An Introduction to the Inbound Marketing Funnel

Picture this, you’re scrolling on social media and see a random post on your feed about a new product. One catches your attention. You click through to get to the main post, read the caption, and inspect the picture. Feeling compelled to learn more, you navigate to the company’s website. From there, you hop on a landing page to read about this insanely attractive product you didn’t know you needed. You’re hooked. 

Welcome to the first two stages of the inbound marketing funnel – you’re not alone in this journey. Marketing gurus in this digital era use various strategies to capture their target audience’s attention. They want their audience to act and then somehow develop a long-term relationship with each of their customers. 

That’s the goal – not just to get sales and increase profits, but to build a meaningful relationship. In short, inbound marketing is a non-invasive approach to marketing for the right people at the right time in the right place. 

Discover more about the inbound marketing and the funnel experience below.

Continue reading “An Introduction to the Inbound Marketing Funnel”

6 Steps to Creating a Sales Enablement Content Strategy

While the focus of content marketing is to attract leads, it doesn’t necessarily help convert prospects into customers. Creating a sales enablement content strategy helps. This content is specifically created to arm your sales team with materials to engage prospects as they make their way through the funnel and close deals.

Follow these steps to create a sales enablement content strategy to help you convert more prospects into customers.

1. Review the content your sales team uses

Find out what content the sales team is currently using. Learn what content engages prospects and starts conversations, and which content isn’t useful. The marketing team should also ask sales what content they use at each step of the buyers’ journey. This information will help marketing focus on the types of content they need to create and identify any content gaps.

2. Take inventory of your current content

Perform an audit of your existing content and review which items can be useful to your sales team. You also need to identify where each piece of content fits on the buyers’ journey, so sales understands which content piece is appropriate at each step. Some examples of content the marketing team can provide are:

  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Infographics
  • Ebooks
  • Testimonials
  • Blogs

3. Create new content to fuel both sales and marketing teams

Next, it’s time to create new content to fill the gaps. The new content should help sales engage prospects, and it should help marketing attract qualified leads. While both teams play a role in deciding what content to produce it is important to keep your buyer personas in mind to ensure each content piece speaks to your target buyer(s). When handing the content over sales, marketing can also provide them with email templates to increase content promotion.  An effective headline can make or break your email open rate.

Image Source: HubSpot

4. Determine if content needs to be outsourced

While your marketing team can likely create most content in-house, there are some items you might need to outsource – such as videos and demo videos — depending on what resources you have available. When outsourcing content creation, make sure to provide clear, direct instructions to ensure it has the right messaging and tone. Attaching a content brief to the assignment can help with this and save time.

5. Align content to the buyers’ journey

After the content is created, it’s essential to determine where it should be used in the buyers’ journey. Sales and marketing should work together to establish when prospects need each content piece, and how sales will distribute it. To assist them, marketing can create emails or social posts to help promote the content. Marketing can also gate the content they are promoting. This way, contact information is captured for the sales team, and can be used for future marketing campaigns. Both teams should also discuss how to repackage the content– such as turning blogs into ebooks or videos – to help increase engagement.

Image Source: HubSpot

6. Measure results

The final step is to measure how successful the sales enablement content is in terms of metrics and in advancing prospects through the funnel. This can be done in several different ways. For one, marketing should talk to the sales to get their take on how well each piece of content is engaging prospects and helping to close deals. Sales should also provide overall feedback as to how well the content was received.

Related Video: How To Create A Measurement Strategy

In addition to getting feedback from sales, marketing should use analytics. The metrics used will depend on what tools marketing is using to track performance on each piece of content. For example, pulling the click-throughs on calls-to-action, demo requests, and emails through analytics can determine how many prospects are engaging with the content.

When creating a sales enablement content strategy, it’s important to remember this is only one piece of marketing’s content plan. Marketing still needs to rely on its other tools and content to attract top-of-funnel leads that sales can turn into prospects and guide through the rest of the funnel. Sales enablement content benefits sales by helping them turn middle-of-funnel prospects into customers.

If you need help moving your prospects through the funnel, let Lake One help. Our experts can provide guidance and tips on how to convert leads into customers.

9 Sales and Marketing Alignment Best Practices

When you’re not meeting your revenue goals, the finger-pointing starts between your sales and marketing teams. Sales blames marketing for not generating enough leads. Marketing blames sales for not converting the leads into customers. Sales and marketing alignment is missing. This can go back and forth, creating hostility between two groups who need to be working together. Sales and marketing have the same goal – to increase customers and revenue. To achieve this, you need to curb the finger-pointing and get the two teams to align and work together.

Use these best practices to align your sales and marketing teams.

Increase communication

First, get out of silos and learn about the other team’s goals. The easiest way to do this is to schedule regular meetings with both teams. During these meetings, sales can educate marketing on their process and review quotas and metrics. Marketing can then share what initiatives they are working on, what campaigns are running, and what metrics they are tracking.

Create a Content Process

Marketing should include sales in their content brainstorming process. Together, the teams can generate content ideas helpful for sales to gain new leads. From there, sales can promote content in conversations with prospects, and on their personal social media channels. Video is a great way to promote new content with prospects. The use of video is growing as a marketing tool. It is an effective, personal way to communicate that builds trust and increases sales.

Related Reading: How and Why to Incorporate Sales Videos into Your Selling Process

Image Source: HubSpot

Promote the Sales Team

When marketing focuses on promoting thought leadership and expertise at the company, they should not overlook the sales team. Make sure to include sales in new content. These are the individuals that prospects interact with the most, so marketing can promote them through guest blogs and social media posts.

Understand Your Roles & Goals

It’s critical for sales and marketing to truly understand what each team member’s role is, and how it helps the company achieve its goals. Sales might not understand why someone writes a blog, and how that content helps generate leads. Marketing might not know how sales breaks down each person’s responsibilities – whether they sell to specific regions, or they each sell a specific product. It’s important to break down any misconceptions, create clarity around what each person does, and how it helps sales and marketing alignment.

