Inbound Marketing 101: The Answer to Better Business
By Lauren Inggs - April 01, 2015
Perhaps you've heard the term "inbound marketing" before, and wondered what it was all about? Maybe you know a bit about inbound marketing, but you've never seriously considered implementing it as a means to enhance your business's potential. Or you might be completely clueless as to what I'm on about at all. Not to worry, I'm going to take you through the what, why and how of inbound marketing in an effort to demystify the modern marketing methodology and reveal how it holds the answer to better business results.
Let's jump in, shall we?
The What, Why and How of Inbound Marketing
What Exactly is Inbound Marketing?
Traditional outbound marketing is centered around reaching out to the customer by pushing your marketing strategy and efforts at him, in the hopes you may generate viable leads that may result in sales. Examples of outbound marketing methodologies include cold calls, telemarketing, direct mail and advertising. All the tactics that traditional marketers pour huge budgets into, and the majority of modern customers actively avoid. It should come as no surprise then that this approach is losing efficacy and marketers who aren't adapting their strategy are seeing diminishing results on their campaigns. Not a good place to be in, is it?
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a methodology engineered to draw potential buyers to your business, on their own terms and when they are actively looking for the products or solutions you provide. It's not intrusive or interruptive like it's predecessor outbound, and it's focus is on the needs, interests and challenges of the customer, not the features of your product. Inbound marketers leverage the power and availability of the Internet and specific tools such as social media, email campaigns and blogs to provide educational, informative and valuable content to potential buyers that helps them solve the issues they are faced with.
Why Your Business Needs an Inbound Marketing Strategy
I've already touched on the fact that outbound marketing is losing efficacy, but you may be wondering why that's happening? What it essentially boils down to is the fact that buying behaviour has evolved, thanks to the Internet and the access to information it offers. People soon realised that they no longer relied on corporate messaging to find solutions to their problems. They have become more 'hunters' than the 'hunted' in that, when identifying a need, will actively seek out the information required to resolve it.
With people turning their backs on outbound marketing efforts, the traditional approach has become a costly and time-consuming strategy, with little in the way of results. In comparison, inbound marketing is marketing that people willingly engage with. They will happily read blog posts, share social media messages, and download eBooks or guides because it is information they have found themselves, not been shoved in their faces. This means that inbound marketers see far better results for their efforts, which generally are much longer lasting than outbound too, bringing costs down and boosting ROI.
Sound good? Want to know what all is involved for an inbound marketing strategy to be effective? Read on.
How Does Inbound Marketing Work?
Inbound marketing strategy is based on a methodology that can be broken into four key stages. Each stage has its own unique purpose and activities designed to progressively move customers through the stages from unknown visitors to evangelists for your product, service or brand. These stages are attract, convert, close and delight. Let's take a deeper look at each.
In this stage, the objective is to attract strangers to visit to your website, and to entice them to engage with you. But not just any old strangers. You're looking to have visits from the right strangers. The ones who are most likely to buy your product or engage your services. This is achieved by identifying your ideal customers, using the development of buyer personas, and understanding their goals, challenges, pain points and common objections to a product or service. This insight helps you to create blog posts, social media messages and apply search engine optimisation techniques to your content that will be of interest and applicable to them.
Key activities in the attract stage: Blogging, SEO and social media.
The convert stage aims to take those strangers who visit your website and convert them into known leads. This is achieved by gathering contact information from your visitors. Contact information is an incredible asset to an online marketer, and to encourage your visitors to offer up their details involves a trade.
In order to encourage this trade, you need to offer your visitors information that is useful to them in return. This may come in the form of an eBook, whitepaper or tip sheet - anything that helps keep them educated and informed. By implementing calls-to-action you drive visitors to these offers on landing pages, where you request their contact details on a form in exchange for your premium content. This action allows you to track their activities and marketing engagement going forward as named contacts.
Primary tools used in the convert stage: Premium content, calls-to-action, landing pages and forms.
Leads are good but customers are great! And in order to close as a customer, a lead must complete their buyer journey. The point of the close stage is to provide the right type of information based on where they are in the buyer journey, to encourage them towards a buying decision (purchase). Doing so correctly will entice them to become customers, while failing to do so may leave you with a stale lead.
Tactics relevant to the close stage: Customer relationship management system (CRM), marketing automation, and email marketing.
Well done, you, you've scored a new customer. But don't think your job's over yet! Happy customers can become a valuable marketing tool, if you can delight them to the point of becoming evangelists for your company or product. These means continuing to engage with them using content specifically tailored to enrich their experience with your brand, product or service, and continue engaging with them on social media. Surveys are another excellent tool to identify areas you're meeting, or exceeding client expectations, and where you may need to make improvements to serve them better.
Key drivers in the delight stage: Smart content, social media, and surveys.
Implementing an inbound marketing strategy for your business may seem like stepping into the unknown, but the rewards are great. If you've never considered it, perhaps now is the time to make that call and let the power of inbound marketing change your business!