What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a strategy that is centered around attracting leads and customers through the dissemination of company-created digital content. The goal of inbound marketing is to have potential customers and leads come to the company rather than having marketers consistently vying to gain the attention of prospective leads.
The core goal of inbound marketing is to attract leads and customers so that you are not spending time chasing them down. Instead of spending a lot of marketing dollars buying ads, purchasing email lists, and hiring staff to cold call, inbound marketing centers around creating the highest quality of educational, informative content that attracts people to your website to learn more about your product or services on their own accord and timeframe.
Why Do You Need Inbound Marketing?
If you haven’t put together an inbound marketing strategy for your business or brand yet, you’re frankly behind the marketing curve. Inbound marketing is the go-to business methodology that focuses on creating and disseminating high-quality, valuable content and unique experiences that are tailored to your brand’s ideal customer base. The goal of inbound marketing is to attract customers by forming connections that they are already seeking and solving problems they are already struggling with.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
In the past, marketers focused their strategy on outbound marketing. This includes things like cold calls, pop-up ads, trade shows, email blasts to a purchased list, and traditional aggressive advertising. Outbound marketing techniques interrupt your target audience in the midst of what they are doing with content and/or ads that they do not want and didn’t ask for. Above all else, outbound marketing is disadvantageous because it is expensive and determining ROI can be exceptionally tricky.
On the opposite hand, inbound marketing attracts your ideal customer base and fresh leads by providing them with informational, nurturing content that they seek out and feel in complete control of. Inbound marketing forms connections that your customer base is already looking for. It also provides them with top-quality content that helps them solve problems they are having with their brand.
Why Inbound Marketing Works
Inbound marketing works exceptionally well because the customer feels in complete control of how much information they receive from your company. They don’t have to worry about you beginning to cold call them or bombard them with unrequested emails. It allows them to absorb your quality content which, in turn, establishes a connection between themselves and your brand before even making a connection with you.
How Inbound Marketing Works
While it used to be said that inbound marketing was the wave of the future, great marketers know that inbound marketing is here now and here to stay. Simply put, it is the process of creating top-quality, evergreen content that your target buyer persona finds highly desirable. Good inbound marketing content should be desirable enough for your target buyer persona to click-through to your website.
Rather than your sales and marketing teams shouting at your target customers, thus interrupting them and leaving them seeing your brand as intrusive, inbound marketing attracts target customers and site visitors to you. It then has a plan in place to nurture that lead by providing more high-quality content of interest to that buyer persona.
The Four Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing
A truly great inbound marketing strategy should be looked at like a funnel with the following four steps:
- Attract. High-quality content brings your ideal prospective customers to your website or a landing page.
- Convert. Through well-placed CTAs (calls-to-action) your qualified lead shares their contact information, allowing you to continue the conversation with them through a more direct, one-on-one medium such as email.
- Close. Your lead purchases a product or service.
- Delight. Turn a customer that is merely satisfied with their purchase into a massive promoter of your brand by delighting them and nurturing them as a loyal customer. Allow them to voice their opinion through a survey, offer exclusive discounts, offer early or exclusive access to new products, etc. This increases your chance to up-sell, gain repeat business, and turn satisfied customers into referral sources.
The Buyer Journey
Awareness. A customer identifies a certain need or desire that requires a product, service, or brand to fulfill that need.
Consideration. A customer seeks to identify specific products, services, and businesses that can meet that need or needs.
Decision. A consumer makes a concrete purchase decision after conducting their research.
Nurturing. A business or brand continues to nurture the hard-earned relationship with that customer after the point of purchase. Examples of this include adding them to an email list where exclusive deals are offered, asking them for product/service feedback, giving them early access to new products, and providing interesting behind-the-scenes content about the product they have just purchased.
Types of Inbound Marketing Content
\While new strategies to connect with your ideal buyer personas and build relationships with your audience are always developing, below are some elements at the core of most successful inbound marketing strategies.
- Case Studies
- Email Marketing
- Free Trials/Exclusive Offers/Sneak Product Previews
- Informative Guides
- Live Streaming
- Websites, Web Pages, Splash Pages, Microsites
- Online Tutorials and Courses
- Press Releases
- White Papers
Keep in mind that these are just currently types of marketing content that have seen proven success in inbound marketing campaigns. New content platforms are continually emerging and seeing success.
Remember, you should be quite selective about what mediums you include in your content calendar, as some will be better suited for your needs and some will likely not be a good fit. One of the most common mistakes made by marketers is taking on too many content outlets.
