What Is Inbound Marketing and How Does It Help Businesses?
The Internet has changed the way we do business. At times, it’s also made it frustrating for business owners to get their message across. The old ‘tried and true’ methods of Marketing don’t have the same return they once had. Many business owners are left wading in a digital world that they don’t quite understand, let alone know how to navigate. Inbound marketing sought to change all that, by utilizing key aspects of how people use the Internet to draw customers in rather than seek them out. And though inbound marketing’s not a perfect system, it has had some significant successes.
Inbound marketing came into being circa 2006, and it’s made a strong impact on the marketing world ever since, as one of the most successful ways of marketing online. One of the reasons it’s been so successful is because it uses content to its best advantages, and as we all know, Google prizes content.
Though the process of inbound marketing can be somewhat complex, and it does take time to master (and execute), the idea behind it is fairly simple – instead of pounding the pavement in the old outbound marketing ways, why not draw and lead your customers to you?
Inbound marketing uses a multi-step process to not just convert strangers into customers, but the methodology takes it a step further, and seeks to turn your customers into promoters of your brand as well.
Take a look at the infographic at the top of the page to get a basic feel of how inbound marketing works. To help understand the graphic better: the four words across the top are the actions that companies take to get their visitors, leads, customers and promoters. The sets of 3 words along the bottom encompass the tools that businesses use to accomplish those actions. Where the tools are listed represents where they first come into play in the process. But it’s important to note that even though all tools are only listed once, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only time they’re used. Email for example will be used frequently throughout the process after it’s originally introduced.
Major Themes of Inbound Marketing
There are 5 major themes in inbound marketing: Content Creation & Distribution, Lifecycle Marketing, Personalization, Multi-Channel and Integration. Here’s a look at how those work.
Content Creation & Distribution
Content creation & distribution is fairly self-explanatory. The idea behind it involves creating content that’s targeted towards the basic questions and needs of prospects and customers, and then sharing that content as often and in as many places as you can.
At the core of the inbound methodology is utilizing the tools readily available to you, along with the specific actions, to turn strangers into promoters and keep the wheel turning. The idea is that it’s the constant flow and cycle of these elements that will keep the leads coming in and the conversions occurring.
Keeping your content aimed at the wants and needs of those who are viewing it is a key part of the inbound marketing process. Over time, you’ll learn more about your leads, which will allow you to really hone in on the personalization of your content.
The fact that inbound marketing accesses so many different avenues makes it multi-channel. The benefit of this is that it gives you access to more people and allows you to approach potential customers in the channel where they prefer to interact with you.
Think of content creation, publishing and analytics tools as all cogs in a wheel – together they keep that wheel turning. And they also keep the profits rolling in.
Writing and distributing the proper content, and having it be in the right place at the right time is what will help make you successful at inbound marketing.
Let’s take a closer look at how the four inbound marketing actions relate to all of this.
The Actions of Inbound Marketing
1. Attract (Turning Strangers into Visitors)
The goal of the attract phase is to bring in visitors to your website. But let’s face it, you don’t want to waste a lot of time attracting visitors that won’t eventually become leads or customers. And most of all, you want to attract those potential customers who will eventually become promoters. So how do you find the right people to bring in? One way to identify whom you want to attract is to first create buyer personas.
Buyer personas are detailed breakdowns of what your customers, ideal and actual, are like. A typical buyer persona sketch will consist of the goals, challenges, personal and demographic information, the pain points, and even the common objections to products and services that make up that particular consumer group.
Buyer personas are used regularly in content and inbound marketing strategy, and if used properly, can give you great insight into who your customers are and how to gear your content.
Once you have your buyer personas set, you can begin utilizing the tools of this stage – Blogging, SEO & Social Publishing.
You’ll want to make sure that you have appealing web content on all your pages, and that your blog posts, videos and social media pages are geared towards attracting your potential buyers. Having the proper copy with appropriate keywords that mesh with your personas will help lure in the right visitors.
2. Convert (How Visitors Become Leads)
Once you have a visitor to your website, the ultimate goal should be to obtain their contact information. Their contact information should consist of, at the very least, their email address. Once you obtain that information, these visitors will become leads.
But how do you appeal to these visitors and get them to hand over their contact information? Having good content on your site is the initial step, and it’s a must have for someone to even consider giving over their email, but ultimately the way to get their contact information is to offer something in return. What you offer will vary depending on the type of company you have. Some of the most common offerings include coupons and eBooks.
Your newfound lead is now someone who will be on your mailing list, who you can keep sending information to. The key is to have consistently informative and entertaining content for your visitors, so that they return for more.
You’ll need certain tools to accomplish these goals, including opt-in forms, calls-to-action, and landing pages. Not too invasive pop-ups are a good way to incite people – just be sure they’re easy to close for mobile viewers, or you could end up losing more leads than you gain.
Calls to Action (CTA) will inspire your audience to take the plunge; be sure that this type of content is appealing so that it excites your audience. Landing Pages follow CTAs with the promise of more information. And be sure to keep track of the leads you’re gaining and keep data on how you’ve gained them, as this will help turn those leads into customers and promoters down the line.
3. Close (Making the Lead a Customer)
By this point, your visitor has become a lead, and you want that lead to become a customer. But before the close becomes official, you need to understand where the lead is in the process of closing. This is where emails and a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system come in.
Emails to leads in your database will give them the incentive to return and access new content as it’s posted. They also give you a way to gain insight into your leads’ interests and where they’re at in the buying process, by seeing what they click, what they download, etc. And what their actions are afterwards.
The CRM is a database, which keeps all of your customer’s contact information in one place. This allows for you to nurture your potential leads and keep track of all the info you have for them.
At this point, emails can be used in order to sell to the proper leads at the right moment, even customers who seem to have trailed off. This is where you provide ‘remarkable’ content to your leads at a specific time, in order to nurture them and bring them back for more.
Utilizing Marketing Automation software can also help in this process, also aiding you in creating specialized content and targeting leads based on which stage they’re at in the lifecycle.
4. Delight (Turning the Customer into a Promoter)
Once the sale has actually commenced and your lead has become a customer, you’ll then want to turn your customer into a promoter for your product. This is where you can work to engage and intrigue your customers with new offers and new content.
In turn, they’ll be likely to promote your product by word of mouth, or even through social media. Continue to nurture your customers far beyond the purchase phase and they’ll stay with you through the long haul. Helping you promote your brand with the #1 marketing tool in existence, which is word of mouth.
Some tools that can help you gain more insight and keep your customers feeling valued include surveys, where you ask them for feedback and ideas, smart calls-to-action (which change based on the lifecycle stage and buyer persona), smart content which is tailored to their interest and challenges, and by monitoring social media, which will keep you informed of their questions, comments, likes and more.
By using this inbound marketing strategy, you’ll have the ability to open up numerous distribution venues, repeat the process and gain new visitors.
Again, inbound marketing does take time, and it is an investment – in time, energy and resources. You may find yourself wondering how are you ever going to manage to do all that? The best thing to do if you don’t have the time to work on an inbound marketing strategy is to contact an agency to work with you in that capacity. Here in our Austin web design & marketing agency, we handle many of our clients’ needs, including their inbound marketing program.