Related Reading: 6 KPIs for Sales & Marketing Alignment

Identify Your Target Audience

To hit company goals, it’s essential for sales and marketing to understand which potential customers they are targeting. Marketing needs to know who to target with their content, keywords, and ads. Sales needs to know who they are selling to. Get everyone on the same page by creating buyer personas and a buyer’s journey map showing how they make purchasing decisions. The buyer personas should include the buyers’ demographics, size of the organization they work at, type of organization, role, priorities, and challenges. In the journey map, make sure to document what activities the buyer engages in, his or her objectives, what information he or she consumes (or needs), and what types of communication he or she uses to get the information.

Image Source: Unsplash

Share Feedback

It’s important for sales and marketing to share feedback they get from clients and prospects with each other. When the marketing team gathers data from surveys or feedback forms, they must share the results with the sales team. It’s also important for sales to share what they’re learning on calls with prospects, such as what questions they have about the product or company, what misconceptions they have, what they like about the product, and more. This will help marketing figure out what gaps need to be filled with their content, on their website, and in their campaigns to better promote the company and attract qualified leads.

Share Access to Documents

Does your marketing team have a plethora of blogs, white papers, and even one-sheets and brochures that they keep within their marketing files? This content is meant to fuel the sales team, so they must have access to it. Create a shared space (whether it’s on Teams, Slack, or another platform) where the two teams can share content. This will help your sales team feel more enabled, and it will help demonstrate what marketing is doing to help them.

Socialize

To get the sales and marketing teams to work together better, they need to get to know each other. Organizing social activities with both teams can help improve the relationships between team members. This helps cultivate a collaborative environment where everyone feels included.

Understand Each Other

Finally, one of the most important ways to achieve sales and marketing alignment is to create an understanding that both teams are trying to help the company – and each other – achieve their business goals. While both teams have different tasks, their end-goal and intentions are the same.

About Sales & Marketing Alignment Services at Lake One

At Lake One, technology is at the core of all our sales and marketing thinking.

  • We work with our partners to make sure their basecamp is “right sized” for their organization.
  • That the goals and strategy are leading the technology choices and not the other way around.
  • But most of all – that the technology is embraced and providing value to the organization.

For additional tips on how to align your sales and marketing teams, contact Lake One to talk to our experts.

Why the Inbound Marketing Methodology Works

Do you have a great company with superb services, yet you’re struggling to attract new customers? It’s probably not your product – it’s more likely an issue with your marketing strategy. This is where using an inbound marketing methodology can help. This strategy focuses on turning strangers into customers and building your brand presence.

Learn more about this strategy, and more importantly – why it works.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing focuses on four key stages to better promote your business: Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. Each stage has specific methods to convert casual observers of your company into customers, and ultimately, brand promoters.

  • Attract: This first stage attracts strangers through blogs, social media posts, keywords, and web pages.
  • Convert: The next stage turns visitors into leads through calls-to-action, landing pages, lead forms, and contacts.
  • Close: The third stage focuses on converting leads into customers. This can be done by sending email campaigns, creating workflows, conducting lead scoring, and integrating with a CRM.
  • Delight: The final stage is to turn your customers into promoters of your brand. You can do this through social media posts, smart calls-to-action, emails, and workflows.
inbound marketing

Why Inbound Marketing Methodology Works

Now that you know what inbound marketing is, it’s time to talk about the part you really care about – why this method works.

It increases your website traffic

Inbound marketing focuses on increasing your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and your content marketing efforts with robust pages. Doing this can drive more targeted traffic — and qualified leads — to your website. Creating more content (like blogs, articles, and pages) tied to the specific keywords that are relevant to your customers can help increase your ranking on search engines, like Google.

It enhances your qualified leads

With inbound marketing methodology, you are not just creating content for the sake of producing content. Under this strategy, you are creating content to attract your targeted audience. To do this, you want to think about what your potential customers are interested in and what they might be searching for. This can include blogs on industry trends and how-to articles that can drive them to your site. Your audience now has a much better understanding of who you are and what products and services you provide, so they become a more qualified lead than someone who just clicked on an ad.

There is also another perk to creating good content – it can get picked up by other websites and publications. This puts your content in front of their audience as well, to attract more leads.

marketing qualified leads
Image Source: HubSpot

It allows you to show them what you do

When you publish engaging, quality content on your site, your leads will associate that same level of quality with your company. Your content also demonstrates your business’ expertise, and how your products and services can help your customers. This allows leads to have a clear understanding of what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.

It lets you control the content and the costs

Inbound marketing can be a cost-effective way to promote your brand. When you run an ad, you need to pay for the ad spot and the creative. With content, you can likely create it in-house. It will only cost time. Plus, you own the content, so you can keep it on your site and reuse it as you need it. You can use one blog on your website, in social posts, emails, and more. This makes inbound marketing campaigns more effective than outbound campaigns – getting as much as three times the ROI on inbound campaigns, according to HubSpot.

It helps you build relationships with your customers

Inbound marketing methodology involves creating quality, relevant and useful content that will help your customers – and potential customers – do their jobs better. This content helps them learn to turn to you when they need answers. They will start to build a relationship with your company and will become loyal to your brand. Engaging with customers on social media and reading and responding to any comments they leave on your content will also help enhance this relationship.

