The Inbound Marketing
In the past, marketers used all interruptive methods to get the attention of their audience. Billboards, TV commercials, cold calling, paper ads, mailers and radio spots are just a few of the methods that marketers once relied heavily upon to increase brand awareness and attract leads. Today’s marketers have turned to methods that are personalized and targeted to be more efficient in their efforts. Inbound marketing works to attract customers by offering relevant and customer-centric content. Marketers provide helpful content to support every stage of the buying journey and use multiple channels to reach out to potential customers most likely to benefit from your brand.
While traditional marketing, or outbound marketing, fought for attention with interruptive tactics, inbound marketing is designed to attract buyers when they are looking for answers and solutions. Inbound marketing builds a relationship with the buyer that encourages loyalty and even advocacy for your brand as they become consistent customers. You are attracting the people who actually want to hear from you and would benefit from what you offer. You are also proving an authority within your industry by creating helpful and accurate content. Inbound marketing is far more cost-effective and helps refine your brand by selectively advertising to those who are most likely to take an interest in what you offer.
This takes strangers and turns them into promoters for your business.
The Inbound Methodology
There are four stages (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight) along the foundation of the Inbound Methodology that turn prospects into visitors, leads, customers and then promoters. Every step of the way, you want to support your potential customers and move them to the next stage in their journey authentically and organically.
A robust inbound marketing strategy is even stronger when it is paired hand-in-hand with sales and customer service strategies.
The Sales Funnel
Another way to think about your content focus is to look at the process like a funnel. The sales funnel moves prospects towards conversion by recognizing what the consumer is going through during the buyer’s journey. Consumers impacted by inbound marketing will come to your site because they are referred by a friend, see a PPC ad, find your page in their search results or see shared content on social media. Each of these types of content needs to appeal to those who are just discovering a problem they want to be solved (Awareness), seeking information on specific solutions available to them (Interest), looking at price-comparisons and brand options (Consideration) before finally making a purchase (Action). If you understand where your lead is at in the sales funnel, then you can understand exactly what kind of content is going to be most effective.
An excellent inbound strategy would understand that a lead in the Awareness stage, for example, should not be lead to content about how great and reliable your products are. Rather than promote with a clearly self-serving post, you want to work with the lead in the Awareness stage as a beginner that doesn’t even understand his or her problem fully and hasn’t even started to consider solutions. Someone in the Awareness stage would benefit from blog posts answering questions they might be Googling or enticed to click on, like “5 Reasons You Struggle With Office Organization” or “Why Does My Dog Bark Non-Stop?” On the other hand, someone who is in the Decision stage needs to be given details about pricing and specific product benefits. You don’t want to focus so much of your content on early stages that you cannot convince those in the Decision stage that they need to take action with your brand. Content has to be balanced and give clear direction to bring in a lead at any point in the sales funnel and work them towards conversion.
However, it is important to note that your job does not end with a conversion. Once a consumer chooses to purchase, the Inbound Methodology would indicate that the prospect has reached the Close stage and you should now focus on Delight. You want to turn a customer’s satisfaction from a smart purchase into loyalty for your brand. If you can get customers to latch onto your brand because of the value you offer, then you will benefit from them spreading the word to friends and family. Word-of-mouth recommendations not only increase your reach, but they are also far more effective than any other form of marketing and will help bring in new leads that are already somewhat cultivated towards a purchase decision.
Growing Your Business With Inbound Methodology
Marketing methods have changed because buyer’s habits and expectations have changed. People are communicating and acting in a very different way. While people in the past relied on sales teams and interruptive ads to tell them what they needed, today’s audience largely finds solutions and information on their own. People now get irritated and block out much of the outbound marketing when it is not personalized in an engaging way.
The inbound methodology recognizes that people are actively looking for solutions and helps use that point of interest to bring in potential sales. This method is fast-changing, keeping up with the changing industry, platforms and customer expectations.
Inbound marketing grows your business, helping you bring in customers who will buy more, stay with you longer, tell their friends how great you have been for them, and then spread a positive message about your brand to the world. With the aid of search engines, mobile technology, email and social media, you will be able to encourage this growth and interact with your customers along the way.
The Four Phases of the Inbound Methodology
The inbound methodology considers where you want to take your buyers. Your goal is to take every lead on this journey, losing as few as possible in the process. The more efficient you are in keeping the journey streamlined, the more impact your inbound marketing will have on your audience.
Not all prospects are equal, and you don’t want to attract quantity over quality. You want to bring in the people who are most likely to complete the buyer’s journey and become happy brand advocates. You can only accomplish this if you are strategically looking to find the right customers at the right time (when they are looking for the solutions you offer).
