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The Definition of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy focused on attracting the right customers using value-added content strategically positioned at different stages of a customer’s journey. This valuable content will be found through channels such as blogs, search engines (through SEO) and social media.
Why Is Inbound Marketing Important?
Inbound marketing is so important now more than ever before because it adopts a problem solving customer-centric approach.
Inbound marketing may seem radical to some because it focuses on informing customers to help them make well-informed decisions and sometimes, that well-informed decision may drive a customer to think that they may not need that product/service afterall.
Why is this a good thing? This is a good thing because those were not the RIGHT customers. Those were not ideal customers. It’s like trying to sell milk to someone who is lactose intolerant; but those who want milk, will get the milk and even help market that milk. When done right, inbound marketing becomes a perpetual lead-generating machine.
The ROI for Inbound Marketing is overwhelming:
We live in a world where the information-action ratio is skewed to the former. Consumers have a free-flow of information at the tip of their fingers more than ever. People are getting their information instantly from a device they have their eyes glued to. They’re getting their news from a medium that doesn’t sleep. They’re getting opinions from other consumers who have tried a brand’s product/service (which may or may not be biased!). People will know a brand for all it’s pros and cons.
People are already distrusting of a salesman, now they have access to a database of information that tells them exactly which salesman not to trust. Inbound marketing makes a brand be that shining light amidst the pool of doubt and paranoia.
Through this sincerity and drive to provide excellence, true ideal customers will emerge. This will show because they won’t be able to stop talking about just how amazing that brand is.
These customers will shout about a brand on:
- Their social media
- Forums dedicated to a problem you solve
- Offline groups (because people actually still go out and have lives)
It is basically word-of-mouth marketing for the current digital era.
The advantages that come along with inbound marketing are many, including:
- Shaping brand perception in a way that leads to more loyal customers
- Generates shares and inbound links
- Empowers your customers
- Helps in SEO efforts
- Generate the RIGHT leads at a lower cost
Inbound marketing does not try to chase customers, but instead creates content designed to attract customer by solving the problems they face. This builds trust and credibility so that when it comes time to pull out the wallet, the relationship has already been established. Instead of pushing the image of a company repeatedly, their trust and familiarity are earned with the values a company projects by empowering each and every customer.
Long after their first purchase with you, the inbound methodology will continue fostering the relationship a company has with its customers. This will make loyal advocates of customers who will help in marketing efforts.
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing (Traditional)
The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is the fact that instead of pushing a message to the audience, inbound pulls the customers to the message. Instead of paying for a television slot to broadcast a PSA, inbound posts a video on their YouTube channel, Facebook page, or LinkedIn. Instead of paying a radio station for an ad to buy a product, inbound will inform it’s potential audience of how they can solve a problem. Instead of buying a page on a magazine for an editorial or product, inbound can now talk about their product on a blog.
This shift of dynamic from push to pull ensures that the brand is visible to people who are trying to solve a problem that it (the brand) has the answer to whether in the form of a service or a product.
Who is your ideal customer?
While getting to know an audience is important in the outbound marketing model, inbound marketing makes the audience the center of attention. So much so that the inbound methodology requires a “buyer’s persona” in order for it to work to its magic!
A buyer’s persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
The Inbound Methodology
The inbound methodology is customer-centric. At every step of the funnel the first question should be, “what is the customer experience like?” If a stranger becomes a visitor through reading a blog redirected from a social media posting, who is this person likely to be? What is it that is going to connect with him/her? What problem is he/she trying to solve?
At this stage, a person who doesn’t know your brand becomes a visitor. The goal is to attract customers that fit the buyer’s persona. These are the people most likely to become leads, and, eventually, delighted customers. This is achieved by showing these customers relevant content at the right time. This is why a buyer’s persona is so important, knowing exactly what problems those potential customers are facing and how to address them will just come easier. These people will find that particular content because they are looking for that specific bit of information which solves their problem.
Attracting customers come in the forms of blogging, content strategy, and utilization of social media.
If content is the foundation of an inbound marketing strategy, a blog would be its bread and butter. Use this highly versatile tool to educate customers with engaging content. In order to get found by the right customers, provide them with content that helps solve their problems.
Blog content can come in the forms of articles, videos, audio or visuals.
Having a blog with amazing contents tailor-made to your buyer persona is only the first step. The next step is content strategy. Remember the goal – to answer a question the customer has. Make sure they can easily find it when they are searching for an answer.
