information they are looking for and solving their problems.
In this social media age, you should also try to publish content that can help establish your social proof: testimonies from previous customers or clients, case studies, and so on.
When publishing social proof content, it’s important to focus on your customer’s or client’s experience rather than your product or service. If you can get testimonials from famous users or clients, then it’s a huge plus point, but always elaborate on what their problem is and how they stumbled upon your product/service as a viable solution.
Keyword research and SEO
No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value to your inbound marketing effort if nobody is consuming it.
How you promote your content is crucial, and in inbound marketing, the main way to promote your content is SEO.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is, in a nutshell, a series of optimizations on your content and your website so the content can rank higher on the search results page for relevant keywords.
While SEO is a pretty deep subject that deserves its own guide, at this step, you should focus on performing keyword research as a foundation of your content creation strategy.
That is, every content you publish should be optimized for the target keyword(s), so it can be found via search.
The question is, what keywords should you target? There are three main principles to follow:
- The keyword must be frequently searched by your target audience (as defined in the previous step). We can measure this by assessing the search volume of each keyword.
- The keyword must be relevant to your business and product/service. Not all keywords that are popular among your target audience will be relevant for your business.
- Depending on your available budget and time, make sure the keyword is not too competitive for you. If it’s too expensive/time-consuming to target a specific keyword, it might not be worth it.
Step 3: Develop a content calendar
Develop a comprehensive content calendar encompassing your whole inbound marketing strategy.
You should ideally plan a 1-year worth of content calendar upfront, although you can always start with a 6-month or even 3-month calendar.
Your content calendar should be comprehensive and cover the whole buyer’s journey of your product from when a website visitor first stumbled upon your content via Google search until they have been established as a loyal customer/client or even an advocate of your brand.
Make sure to plan your content so there are pieces of content that cover every stage of the buyer’s journey, including:
- For cold prospects (total strangers that haven’t been aware of your brand)
- Those who have been aware of your brand/product/service but are not yet interested
- Lost prospects who’ve shown interest in your brand/product/service in the past
- Those who have shown interest but aren’t yet ready to make the purchase
- Customers who’ve just made their purchase
- Loyal customers with repeated purchases
- Lost customers who might be interested in your competitor’s product/service
As a general rule of thumb, content developed for the top of the funnel (i.e., cold prospects) should be highly targeted and “narrow” in focus. On the other hand, content for bottom-of-the-funnel prospects should be as broad and try to reach as many people as possible.
Step 4: Establishing lead magnets
Assuming you’ve successfully created and published high-quality content and attracted people to actually consume the content, now what?
The next objective is to capture this content consumer’s contact information (mainly email address, a thing we call lead generation.
A ‘lead,’ therefore, is simply a prospect who has submitted their contact information with your brand, essentially allowing your business to contact them and promote your product/service.
So, how can you convince those who read your blog posts to submit their contact information?
The answer is lead magnets.
A lead magnet is essentially something of value that is offered for free during the content consumption in exchange for their contact information.
The most basic form of lead magnet that you’ve probably stumbled upon is offering a more comprehensive, more in-depth version of the content currently consumed.
For example, if a reader is consuming a blog post about weight loss, then you can offer a “3-month weight loss plan” ebook. This ebook is the lead magnet.
Lead magnets can come in various forms, as long as they are perceived as valuable by your target audience. An ideal lead magnet offer should:
- Solve your prospect’s problems or pain points
- Provide immediate or at least quick value for your content consumer
- Be clear and specific in what it is offering
- Be easy to comprehend
- Effective in demonstrating your product/service/brand’s value
Here are the most common forms of lead magnets you can consider:
- Discounts/limited-time offers of your product or service
- Free-trial/product demos/free consultation
- Free webinars
- eBooks, white papers, research reports, case studies, and other forms of in-depth textual content
- Tools and templates related to your brand (i.e., tax calculator if you are selling an accounting software)
This is not an exhaustive list, and you can literally offer other forms of lead magnets according to your target audience’s preferences. Don’t be afraid to be creative here.
Step 5: Link building
Again, SEO will be the main method you’ll use to promote your content in inbound marketing, and getting more backlinks remains the most important SEO ranking factor even in 2022.
So, you’ll have to make sure your content is getting more backlinks, so it can climb higher on Google’s search results pages.
Why are backlinks (or inbound links) important? Simply put, Google treats backlinks as votes of confidence on the internet. When a website links another page, the website is essentially saying this page (and its content) is credible and trustworthy.
However, thanks to its constantly updated algorithm, Google is getting consistently better at understanding the context of incoming backlinks, so the quality of the backlink’s source is also important rather than simply aiming for quantity.
In the past, we can rely on various link-building schemes to generate hundreds of links from brand new websites not related to our content. Nowadays, however, it’s simply no longer possible.
Meaning, above anything else, the secret to getting high-quality and relevant backlinks is your content’s quality. Good content will be recommended and linked by others sooner than later, and vice versa; no amount of strategy can help low-quality content to get more links.
Once you’ve ensured content quality, to increase the likelihood of getting linked, try including the following link hooks in each piece of content:
- A new, unique take on a certain topic
- A piece of unique information/data, for example, a research result, white paper, round-up of information, etc.
- A unique and interesting story worth sharing
- Aesthetically pleasing assets (i.e., images, photos, infographics)
Here are some additional link-building tips you can try:
- Affiliate link building: search for your target keyword on Google and other tools (i.e., BuzzSumo) and try to find 20-25 articles targeting the same keyword. You can then outreach the authors of these articles and offer to link theirs in exchange for a backlink to yours.
- Link reclamation: check for uncredited brand mentions, and ask them for a link back to your site.
- Broken link building: find broken links (using tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, among others) in potential backlink sources, and offer your page as a potential replacement for the broken link.
- Guest posting:There are various ways you can try to get more guest posting opportunities.
- Infographics: create a great infographic, then outreach potential backlink sources whether they’d like to post this infographic.
- Forum/comment posting: still effective when done right, but you should focus on providing valuable conversations to any forum/comment section you are posting to rather than simply promoting your content. Build lasting relationships and make sure your content is relevant to the topic being discussed.
Last but not least, remember that inbound marketing is a long-term game.
While it can be challenging to implement and it may take longer to generate the desired results, in the long run, it will be worth it since you’ll get a sustainable source of leads for your business.
Nevertheless, since it’s a long-term strategy, it’s very important to regularly keep track of your progress, so you can make the necessary adjustments when required.
Try establishing a system to regularly monitor the following metrics:
- Search ranking: should climb slowly but steadily.
- Organic traffic: Also, monitor your organic traffic and make sure it’s also increasing along with the climb in ranking.
- Traffic by source/medium: track how visitors are finding your site via Google analytics
- Link profile: check growth in link profile, especially backlinks. Make sure to ensure natural growth.
- User experience metrics: time on page (dwell time), bounce rate, number of pages per session, new/returning visitors, and so on.
- Lead generation metrics: you can use Google Analytics to track lead conversions by setting up relevant goals.
- Impressions and CTR: You can track impressions and CTR via Google Search Console, which will provide information on whether your content is actually effective in generating impressions and clicks.
By following the step-by-step strategy and the actionable tips we’ve shared above, you are now ready to start implementing successful inbound marketing for your IT and technology company.