Business blogging is a great tool that companies can use to demonstrate thought leadership and communicate their level of expertise. It’s an ideal way to attract prospects who are trying to decide what company to hire, because it helps to build trust even before the first conversation happens.
But although blogging is great, the real power comes when it’s integrated into an inbound marketing system. What if you were able to capture the contact information of the people visiting your blog? What if you were able to learn exactly what these people are interested in, so you would know what to write about? What if you had a way to lead them from reading your blog to making a purchase? Inbound marketing can do all these things.
Inbound marketing starts with research on your target personas, so you first know who you’re writing to. It’s strategic, in that everything you do is designed for your target market. You know you’re communicating effectively when you have a thorough understanding of who these people are and what they care about.
Two Categories of Content
Inbound marketing then focuses on creating two categories of content:
Premium Content—ultra-valuable content on the topics your target market cares about the most. This content can be eBooks, checklists, one-sheets, spreadsheets, webinars, and so on.
Blog Content—content that's still valuable, but not as in-depth or detailed. In each blog post, you put a call-to-action to request a piece of your premium content. In exchange for these great offers, people give their names and email addresses—and let you know they want to hear from you again. Over time, you can gather more and more information on these people as they download more of your premium content. You can ask for their company name, their role in the company, etc.
Here’s where inbound marketing really sets itself apart as a lead-generating machine. When website visitors give you their contact info and request your content, they then go into your contact system so you can continue to stay in touch with them. When you follow up a content request with a special email, you're reminding your prospect that you’re a valuable source of information. And when you sort your contacts by interest area, you can tailor your ongoing communications to their interests—so you’re always sending them on-topic items that you know they’ll welcome.
The other way that inbound marketing sets itself apart is the way it allows you to gather intelligence on your leads over time. With smart forms, you can ask for different information in your form each time someone requests a new piece of content. Eventually, you’ll know a lot about your leads that you can then use to further tailor your marketing. And if you’re tracking your leads’ activity on your site, you’ll know just the right time to contact them with bottom-of-the-funnel offers.
Although there’s a lot more to a complete, strategic inbound marketing system than what I’ve described here, these are the key ways inbound marketing differentiates itself from business blogging. Blogging is just one component of the process—a process that can generate more and better-quality leads than any one element alone.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published August 24, 2015 and has been updated.