Inbound marketing is the best way for businesses of all sizes to reach new audiences, build customer loyalty, and generate leads. No matter your business’s marketing budget, inbound marketing can be used to help grow your business sustainably.
Inbound marketing represents a new way of thinking about marketing. Instead of trying to grab a person’s attention with paid advertising, inbound marketing revolves around producing helpful content to attract people to your business organically.
This has become the new way to advertise with the rise of the internet. While inbound marketing will take more work upfront, the ROI of your efforts can last for years. It is a sustainable and proven growth strategy.
Consumers today (especially millennials) are less brand loyal than ever. The way to reach them is through building trust and authority by producing content they will find valuable. Inbound marketing allows you to do exactly that.
In this post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about inbound marketing and how it can benefit your business.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Traditional outbound marketing relies on interrupting consumers in hopes of grabbing their attention so they can pay attention to what a brand is trying to sell. Think TV/radio ads, online search/display/video ads, and social media ads.
These ads can make sense for the right brands, but they interrupt people when they are in the middle of already doing something (like watching TV or scrolling through their news feed). They are also very costly for small businesses, putting them out of reach for many.
Contrast that with inbound marketing. It relies on content to attract potential customers to your business. With inbound marketing, you can have the right customers coming to your business organically, instead of paying for ads that may not be reaching your target audience at all.
Inbound marketing works because it allows you to build human relationships with your customers. By giving them valuable content upfront, you can establish your expertise in your field and build trust with your audience.
This makes it much more likely that people will do business with you as they research other businesses during the buyer’s journey
Just think about it in your own day to day life.
When you are searching for a business to solve a need or want, who are you more likely to choose: The business that interrupts your day with traditional outbound marketing, or the business that has already given you content that has made you more informed and proved they know what they’re doing?
Inbound Marketing Phases
Inbound marketing can be broken down into four distinct phases: attract, convert, close, and delight. Every phase has distinct strategies and objectives that can help you attract new people to your business, generate leads and ultimately increase sales.
Below, we’ve broken down what you need to know about each phase, along with a bulleted list of tactics to help you get started.
Phase 1: Attract
The first phase of the inbound methodology is to attract your buyer personas to your business by creating online content that they will find informative, entertaining and helpful.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of different segments of your target audience. They are used to help you keep your content efforts focused. Creating your content with your buyer personas in mind will help ensure your content will address their needs and be effective for your business.
To help you get started creating your buyer personas, we recommend this online tool from Hubspot that automates most of the process for you.
Once you’ve got your buyer personas created (we recommend 2 – 4) it’s time to start creating content directed at those personas. What forms of content you choose to produce comes down to what your best at/most comfortable with along with the preferences of your audience.
In the attract phase, the best types of content are typically:
- Blog posts
- YouTube and social media videos
- Case studies
- Tutorials/How-To Guides
Once your content is created, make sure it is SEO optimized so it can get found on Google by people near your business. You should also distribute it via social media so you can reach as many people as possible.
Phase 2: Convert
Once you’ve attracted people to your website or social media profiles, it’s time to convert them.
“Converting” simply means to have them take an action you want that moves them down your sales funnel and makes them one step closer to becoming a paying customer.
For lead generation (the primary goal of inbound marketing) this typically means getting people to give you their contact information – such as an email address. This is typically done by having people fill out a form.
The best way to do this is to offer a piece of content to people that they can only get by giving them either your email or contact information.
These pieces of content work best for converting traffic into sales leads:
- Templates for office workers
- Instructional video series
- Industry research/statistics/data compiled into a report
Creating an offer isn’t the only way you can get new leads (although it is the most effective). You should also have multiple places on your website where people can convert.
That way, you aren’t reliant on just your offers for conversions – they can come from anywhere on your website. Here are some other ways you can convert users:
- Include either a form or Call-To-Action (CTA) at the bottom of all your written content
- Utilize exit-intent pop-ups to convert traffic that would have left your website otherwise
- Install a drop-down form with either Hellobar or Hubspot for a non-intrusive way to collect customer information on blog posts.
- Retarget people who have interacted with your content previously with social ads.
The contact info you gain during this stage can be used by your sales team in the next phase to nurture sales leads.
Phase 3: Close
The close phase is where you turn the leads you gained in the last phase into paying customers.
During this phase, we highly recommend using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. This will allow you to track all of the leads your website has generated. Hubspot’s free CRM is a great place to start (we use it at Inbound Web Development)
This will allow you to keep tabs on your inbound marketing efforts and allow you to segment your leads so you can target them with relevant offers – increasing the chances of them becoming a customer.
In this phase, the name of the game is having your salespeople use the information they gained in the last phase to follow up and nurture the leads.
How this is done is heavily dependent on the type of business you are involved in. Software and professional service companies can offer consultations and enroll contacts in email marketing campaigns to keep the conversation going.
Other types of businesses (like landscapers, construction companies, etc.) may be able to reach out directly to leads to gauge their interest and keep the conversation going.
Here are a few examples of content and tactics you can use during this phase to close deals:
- Drip email marketing campaigns
- Product or software demos
- Free Consultations or Quotes
- Limited time offers and discounts
- Social media ads
- Free trials
Again, how you close deals are very dependent on your business and the industry you’re in. Definitely do some research and get input from your sales department before implementing this part of your inbound marketing strategy.
Phase 4: Delight
Once you’ve closed a sale, the work doesn’t stop there. You should continue to create content on a consistent basis to grow your online following and gain customer loyalty.
In today’s online world, reputation is everything. Consumers are less brand loyal than ever, so to maximize customer lifetime value you need to keep the conversation going.
This means keeping in touch with your contacts via email, posting regularly on social media, and above all delivering on your product or service. You should also encourage previous customers to leave you a review on Google, Yelp or Facebook for social proof.
This will keep your previous customers coming back to you. Plus, it will inspire them to tell your friends and family about your business.
Inbound marketing allows savvy businesses to reach new customers, generate leads and build customer loyalty for years to come. It’s the natural, human way to market your products or services.
While it will take more effort than just paying for ads, the results will be worth it. The internet won’t be going away anytime soon. So the sooner you implement this marketing strategy the better off your business will be.