Content Strategy relies heavily on being discovered. To get ranked at the top of Google’s search results page, knowledge of SEO is essential.
Just because inbound is focused on attracting people to your content does not mean a business can’t push its message to the RIGHT people. Social media is a wonderful tool to relate and engage with customers. Find where those ideal buyers spend their time and interact with them there.
Social media strategy is usually split off into two categories: organic and paid. Paid strategies while sounding like an outbound tactic can and should be used as a supplement to organic efforts.
After attracting someone to the website whether with a landing page, product page, or an article, it’s time to convert these visitors into leads. It’s like continuing a conversation after they’ve learned about a service/product. “Do you want to learn more?”, “Does this interest you?”, “What can I do to get you to click add to cart?”
Converting visitors can be done and optimized with a few tools namely: forms, meetings, messages, or a good CRM.
Forms are a great way to collect contact information. This process needs to be as intuitive and simple as possible so that you capture every possible interested person. Reasons people sign up through a form are to keep up to date with your brand whether it be for new products, new partnerships, or new services. Forms are also a good way to connect with an interested lead by offering them a free trial of your service, or a discount code to turn them into a customer.
What’s the best way to win over someone’s business? A conversation face to face of course! The second best way would be a phone call or virtual meeting. Give prospects an easy way to book a meeting or get on the phone with a representative immediately. That way, it’s clear exactly what the customer wants, what they’re willing to do to solve a problem, and to give them a solution.
Live chat should not be taken lightly. It may seem arbitrary to have a live chat or even a no-brainer to at least have it that it is often overlooked. A lot of people may be phone shy and would prefer to engage through messages. This allows the sales team to connect with anybody on the site while they are still interested!
CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM software is an excellent way to track leads and see which of them are converting. It is a real-time centralized database of all website visitors. Using an all-in-one CRM solution like Hubspot will enhance the overall customer relationship, save costs, and free up valuable time to focus on important matters.
CRMs all-in-one or not are a big plus to have. CRM helps an organization to focus on what’s important without getting sidetracked.
After someone has given his or her information through a form, or has met a representative, or had a live chat, we have entered the close stage. These people might be considering a product/service already so what is it the information they need to get to the next stage of their journey?
Closing a lead can be optimized with a variety of methods and tools including pipeline management, lead nurturing, email, and predictive lead scoring.
Pipeline management is taking a step back and analyzing leads. Are the marketing efforts bringing in the ideal customers? Are leads being closed converted to customers effectively? This is where a centralized database and automated marketing efforts come in handy. This helps connect both the sales and marketing team to work in tandem more effectively and will be able to make better decisions going forward. A CRM bridges these two teams and even customer service seamlessly so that visitors can be converted into leads, leads can be closed and continue to be delighted quickly.
Every lead is different because every lead is an individual. Each of their journey has been radically different. Some may have arrived at this point through social media or through a blog post. Some may have taken a day, while others may have taken a few weeks. Each lead must be nurtured according to their journey. Lead nurturing is ensuring that an organization’s message to a particular customer is relevant to them.
If a person has shown very strong interest with other materials and has even given the organization access to their contact information, it’s likely they have a lot of questions. Reach out to them with relevant content or deals to help them become ready for an offer.
How does an organization know it is spending time and effort wisely? Research and find out which path is the most efficient. This is what predictive lead scoring is. It attaches a value to leads who are most likely to become customers. You don’t have to chase every single lead, just the ones who want to be chased.
As stated, inbound is customer-centric. Provide customers with the best experience possible. Continuously help customers use a product to its fullest potential so that they become successful with that product. These people will buy more, remain loyal, tell their family and friends, and shout at the top of their lungs that they absolutely love what the organization does.
Delighting customers can be achieved with surveys, smart content and conversations.
How does one know what a customer likes about a product? How about finding out if customers felt engaged throughout the whole attract, convert, close and delight process? You could wait for a customer review that doesn’t come or answer specific questions you have. Surveys are an amazing way to understand exactly what customers enjoy about an organization.
Nobody wants to be hard sold to right after making a purchase. They’ve just put a lot of emotional investment into the purchase. Smart content is making sure that people only receive relevant content and deals that they want to see based on their buyer personas and journey.