It moves leads through your funnel faster

When you make a new purchase, you likely research the product first, right? So, if we do it, then we should expect our customers to do the same thing. Inbound marketing methodology accounts for this and helps you capture leads and move them through the sales funnel by offering targeted content at various stages. For example, you might provide general product information and calls to action to those at the top of the funnel. Then at the middle of the funnel, you might provide content specific to your company’s products and services and encourage them to fill out a lead form or subscribe to your blog or a newsletter. And finally, you might provide pricing information to those who are at the bottom of the funnel and are close to closing a deal.

marketing funnel
Image Source: HubSpot

It provides you with metrics to measure your marketing efforts are working

One of the hardest parts about marketing is showing your ROI. Inbound marketing can resolve this. This strategy allows you to get measurable results on your campaigns, website, and individual content items. You can pull metrics through Google Analytics to get page views, the amount of time people spend on your site and demographics on your visitors. You can also use your CRM, like HubSpot, to track information on your campaigns.

While it can take some planning to execute an effective inbound marketing strategy, it can be very effective in turning strangers into customers. If you need help getting started, contact Lake One to help you create your inbound marketing strategy, execute it, and measure it!

Failure to Launch: 7 Challenges Preventing a Successful Inbound Marketing Strategy

Do you find yourself spinning your wheels on your inbound marketing strategy? Or maybe you’re just starting to entertain the idea of incorporating it into your overall marketing program and find yourself unable to get it off the ground. You’re not alone. There is no shortage of inbound marketing challenges, but there are far more rewards once you can move past some of those obstacles. 

Here are the most common challenges of inbound marketing that prevent you from having a successful strategy. 

Incomplete Strategy

When it comes to the various challenges of inbound marketing, this is one you’ll see often. Not for lack of good intentions, but because often people are ready to act before they analyze and plan. Don’t get us wrong, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation of analysis paralysis or placing perfection over progress, but you do need a plan in place before you dive in. 

inbound marketing challenges

The whole point of an inbound marketing strategy is to attract targeted and qualified leads and turn them into customers, so your strategy needs to be built around those clear buyer personas and have a plan in place for each stage of the buyer’s journey. So if you’re starting a blog, for example, you need to create a content strategy. If you’re planning to do social media marketing, you’ll want to identify the social sites that your personas are utilizing and create a posting schedule. Having clear strategies in place can often eliminate or at least reduce some of the challenges of inbound marketing listed below. 

Resources 

As you likely know, this challenge isn’t specific to just inbound marketing. Having limited time and resources is often a challenge across the board. There just isn’t enough time (or money) in the day, right? And to put a solid inbound marketing strategy into practice, you need those resources, as it can be pretty labor-intensive. 

To implement inbound successfully, it often requires you to create a lot of relevant content and produce it consistently. Keyword being consistent. And more than just creating content like blogs, white papers, and case studies, you’ll need to master SEO, have a social media presence, and don’t forget about email marketing. 

If you don’t have the necessary time or resources to dedicate to your marketing rigor, you can often address the issue by partnering with freelance writers or agency partners. By going it alone, you might be inhibiting the success of your inbound campaign.  

Persona Alignment

You know all that content we talked about needing to produce? One of the challenges of inbound marketing is that you can’t write content for just anyone. You need to ensure that your content and inbound marketing strategy align with your target audience, AKA, your buyer personas. When you curate content designed specifically for your buyer personas, you might even be able to reduce the amount of necessary content that needs to be created. By narrowing your focus, you put quality over quantity, producing better results, and helping reach your potential customers. 

inbound marketing challenges - buyer personas
Image Source: HubSpot.com

Beyond just reaching those potential customers, by creating a buyer persona and aligning your content to them, you can:

  • Maximize your ROI
  • Generate qualified traffic and leads
  • Collect data/insights on the right people
  • Use your ad dollars efficiently
  • Create a great customer experience
  • Improve engagement across all of your channels

More About Buyer Personas: Why Understanding Your B2B Buyer Persona is the Crux of all Marketing Efforts 

Creating the Right Marketing Tech Stack  

marketing tech stack

Since resources, or lack thereof, is one of the challenges of inbound marketing, it’s essential to work smarter when it comes to the tools you incorporate into your overall strategy. That said, it can be hard to find the tools that are right-sized for your business, and that will cover all of your needs and that you and your team will actually use. But it can be nearly impossible to execute an effective inbound strategy without a proper marketing tech stack. Tech like: 

  • A CRM 
  • Marketing automation tool
  • Email marketing tool 
  • Social media publisher 
  • Analytics 
  • Content management system  

Is marketing technology right for your organization? Take the free online assessment here.

If you’re lucky (and smart), you’ll utilize a tool that covers multiple bases. When you implement a marketing technology stack, you’re building the framework for a solid inbound marketing strategy. The tools you decide to use are the bones of your plan and enable your team to take your marketing to the next level. This includes:

  • Better aligned sales and marketing teams
  • Marketing automation and reduction of manual work
  • Increased lead generation and the ability to nurture leads
  • More impactful analytics, insights, and reports
  • Streamlined processes and the simplification of complex operations
  • Ability to generate and carry out a comprehensive strategy

Poor User Engagement 

Picture it, you have a clear strategy, you have the time and resources you need, you’re aligned perfectly to your personas, and have all the right tech, but you’re still seeing low user engagement. Your strategy must be off, right? Not so fast. What’s the doorway between your prospects, your brand, and a potential sales opportunity? Your website! Before you throw your strategy out the window, be sure to check your website.

Related Reading: The Surprising Ways B2B Website Design Affects Sales 

A poor website user experience can be a significant weakness and challenges of inbound marketing that will likely be reflected in high bounce rates and potentially low time on page. Be sure to look at things like poor website design, poor mobile-optimization, and poor user experience. If you find you have issues with any or all three of those areas, fix them. It really is that simple. 


Here are some ways to make the content and design of your B2B website purposeful in driving conversion: 

  • Create clear CTAs (Call-to-Actions)
  • Ensure a quality user experience
  • Use the right language and tone for your buyers 
  • Cluster content strategy around topics 
  • Have supporting pillar content with blog topics 
  • Humanize your images and videos 
content clusters

Learn more about how to master your B2B website strategy and drive growth here

Misalignment of Sales and Marketing 

We already noted the importance of having a clearly defined inbound marketing strategy upfront. Still, all of that can be for not if your internal teams, specifically sales and marketing, aren’t aligned. 

