b177In this article, we look at what constitutes online, inbound and content marketing, how these forms of marketing work together as part of a comprehensive ‘lean’ approach, what their key elements are, and how it can all be best applied for business results.

From what we discuss in our Lean Marketing – A Guide for Executives ebook, it is clear that effective online marketing entails far more than occasionally posting something on social media or sending out a newsletter to a tired prospect list. For online marketing to have a bottom and top line impact on financial results, it needs to be strategic and built on qualitative as well as quantitative business and marketing objectives with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in place to track performance.

The strategic steps that need to be taken include the analysis of current marketing and brand activities, competitive analysis and positioning, definition of the value proposition and unique selling proposition, as well as the identification of customer segments and personas.

Customer personas have proven effective to more clearly understand just what your customers’ motivations and sensitivities (“pain points”) are and how to best address them. Once these elemental aspects are in place, an online campaign can be developed and built on a solid strategic foundation. Typical goals are to drive traffic or visitors to the website through such effective elements as blogging, which is now the most effective form of SEO with the highest potential impact on online performance. Other goals might include social media syndication and engagement as well as SEO through other forms of content marketing.

Once traffic is coming to the website, it needs to be qualified and converted to so-called leads, which are named visitors. This conversion from visitor to lead is usually in exchange for a valuable piece of information, such as a subscription, white paper, how-to video or similar download.

The ultimate goal of online marketing is to grow sales − yes, marketing in the service of sales, not as some nice-to-have activity that stands on its own, which only costs money and is disconnected from the rest of the business process. The next stage in online sales is to nurture and convert leads to customers through tools such as email marketing automation and the integration of sales and marketing activities.

This sales and marketing integration can be a key success factor. Marketing can, for the first time, bring thoroughly pre-qualified leads to the sales team, who can then act on them.

The final piece of the puzzle is marketing metrics, analysis and reporting enabled by the appropriate tool set. This form of reporting is different from the widely known Google Analytics, which, though extremely helpful, only provides anonymous traffic data.

With certain marketing automation software, leads cannot only be named, they can also be tracked through their many touch-points with the brand. They can be analysed in depth to understand their interests, background, and buying journey in order to find ways of bringing them closer to a sales decision. They can then be acted on through integrated marketing tools such as a newsletter, on-page SEO, Call-To-Action (CTA) and landing page design tools, lead capturing processes, and email marketing automation workflows. All of these combine to create a rich set of sophisticated instruments forward-looking marketers could only dream of a few years ago.

This article is an extract from Lean Marketing – A Guide for Executives, Part 4 of which goes on to discuss the online sales funnel and the inbound marketing machine, all within the context of a lean business approach.

Written by
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Stephan Burckhardt

This marketing vet is based in Greater Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in B2B marketing in Silicon Valley and Europe, was CEO of a large agency serving B2B startups, trans-nationals, and everything in between. Focus: technology, healthcare, professional services.
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