"Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.”
Rather than going out and searching for customers, marketers are finally coming to grips with understanding that in order to attract strong leads, you need to be attractive.
In the last couple of days, Hubspot released their 7th ‘State of Inbound 2015’ report. Whilst filled with statistics and figures all backing up the claim that inbound is here to stay and shouldn’t be referred to as a new method – Shouldn’t this really be the main activity of all marketing strategies?
Because how can you market your brand if it’s not brandable?
What does Inbound Marketing include?
Well to break it down, inbound basically means to use any method to pull your audiences towards your brand, and then convert them into customers.
This can include anything from rebranding and creating a strong personalised content plan, to completely integrating your marketing lifecycle with a multi-channel approach. Sounds like a lot of work, right?
Actually this is something all marketers and businesses need to understand. In recent years, inbound marketing has emerged as one of the most successful tactics a marketer can make. But if you’re still stuck using traditional methods, use this handy guide to learn the basics of inbound.
What is the Marketing Lifecycle?
Firstly, lets start with your business-sale customer lifecycle. Customers don’t start off as customers do they? No, instead you need to pull them in and not only that but also retain them as well!
Audiences first being as strangers, unsure about who your brand is and what you even do. For these people, you need to attract them. Then as you attract and start to draw the attention, these audiences turn into visitors. But a visitor may just enter your site, gain the information they need and then leave after a minute or two.
You need to then be able to convert these people into leads. Draw traffic to your brand, and then convert them by then getting their contact information. Once you have their contact information, you need to close the deal and convert these leads into customers. Now this is usually the stage where marketers and sales teams feel as if they can finish the cycle and leave the customer to their own devices.
But a good inbound marketing strategy doesn’t just focus on getting you customers. It also makes sure that you keep delighting your customers and turn them into promoters. This when you need to have a consistent and strong strategy in place in order to make your audiences be the champions of your brand.
This method isn’t just the responsibility of the marketing team or your employees now. Nowadays companies are realising that peer-peer recognition is one of the best forms of building your brand.
How can I use Inbound Marketing to convert strangers to promoters?
Now let’s look at what methods we can use for each stage of the process. There are many trends and tactics marketing teams utilise in order to convert their audiences, but it’s all about choosing the right method for your audience.
Three major themes we can see coming out of 2015 are:
By creating and curating original, personalised content, and then distributing to your chosen targets, your brand creates an environment where each audience member feels as if you’re directly speaking to them.
They have made the choice to view your content – so why don’t you really drill this down for each individuals needs? Now that’s not to say each article has to have a mass-market feel and appeal to everyone. But instead what you’re aiming for is to understand what your audiences are asking; what their needs are, and how can you deliver valuable content which answers just that.
The Four Stages of Conversion and How to Achieve These
Now don’t expect results overnight. A good inbound marketing strategy will ensure a consistent level of communications and connections, slowly but surely you’re going to turn your strangers into your best promoters.
Complete strangers – How do you attract people that may have never even heard of your brand? This is one of the easiest ways to communicate with your audiences because in reality – you need to be doing this all the time!
Inbound marketing starts with blogging. This is the best way to attract new visitors to your site; position you and your brand as a thought leader in your sector, and be found by the right audiences.
Begin by auditing your companies communications; your audiences communications; tone of voice and then also your competitors. Get a real feel for how people are communicating and connecting with one another and then use this information to create a quality, targeted content plan. Map out the next 12 months and decide on which key themes are best to reach your chosen audience.
Not each bit of content will religiously follow your plan. There may be sudden industry news or something affecting your business which means deviating, but this is all still targeting your audiences and their interests.
SEO is another method which needs to be completely integrated in all forms of communication. Whether this is on your website, direct mailers, social feeds – just make sure you’re pushing out targeted content. This isn’t limited to what the topics are and how your distribute, but also down to the words you choose to use within your copy.
The most common way for audiences to find brands are search engines. Google favours companies who have chosen industry-specific keywords, clearly optimised their website and built links around the terms your audiences are searching for.
Your brand’s sector will have a multitude of phrases relating to your field. But in order to create a successful SEO strategy, you will need to drill these down into which audience types use which keywords and how do they search for what they need.
But SEO is not just a quick-fix method which will shoot you up to the 1st page in Google’s rankings. Instead you’re going to need to dedicate a lot of time and attention to planning a strategy which is constantly monitored and altered in line with industry trends.
Landing Pages can be one of the best forms of attracting leads. Use a strong, targeted Calls-to-Action (CTA) and a website which focuses on usability, readability and experience. This way your visitors will know their exact action, before they have time to click away from your page.
Don’t forget though, how your landing pages are designed is completely dependant on your brand and sector. Therefore you’re going to have to make sure you have a deep and clearly defined understanding of what you’re communicating and how.
Social Publishing has now become one of the biggest forms of attracting new traffic. Sites such as Medium and Linkedin Pulse allows individuals to upload their work onto 3rd-party sites, giving their content the biggest audience reach.
Brands can also purpose and repurpose content for social sharing. Channels like Twitter and Facebook allow us to create a constant stream of communication with our audiences; acting like a profile for our brand.
Clever marketers have a schedule in place for when they upload content.
Audit your SEO and phrasing and make sure this is relevant;
Upload the content to your site;
Schedule social publishing and repurpose the content over a period of time;
Publish to 3rd-party sites and continue to repurpose;
Create as much attraction and engagement as you possibly can.
However what can be seen as a vast and scary space, with room for lots of errors (do we need to remind you of the Tesco horse meat scandal and their ‘let’s hit the hay tweet’?) – if used in the right way, social media can be utilised and grow a brand to amazing lengths and finally convert strangers into visitors.
