This a guest post by Lucy Alexander from Hubspot
Most marketers have heard colleagues throwing around the term “inbound marketing.” But what does it actually mean? If you’re unfamiliar with inbound, the concept can seem complicated.
That’s because an inbound marketer’s primary focus is not promoting his or her product or service directly, but letting the right people seek out information themselves. With a sustained effort, you can turn your website into a lead generation machine that attracts the prospects who are most likely to convert to customers.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing focuses on consumer outreach. These types of campaigns often include strategies like cold calling, print or television ads, and email blasts. What do all of these have in common? The self-promotion is usually unsolicited and interruptive.
Think about all of the times you’ve picked up your phone at work to a salesperson pitching a service that your business doesn’t need at the moment. Similarly, how many times have you changed the channel during a TV advertisement for a product that’s irrelevant to you?
Most of the time, marketing interrupts people — and it’s often irrelevant to the audience it reaches in the first place. People resort to caller ID, email spam filters, ad blockers, and the fast-forward feature on TV recordings just to block out many of these forms of advertising.
Now think about how you seek out information when you’re shopping. With smartphones constantly in our palms, we’re information vacuum cleaners, sucking in how-to articles, reviews, videos, and visual aids. You probably have go-to, trusted resources on the internet that provide you with the content you want, whenever you want it.
Inbound marketing is about making your business’s website one of those trusted resources.
Inbound marketers spend their time creating helpful content that speaks to the persona they created based on their ideal customer. Instead of sending out pushy marketing messages, they build up an arsenal of blog posts, e-books, webinars, and videos that provide value to that persona. Your website, in turn, becomes a magnet for the right people.
The Four Pillars of Inbound
You don’t want to attract just anyone to your website. Higher traffic may seem like an ideal metric, but it can be misleading. If you sell medical technology to hospitals but are attracting a lot of legal professionals, higher traffic doesn’t necessarily signal that you’re going to drive more conversions. You want the right people to end up on your site.
Who are the “right” people? To begin, you need to build your buyer persona – the archetypal ideal customer. If you sell sales software to small to mid-sized businesses, for example, you might target your content at sales enablement directors.
Personas aren’t limited to job titles and demographics, though. Ultimately, inbound marketing comes down to being able to offer something great to your customers.
This requires you to think about what they need. What are their primary goals, and what are the major obstacles to those goals that they’re facing? What are their pain points? Identifying these qualities and gaps will inform your content strategy.
Some of the most effective tactics inbound marketers can leverage in this stage are blogging, SEO and social media. Blogging is the best place to start, but you’ll need to spend just as much time promoting your content as you do creating it.
Once you have stellar content attracting visitors, you’ll want to gather contact information from those users to turn them into leads. They’ll be far more willing to give their email address to you if you’re offering them quality content in return.
So, how do you collect that contact info? Start by creating a form for them to fill out — name and email address are essential — and place this on a landing page that describes the white paper or webinar you’re offering. Use calls-to-action (CTAs) to encourage them to fill out the form. A CTA is a button or link that encourages site visitors to take an action, such as “Attend a Webinar” or “Download Our Guide to Inbound Marketing.”
You can place other CTAs in a number of places to drive traffic to your landing page: the sidebar of a blog post on a related topic, in a social media post, or even in your email signature. Make sure you’re keeping track of these new leads in a centralised marketing database.
Now that you’ve got a tonne of new leads who you know are interested in your company, how can you turn them into customers?
Inbound marketers use tools like customer relationship management (CRM) systems to keep track of details about their prospects, and closed-loop reporting to determine which marketing strategies are bringing in the most high-quality leads. These tools reveal valuable information about how well your marketing and sales teams are working together.
Sending out emails that contain personalised and useful content to your leads and setting up lead nurturing marketing automation sequences can show potential customers that you understand their needs and interests and that they’re not just another entry in your contacts list. It’s also a great tool for nurturing them to the next step in their buyer’s journey.
For example, after sending them some more helpful content related to what they previously downloaded and seeing that they’re engaging with it, you might send them an offer to trial your product for free in exchange for some more information. They’re then likely at a stage where they’re showing enough buying intent for a salesperson to talk to them.
Since inbound marketing focuses on what the customer wants, it’s important to continue to engage with your users and learn about their evolving challenges and needs.
What’s the best way to know what they want? Ask them.
Imagine that you’re cooking dinner for a couple of friends. You could probably whip up a good meal with basic information, like their food allergies and any strong dislikes. But if you really wanted to show off your culinary skills, you’d ask what their favourite dishes were, use quality ingredients, and — crucially — get feedback on the food and remember it the next time you invited them over.
The same goes for the consumers of your content. Use surveys to collect feedback and let that feedback inform the direction of your content. Set up a Facebook business page to spark the conversation around your product or service and really engage with your current and prospective customers. Use smart content to personalise your website, so they don’t feel like just another contact in your database.
By following these four steps, you can implement an inbound marketing strategy that will convert visitors to your website into loyal customers who will promote your product for you. Inbound requires deeper thought than traditional marketing methods. You really need to understand who your customers are, what they need, and what you can provide – but your bottom line will more than reflect the effort you put in.
If you’re eager to take a deep dive into the inbound methodology, check out this self-paced, free certification on inbound marketing, which will walk
you through the Attract, Convert, Close and Delight stages and show you how to apply them to your business.