Keep customers engaged even after they have purchased. Ask them what they enjoyed, teach them how to use a product, help them out with problems they may have, and learn from these conversations. These will help an organization gain insight on how to put together an insightful manual or FAQ or how to connect deeper with customers and leads.
Examples of Inbound Marketing Campaigns
For a service
You provide a wardrobe re-organizing service, so you want to get found by people who would like to minimize and declutter their wardrobe.
Attract – From Search Result to Content
Someone searching for “organizational life hacks” or something along that vein finds your blog post on habits that will eventually lead to a more organized home. Or this person saw your article posted in the group of minimalists on social media.
Convert – From Content to Newsletter
After reading your content, people will most likely leave your page because they’ve found what they were looking for. You have a CTA at the top and bottom of your page to sign up for your newsletter. People who truly connected with your contents will sign up because your contents has helped them solve a problem and provided them with a lot of value. These people are now your leads.
Close – From Newsletter to Appointment Scheduled
You nurture your leads, sending them content directly to them with the ultimate goal of scheduling an appointment with you to organize their wardrobe. You send different kinds of content to see which contents the leads are connecting with. If your leads are engaging with contents moving towards an appointment, good for you! If a lead isn’t, you can try sending them more tips on housekeeping or other entertaining contents. You find that it takes on average a month before 4% of the leads schedule an appointment and 6 months to a year before an additional 5% do. They’re good numbers and you’re happy.
Delight – From Appointment Scheduled to Continuous Delight
You’ve established a great rapport with all your customers. You know where they live, their families and their habits. You especially remember Lisa who has OCD. You tailor-made content for her and people like her, with a blog topic on “Coping with OCD by altering your surroundings!” You remember Hank who has a hoarding problem. You write content for hoarders, such as “Cluttered room, cluttered mind.” You remembered your delighted customers and continue to guide them in sustaining their new organized wardrobe and lifestyle. Eventually, you get more business than you can handle through referrals and start being called the “Organize King”.
For a product
You’re selling a portable espresso machine and you want to get discovered by people who like brewing their own coffee and travel frequently.
Attract – From Search Result to Content
Someone searching for “good traveling coffee” or something along that vein finds your content about how your portable espresso machine saved the sanity of a caffeine-holicwho was trapped in the woods for 28 days because of its exceptional tasting espresso. Or you posted this article on a social media group full of coffee lovers.
Convert – From Content to Landing/Product Page
After reading your content, they’re hooked on the idea of making coffee with your amazing espresso machine. They click on learn more and are taken to the product page where you show them the product details, your case studies, testimonials, tutorials on how to use it, and customers who endorse it. At this point, they may have more questions and a live chat function would be extremely useful. Some may not be ready to buy yet and hold off the purchase but they leave their contact information in the newsletter sign up because of your compelling content and their interest in your espresso machine. These people would probably be leads who have shown strong intent, so you continually send them more ways to use your espresso machine. If people seem to be irked by how hard you try to push the product, that’s fine – you can change your messages to them by showing them content with more levity – coffee related memes, how to brew the perfect cup of coffee with things they already have, your favorite things to add to your coffee. This keeps them engaged with contents related to their interests and when they’re ready to buy, lead them to the product page.
Close – From Landing/Product Page to Purchase
You’ve continuously engaged and answered your customer’s questions. You’ve been sending them content that connects with them and you’ve been keeping tabs on who seems ready to purchase. Those ready to purchase receive an email enticing them further to buy: “Exclusive deal for you! Get our patented micro-fiber cleaning cloth 50% off when you purchase it with our espresso machine!”. Tailor-made for that buyer who had shown traits of being a clean freak, has shown strong buying intent, and can’t resist a good deal. He hits “Buy Now” and the espresso machine and micro-fiber cloth are sent off. You find 6% of leads close after a week and an additional 6% after a month or two, and you’re happy with the numbers.
Delight – From Purchase to Follow Up and Delight
The relationship has been established. They know who you are and you know them. It’s almost intimate, you know exactly the journey each and every one of your customers. You send them content to help them use your product well based on what you know about them. Continue to delight your existing customers who love outdoor exploration by sending them contents such as “Tips to keep your espresso machine clean in areas with a lot of dirt.” You keep your buyer personas at heart and educate your delighted customers by guiding them on ways to keep their new product investment in good shape. Eventually, you find your sales increase because a friend referred them, or existing customers return to buy your product as a gift.