It’s here where B2B and B2C audiences have the chance to interact, build relationships, and (hopefully) make successful conversions. But feel panicked and lost, there’s always room to learn when it comes to social media so we’ll tackle that in the next blog post.
So now once you’ve made yourself attractive enough for prospective customers, you’ll need to convert these visitors into leads.
The best way to do this is gain some valuable information from them… their contact details. This is the most valuable asset a marketer can have, allowing your brand to channel your communications even further.
There are a multitude of ways to do this, but doing it right is the hardest part.
Creating strong Calls-to-Action and the wording you use can completely affect whether your visitors actually click through to your targeted content or simply just leave your page. A CTA is simply a button or link which encourages your visitors to an action, such as ‘Download our Whitepaper’ or ‘Sign Up Here’.
Being able to deliver landing pages and CTA’s which work together symbiotically as well as providing your communications with valuable information will mean that your visitors have more motivation to travel through your pages and convert into leads.
Using forms are also a big way of converting your visitors. But it’s how you deliver and what these look like which makes all the difference.
Optimise your sign up form so that it’s only got a few fields and is placed in a clear section on your website. The easiest way to get people to leave their contact information, is if you make it the simplest process.
However with CTA’s, landing pages and online forms, it can be difficult to remember that this information needs to be segmented into a centralised marketing database in order to help your marketing team out. Keeping all of your data in one place will help keep a record of every interaction you’ve had with your lead.
This means you’ll be able to streamline and target your information even more, in order to achieve a personalised experience and convert your leads into actual paying customers.
So you’ve managed to turn absolute strangers into visitors. They’ve entered your site and have converted into leads by filling out a form. Well done!
But now you have to turn them into paying customers.
Sales teams are usually at the top of the authority funnel for this process. But it isn’t until both sales and marketing teams are fully integrated, that you can see results and then, facilitate these conversions at just the right time.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of the most commonly used closing tools utilised by brands. Whichever system you choose (this is usually dependant on what type of business you run) will allow you to keep track of all of your contact’s details; deals in your pipeline, and easily contact prospects at the right time.
But one of the biggest aims of any marketing strategy is to understand your ROI and to do this, you use closed-loop reporting. This way you not only push your marketing strategy, but you also measure how effective it is and which methods are bringing in your best leads. Start capturing, on an individual level, what’s important and relevant for a customer. Decide what you want to track, why you want to track it and choose a solution which allows you to track it properly.
Start to put the information together, and link your marketing database to the data that you’ve now gathered. By understanding how an individual prefers to receive their content, you can optimise your communication channels for delivery.
Then you can finally give the audience what they want, in the format and, at the time which best suits them. This is marketing automation.
But now you have their contact information; they’re familiar with your brand and communications. So how do you retain your customers and turn them into your brand advocates?
This is the final stage of the marketing lifecycle and is almost one of the most critical. Although brands may be able to sell enough to keep up profits; in reality, today’s digital world means that’s just not enough.
Now you need to have a voice and regularly connect with your audiences.
Inbound marketing means not just to attract your customers and then leave them there. It means always being apart of your audiences’ lives and continually using methods to keep them ‘delighted’, rather than just satisfied.
In 2015 brands are practically screaming from the rooftops. Shouting “Hear Me, Buy Me, Love Me, Need Me, Want Me”!
They’re screaming at you, demanding your attention and now in turn, it’s not just enough for brands to draw you in, sell you something, and then purely just shout “buy me, buy me”.
No, now brands have to constantly evolve, adapting themselves to their audiences needs and desires.
And what’s the best way to find this out you ask?
Surveys! Good, old fashioned, secure and sturdy surveys. I mean the best way to find out what a customer wants, is just to ask.
Of course this doesn’t mean create a bog-standard, run-of-the-mill 10-20 question survey. Oh no, in today’s digital world, you now have the option to completely target who you’re asking, and what you’re asking them.
You can base your target on geographic location, demographics…pretty much anything really!
And of course from these results, you’ll then be able to create smart calls-to-action and smart text. You have the option to present different users, all at different stages of the buying lifecycle, with offers and remarkable content, based on their personal interests and challenges.
Having smart content alters what is displayed to the audiences, within rich-text, HTML, or whichever form modules your brand is using.
You can base your choice around whichever location; device; referral source; buying lifecycle stage your audience is at. The matter is simply making sure your business has a strong digital strategy in order to support your inbound marketing efforts.
And then, of course, last but certainly not least. Monitoring.
Make sure you’re listening everywhere! Understand what your audiences are saying about you on forums; social channels, basically anywhere in the digital landscape. Correlate this with a strong analytics programme, which means you’re always understanding your audiences behaviour. Keep updating your ever-evolving audience personas.
Because in reality their interests and needs are always going to change, and as a brand, yours will too.
So you now know how to channel your marketing strategy so you’re focusing on the inputs, rather than the outputs. You’ve attracted complete strangers and turned them not just into paying customers, but actual brand advocates!
Well done! And just for that extra bit of guidance, we’ve given you…
The 7 Most Important Takeaways from HubSpot’s Inbound report:
Three out of 4 marketers across the globe prioritise an inbound approach to marketing.
Both inbound and outbound marketers rank paid advertising as the #1 most overrated marketing tactic.
Proven marketing ROI unlocks budget. But you have to be tracking ROI in the first place, which not everyone is doing.
Leading marketers recognise that inbound is a long game. Both past success and past failure with inbound correlates with an inbound marketing budget increase.
Inbound is the preferred marketing strategy regardless of company type. B2B, B2C, nonprofit — everyone’s implementing inbound tactics.
Inbound campaigns achieve higher ROI than outbound. This holds true across different company sizes and budgets.
Establishing a Marketing-Sales service level agreement (SLA) leads to higher ROI. The presence of an SLA also correlates with budget and staff increases.