How to use ads to supercharge your Inbound Marketing

By Yeu-Kang Hua

How to use ads to supercharge your Inbound Marketing

When Dharmesh Shah boldly announced the HubSpot Ads Add-on on the main stage at #INBOUND15, by admitting that they had finally ‘gotten over themselves’, it was a clear testament to the relevance of paid ads as an integral part of inbound marketing. In this blog post I will explain to you why and how you should use ads to supplement your inbound campaigns.

Here’s an interesting fact: 53% of HubSpot’s customers, including the company itself, are using paid ads in their marketing strategies. A high number for sure, but it implies that almost equally as many marketers are focusing solely on organic search.

My content is great, why pay for attention?

When launching a new content offer, the tried and true Inbound approach is to write blogs, publish on social media, send out emails and co-market it in existing campaigns. The organic traffic and leads will come naturally as a result of your efforts, although it might take some time. And that’s the thing with an all-out organic strategy; while indeed being free, it’s also slow. Sometimes slow can be good, like when taking something slow and steady. But if you’re an impatient fella, or have someone near you who is, perhaps someone you feel obliged to accommodate for various reasons, you might wish for things to proceed just a little bit faster. By implementing paid marketing appropriately, you can boost your inbound campaigns. It’s kind of like using steroids on top of effective training; a bit artificial and controversial in some eyes, but the added results are indisputable.

That’s a silly comparison, but okay, tell me more!

First, let us establish the three most important strategies of Paid Marketing used today:

  • Paid search
  • Pay per click
  • Retargeting

Paid search, is when you pay to increase the chance of your website showing up in the users’ search results page based on certain keywords, either by CPC (Cost Per Click) or CPM (Cost Per Mille, or Cost per Thousand Impressions). The difference between these two acronyms is that the latter is mainly for promoting brand awareness as you pay regardless of whether the users have clicked on the ads or not.

Pay per click (PPC), is about Display and Social ads, targeted at unknown visitors. The word ‘Display’ used here is the commonly recognised advertising term for advertising on ‘web sites’, implicitly external ones, and Social refers to social medias. Both can be described as advertising on external channels and contain items such as text, images, flash, video and audio.

Retargeting, is about re-engaging people who have already shown interest in your brand, by serving relevant ads in external channels. Remember that happy coincidence in your social media feed where you saw an offer you just recently looked at, and you thought it was ‘clearly a sign from heaven’? That’s retargeting.

Phew! Having explained all this, I think we can finally dig in to the yummy part of this glorious post, namely how to supercharge your inbound marketing with ads!

Ad-ed attraction

Paid marketing is an especially good fit for the first Attract stage in the Marketing Funnel. It’s kind of the classical approach to attracting users that don’t know about your brand yet. 

Paid search is a good start in this stage, since 94% of all B2B buyers research online before their purchase decisions. There are primarily two tools you can use for this: Adwords, for Google’s services, and Bing Ads for both Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo. In the vast majority of countries around the globe Google is the only game in town and thus the only one you need to care about. But there are some execeptions. In the US, Bing and Yahoo combined saw a 33% market share as of July 2015. Likewise in China Baidu is the dominant search engine and in Russia many people rely on Yandex.

One popular way of using paid search in your online marketing is to fill in SEO gaps, by targeting more difficult keywords that might have a high value. An Adwords campaign centering on your competitor’s keywords for example could increase your visibility among their audience, letting them know there are alternatives.

You can also utilise it to perform keyword research. By creating campaigns targeting keywords you’d like to rank for and direct them to landing pages or offers that you’re testing, you only need a few weeks of gathering to collect tons of data about your keywords. Get a reality check on how popular the keywords are (impressions), how relevant your offer or service is to those keywords (click-through-rate), and how well your copy and offer is aligned with people searching for that keyword (conversion rate).

Paid search is of course not the only strategy you can use to attract visitors; PPC, especially in newsfeeds on Social channels where the emphasis is on personal experience, can be very effective in reaching your intended audience. Just make sure to align your ads with your Target Personas, and do remember to blacklist site types you don’t want your content to appear on! 

Display advertising is a great solution in the Attract stage, where your goal is to drive traffic and impressions in order to improve brand awareness. On the other hand, it’s a relative poor channel for driving conversions.

Baby, please come back (and Convert)

Most visitors don’t convert on the first touch. If yours do, congratulations by all means. In general though, a rather small percentage will go all the way on their first visit. They might in fact be interested, but maybe something got in their way, or maybe they like to think a whole lot before making decisions in life. Or maybe they just clumsily forgot about your offer, and only in their dying days do they recall this missed opportunity, but it’s already too late and they will now die in an ocean of regrets.

With Retargeting, you can bring back interested users, helping them find their way back to you again, possibly preventing a future disaster at the same time. It’s really lead nurturing on external channels. Create marketing activities tailored to leads that familiarize them with your brand and build trust, and the door for conversions with sales will open up naturally.

There are mainly two ways of doing retargeting: List-based and Pixel-based. List-based can only be done with contacts that has already engaged with a HubSpot form as you’ll need the contacts’ email addresses, but has a higher ROI as a result. Pixel-based is the more broad way of doing it, but the ROI is lower than lists as it’s less user specific. The word ‘Pixel’ refers to the technique of embedding a tiny 1 x 1 pixel that tracks user interactions. 

With all that said, I must also add that Retargeting is not for everyone: Most retargeting experts recommend that you need at least 5-10k visitors to your website and/or 40-70k active contacts in your database, otherwise you won’t reach the minimum recommended retargeting audience volume (1000 unique people). In order to unleash this powerful tool, you will need to build an audience first.

Case closed: Paid marketing can be Delightful

So you already have your wonderful audience and you can’t wait to take the relationship to the next level. Whether you’d like to close leads or delighting customers into evangelists, Retargeting is once again your go to tool, as you can easily target both leads and customers, using lists and pixels. The key here is, and has always been, the content. The success of your campaigns will stand in direct relation to how successfully you can match your content to the right audience and the right lifecycle stage. Just like any inbound campaign.

To sum up Retargeting: Use it to supplement your strategy, but never forget your Inbound ways!

I don’t like being convinced, but where do I start?

I know I’ve been wordy, but from here on we must start applying things in practise in order to make sense of it. I’ve compiled a list with some useful links below for you to immerse yourself with:

Paid Search




Talking about ads in the same breath as inbound marketing might seem a bit contradictory; after all, its traditionally obtrusive nature is everything inbound tries not to be. But instead of turning our backs on it, we should instead embrace it and make it our own, because it can be used in line with the methodology. Super Inbound!Implement paid marketing appropriately with a good inbound foundation, and it will amplify your efforts and ultimately your results.

In my next blog, I will continue writing about ads with focus on tools, how you can simplify the processes, measuring ROIs, and much more.

If you’d like to know more about this topic, or something else, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Talk to an expert

Yeu-Kang Hua
Generalist-specialist in digital experiences, or a hybrid designer-developer if you must pigeonhole. Curiosity is Kang’s trademark and a curse.
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