One of the common marketing challenges is that the marketing team has one viewpoint of what makes a great lead and the sales team has an entirely different one. If marketing is creating content to attract the wrong target, then the leads will likely have a lower conversion rate into sales. It’s a lose-lose. 

Aligning sales and marketing needs to be a priority for all involved if you want to get traction on your inbound marketing. Why? 

  • 209% higher revenue from marketing-generated leads (Marketo)
  • Win more customers – 67% higher probability that marketing-generated leads will close (Marketo)
  • Keep those customers – 36% higher retention rates (MarketingProfs)
  • 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% more rapid three-year profit growth for B2B (SiriusDecisions)

how to achieve sales and marketing alignment

Expectation Setting 

Remember, results take time. Even if you’ve overcome all of the challenges above, you can’t expect to grow your website traffic, write the world’s best content (at scale), generate new, quality leads, and convert them to customers overnight. Your expectations need to be realistic. Whether it’s internal or external stakeholders, make sure that expectations are set up front and well-aligned. Then give it time to work! Work your strategy, be consistent, measure results, and then adjust as needed. 

While the challenges of inbound marketing can be tough to overcome, it’s worth the time and energy to implement a successful strategy. But if you find that it’s more than you or your team want to take on, there are resources out there that can help—interested to learn more? Chat with one of our experts and learn how Lake One can help you take your inbound strategy to the next level. 

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Content Marketing for Manufacturers: How to Build a Successful Strategy

While traditional marketing efforts have served manufacturers well for many years, incorporating a modern approach now is a must. Content marketing for manufacturers, in its simplest form, is creating content that answers your potential buyer’s questions early in their research process and throughout the buying journey. 

The content you create serves many purposes: create brand awareness, generate leads, build credibility with buyers, and much more. So, if your buyers are searching for answers to their questions and you haven’t created any content for them to find, who will they get their answers from? Your competitors.

Why is Content Marketing Valuable for Manufacturers? 

Marketing and selling to B2B buyers, in general, can be tricky, and the landscape is ever-changing. Add in the complexities of product and channel for manufacturers, that only compounds the challenges. Focusing on content marketing can help. Here’s how:

Build Credibility and Trust

A B2B buyer is looking for a solution to their problem that they can trust. It’s not common that they will just accept the first solution they find. They will likely look around to find the best solution for their needs before making any decisions. That’s why it’s important that your content showcases your expertise, experience, and showcases the value you can bring. Ultimately people want to work with someone who is credible and trustworthy. Highlight those things by creating case studies, client testimonials, and more.

Increase Visibility

Organic searches can be your most significant source of traffic and revenue. According to HubSpot, their biggest source of traffic is and continues to be blogging! Part of your content marketing strategy should include promoting your content across the channels that your persona uses. Whether it’s using SEO to show up on the Google SERP, posting on Facebook, or using paid ads on LinkedIn. This allows you to reach more people and increase your brand awareness.

Gain a Competitive Advantage

Content marketing for manufacturers is especially important because if you’re not doing it, you can trust that your competitors are or will at some point. And if they aren’t yet, then you’ll have an advantage by getting your content out there first. Content marketing is a great way to gain market share and move up the ranks in your industry.

Recommended Reading: Solutions to 5 Common Manufacturing Challenges in 2020

Opportunity to Share Mission and Personality

This is a benefit of content marketing that is often overlooked but can be a powerful one. Content marketing allows you to give life and a personal touch to your products or services. People don’t just want to work with a company, they want to work with people. Your buyers want to work with people who truly care about their customers and provide value to them. Creating content that showcases your mission and the company’s personality can help build trust and humanize you further.

Solve for Complex B2B Buying Cycles

We don’t have to tell you that products in manufacturing are usually technical and complex. While the buyer is often sophisticated and specialized themselves – like an engineer, they’re still looking for educational materials. In fact, a survey conducted by engineering.com found that overwhelmingly – engineers still turn to search or website blogs to find answers to their most technical questions. Your content should be what guides them to a solution and exceeds their expectations. 

b2b buyers journey

Content Marketing Strategies for Manufacturers

Fewer than one in four respondents of the Manufacturing Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends survey noted that they have a documented content marketing strategy. Those with a written strategy report the top benefits as being an aligned team around joint mission and goals, and that it makes it easier to determine which content to develop. 

Every marketing initiative needs to be driven by a solid strategy and end goal in mind. Content marketing for manufacturers is no different. Here are some tried and true strategies below. Also, who says you have to pick just one? Often the best results come from layering strategies.

Content for SEO

Supercharge your content marketing efforts by aligning it with SEO. Not only will you be educating and helping potential buyers who are coming to your website, but you’ll also be casting a wider net by adding the Google SERP to your arsenal.

Start by doing some keyword research on what your personas are searching for on Google. The idea is to find out what questions your personas are asking and use that information to create an SEO strategy that promotes your helpful content.

Look for keywords with a lower keyword difficulty and a fair amount of search volume to use as a blog topic. Focus on providing value for your persona and solving their pain points, while keeping in mind some SEO best practices, like including your keyword in your title and linking to outside sources of information. 

Account Based Marketing 

HubSpot defines ABM as a focused growth strategy in which Marketing and Sales collaborate to create personalized buying experiences for a mutually-identified set of high-value accounts.

Account based marketing

At its core, it turns the funnel upside down and aligns sales and marketing to hunt with spears instead of nets. Manufacturers benefit from building an account-based marketing framework by:

  • Creating higher quality opportunities
  • Tightly aligning sales and marketing
  • Streamlining and often speeding up the sales cycle
  • Expanding business relationships in key accounts
  • Better measure ROI

Related Reading: 4 Account Based Marketing Email Examples to Inspire You

DemandBase found that companies that have been using ABM for at least one year saw an increase in 10% revenue, 19% of those surveyed saw revenue growth in excess of 30%. 

