Marketing is getting more complex. New digital channels and innovations are offering more opportunities to reach fresh leads and to discover buyers with intent. But with innovation comes uncertainty over where to best spend marketing budgets and how to make the most of it.
A popular (and sometimes misunderstood) marketing strategy for businesses in Malaysia is Inbound Marketing.
In this guide, we rip away the curtain from inbound marketing. We will explore three pillars of inbound marketing and how they relate to each other: Marketing Automation, Search Engine Optimization, and Content Marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is simply the marketing strategy that aims to attract buyers to your business website and engage them once they are there. Inbound is characterized by six things:
- Digital: The two main channels that inbound uses to reach buyers are marketing automation campaigns and search engine optimization.
- Targeted: Through digital advertising and email, inbound can be targeted to individuals or tight demographic groups. Through SEO, it can target specific search terms or interests.
- Magnets: To attract buyers, inbound uses content that’s valuable to the buyer or content that contains a solution to a buyer problem.
- Scalable: Inbound can reach as many or as few people or search terms as needed; or as the marketing budget allows.
- Manageable: Using online tools and dashboards, inbound campaigns are simple to manage with trackable ROIs and KPIs.
- Integrated: Using tracking and remarketing technologies across integrated channels, inbound can offer content that progressively nurtures buyers from channel to channel.
But why is drawing prospects to your website so important? Because 89% of all buyers start by researching the internet to build their consideration set.
Prospects want to learn more about your company and what you can offer to put themselves in a more informed position before they speak to your representative. And of course, no one would begin any kind of business relationship without first knowing who they are doing business with and that means researching your company and exploring your website.
Inbound vs Outbound
Outbound marketing attempts to build brand impressions or brand likeability, but not directly to draw people to your website. You can see outbound messaging reaching broad audiences in non-digital media like mass media, outdoor, public relations, event sponsorships, and influencer outreach.
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and tools that manage the marketing outreach component of inbound marketing. Marketing automation operates through digital channels (email, social media, digital ads) and automate repetitive digital marketing tasks in a scalable way.
1. Marketing Automation
Examples of marketing automation platforms include Marketo, Hubspot, and Pardot. They have integrated channel capability (they can create and schedule emails, social media posts and digital ads), they can perform audience selection and management, and allow segmentation of audiences for personalization.
Uses of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is most often used for lead generation and qualifying marketing leads. With the ability to automate complex functions in a series, it is also used in a variety of other marketing tasks.
This includes nurturing leads into deals, up-selling, cross-selling, rewarding customers, maintaining relationships with cold leads or lapsed customers, renewing subscriptions (for SaaS products), reducing cart abandonment (ecommerce), and even welcoming new customers.
Key Functions of Marketing Automation
Two of the functions that set multi-channel marketing automation platforms apart are:
- Ability to remarket and coordinate between channels — Based on an individual target’s activities (eg visiting a website or clicking on an ad), a marketer can trigger another marketing action on a different marketing channel to target the same individual (eg send an email or show an ad based on the prior activity).
- Create workflows that automate marketing actions — The marketer can create a series of marketing actions (ie a workflow) based on a flowchart of an individual target’s actions and reactions to marketing messages. Workflows are what make lead qualifying and lead nurturing so easy.
Marketing Automation for Sales
Marketing automation also offers cross-discipline benefits for sales representatives.
Platforms allow sales to prioritize leads by employing artificial intelligence that automatically scores leads based on their lead activities. Lead qualification alerts can be set to notify sales to make timely calls to high priority prospects. The best marketing automation platforms also have a customer relationship management (CRM) module that allows sales to track the progress of leads for enhanced accountability.
Ultimately, marketing automation helps sales to reduce conversion time, accelerate sales cycles and work more efficiently.
What Marketers in Malaysia Get Wrong About Marketing Automation
Thinking of each digital marketing channel (digital ads, social posts, email) as a wholly separate element in the marketing mix is common in Malaysia.
