The Future of Marketing is Inbound: A Reliable Lead Generation Strategy For 2022 & Beyond
It’s a new day in marketing.
Consumers are smarter and have more choices than ever before.
If your business wants to survive and thrive in the future, you may need to make some changes to your customer acquisition strategy.
To understand why, let me take you back in time; to the very beginning of the advertising industry…
Before the 20th century, the world only had a few options to advertise. If you wanted to get the word out about your product, you were limited to print.
Newspaper ads, magazine ads, direct mailers, flyers, and billboards. That was it.
The physical restraints made it challenging to scale advertising campaigns, but with consumers having such limited choices, they were more engaged with the media they paid attention to.
So all businesses had to provide was basic product information to get the audience’s interest and differentiate their offering in the marketplace.
Then came the 20th Century, and the advertising industry was revolutionized with the invention of the radio and then the television, giving businesses a true means of accessing their audience at scale for the first time.
It was the Golden Age of Advertising.
Consumerism in America was still in its infancy and people were less attuned to being sold to, so salesy ads worked like a charm. The salesier and cheesier, the better.
Thus, the infomercial was born.
Once you got your media placement right, all you had to do was explain your product/service, highlight the benefits, and close with a call to action. Throw in a discount with some urgency and you were good to go.
While some brands eventually started to use their creativity to differentiate themselves to great success (see below), the simple formulaic approach worked like a charm because these channels still had people’s undivided attention.
Then came the Internet, and with it blogs and eventually social media.
The Internet lowered the barrier to publishing content, so anyone could build a platform and amass a following. Before long, there were infinite channels on infinite subjects; all just a Google search away.
And with everyone online vying for views, likes, and clicks — attention became our most precious resource.
This would forever change the power dynamic between the public and the content they consume. With limitless options at their fingertips, people didn’t have to be slaves to scheduled programming and could create their own media experience.
Fast-forward to today, and getting people’s attention is 90% of the battle.
You’re dealing with the smartphone-wielding, smartwatch-wearing, superconsumer of the future. They multitask like it’s their job and consume content on-demand, so if you don’t capture their attention in the first 3 seconds, it’s game over.
To even the playing field, we have social media.
Instead of paying a media outlet to interrupt their audience’s scheduled programming with a sponsored message, brands can now create their own channel and build their own following.
Social media gives businesses a way to build relationships with their audience through a value-add brand experience. Yet most businesses are stuck in the past, using their platform like a PR outlet for company updates or pure sales tool for their product.
The cold hard truth is that no one cares about your business. People have unlimited options at their fingertips and only care about how you can add value to their life.
Which is why we’ve seen the effectiveness of traditional outbound marketing tactics dramatically decrease over the last few decades. And this evolution from outbound to inbound will only continue to accelerate in the coming years.
So then, how does a brand stand out in today’s hyper-competitive internet landscape?
Find a way to add value to your audience’s life.
Create a premium experience that people would pay for, then give it away for free. Think of yourself as a tv network, what would your audience want to watch?
The brands that invest in their content and become real media publishers will dominate their niche in the future.
Because in 2022, consumers are smarter than ever and they have never been more sensitive to being sold to. The average person sees over 10,000 advertisements each day and are dealing with mega information & sensory overload.
Interrupting your audience’s chosen experience with a salesy ad is just going to turn them off. It comes across like you’re some sweaty used-car salesman desperate for their next commission.
And at the end of the day, people choose to do business with the brands they like & identify with. Wining and dining them with a creative brand experience goes a long way towards this end.
With so many options to choose from, picking a brand has become an act of self expression. A social statement that this brand resonates with our beliefs and way of life.
We see ourselves in the brands we’re loyal to. And share them with our friends.
By creating content that serves your audience and relates back to the brand, you can engage people on a much deeper level and build a positive association with your business — creating not only customers, but loyal brand advocates.
