When stripping it down and paring it back, inbound marketing boils down to one thing: the customer. Inbound marketing is customer focused marketing, also known as buyer centric marketing or permission based marketing. It’s about aligning your marketing (and sales) to the way your customers buy, it’s about focusing your marketing efforts on the customer and their needs and wants.
The internet and eruption of social media have changed the way people buy. No longer do buyers rely on the word of salespeople – why would they when they have an abundance of information right at their fingertips when they jump onto Google? Today’s modern buyer will carry out research online before they make a purchase. The modern buyer is more educated and most importantly, they have a voice and a network, they are now your influencers and brand advocates.
If you’re a small to medium sized business that’s serious about building a sustainable and profitable business, you need to start focusing on your buyers and what they actually want. And, inbound marketing will help you get there. Inbound marketing starts with taking the time to learn everything you can about your buyers: their frustrations, pain points and needs. You then begin developing helpful and insightful content that addresses their needs and frustrations, providing solutions and answers. Perhaps the most important element of inbound marketing is the building of relationships, engaging and nurturing those relationships and building long-lasting trust.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology is:
Get Found by people likely to buy from you.
Get Leads by converting your prospects into leads.
Get Customers by nurturing your leads until they are ready to buy.
Delight your customers and keep them coming back for more.
So now that you know what the inbound marketing methodology is, we’re going to dive deeper and look at everything else you need to know about inbound marketing and how to get started implementing it into your business.
Get Found – Attract
Get Leads – Convert
Get Customers – Close
The rise of the internet and the boom of social media has irrevocably changed the marketing landscape. Once upon a time, it was the salespeople that held all the power. Now, consumers hold the power. Research has shown that buyers are over half way through the buying process before they are ready to talk with a salesperson. This is thanks to the power and accessibility of online research and search engines like Google.
This shift in control has forced the modern marketer to rethink their strategies. Consumers are savvier and smarter and have access to better, more responsive technology than ever before. They are increasingly able to choose the type of marketing and messages they receive, which is why it’s important your marketing tactics are continuously evolving and growing, in order, to keep up.
This is where Inbound Marketing comes in. Inbound marketing has changed the game all over again. Traditional marketing methods were overly interruptive and their return on investment was questionable. Think about the old tactics of advertising, emails and direct mail. These methods forced a company’s message onto an audience, regardless of whether, or not, this person was interested. Inbound marketing is the complete opposite. It focuses on publishing insightful and quality content that organically attracts consumers to your organisation.
Relevant and well-written blogs, strategic SEO, intuitive web pages and the ability to share your organisations content through social media are all key features of inbound marketing. And, when you combine the power of these features, you are creating a culture where potential and likely buyers are effortlessly drawn to your business. These features when working together attract people to your website, convert website visitors into leads and close leads into happy customers, ultimately creating long-term ambassadors for your brand.
The truth is if you don’t align the way you market to the way people buy, you’re at risk of falling behind. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be. Read on to find out more about inbound marketing, including how to start implementing it into your own business.
Get Found – Attract
If I haven’t mentioned it enough already, inbound marketing is all about your buyer. Not you. Not your company. Your buyer. Marketers who shift their strategy to buyer centric marketing will quickly become successful in building scalable and profitable organisations in the future because they’re offering their customers the information they want and are looking for.
So, the first step as a marketer is to identify the people who are most likely to buy from you. You don’t want to interrupt a bunch of random people who aren't interested in what you have to say. You want to attract people to your business and connect with people who are looking for your product or service.
To be successful, you need to know your buyers well, to do this you will need to create a buyer persona. This requires you to gain detailed information about the people who are likely to buy from you. What’s important to them at each stage of the buying process, what information and experience they are looking for.
Tactics for this stage include: keyword analysis, SEO, blog articles, PR, social media and video marketing.
Get Leads – Convert
Once you’ve attracted the right people, your aim is to convert your visitors into leads. In order to convert these visitors, you need to offer them information they will find helpful and educational during the buying process.
Let’s say you had a brick and mortar store. When people walk into your store, you’d have salespeople quickly asking, “how can I help you?” Your website is essentially the digital equivalent of that process. People have come to your website to learn more about what you do, so you need to make sure it’s easy for them to find that information on your website. ‘Gated content’ can be really helpful at this point. Gated content is content like e-books or webinars that ask the visitors to fill out a form in exchange for quality, helpful content. These forms allow you to capture the information of your visitors and identify the types of people interested in your business.