So, where does content come in to play? You use highly relevant content to engage your target accounts. For example, ABM could call for a LinkedIn ad for a white paper or video with a call to action to download your case study. The best part about content for ABM? It can be repurposed elsewhere for inbound marketing or leveraged in nurture sequences.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a great way to establish credibility and be present when your persona is ready to have a more sophisticated sales conversation. Having that credibility reflects on your company’s products and services. It shows that you’ve thought about your persona’s pain points and address them in your services. The goal is to keep your company top of mind when they are ready to solve their problem. Here’s are the three phases:

inbound marketing for content marketing for manufacturers

Image Source: HubSpot.com

Attract: Here is where you draw in the right people (right being the key word) with content and resources that they will find valuable. This will help establish you as a trusted source and someone they’ll want to engage with. Whether it’s using SEO to show up in the Google SERP, utilizing an email list for email marketing, regular social media posts, or even pay-per-click advertising. 

Learn more about email marketing services here.

Engage: This is where you will present your insights and solutions to their problems and goals. If you can either solve their pain point or help them reach their goal, they are more likely to do business with you. Every professional buyer has their own unique sales process. This is why it’s important to create content that addresses each stage of the buyer’s funnel. This includes having a diverse field of topics while using different delivery methods such as blogs, tools, e-books, and pillar pages. You’ll also engage by leveraging marketing automation to nurture your leads into customers.

Delight: Last but not least, delight. Here you provide help and support customers to find success with their purchase.

Related Reading: 5 Signs Inbound is Right for Your Business

Sales Enablement

Content marketing plays a major role in a sales enablement strategy. Implementing a B2B sales enablement strategy can align your internal teams and empower your sales team with the tools they need to close more deals. Marketing does this by providing should provide various resources such as blogs, guides, and demonstrations to help sales close more leads. For example, a sales rep can refer to a helpful pillar page to showcase your company’s expertise in a certain area. 

Related Reading: A Roadmap to Sure-fire B2B Sales Enablement Strategy

strategies for content marketing for manufacturers

Image Source: Salesforlife.com

Social Media Marketing

According to Oberlo, 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers are active social media users. With an audience on social media that continues to grow, more and more of your target personas will become social media users as well. Businesses using social media as part of their marketing strategy saw an increase in revenue of 24%

Before you put together an effective social media strategy, you must ask yourself:

  • What channels are my target personas using? (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • What kind of content will they engage with?
  • How can I get them within my reach?
  • What is the goal of my social media campaign?

Social media can be a great way to engage with your persona’s, but don’t spend too much time on a channel that might not make sense. Focus on creating a strategy that works within the areas your personas are spending the most time. Each social media channel should be used to promote the content you create. Pay attention to who engages with that content and how they respond to it. This can give you a better idea of what their looking for and provide any insight you might have never thought about. It can also be a method of qualifying your leads.

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Content Marketing Tips for Success

Be Consistent

Content marketing for manufacturers should be organized and consistent. The content you produce should be created with a purpose and part of a well planned, longer-term strategy. Creating content once every six months isn’t going to move the needle for your overall strategy. Find a content creation cadence that works for your company and stick with it.

Align Sales & Marketing

Having your sales team tightly aligned with your content marketing strategy will maximize your results. When your sales and marketing teams are aligned, sales is more likely to use the content that marketing is creating and marketing is more likely to create good content for sales. Everybody wins. It’s essential to have the right tools and technology on hand to allow sales to follow up with any qualified leads as soon as they engage with your content. 

benefits of content marketing for manufacturers

Image Source: Organimi.com

Diversify Content

Content marketing doesn’t need to be cranking out blogs every single week. Make it a fun and creative way to portray your business’s personality, expertise, and value. Everyone digests information differently. Some enjoy reading a blog post, while others will benefit from an infographic or tool. Utilize the many different formats and get creative with it. One great way that’s proven its worth is video marketing. Learn about the benefits of video marketing here.

how to achieve sales and marketing alignment

4 Strategic Insights to Glean from Conducting a Content Audit

We know that conducting content audits can sometimes be time-intensive and tedious. We also know that they are almost always worth the effort. Why? Well, because running audits on your content can provide your organization with strategic insights that help steer the direction of your current and upcoming campaigns. Here are the key benefits of a content audit.

What is a Content Audit 

A content audit is a comprehensive analysis of all of your content collectively. “Content” in this context includes your website content such as offers, blogs, and infographics, as well as offline sales and marketing materials, like sell sheets and brochures. 

What’s Included in a Content Audit

During an audit, you will pull all relevant stats and information about each piece. Relevance is in the eye of the bolder it turns out. Consider why you’re completing an audit in the first place and let that dictate what information you need. The purpose of your audit will be different depending on where you are in your content marketing strategy. 

Must-haves to include in your audit per each piece of content:

  • Title 
  • Quick topic summary
  • URL 
  • Stage of the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision, etc.)
  • Stage of the funnel (lead, MQL, SQL, etc.)
  • Type of content (blog, infographic, etc.)
  • Where the content is accessible/what pages it’s found on
  • Persona targeted
content audit example

Nice-to-haves in your audit:

  • Relevance to current persona/business strategy 
  • SERP relevance and position
  • Total ranking keywords
  • Monthly or quarterly views
  • Conversion rate 
  • Industry targeted

Some of the ‘nice-to-haves’ listed above might actually be critical for your audit. For example, if you’re conducting an audit because you’ve decided to lean into a secondary industry, you will want to include a column to capture it.

