Between 2018 and 2020, the average marketing budget hovered around 10.9% of a company’s revenue. In 2021, this almost halved to 6.4%. At the beginning of 2022, levels were around 9.5%—but this still lags behind pre-pandemic spend, and the economic headwinds we’re seeing now are putting downward pressure on budgets once again.
Yet, despite their department’s tightened purse strings, marketers are still expected to meet (or surpass) their goals. In addition to high-ROI areas like content syndication and ABM display ads, to help square the circle, marketers should also double down on strategies that build pipeline without increasing costs.
That’s where organic marketing can help. Here are some ideas to get you started…
What Is ‘Free’ Organic Marketing?
Organic marketing refers to any marketing tactic that isn’t supported by paid promotion. Make no mistake, it’s not free—it involves time, resource, and cost. But you aren’t specifically parting with cash to promote something, as you would with paid social media or PPC advertising.
What Is Organic Marketing Good For?
Organic marketing is the supporting pillar of successful marketing strategies. Done well, it provides the perfect conditions for paid efforts to thrive by establishing brand, amplifying voice, and building relationships with potential and current customers. Of course, achieving these outcomes relies on how good your organic funnel-building strategy is. So, without further ado, here are some suggestions to get you started.
What Are the Best Organic Ways to Grow a B2B Sales Funnel?
Before we begin, there’s a caveat to the word ‘best’ that needs addressing. There are a multitude of ways to grow a sales funnel organically, and ultimately what’s ‘best’ will be whatever aligns best with your audience and their expectations.
So, before you do anything, ensure your target audience is well-defined by means of an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and/or buyer persona. Only then are you prepared to move on to the next steps.
A 3-Step Strategy to Boost B2B Sales Lead Generation Organically
With your buyer persona in hand, it’s time to get your organic growth strategy off to a strong start by focusing on these three fundamental elements of strong organic growth:
1. Search Engine Optimization
If you need reminding about the importance of SEO, last year, nearly all—yes all—online experiences began with a search engine query—93% of them to be exact. If you’re thinking “yep, that’s what PPC is for!”, think again—the top ad in Google gets around 2% of clicks while the top organic spot gets almost 20 times that traffic.
To have hopes of appearing on page one for your target keywords, let alone securing the coveted top spot, you must first ensure your basic SEO strategy is watertight before going any further. The primary elements to focus on are:
- On-page SEO. The elements of your website content that require search engine optimization, including the meta data, heading structures, alt tags, etc.
- Off-page SEO. Factors outside of your website that affect search, including the quantity and quality of your backlinks.
- Technical SEO. Technical elements that affect your ranking, including load speed, mobile optimization, URL structure, etc.
Next comes keyword research. When conducting keyword research, don’t simply focus on top-of-funnel keywords. A growth strategy considers each stage of the funnel, identifying keywords that match a prospect’s needs at each step of their customer journey. This enables you to encourage progression down the funnel—hopefully towards conversion—as opposed to just filling the top with fresh leads.
The simple funnel below is an example of how to include this thinking in your keyword research process:
Sitting at the top of the funnel, customers just starting their journey will be aware of the problem they currently have, but not necessarily of the solution they’re looking for. Therefore, identifying keywords related to their specific pain points is most appropriate at this stage. For the company I work for (DemandScience) and our customers, this could be things like “how to increase B2B sales pipeline,” “get more B2B leads,” and “how to attract more B2B prospects.”
During the consideration phase, prospects start scoping out potential solutions to their problems. At this stage, they’re likely comparing your product and/or service to your competitors. Targeting the right keywords at this stage is an opportunity for you to take control of a prospect’s perception of your brand versus the competition. Again, using DemandScience as an example, keywords could include “B2B lead generation partners,” “buy B2B leads,” and “demand generation companies.”
It’s crunch time! Here, at the bottom of the funnel, prospects are finalizing their decision about whether to work with you. This is where they’ll want to get the nitty-gritty on your business, so following our examples above, keywords may include “demandscience pricing” and “demandscience free trial.”
Once armed with a definitive list of keywords, you’ll be ready for our next suggestion—intent-based content.
*BONUS TIP* How about some IRL keyword research? Ask your sales team for the common questions they get asked by your customers, as well as their knowledge on the issues their customers are currently facing. This helps you jump on hot topics that may not be visible in your traditional research process.