But this way of thinking does not allow marketers to take full advantage of the power of cross-channel automation. Remarketing and workflows are the keys to realizing strategic marketing objectives more effectively and efficiently.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO or search engine optimization refers to two extensive sets of activities to make your website reach the first search engine results page (SERP) of a relevant keyword so that searchers with buying intent can find your website. Both sets of activities — On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO — are equally important to the success of SEO.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO improves the Page Quality (PQ) of individual web pages to rank higher in relevant keyword SERPs by creating fresh content or updating content with keywords and phrases that match the searcher’s intent.
On-Page SEO Tactics
On-Page SEO tactics cover a wide range of activities that contribute to the web page’s PQ and the website’s overall E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust) for relevant keywords.
- Creating high quality content that searchers want to read
- Creating vast quantities of content in relevant keyword pillar pages and topic clusters
- Optimizing the web page title, description, and keywords in the meta data of the page to match search intent
- Ensuring that web pages are accessible by search engines on both mobile and desktop platforms
- Updating the content of older but relevant web pages to improve their PQ
- Pruning web pages that are irrelevant to avoid bringing down the website’s E-A-T
What is Off-Page SEO?
Off-Page SEO refers to activities that earn authoritative back links and inbound traffic from other websites to individual web pages. Unlike On-Page SEO, the activities are conducted largely off the website and the results are mainly in the control of webmasters of those websites.
Off-Page SEO Tactics
Off-Page SEO tactics are far more time consuming and require a great deal of effort in reaching out to and negotiating with webmasters of high domain authority (DA) websites and influencers to request that they create back links to your website. Quantity of back links counts as much as the quality of the websites the back links are from. Off-Page SEO tactics include:
- Creating high-quality, relevant, and timely content that webmasters of high DA websites want to link to
- Creating high-quality guest posts to contribute to high DA websites for an author back link
- Creating sponsored content for high DA websites to post (this is considered a paid back link that search engines discount for E-A-T)
- Co-creating content with influencers to post on their digital properties
- Registering in relevant web directories for a back link
- Commenting on relevant blog posts and social media posts with a back link to your website
- Replying to relevant questions on Quora.com or Answers.com with a back link to your website
What Malaysian Marketers Get Wrong About SEO
First, SEO activities do not produce results in the short term. It takes months, maybe even years, of content production and outreach before reaching first SERP of highly-competitive keywords. If you want fast lead generation results, invest more in marketing automation.
Second, it does not result in torrents of web traffic. It usually involves targeting long-tail keywords which bring tiny amounts of traffic individually but can result in large quantities of traffic when combined.
Third, SEO is a zero-sum game. For your website to take a position in the first SERP, it must replace another website. Other websites can do the same to yours, so you need to defend your position constantly with fresh content and back links.
3. Content Marketing
Content forms the backbone of any inbound marketing program. It is used in marketing automation to deliver relevant solutions to targets and in search engine optimization to attract search traffic to the website.
Uses of Content
Content has multiple purposes. It is used to attract potential buyers, educate them about the solution, build trust in the brand, and persuade buyers to make a purchase. B2B content, in particular, performs one additional function: it needs to support the completion of the B2B buying process.
Content that’s created to perform this function is called Buyer Enablement Content.
What is Buyer Enablement Content?
Buyer Enablement content is any kind of content that helps to simplify the B2B purchase process of the buyer, making it easier for them to convince other stakeholders in the organization to approve the purchase.
The B2B buyer decision-making is complex. It can involve as many as 10 stakeholders from various functions. Marketers have found that delivering valuable buyer enablement content can result bigger deals and less buyer regret.
What Malaysian Marketers Get Wrong About Content
First, words cannot convince a buyer to make a purchase. It’s a combination of the various factors, not least of which are the product and the price. Words can surface the relevance of the product and its benefits to the buyer. But getting that message to the right buyer at the right time makes all the difference.
Second, the form of the content is less important than marketers realize. Content can be long form (eBooks, reports, white papers), short form (blogs, cheat sheets, case studies), graphical (infographics), interactive (calculators, simulators), audio (webinars, podcasts), or video. What’s critical is that the content, in whatever form, must offer helpful prescriptive advice that removes obstacles to the buyer’s purchase.
For more information
Please contact me. I am an expert in every aspect of inbound marketing: targeting your customers with marketing automation tools and strategies, on-page and off-page SEO, and content development. I can help solve whatever marketing issue you have and answer any marketing question.