For this to be successful, you need to be thinking about your buyers and what they deem important. This ‘conversion’ step isn’t about how many email addresses you can get. It’s a chance for you to prove your worth as a helpful, insightful and relevant business.
Tactics at this stage include: compelling and strong CTAs (calls-to-action), optimised landing pages, conversion forms, educational gated content in any form (e-book, video, webinar, online courses and tutorials), landing pages, thank you pages, email marketing and social media.
Get Customers – Close
You’ve got your leads right where you want them … now it’s time to ‘close’ your leads into customers. It can be hard to get this step right and in a way that builds your brand’s reputation. As I mentioned before, the modern buyer is over half way through the buying process before they engage with a salesperson. This means they’re busy educating themselves on the solutions and different vendors they can buy from before they’re ready to speak to your sales team.
That’s why the first two steps of attracting and converting the right people are vital. If you’ve taken the time and effort to create your buyer personas, you’ll understand what information is important to them during the buying process. Once a website visitor has converted into a lead, your goal is to help them along the buying process with extra content that will help them make a decision. Your content needs to be strategic, relevant, timely and helpful to where they are in the buying process. If it isn’t, you risk simply annoying them and potentially losing them as a customer.
Helpful tactics at this stage include: smart lists, smart calls to action, email marketing, workflows and personalised content.
The inbound methodology doesn’t end with closing customers. It’s about creating a positive and memorable experience for everyone who engages with your organisation. Even if people don’t buy from you, they can still be great ambassadors for your business. Just remember: a happy customer is your best salesperson.
Helpful tips for delighting your visitors and customers include: engaging with your customers as people, not as leads; using personalised and relevant content; requesting feedback; smart calls to action and connecting with your customers via social media. These tactics will in turn create repeat customers and enthusiastic brand ambassadors for life.
The benefits of adopting an inbound marketing strategy are endless. No really, I could write pages and pages about how the inbound methodology will take your business to places you never thought possible. Chances are, you don’t want to read pages upon pages, so here are just a few of the key benefits of the inbound methodology.
Reduce Your Marketing Costs
Perhaps one of the greatest things about the rise of the internet and social media is it has levelled the marketing playing field. You don’t need an abundance of money to be a successful marketer anymore. In fact, some of the most powerful marketing tools are free or come at a minimal cost. The modern buyer is hanging out on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and anyone can start an account and join the conversation in minutes. These days, it’s as easy for small businesses to create and deliver campaigns with as much reach and impact as large companies with even larger budgets.
Build an Online Footprint
Inbound marketing is a long term marketing tactic that increases momentum the longer you implement it. Your amazing content that you diligently publish on a weekly basis will build your online footprint and organically drive more and more people to your business over the long term. The return on investment isn’t always immediate, but the benefits you receive over the years definitely outweigh the high cost and poor ROI of traditional interruptive marketing tactics like advertising, direct mail and cold calling. For example, a Google Adwords campaign will only be effective for as long as you’re willing to pay for it. Or, you can create a free optimised blog article that helps build your online footprint and can generate organic leads for years. If that’s not enough to convince you, HubSpot research shows that companies that embrace content marketing generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t. That’s the kind of statistic money can’t buy.
Stand Out from Your Competition
We live in an era where people have access to an endless stream of information. We’re always connected. This means you have an incredible opportunity to reach your audience in a way that’s never been done before. However, it also means your audience has the ability to be more selective about the amount and type of information they want to receive.
That’s what makes inbound marketing so effective. It’s about creating useful content that cuts through the noise and delivers an effective solution for your buyers’ needs. Inbound marketing provides you with an immediate way to stand out from the crowd, attract people naturally to your business and connect directly with your buyers.
The evolution of inbound marketing has been incredible, but what’s more remarkable is the diversity of organisations benefitting from the inbound methodology. B2B, B2C, government agencies and non-profits are all taking their organisations and marketing efforts to the next level with the inbound principles, anyone can use.
In their recent State of Inbound report, HubSpot reported that inbound marketing efforts achieve a higher ROI than outbound, regardless of company size or total marketing spend. That is why so many diverse organisations are adopting inbound as their marketing strategy of choice. Let’s look at why anyone can implement an inbound methodology strategy.Inbound Marketing Generates Leads, at a Fraction of the Cost
According to HubSpot, 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing. Furthermore, on average, businesses save $20,000 each year by investing more in inbound marketing than outbound. Generating more leads … while saving money? It almost sounds too good to be true. But let me tell you, it is true, and it’s a big reason why organisations of all types are implementing inbound marketing.