Key Verticals of a Successful Inbound Marketing Strategy
An inbound marketing strategy can’t see true success with just one element working on its own. A successful inbound marketing strategy will consist of an interwoven tapestry of tactics that all work together to position your brand as an industry leader and attract new leads that will eventually become customers. While there are dozens of tactics you can execute as part of your strategy, most successful inbound marketing strategies will include all or a majority of these elements:
1. Social Media
As of early 2019, 72% of adults were using at least one social media site, with YouTube and Facebook being the most popular online platforms. Your business can’t afford not to be integrating a strong social media strategy as part of your inbound marketing strategy. Ideally, content should be engaging, informative, and frequently include eye-catching imagery and/or link back to your website. Social media platforms also provide top-quality analytics so you can see which type of content your audience is responding to.
Arguably the most crucial slice of the inbound marketing pie, search engine optimization (SEO) is absolutely necessary. Focusing on your core keywords, performing keyword analysis, optimal site design, high-quality content, analytics research are all crucial to successfully attract the type of qualified leads an inbound marketing strategy strives for.
This is by far the most popular, common form of inbound marketing content that attracts leads to your website and helps you to rank higher in relevant searches. Blogging not only drives leads to your website, but a great blog also nurtures those leads and creates a digital relationship with that prospective lead before they even connect with one of your team members, generating higher ROI. Also, companies that blog generate, on average, 126% more leads than those who don’t (source: Hubspot)
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is essential to maintain and eventually convert your ideal lead into a customer. Let’s face it, everyone is busy and someone will rarely read a piece of digital content once and become a fresh lead. Email marketing with engaging, interesting content will help you nurture your leads to the conversion stage.
Including imagery in your inbound marketing is an absolute “must” if you want to fully engage consumers and make an impression that will last. While text and audio content is still important, visual content is essential to capture the initial attention of people in today’s cluttered digital space.
Videos are now consumers’ favorite type of branded content to view on social media. Did you know that 53% of consumers that view a video by a brand on social media then engage directly with that brand? In today’s world of inbound marketing, there are many tools, apps, and platforms that make high-quality videos fairly easy to make without a major investment.
These are two ways to truly take your inbound marketing strategy to the next level. Having a highly-qualified team member host a webinar is a great way to attract prospective new leads and capture their undivided attention for some time. Webinars position you and your brand as an industry leader while being very cost-effective and giving you evergreen video content to use time and time again.
In short, any opportunity you have to share valuable content through a medium that reaches your target customer is an opportunity for inbound marketing.
Step By Step Guide to Creating a Custom Inbound Marketing Strategy
- Identify your target audience
- Determine what is your company’s unique, compelling story and why your audience should be interested enough to listen.
- Carefully select the platforms you will deliver your story, message or pieces of your story. For example, will you utilize a blog? Lead magnet? E-Book? Webinar? Social media? If you utilize social media, which platforms will you hand-select? Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest?
Create a content calendar of unique, high-quality content and execute it.
- It is extremely important to create a granular schedule of high-quality content that you wish you publish for your inbound marketing strategy. It is also essential that you assign each piece of content to a person or team. Every piece of content should be someone’s specific responsibility, both for the creation and the actual execution/dissemination.
Content should build your brand’s authority and position you as an industry leader while simultaneously providing some type of educational element to your desired audience. If your content is working properly, it will be shared by your audience, increasing the reach of your content, therefore increasing awareness for your brand, positioning you as an industry leader, increasing customer trust, and finally, generating even more leads.
Be aware, the wrong content will cause you to lose followers, lose trust and can damage your reputation in the industry.
You should not be focused on putting out “enough” content. Instead, great marketers focus on publishing high-quality content that positions them as industry leaders and builds their brand’s authority.
Measuring and Refining Your Inbound Marketing Campaign
Once you’ve built out your content calendar and deployed your chosen inbound marketing tactics, it is time to review the results and see what areas need refined or modified to see even better results as you move forward. The first thing you should do is review the analytics of each of your strategies. You must have all the proper analytics and tracking metrics set up before launching any piece of content within your campaign. Here are some of the key specific metrics to analytics for each vertical of your campaign:
- Visits. How many visits did you earn to your website or landing pages? Noting where these visits came from will show you which pieces of content and elements of your inbound marketing campaign were most effective, showing you which to do more of moving forward.
- Leads and Contacts. How many leads and direct contacts were made as a result of each element of your campaign?
- Customers/Sales. If you are getting a good amount of leads, how many of those leads turned into qualified customers or made concrete purchases?
Taking the time to build and launch an inbound marketing strategy complete with high-quality content across a variety of platforms can be worth its weight in gold when done right.