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When you experience a marketing challenge—slow lead-generation, flat product demo signups or few qualified leads for sales, for example—your first inclination may be to create an eBook, publish it with a landing page, send an email promoting it to your list and hope it moves the needle in the right direction.

That’s one idea. It’s basically today’s go-to inbound B2B marketing plan to which many marketers default. However, it’s far from the only tactic available to reach your marketing goals. It’s not an inbound marketing campaign; it’s merely a one-off marketing action. A campaign is so much more—and achieves so much more than a one-off marketing approach.

Further, while eBooks have become the go-to content solution for many companies, and while they are valuable and have their place, you can publish many other types of content—some of which might, in fact, help you meet your objectives far better than another eBook. For example, you can create checklists, tips and tricks lists, case studies, surveys, infographics, ROI calculators, webinars, video, product demos, courses, white papers, reports and interactive web pages, to name a few content possibilities.

Inbound Marketing Campaigns Defined

Often in the day-to-day demands of a modern marketing department, the concept of running marketing campaigns gets diluted or diminished. That’s a big oversight because marketing campaigns versus one-off marketing events can greatly improve your results—including more and better leads—as well as help you reach your long-range marketing objectives sooner and gain better ROI. It’s a smart move to keep campaigns central to your marketing strategy—replacing most one-off events with a bigger plan.

So, what is a campaign? HubSpot provides a simple definition: “Inbound marketing campaigns are concentrated efforts that align all of your marketing channels around a single message and goal. It starts with a marketing offer—something valuable and relevant for your audience that you promote through your marketing channels. Then, you nurture the leads from that offer and move them along your marketing funnel so they can become your customers. And don’t forget to measure and analyze your campaign.”

In other words, instead of merely a piece of content, a landing page and an email, a campaign is a full-bodied marketing event that aims for both immediate action and long-term results. Here’s an example of building out a one-off event into a full-blown campaign:

  • Create a strategic piece of content
  • Publish a landing page on your website for your content offer
  • Send an email announcing to your list
  • Promote the content via your social platforms on a regular schedule for a defined period of time
  • Add the offer to the ad rotation in your Google AdWords strategy
  • Create Facebook and/or retargeting ads
  • Run sponsored updates and text ads on LinkedIn
  • Design a follow-up email to send to anyone who hasn’t downloaded the content yet
  • Repurpose the content by turning it into a webinar, blog post, infographic, etc.
  • Measure your results and adjust the campaign accordingly
  • Add new pieces of relevant content for different levels of the funnel over time

What Should be Included in an Inbound Campaign?

A campaign should align with your overall business goals. For example, a hospital may want to grow its cardiology, pediatrics, women’s health and diabetes management service lines. Those four services can become quarterly campaigns. Same goes for a software company that wants to grow its recruiting, payroll and employee performance product offerings.

Once those areas of focus are identified, there are dozens of inbound marketing elements you can use to reach buyers at all stages of the sales journey for each campaign. Here are a few ideas to inspire your next inbound marketing campaign planning session.

Goal 1 — Lead Generation

  • Community-building. Social media platforms provide great opportunities for building communities around your solutions or industry. Launching campaigns that build community on your platforms builds positive engagement at the top of the funnel, and also improves conversion rates later down the funnel. Community-building efforts can include a wide range of activities, such as contests, chat fests or expert panel discussions.
  • Event registration. Industry events are tried-and-true venues for meeting both new prospects and engaging with existing customers. They don’t have to be in-person to be effective. Today, virtual events can work just as well, and have the added benefit of giving you a wider reach. A great event can attract new and existing prospects to your company. For example, you could host a tweet fest, an expert panel discussion or a Q&A with someone in your company. Events can be promoted far and wide—from email to social to paid media. Not only will they drive awareness and engagement, but also build your brand as an industry leader.

Goal 2 — Nurture Leads

  • Welcome efforts. Don’t waste the opportunity to reach out with a welcome message to new subscribers to your list. When new leads subscribe to your blog or content delivery system, it’s an ideal time to introduce them to your company, brand and products. Since they just opted in to your list, they’ll be open to learning more. Your welcome efforts could include a series of carefully timed and strategically written emails that, for example, introduce them to other content available on your website—and, of course, to your products and services. If you hit them with the right messages at this time, they’ll be likely to download more content and engage more deeply with your brand.
  • Mid-funnel information. This is similar to your welcome efforts, except the focus is specifically on educating your new prospects about your company, industry and solutions that solve their specific challenges. Sharing relevant and valuable educational content is the heart of this action. Content could include reports, white papers, webinars and free online mini courses. The short-term goal of educating your leads is to build a stronger relationship with your prospects. The long-range goal is to get prospects ready to talk to someone from your sales team.

Goal 3 — Convert Leads

  • Consultations or product demos. A demo or consultation is the fundamental bottom-funnel marketing conversion. At the bottom of the funnel, you should already have rich knowledge about your prospects thanks to successful inbound campaigns upstream—and you should be able to use that rich prospect data to create compelling demo offers. These efforts should be targeted at accounts that are a good fit, have multiple contact engagements with your brand and—most importantly—have recently shown interest in your solutions. A demo ad can be run across a number of channels, including email, phone calls, social and display ads.
  • Retargeting. Retargeting is an effective way to reach people who have already shown interest in your products via visits to your website. Many B2B companies opt to retarget visitors with either generic brand messages or content offers. However, more advanced retargeting uses different ads depending on the page the prospects visited. This approach leverages your ability to gather greater insight on your visitors and, thereby, create more highly targeted ads. For example, if a visitor viewed only your home page, a brand message may be appropriate. If a prospect visited your blog, it may be smart to post an ad for a special report or case study. If a visitor looked at your pricing page, you could point them to a product demo request.

Goal 4 — Customer Retention

  • New customer onboarding. An often-overlooked customer acquisition action is leveraging the opportunity to “onboard” new customers. This would be the equivalent of giving important guests the royal treatment if they visited you in person. You’d want to introduce them to all of the essential functions of your business. Similarly, in onboarding new customers, you want to make sure they understand your business at a deeper level, such as where to get answers to commonly asked questions, how to swiftly access your support operation and how to stay connected to all of your product and service updates.
  • Customer loyalty and retention efforts. Once you’ve converted a prospect into a new customer, you want to keep them happy, so they’ll not only become long-term customers, but also valued referral sources. A great way to accomplish this goal is by setting up ongoing customer loyalty communications. This isn’t merely about sharing product benefits. It’s more about providing deeper knowledge, such as pro-level tips and tricks, so they can continue to get the most out of your products or services. It involves reaching out to them in a proactive and strategic way, so they feel well supported after the purchase. This type of marketing effort also serves another function. It gives you the ability to capture more activity data from your customers, as well as lack of activity data, which indicates they are at-risk customers. With this insight, you can build a more robust customer retention program.

Inbound campaigns too often get overlooked as marketing departments work to solve immediately pressing marketing and sales challenges. But they are essential workhorses for long-term marketing and sales results. Much more than one-off marketing tactics, campaigns generate the power to deliver both immediate and long-term results. Launching one or more campaigns using strategic content will deliver results that far exceed simply sending yet another eBook out into the world.