It’s Adaptable and Responsive
In the traditional model of advertising, once advertisements are booked and the creative is submitted, your message is static. And, once the advertising stops, so does your ability to reach your target market. That’s why inbound marketing is so effective. It allows your business to produce evergreen content, generating leads and conversions long after your content has been published. Also, your message can be posted instantly – a tweet can be sent in seconds, a Facebook post in a minute, a blog post in less than an hour. Inbound marketing can be in real-time, giving you greater control than ever over your messaging.
It Boosts Your SEO
As mentioned, inbound marketing focuses on publishing content your audience is seeking. By posting frequent, high quality and insightful content, search engines will love you and it will help boost your search rankings. Also, posting regularly on your blog is a signal to Google that your website is still active, which is a major factor in where you sit in search rankings.
It Creates a Community
The inbound marketing philosophy centres on attracting your customers with valuable content – not buying them or interrupting them through advertising. The inbound methodology focuses on the buyer and their needs – not the organisation and its revenue targets. This philosophy means you need to genuinely connect with potential buyers and understand their motivations – and a way to solve them. The ROI isn’t always immediate, but overtime it creates an amazing community of ambassadors who are truly engaged with your brand.
So, no matter what industry you’re in or the size of your business, inbound is a philosophy that has something to offer for everyone.
Now that you know about the benefits of the inbound methodology and that any business can adopt its philosophy, you’re probably thinking about implementing it into your own marketing strategy. Below is a simple 7-step guide to implementing the inbound methodology into your business. Just you wait – this is going to change everything.
1. Analyse Your Current Brand and Marketing
What does your current brand look like? Does it have a unique story and message that helps you stand out from the crowd? If you want to make the most of the inbound methodology, you need to have a well-defined brand position. Consider your brand voice, message and unique value proposition. Align your branding to what is important to your buyers.
Assess your current marketing assets. Are they aligned with your branding, voice and what’s important to your buyers? What is working and what isn’t?
2. Set SMART Goals
When it comes to setting goals, marketers see the best results by setting SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Essentially, buyer personas are fictional characters that represent your ideal buyer and help you create a more targeted marketing campaign. Although buyer personas aren’t real, they are based on real data, behaviours, and demographics. As a marketer, it’s your job to know your buyer well. The best way to do this is by talking to the people who buy from you. It’s also a great idea to talk to people who go through the buying process and don’t buy from you. Once you have your information, you can begin to create your content strategy, publishing content that solves their problems and meets their needs.
4. Develop a Strategic Content Plan
Now that you understand your buyers, it’s time to create a content strategy based on the inbound methodology (attract, convert, close, delight). Your content calendar should help you structure and plan your content so it is aligned to the different stages of the buying process and what your buyers are looking for at each stage of the buying process. Your content plan should also include how you are going to attract and convert visitors, what happens when they convert and how you plan on closing and delighting them. Each of these phases should include detailed content that continues to move them to the final stage of closing.
5. Attract With Optimised Content
Once you have your content plan in place you need to optimise your content for the search engines. Make sure you’re using keywords your buyers are using when they’re searching. These keywords should be in the url, title of the document, headings and sub-headings in the document, within the copy and to describe any images. The challenge is to not overuse keywords – the recommendation is to keep the content natural and use variations of the keyword or keyword phrase. Then you can publish your content using one of the HubSpot tools and promote it so people can find it. There are many ways you can promote your content, especially a blog article or new ebook, some of these are: social media posts, paid social media, email, paid search, your website, your email signature and LinkedIn Groups.
6. Convert and Close With The Right Offers and CTAs
In addition to publishing content to attract buyers to your site you want to convert them into leads and customers. This is where the buyer personas are valuable, once you understand your buyers and what they’re looking for at each stage of the buying process you can place offers and calls-to-action (CTA) on your site. This might be offers like: download a free buyers guide, attend a free webinar, request a quote, start a free trial. It’s important you have offers that convert visits into leads before they’re ready to speak to a sales person, this is where offers like; guides, ebooks and webinars are helpful. In addition you should make it very easy for people to speak to a sales person if that is what they’re looking for. So having relevant offers like: start a free trial, request a quote, book in a free consultation – or whatever is relevant to your industry and audience – should be placed where they can be easily found – like the header on every page.
It’s important you are continuously testing and measuring your marketing efforts so you can improve results. Nowadays you can analyse almost anything with marketing, for example: your email open and click-through rates, page visits, bounce rates, conversion rates, likes, shares and so on. If you’re not happy with the results or you would like to do better, try testing something new like a new heading or a change in colour or placement on the website – you’ll be surprised how sometimes a small change can have a big impact on results.