Benefits of a Content Audit

You can use a content audit in a variety of different ways depending on your organization’s goals and your current state of marketing. At Lake One, we use content audits to assess the current state of content for our new and existing clients. During onboarding, the content audit provides insights into where our new partners have focused their time previously. We can learn valuable information from this, as well as prevent reinventing the wheel by recreating existing content. Here are some of the most significant benefits and strategic insights of conducting a content audit.

Identify Gaps in Content with a Content Audit

First, a content audit can identify where your gaps in content lay. As part of the inbound methodology, buyers move through the journey to buying from awareness to consideration to decision. As buyers move along that journey, they seek information that gets more complex and product-specific as they go. Getting into the weeds a little, writing content for each stage pushes users into a purchase. For instance, somebody might start looking for a way to improve their manufacturing process (awareness). This might lead them into a specific piece of technology that could solve their problem (consideration), and that might bring them to contacting that particular company for a quote on that new technology (decision).

buyer's journey
Source: HubSpot

As inbound marketers, we want to be sure we’re serving content for every stage here. A content audit allows you to map where your content currently sits and where your gaps exist. Being too heavy on one end of the spectrum or another may be doing you a disservice. 

Facilitate Strategy Creation

As I mentioned, we’re big fans of content audits here. Our Lake One FieldGuides™ (campaign strategies) almost always begin with a content audit. We start here because once gaps and areas of excess are illuminated, a strategy will start to appear. It will be clear where your opportunities exist, both in quick wins and in a long-term strategy.  

Pro Tip: If you find you’ve written ad nauseam towards a specific persona or topic without the desired results, consider adding conversion rates, views, and SERP info into your audit. Compare that cluster of content to others to see if you can identify any misalignments to pivot on in the future.

Make Workflow Creation Easier

Workflows, or drip campaigns as some people call them, are a series of automated emails. These emails intend to serve your lead with helpful content, insights, and CTAs that nudge them into the next step of the funnel. A content audit acts as a visual representation of your available content to lay out the subject matter of each email. What’s usable? What subjects flow together to achieve the desired outcome? If you don’t have a library of suitable topics at the ready, your audit will also identify that for you, so you know what to include in your strategy during your next campaign.  

Content Audit- the Sales Enablement Kickstarter

Lastly, having an up to date content audit available for your team to reference is the perfect first step into sales enablement. Sales enablement, according to HubSpot, is the “iterative process of providing your business’s sales team with the resources they need to close more deals.”

Related Reading: A Roadmap to a Sure-fire B2B Sales Enablement Strategy

If you give your sales team a living document of all marketing materials available, the hope is that they will use that content within their sales process. When sales and marketing teams are aligned, sales will give recommendations into the types of content they’d like created based on their conversations with real customers and prospects. Input from sales teams looks like: 

sale enablement
Source: HighSpot
  • Typical questions their prospects have that could be addressed by marketing material
  • Ideas for resources like eBooks, infographics or sell-sheets that may help close deals
  • Which complex topics marketing can help simplify through content or design
  • Passing along feedback on content from real conversations with prospects and customers

The content audit shows the sales teams what’s currently available for their use, and it also helps them identify what’s not. In the same manner that audits show marketers what’s missing from a high-level funnel perspective, sales teams can use it to determine the opportunities on a topical standpoint. The ultimate goal is to build out a content library that addresses all the needs of both teams.

how to achieve sales and marketing alignment

How Engaging is Your Content Marketing? 5 KPIs to Measure Content Engagement

Do you know how many people genuinely enjoy your content? Sure, you might have a handful of comments and a few people emailing you to say they enjoyed your content. (Even if that’s followed with a guest post pitch.) But are you measuring that content engagement?

Engagement is a key goal for many marketers. It shows the reader is genuinely enjoying the content you’re sharing, and they’re giving their time to act on it—be that with a social share or a subscription to your email list.

The downside? Research has found that getting target customers to engage with a brand is the top challenge for B2B marketers.

You can make that easier by measuring content engagement with these five engagement metrics:

1. Social Shares

A social share means that someone has read your content and gone out of their way to share it with their own network, be that on Twitter, LinkedIn, or a niche forum.

Shelby Rogers of Solodev explains: “Having high levels of engagement shows that your content resonates with people. That means your messaging broke through the noise of infinite scrolling and posts, caught a user’s attention enough for them to like, and made an impact enough for them to comment on your content.”

Related Reading: Lake One’s Guide to LinkedIn Marketing

You can find how many people have shared your content using tools like Buzzsumo or Shared Count:

measure content engagement

Or, you can look for social shares on specific platforms by adding your URL into the search bar:

measure content engagement

(Research has found that written articles, videos, and images are the three most engaging types of content on social media. You might already be experiencing social shares if those three formats make the bulk of your content strategy.)

2. New Backlinks

The number of backlinks you’re collecting for your website is another important marketing metric to consider to measure content engagement, as Joe Robison of Green Flag Digital explains: “Backlinks drive both referral traffic and show Google your new content is trustworthy, contributing to your overall rankings.”

Find this using backlink profile tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMrush:

measure content engagement

People only link to other URLs if the site is trustworthy. After all, the goal of SEO is to prove to Google that you’re trustworthy enough to rank well in their search results. 

Associating your site with another, high-value one proves that, but if other people are linking to you, they must think you’re authoritative enough to be associated with.

3. Organic Ranking Positions

You can’t get a good search presence if you don’t have a solid army of backlinks pointing to your content.

Once you start building those backlinks, you’ll need to move your attention to another metric to measure content engagement: Your organic ranking positions, which tell you the keywords each piece of content is ranking for (and in what position.)

It goes without saying that you want as many position #1 rankings as possible. But so long as you see the upward trend of more and more organic keywords you’re showing for, it can prove that your content is engaging enough for Google to rank it well. Click here for more on the Dos and Don’ts of B2B SEO.