Think of your favorite marketing campaigns…
Maybe it’s Old Spice’s, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign:
or Dove’s, “Real Beauty” campaign:
or Tom’s, “One Day Without Shoes” campaign
Chances are, you don’t like your favorite campaigns because the quality of product or service featured. You enjoyed it because it was entertaining or it connected with you on an emotional level.
Maybe it made you laugh. Or cry. Maybe it brought up an important issue. Or depicted a lifestyle that resonated with you.
Some of the best ads never mention the product at all.
When RedBull Stratos dropped Felix Baumgarterner into freefall from space, it had little to do with an energy drink… but it had everything to do with the brand experience.
Which is why it wasn’t surprising when RedBull’s Live YouTube stream received over 50 million live views and resulted in a 10% spike or $1.6 billion in sales across America.
This kind of value-add brand experience is the future of marketing. But… what does this actually look like? Especially if you don’t have a billion dollar annual marketing budget?
Well, it depends on your audience + your business model.
For some brands, you might want to go the informational route and become an industry resource for your audience. For others, you may find entertaining or inspiring your audience aligns better with your brand.
You could start a podcast. Record a comedy series. Make up a dance move. Film a documentary. Start a philanthropic movement. Heck, you can even drop a guy from space.
When it comes to content marketing, the only limit is your imagination.
How to Build an Inbound Marketing Lead Generation Machine
Now it’s time to get into the details and define the specifics of an effective content strategy.
For this example, we’ll use an NY Pizza Shop as our model… Let’s call it, Brooklyn’s Best.
1. Start with a Goal
What’s your primary purpose for this campaign? Maybe you want to grow your audience online to showcase more social proof or maybe you just want to generate more leads for your sales team.
From there, we’ll create our Key Performance Indicator (i.e. online orders), which will be the north star of our campaign and guide everything we do. We’ll be tracking this figure closely and adjusting our strategy on a daily basis to maximize its output.
We’ll start here, then work our way backwards to build our machine.
For Brooklyn’s Best, our goal is pizza sales. How can we raise as much brand awareness as possible to get more website visits, online orders, phone calls, and in-person visits. A secondary goal would be to build their following & presence online to expand their organic reach.
2. Pick Your Message
Your campaign should have one core theme that connects your messaging across all your media.
It should be clear and simple, yet needs to express a big idea that the audience can get behind. It should relate back to your brand experience and mission, while relating to something your audience cares about.
Think about what makes you different and why your core customer base is loyal to you. What’s your unique selling point?
Brooklyn’s Best wants everyone to know that they are on mission to help the homeless in NY by donating $1 for every pizza they sell and providing job opportunity programs for the homeless community.
3. Identify Distribution & Placement
Next you need to pick the social media and ad platforms you’re going to use to reach your audience.
Where does your audience hang out?
For most B2C brands, you’ll want to look into Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, and Google. For B2B, LinkedIn & Google are the holy grail, but don’t discount Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — especially if you have a large market. For brands with a specific audience, contributing to Reddit, Blogs, or niche online communities may make the most sense.
Spend some time and do your due diligence here. If you don’t know, survey your audience and see what platforms they’d like to see you on. This step is critical and if you choose the wrong platform(s), you’ll just be shouting into the void.
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need to blast your message across every social media platform. Only pick the ones best suited to your audience and focus your time being fully present, leveraging all the mediums and tools each platform has to offer.
For Brooklyn’s Best, we’ll use Facebook & Instagram due to their ability to hone in on their target audience by interest/behavior/location and visually showcase their product + mission.
4. Find a Unique Hashtag
To organize your campaign’s content across social media platforms, you’ll need a unique branded hashtag that you can make your own.
When someone clicks on the hashtag they’ll be taken to an RSS feed with more content from your campaign, making for a seamless brand discovery experience on social media.
Think of the hashtag as a chat room where your audience can hang out, talk about your campaign, and even contribute their own content. With time, plenty of patience, and a little luck, you can even go viral and end up as a trending topic in your area, bringing free mass awareness to your cause.
