Inbound marketing is a business’s dream as it solves customer’s problems and keeps them engaged without the need for propaganda and other attention seeking initiatives. Understanding inbound marketing is the first step to being able to implement it. There are a lot of things to get your head around in order to truly master the art of inbound marketing.
SEO, content creation, social media, lead management and generation and analytics all play a part in the process and must be mastered by the marketer in order for it to be effective.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is aimed at attracting customers through relevant and helpful information at each stage of the buyer’s journey in order to add genuine value. Through this method, consumers find your business through search engines, social media and blogs – hence why content marketing is so important.
It is all about improving the customers experience by adding value and informing them rather than bombarding them with irrelevant information and offers that they are unlikely to read. Engaging consumers with high quality content is going to be the best way to gain customers.
Unlike outbound marketing that essentially floods customer’s inbox’s with special offers and information that quite often is irrelevant to them, inbound marketing earns the consumers trust and business.
There are four key pillars that inbound marketing situates itself around;
- Close and,
Each of these pillars is a step that helps to turn strangers into promoters as they work their way along the pipeline. The key to inbound marketing is combining it with the sales and customer success strategies as well as using the available software to manage and enhance opportunities.
This is the stage centred around attracting strangers and turning them into visitors. It is about attracting the right customers who will genuinely have an interest in your product or service. You want to engage people who are likely to become leads and then eventually a happy customer.
The question is how do you attract the “right” customer?
Well, you need to provide them with relevant and engaging content. There are three vital content elements that will help with this;
Every good business should have a blog that details trends and information about the industry and/or includes information about the business and its operations (within reason). Blogs are designed to provide really helpful information to visitors that will keep them engaged and helps them to understand your business and the industry.
- Social Media
The sharing economy has brought about a whole new channel or marketing opportunities and most of it comes from social media. Being able to remarket your content to potential customers and actually gain a more humanised presence is invaluable. Choosing the right social media platforms will go a long way to successful inbound marketing.
- Content Strategy
Having the right content online is a great start, but it’s ultimately useless if it doesn’t appear when searchers are looking for it. Search engines are now a major part of the buying process with 81% of shoppers looking online prior to purchase (AdWeek 2014). Ensuring that your content is going to show up at the right time to the right audience is important, so make use of the SEO tools available online.
Stage 2 is all about converting those visitors from Stage 1 into genuine leads for the company. This is done through conversation opened up via messages, forms or meetings in order to get to know your consumer.
Once a communication channel has been settled, the scope to provide relevant and helpful information is open and the conversation between the business and consumer continues.
There are 4 effective ways for a business to communicate with a consumer so that both parties are able to learn about the other and educate themselves:
Forms are a great way to learn about a visitor and turn them into a lead when done correctly. Make sure that the form is structured in such a way that you are able to get the most out of your visitor to really generate a lead.
Making it easy for the visitor to access, fill out and return is also crucial to gaining the adequate information.
To win new customers, there needs to be some form of face to face meeting. Make it easy for them to contact you via phone call or a virtual meeting of sorts to properly engage with the business. Engaging with customers is a great way to humanise the whole process and solidify their interest.
A messaging platform allows visitors to engage with the business at a moment’s notice and educate themselves on the product or services offered. Reacting to prospects quickly and with interest is the best way to win them over.
Messages help teams to connect with the right people when they need help and it is a natural part of any sales success. Make use of a Live Chat tool to make it easy for people to contact you.
This is essential to maintaining records of progress with customers and understanding where they are at in the buying process. Having all customer data in one place helps make managing easy and it also creates a strong persona around the target audience.
A good CRM will benefit the company long term as they are able to see what worked and what hasn’t in order to optimise future interactions with current and potential customers.
If you get to this stage then the campaign is certainly on the right track. Now it’s about converting those leads into actual customers. To most effectively do this you will need to engage in a few different sales tools to really get the message across to leads and turn them into customers.
It can be tempting to bombard your leads with information and offers at this stage to force them over the line but if you want to gain a long term customer, it needs to be done at the right time and with the customer first. There are a few tools and methods that see the best results in this instance:
- Pipeline Management
A pipeline management system (available with most CRM software) is valuable in understanding which leads are the most likely to go through. They provide a clear outline as to where each prospect is in the pipeline and when need to be gestured to commit to purchase.
- Lead Nurturing
Whilst it is important not to push your leads too hard, it is important that they get a little nudge along the way to remind them about your product or service. The leads interests and purchase stage should be taken into account as well as the pages they visit and content they have engaged with.
Nurture them base on these characteristics to ensure the best results. It is essentially about maintaining the core nature of inbound marketing, that is informative, helpful and customer relevant, with additional encouragement.
Emails are a great way to manage customers as your business can see when they click on a call-to-action, fill out a form or download content. Depending on the frequency of these actions, information can be ramped up or down based upon what they are clicking on and engaging with.
It is still about helping the customer to make a decision rather than encouraging them to make one.
- Lead scoring
This links in with pipeline management and who to talk to when. Lead scoring gives a value to all leads based on the predicted likelihood of a conversion from them. This ensures that the right customers are being targeted with the tight level of information.
Retention and Loyalty
Inbound marketing is about the ability to re-market the experience for the customer. The trouble is, once a customer has already bought they now have a set of expectations that must be met or exceeded with each interaction.
This stage is about turning your customers into promoters for the business. It is now even more important that customers are engaged with a sense of importance so as to feel valuable for the business.
Continued educational content is important but with less frequency and more tailored to their purchases. Tools and tactics to take note of following the conversion of a customer:
Continued use of the Customer Relationship Management system is critical to maintaining a level of engagement both to and from customers. They still need to be reached out to and the CRM contain valuable information about their purchasing habits and personality. Use this to regularly re-market to past customers.
- Smart content
This continues on from the use of the CRM. Customers don’t need a sales pitch because they have shown that they already like the product and are willing to spend money with your business. A call-to-action or promotional offer should differ between loyal customers and first time buyers. This helps to make customers feel special and relates to them more personally.
Keep engaging with customers through messaging, forms and meetings. Feedback is highly valuable from individuals who have previously purchased from your business so constant conversation is helpful in this area.
Developing customer relationships in this area will help to improve the company’s performance and the customer’s experience with a more tailored approach.
Inbound marketing is the new marketing. Outbound marketing is beyond its use-by date and customers can no longer relate to this information channel.
It is predicted that companies are starting to pay more attention to customer relationships as demand for it increases. This presents a challenge for businesses in the trade-off between costs and relationships.
Thorough research and a customer focused plan can be achieved without extreme costs when executed properly. Following the four pillars of inbound marketing as listed will go a long way to achieving this.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.