This is also ideal if you’re using the topic and cluster model, as Stephen Jeske of MarketMuse explains: “Of course, a cluster of pages can’t rank, but you can look at the individual page rankings in the context of the cluster. That can reveal a lot about what is or is not working within that group.”

4. Brand Market Share

Stan Tan of Selby’s, “The end goal [of content marketing] is building a brand so you don’t have to rely on spending money on TV ads, Facebook ads or other forms of advertisements.”

Brand market share is a tactic you can use to measure this. It tells you the percentage of customers in your industry that purchase your products.

You can determine your brand market share with this formula: 

(Your total sales / The industry’s total sales) * 100

For example: If you make $100,000 per year in an industry that has collectively made $1 million in sales, your brand market share would be 10%.

Again, this metric is best-measured when you compare it over time. Pick a time frame to regularly check-in on how your content affects your brand market share—such as every quarter or once a year. How much market share did you grow by? 

5. Qualified Leads

There are two types of leads that marketing departments want to report on:

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): A person that fits the buyer persona and has similar qualities to their typical customer. 
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): An MQL that’s been passed to sales reps, who’ve confirmed that they’re a potential customer. 

Related Reading: Best B2B Lead Gen Tools

You should keep an eye on these metrics—not by setting a figure amount to reach each month, but by monitoring how they change over time. This change can be another indication of content performance and engagement.

For example: Do you get more SQLs after publishing a long-form piece of content? Does the topic of your content influence how many SQLs you get that week? Which type of content has the best MQL to SQL conversion rate?

Summarizing, Casie Ost of Beacons Point adds: “You can bring new eyes to your website, but the only way to get ROI from your efforts is to turn them into paying customers. Therefore, if you focus on tracking metrics of your qualified leads, whether it be a MQL or SQL, those are the key metrics client’s will really want to see.”

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Final Thoughts

Content marketing is one of the most difficult marketing channels to track. And whilst everyone visiting your content might not hit the “purchase” button on their first visit, you can use these metrics to determine whether they’ll end up there.

But the benefits of engaging content go beyond that initial purchase. A report by Gallup found that B2B companies retain fully engaged customers more than others by 27%. (And we’ve all seen the statistics on how much cheaper it is to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.)

Use these metrics to track and measure content engagement. Always use them as a benchmark when trying new tactics, and figure the perfect formula for a piece of content that encourages the reader to take action. 

How Marketers Can Prepare Sellers to Keep Pace with Modern Buyers

Today’s buyers are in a class all their own: They’re independent, they do their research, and they demand detailed answers to their questions. Modern buyers don’t want to be sold at, they want to be talked to. They’re looking for content that’s pertinent to their situation, and they want to work with trusted advisors who are ready and willing to lead their prospects through every step of the purchasing process. 

Before marketers can arm their sales team with content worthy of these informed buyers, marketing and sales teams require immediate and convenient access to assets, tools, and training––all within a single source of truth. 

If you’re seeking answers for how to centralize your content and ensure your reps have everything they need to win deals, follow these steps.  

modern buyers

Strive to simplify.

As early as 2016, marketers reported that 47% of buyers were likely to review three to five pieces of marketing content before even speaking to a sales rep (and we can only assume that number has risen in the last four years). Given the multitude of moving parts within marketing and sales departments, it’s now more vital than ever to simplify content production processes and align on providing a cohesive customer experience.

Tips on how to simplify: 

First, develop a plan to consolidate your content across all departments. Identify all content storage locations, and then consider: 

  • Where can these materials be accessed and by who? 
  • Does your team have the means to establish a single, reliable repository for content and training?
  • What tools are in place for notifying sellers and marketers if content is updated? 

Depending on how you answer that second question, it may be useful to implement sales enablement best practices. A sales enablement solution provides a centralized platform for uploading, organizing, managing, and sharing content, including training materials. An advanced solution will also include interdepartmental communication capabilities and analytics — for example, data on content engagement and performance.

Prioritize alignment. 

Buyers expect unique and highly customized buying experiences. And regardless of the challenges, sales reps will have to keep up. Given the heightened competition, well-laid sales plans should keep seller preparedness front and center. 

These trends signal a need for tight sales and marketing alignment. Working in lockstep will save companies time and effort by keeping teams in sync when it comes to content creation, usage, and performance. Once the teams are properly aligned, companies can then implement an integrated strategy for managing, stockpiling, and disseminating all sales-related materials. As a result, marketers and sellers will be able to breathe easy knowing that the sales team will always be prepared for every customer conversation. 

Tips on how to stay aligned: 

When determining whether or not your sales reps have the knowledge and tools to make their next pitch, ask yourself: 

content mapping

Once you’ve answered these questions, make a point to re-examine marketing and sales processes with an eye to fixing any gaps you may have identified.

Keep content current. 

Sales reps are well aware of the expectations that fuel their results-driven fire. They likewise know that they need access to all content and training solutions necessary to provide their buyers with real value. Plus, reps need to find and deliver materials specifically curated for each individual buyer, making the job that much harder. 

When a buyer requests a certain asset, be it a case study or contract, a seller needs a seamless, expedited process for creating, distributing, and monitoring that material. Moreover, all company content (educational or otherwise) should feature the most up-to-date, relevant, brand-compliant information available. 

Tips on keeping content up-to-date: 

The key here is to implement systems for complete content evaluation, including plans for tracking buyer and seller engagement as well as for assessing content performance overall. 

Begin by considering:

  • Is sales content current?  Do you have a way to ensure that the assets that sales reps use have the latest messaging and design? 
  • How does your content change over time? What edits are your reps making to your assets once they get out in the field? 
  • How well does your content perform with buyers? How can you measure this performance in a quantifiable way? 