2. Intent-Based Content
With your keyword list defined, it’s time to create content that addresses the questions and topics your prospects are interested in. Just like keywords, each piece of content must align with the correct stage of the funnel to match your prospect’s intent during each phase of their journey. This can be as simple as setting goals for each asset before you begin. To do this, ask yourself:
- What is the desired audience?
- What are the target keywords?
- Where in the funnel does this belong?
- What action should a prospect take after consuming this content?
By answering these questions, it makes it easier to select content formats that align best with your growth plans. Here are some suggested formats to consider:
Blog posts are useful at all stages of the funnel, giving companies the opportunity to talk in depth about relevant topics and answer common questions via their owned media. Yes, they’ve been around since the dawn of digital marketing, but with blogs it’s definitely a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as businesses with blogs report a 126% higher lead growth than those without.
Thought leadership content is one of the most valuable content types for prospects at the consideration stage of the funnel. Help convince them that your brand is a better choice than your competitors by crafting insightful thought leadership content that clearly demonstrates your authority and expertise within your niche.
Don’t just stick to blog posts either—thought leadership videos are highly engaging and help humanize your brand. Plus, they’re more shareable—native videos are 20x more likely to be shared on LinkedIn than other forms of content.
Podcasts & Webinars
Podcasts & webinars are an extension of your thought leadership efforts, and given 54% of consumers are likely to consider the brands they hear on a podcast, they’re certainly worth a shot. Webinars are equally impactful, with 73% of B2B marketers agreeing that webinars are the best way to generate high quality leads.
Email newsletters are a great regular source of opt-in communication between you and your potential customers but they’re also a fantastic way to distribute all the other content you create. 87% of marketers say email is one of their top free organic distribution channels.
B2B case studies are an excellent way to showcase how your products and/or services have helped another business to be successful. Don’t only consider the classic PDF case study—video testimonials can be extremely effective, with 47% of buyers saying they help them to visualize how a product or service actually works. It’s this sort of detail that can be make or break at the bottom of the funnel.
Not to be confused with the newsletters mentioned above, these are the email nurture campaigns that help shimmy prospects further down the funnel. Automated solutions work well here and can increase the number of qualified leads by 451%!
Creating your content, arguably, is the easy part. Actually getting people to view, read, and listen to it is another challenge entirely. Thankfully, this is where social media can help.
3. Social Media
The final puzzle piece in the organic growth trifecta is social media. If you’re thinking organic social and growth don’t belong in the same sentence, you’re not alone. According to HubSpot, businesses often (mistakenly) underestimate its capabilities, when in reality, “behind every successful ad campaign with high paid reach is a consistent and creative social media presence that strengthens the brand, relationships, and trust.”
If you’re looking to reach new customers and grow your funnel, paid social is an effective strategy. But to maximize your results, organic social must receive equal weight within your strategy. It’s also a great way to organically distribute your content.
Given that you’re unable to target users with organic social, approach it as a tool to build brand awareness and exposure. Not only does this effectively disseminate your content but it also primes your audience to receive your paid advertising efforts later down the line. Here’s how to get organic social right:
Choose Your Channels
You wouldn’t dream of turning up to a trade show that has no relevance to your business, so why make the same mistake online? Choose your social channels based on where your audiences spend their time.
Opting to be everywhere out of FOMO will spread your resources thin and yield minimal results. Instead, focus on the channels your audience are most active on. You can find this out by researching the average demographic breakdown of each channel.
For example, TikTok may be the hot new thing, but not for marketers targeting baby boomers who make up just 11% of its userbase. You can also look at what successful competitors are doing—if they have a strong, engaged following on a channel that you’re currently not visible on, this is an indicator that you should probably be hitting the “create account” button soon.
Your social profiles are often one of the first interactions a potential customer has with your brand. Therefore, it’s vital that you create an image of authority and trust from the get-go.
Being consistent is one way to do this, with small things having the power to make a big difference. Something as simple as ensuring the logos, header images, and bios across your channels have a similar look and feel helps project a professional image. A consistent posting schedule is also recommended, so prospects can know what to expect from you, and when.
This uniformity provides dividends at the bottom of the funnel, as companies consistent with their social selling are 40% more likely to hit revenue goals.
It’s natural to want to let your prospects know how great you are. But if your social accounts are all “me, me, me,” it will wear thin quickly. Instead, opt to encourage conversations with your audience, which will not only boost your engagement but help to build trust too. And, it’ll also make you a favorite of the sales team, as it helps to warm up any leads that head their way further down the funnel.
I hope you find these tips on organic SEO, Intent-Based Content and Social Media helpful as you work to accomplish more with less!