Inbound Marketing is one of the hottest trends currently being utilised by businesses all around the world. And there's one simple reason why. Instead of having to BUY your customers attention (such as through expensive ads), they come to you organically. Curious as to how you can achieve this? Just keep reading...
Traditional marketing is the sort of marketing that you’d have been used to growing up with as a kid. It includes everything through from direct mail advertising to TV and radio commercials. The purpose of traditional (or outbound) marketing is to tell people what your product or service is by paying for their attention and hoping they buy. This lends itself to a few crucial problems. Most notably, finding it hard to directly reach specific, target customers.
On the flip side, inbound marketing revolves around you attracting buyers to your site organically. Essentially, instead of paying for their attention, you earn it by being helpful and building trust. It isn't about boastful or 'salesy' campaigns - it is about piquing the interest of potential customers. This is a type of marketing that values the relationship over the 'scattergun approach'.
Increasingly, outbound marketing is being questioned, with evidence suggesting that inbound marketing is now taking over as the preferred driver of lead generation. According to DemandGen Report, nurtured leads produce 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads. The fact is that traditional outbound marketing is failing. Providing customers with interesting and engaging content stands more chance of switching consumers onto a brand.
Four Steps to Growth
The inbound marketing methodology can be broken down into four steps. Let's look at them in detail, one by one:
So how does a customer know about your business, if you haven't come 'knocking on their door', as is the case with outbound marketing. The answer is - they come knocking on your door. It is all about attraction - you need to give visitors a good reason to head to your website. If you successfully engage them, you stand more of a chance of attracting the leads you need to grow.
Let's look at some tried and trusted ways to attract the leads you need to grow:
Blogs can be seen as the 'kingpin' of content, such is the way they allow you to educate, offer insights, and entertain, while also producing SEO-friendly content that can do wonders for your Google rankings. Think of blogs as your way of demonstrating your enthusiasm, experience and authority. Remember, blog content shouldn't be a 'hard sell', and doesn't necessarily need to be about something directly related to your products and services.
Social media - whichever content you have put together - from blog articles to video and research papers - social media is the place to spread it far and wide. But your social media channels aren't just a place to post your content. They can offer the chance to build a community around your brand; many of this community will never become customers, but some of them will. Social media is also a great way to interact and give your brand a voice.
Getting some coveted spots in the Google rankings is so important to a business with an online presence - so let's get to the heart of the matter. Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be vital to attract the leads you need. There are various techniques which you can use to boost your SEO and build your authority. Google is known to value quality content, so ensuring that you produce interesting and engaging text which is also woven with the right keywords, can see you rank highly for certain search terms which are relevant to your product or service.
If you have attracted some prospects, you are making progress, but it is not time to get 'salesy'. The second stage of the inbound marketing is perhaps the most subtle - nurturing. You will need to move your lead down the funnel, and one way of doing this is with gated content. Up until this stage, you might have offered content for free. Now you know a prospect is interested in your content, you can offer them something else of value, in exchange for some information; such as their contact details, job role or experiences as a customer of your type of product or service. This will allow you to build a more accurate picture of a lead.
Let's look at some key elements in setting up effective gated content:
Think of landing pages as the base for gated content. This is where you will put a call to action, locate a form for filling in details, and offer access to the gated content itself. A landing page is your chance to persuade visitors to take the next step and share information with you - so all the design elements, from graphics to copy and the call to action, must be carefully constructed with the conversion in mind.
Your content must be tailored to different leads, with different web page copy, graphics, layout and advertising varying according to the actions of, and information about, a lead that you have recorded so far. The best Marketing automation platforms can help a lot in this respect.
This is where you can capture information from your prospects, when they make the decision that they want certain content from you. As this is such a key part of the nurturing stage, you should be sure that the form is easy to fill out, inviting, and functions properly.
You don't need to wait until you attract online customers to start questioning exactly what they need. You can be guided in the nurturing stage by buyer personas, which is an exercise in painting a picture of who your potential customers are, and what they are looking for. Use research as part of this process, and always keep your buyer personas in mind when you are creating your content - from blogs to content offers.
Calls to Action
CTAs, or call to actions, need to be explicit in terms of what you are offering a prospect, and what you would like them to do in return. Don't be afraid of getting straight to the point, with punchy, enthusiastic prompts - 'register your interest here', 'arrange a demo now' or 'download in an instant' can all work well.
when done well, email marketing can be a very potent weapon. Once you have a contact's details, you can use email to keep in touch with them, tailoring your content around their needs, and actions up until this point. Don't over-do email - think of it as a 'drip feed' process which allows you to keep the conversation going.
We have now reached the 'business end' of the inbound marketing process. Conversion is the point at which your prospects become customers, but be sure to note the difference between conversion in traditional outbound marketing and inbound marketing. Inbound marketing sees each buyer journey as unique. In this respect, the nurturing continues, because you will need to keep engaging your customers and discovering more about them.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Customer relationship management - CRM
will be vital in ensuring that prospects receive the right communications, at the right time. You can use a CRM platform to manage all the data you have on prospects and existing customers, including interactions with your sales and marketing personnel. The best marketing automation software can have CRM built in.
All your content and conversion campaigns can be monitored and measured, so you should use analytics tools to assess which campaigns work better. You must know what works, and what doesn't.
Play the Long Game
Play the long game - for cases in which a lead has not converted after a free trial or demo, but is still 'warm', you can ensure that your brand stays visible by continuing to send relevant content at scheduled times..
4. Create Brand Ambassadors
Think of the prospects which you have converted not as conquests, but as a potential army of ambassadors for your brand. Word of mouth marketing, which sees your product or service be given organic referrals by satisfied customers, can be seen as the most powerful marketing force - it's why we put so much stock in reviews. You can encourage customers to spread the word by rewarding them for their loyalty, and by continuing to provide a fantastic service.
Marketing Automation and Inbound Marketing: A winning combination
An inbound marketing strategy can live and die by the effectiveness of the tools used to carry it out. Be under no illusions, using proven marketing and sales automation software such as HubSpot or SharpSpring offers you the means to carry out key activities at all four stages of the inbound marketing journey which we have detailed in this article.
You'll have everything you need to; programme targeted email campaigns, build customer personas, oversee CRM, build blogs, create landing pages, score your leads, create forms, ID visitors, and track visitor behaviour.
These features all exist to execute the inbound marketing cycle, and they are all included within a good marketing automation platform.
Still unsure as to the importance of an effective marketing automation platform? To illustrate the positive impact marketing automation has had on the market, here are some interesting statistics:
- A study from Anuuitas Group found that it is 451% more efficient to nurture leads using marketing automation.
- Some 63% of companies are outperforming their rivals using marketing automation, according to a lead generation study by Lenskold Group.
- And perhaps most tellingly, in 2020, 63% of surveyed companies plan to increase their marketing automation budget.
Marketing automation is an inseparable part of inbound marketing in the modern day. It will save you time, leaving you more opportunities to focus on the creative side of your campaigns, capitalise on insights and work on increasing your conversions.
Build a foundation for growth
So as we consider how best to corner our share of the online market, perhaps the most important takeaway is to stop taking a 'scattergun approach'. Many of the most prominent inbound marketing principles - such as creating content of value, building a community around a brand, and tailoring communications and content to the individual - are part of a recipe of long term growth. Isn't that what we all want?
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