Sales enablement solutions can handle content management and offer comparative views of different versions of specific assets, demonstrating how a piece of content is modified over time. These tools can give marketers a fuller understanding of how their content is performing and can likewise alert marketers as to whether or not the alterations made to an asset remain acceptable and on-brand. Content engagement capabilities provide insight into how buyers interact with your marketing materials with a variety of valuable KPI metrics, from website scroll depth, to click activity, pitch views, asset downloads, and more. This raw data can be used to glean insights, which can, in turn, inform the creation of new content campaigns.

In this new age of the educated buyer, marketers can gain a real advantage if they deploy the tools and techniques that make it easy to partner with their sales team in driving business growth together. Innovative technology, such as sales enablement solutions, make it possible to meet the demands of modern buyers.  By integrating a holistic system for organizing, sharing, and analyzing all content, marketers will be better able to focus on creating content that sets their sales team up for success. 

Thanks to Highspot for this guest post.

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6 Must-Track B2B Email Marketing KPIs

Whether you’re a seasoned marketing pro or an email novice, check out the list of our top B2B email marketing KPIs we like to track. But before we dive into the metrics, we need to touch on one major email marketing necessity, goals. 

B2B Email Marketing KPIs

Email Marketing Goals 

You should know by now that random acts of marketing (executing marketing tactics that aren’t part of an overarching strategy) are a major don’t in our book and that definitely applies to emails. You might be thinking, “It’s just an email.” And in a sense, you’re right. However, all email communication whether it be a newsletter or a simple follow up email post-download needs to be part of a greater digital marketing strategy.

Learn all about Lake One’s Digital Strategy here.

Okay, so how do you go from the big picture down to your email campaigns? You break it down email by email.

HubSpot recommends doing a quick gut check before you send your next email by asking yourself these questions. What is the goal of my email marketing? Is it to grow my subscriber database? Generate more leads? To convert more existing leads into customers?

B2B Email KPIs

Once you have your goal(s) determined, you’re ready to figure out which metrics you need to track. Read on for our top 6 fav B2B Email Marketing KPIs.

Need help goal setting? Download our SMART Goals template.

#1. Bounce Rate

What is bounce rate? Bounce rate is the percentage of emails that could not be successfully delivered to the email recipient’s inbox. 

Why we track bounce rate: Emails can bounce for several reasons and fall into two categories, “hard” and “soft”. Soft bounces are temporary problems with delivery like issues with an email client’s server. Hard bounces are permanent problems such as a nonexistent email address and will never be delivered. 

Okay, so an email can’t be delivered, how does that affect you? Our friends at HubSpot say contact list cleanup is a must and we agree. All hard bounces should be removed from your list immediately because internet service providers (ISPs) use bounce rates as one of the key factors to determine an email sender’s reputation. Too many bounces = Spammer when it comes to ISPs. 

#2. Open Rate

What is open rate? Open rate is the percentage of recipients that open a given email.

Why we track open rate: Recipients can’t convert if they aren’t opening your emails, so the open rate can be a great place to start for optimization. We have to disclose though, not everyone is a fan of tracking open rate because it can be an unreliable metric. An email only counts as opened if the recipient also receives all embedded images within that email. Image blocking is an option via email clients- it’s definitely a possibility your number is off. 

So all of the above aside, we still like to keep open rate on our radar, especially when optimizing subject lines and using it comparatively. 

B2B Email Marketing open rate

#3. Click-Through-Rate 

What is Click-through-rate? CTR is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on one or more links in an email. We often refer to the links as the Call-to-Action (CTA) of the email.

Why we track CTR: CTR is a great indicator of how your email is performing and if your content is resonating with your personas. Are recipients actually clicking on the links that you want them to click on? According to Campaign Monitor, the average click-through rate for most campaigns is slightly over 4%. Here are some tips on how to optimize your followup email CTAs for a higher CTR.

#4. Conversion Rate

What is conversion rate? Conversion rate is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on an email CTA and completed the desired action. Think completing a form, signing up for a free trial, making a purchase, etc.

Why we track conversion rate: Conversion rate is the money maker! Both figuratively and quite literally in some instances. The first step in email marketing is getting the user to click on your link in the email and the second is getting them to convert. This is a major metric in determining if you are meeting your goals.

Lead to MQL/Customer Conversion Rate

Depending on your email campaign goals you can really drill down when it comes to conversion rate. It can also spin off into other metrics such as Lead to Marketing Qualified conversion rate and Lead to Customer conversion rates. 

#5. ROI

What is B2B Email Marketing ROI? ROI is the overall return on investment for your B2B email marketing campaign. 

Why we track ROI: ROI is a KPI staple. Just like any other initiative within your company, you need to track ROI. Are you making money? Are your marketing efforts helping the bottom line? ROI analysis can point out areas of opportunity and areas that are burning cash. 

While we’re talking about KPIs, are you tracking your sales and marketing team alignment? Here’s some more info.

#6. Unsubscribe Rate

What is Unsubscribe Rate? Unsubscribe rate is the rate at which email recipients are unsubscribing from receiving email communication from your company. 

Why we track unsubscribe rate: Unsubscribes alone shouldn’t be the only indicator you review for email performance; however, if your unsubscribes are high, check it out! Perhaps your email is too aggressive, your customers have outgrown you, or your persona messaging is off.

Whatever the reason, high unsubscribe rates are like a big flashing light saying, “Change needed here.” 

Smart Goals Worksheet Template

Words to the Wise

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and become hyper-focused on the KPIs of B2B email, but here are few things to keep in mind.

  1. Keep it in perspective. Don’t rest solely on percentages. Make sure to look at how many recipients are contributing to the data before you go optimization crazy.
  2. Optimize. And then Optimize again. Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you see a number you don’t like, optimize! Emails are perfect candidates for testing. 
  3. Give it time. You want to give your email campaign time to do its thing. Rapid-fire changes aren’t helpful because it muddies the waters of what’s actually contributing to the change.