We’ll document Brooklyn Best’s CEO giving free pizzas to homeless people on the streets of Brooklyn, and create a series of “People of New York” like profiles on each person, posted under the hashtag #APizzaADay. The campaign will be designed to raise mass awareness of the homeless problem in NY and BB’s mission to support the community.
5. Set Up a Funnel
In order to maximize all the attention we receive in the campaign, we’ll need to set up an inbound sales funnel that helps guide new visitors through a series of steps that vets & qualifies them, before converting them into a lead.
For the campaign, you’ll want to create a specific landing page with strong call-to-actions — with automated follow up flows and advanced retargeting for the visitors who don’t immediately convert.
Here you’re going to need a Content Management System (CMS) to handle the front end of your funnel and a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) to handle the back end lead generation work.
We’ll post highlights of videos on social media designed to drive traffic to a landing page with a grid of full videos with more information on Brooklyn Best’s mission to feed, care, and provide opportunities for the homeless community. In strategic locations on the landing page, we’ll have call-to-actions to ‘Join the Cause’ where people can subscribe to a monthly donation that comes with updates on the campaign + special discounts and free delivery on all their pizzas.
6. Invest in Premium Content
Now that we have our machine, it’s time to put some gas in and start filling the top of our funnel.
Either invest time/money in house or hire an agency (like BrandGenes) that specializes in helping business create, distribute, and promote content.
You may want to cut corners on production costs, but investing in the highest quality content will yield the highest ROI. With everyone talking online, only the very best content gets past our filters. So if you put out a mediocre product, you can expect to get mediocre results.
Because of this, I would highly recommend investing in video. As internet speeds increase, video is quickly becoming the standard of the new web and are a must for any brand serious about their content strategy. In 2022, over 80% of web traffic was video – 15x higher than it was in 2017 – and this trend will only continue.
Premium content will help you stand out, create a positive association with your brand/product, and differentiate you from competitors with inferior creative. With a consistent flow of content, you can engage leads on a daily basis and stay top of mind when it’s time for them to convert.
For most businesses, it’s cheaper, quicker, and safer to hire an outside agency that’s set up to execute a creative campaign like this. Otherwise, you may end up absorbing higher costs and/or end up with a low quality product. Almost every client we’ve worked with has told us a horror story about a video project that went awry, resulting in sunk costs. For something like this, it’s best to trust the experts.
7. Experiment, Measure, Optimize
View everything you do in the campaign as an experiment. Test everything.
From AB testing messaging & creatives to tracking behavior on your website, you want to measure every level of your sales funnel, so you can tell where things go wrong.
Start with a hypothesis based on research and past data. Test this theory with a small sample size and measure your results. Then iterate based on the numbers. By making small iterations on a routine basis and fixing leaks, you can continuously improve the results you see over time.
Marketing is a constant learning process and the work is never done. Algorithms and markets are always changing, so you need to make sure you stay on top of your numbers and keep up with the latest trends in the industry.
We’ll start by installing Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel on Brooklyn Best’s website, so we can see how leads are interacting with the campaign, see where the leaks are in our funnel, and optimize performance. Then we’ll use Facebook ads video watch time to measure engagement at the top of our funnel and engage leads with successive campaign spots to get people’s attention and drive them to the website to learn more.
There you have it: 7 steps to building a content marketing lead generation machine.
Still need help?
Big ideas are part of what we do at BrandGenes.
We offer a free 30 day inbound marketing accelerator program where we analyze your market/brand and come up with an idea for a creative campaign.
The accelerator program includes market analysis, inbound strategy, campaign prototypes, sales funnels, and a launch workshop to help set everything up and kick things off.
Did I mention it’s free?
Full disclosure, this is our inbound strategy at work.
The program is packed with real value (we used to charge $15k for this package of services) and now we’re using the process as a way to showcase our talent and vet potential new clients.
No strings attached, at the end of the program you are free to take our ideas and run.
You can learn more and apply here, but serious inquiries only. If you’re not in position to grow or have the budget to invest, this program is not for you.
You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a strategy session and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.