You have to first know who you are targeting in order to create a strategy for attraction. Look at the top customers and create profiles that provide insight into their buying habits and decision making. You want to be careful not to assume, but to really understand who your ideal audience is. Look at job title, mannerisms, interests, points of pain and personality types.
There are many channels right now that are likely to hold a large number of potential leads for your company. Social media has several platforms that could be highly beneficial to your strategy. You want to get your content onto the right platforms in ways that are engaging. Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and even Snapchat, you can potentially get key customers to your site and share your content with their own circles. Start on the platforms that are best for your brand and most likely to hold your audience. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – you want to stay active on every platform where you have a presence.
Regular Blog Content
Getting more pages indexed will help you cover a wider variety of keywords and potential phrases. Plus, additional pages will increase your value in the eyes of search engines as they get a better feel for your area of expertise and authority. It is important to have an editorial calendar so that you are publishing and systematically promoting valuable content. You need to keep up with the writing, posting and promoting of your blogging frequently. The more you produce valuable content, the more visitors you will attract and leads you will convert. Your content should largely focus on the pain points of your buyer personas and key industry topics. All of your content should be within the strategy of your buyer’s journey and sales funnel, carefully designed to draw in leads and then cultivate them towards taking a further step towards Close and Delight.
As you work to increase your organic SEO and social sharing, you can also pay to get your message in front of your audience. PPC on search engines helps you land in the top results for keywords that are hard to rank for organically. PPC ads on social media can help you specifically target the audience you believe is ideal for your brand.
Once you get an idea of who you are targeting, you want to start researching keywords in searches that would be related to your brand. You can’t create effective content if you don’t know what topics and keyword phrases are going to bring in your target customers. You want to see the global and local search volume for those keywords to help project the cost of paid campaigns and know what terms you should target to help bring in visitors to your website.
As you build or revamp your website, you want to make your pages search engine-friendly. You can influence your search engine optimization (SEO) to get a better ranking in the results. You will need to optimize each page with image tags, keyword focus, subheads that are designed to help increase search engine ranking. You want to include links so that your page isn’t seen as a dead-end by the search engine and you will want to get other reputable pages to link to you in order to show authority and value.
When You’ve brought in new visitors, you want to make them leads. You need to keep them engaged on your site and opening a conversation to keep them interested. This may involve email, forms, messages, calls or meetings. When you are in touch, you can answer questions directly and provide content that is relevant to their point in the sales funnel.
Use smart forms to help keep track of what information you already have from a visitor and avoid making them jump through unnecessary hoops. You want to make it easy for a user to submit their information and become a part of your contacts list. Ask a few questions as possible, while gathering as much information as possible about how you can segment them in your lists to better address them with relevant content.
Live chat on your website is a great way to offer immediate help and support at the right time. Most users today report that they expect a response from brands very quickly, and if you don’t get back with them fast enough, they will likely move on and lose interest. You can automate much of the chat to help reduce the workload for your team while increasing the speed of responses. Automated messaging means that the most frequently asked questions and basic responses (like “Just one moment while I look into that for you.”) can be sent immediately while your visitor is connected to a real person for support.
Landing Page Design
You need strong landing pages to get your leads interested in your premium content offers. Landing pages are eye-catching and designed to solely convert your visitor into a new lead that is signed up to get the content offer. The message of the landing page should be very much in line with the PPC ad or message that got the user to click-through to the page. Unlike the rest of your website, a landing page is focused on one CTA and does not offer much navigation outside of that offer until the visitor is converted to a contact.
Online Meetings & Demos
Many people will not be convinced by digital content alone. You will want to set up online meetings and demos as efficiently as possible, avoiding unnecessary back and forth for your leads. Utilize automated scheduling to allow your leads to book appointments. You can then automate reminders for those leads and yourself to keep everyone on the same page. You can schedule demos to show exactly how your business could make a difference or you can simply show up to engage and convert.
User Experience (UX) is a big deal when you a working on conversions. Your website navigation, message, and structure all have to be in-line with user expectations or your visitors will bounce at a high rate. You want to make it easy for visitors to find the information they need by including buttons and links where they expect them, having a good search feature and including valuable links on each page to the places they are most likely to want to visit next in their buyer’s journey. Pushing a visitor to “Buy Now!” before even getting them through the Consideration phase of the sales funnel is going to be off-putting. In a different way, offering a rabbit trail to a white paper designed for the Awareness stage at the checkout is a prime example of a poor design that will distract your lead. UX has to feel intuitive and user-friendly.
Premium Content Production
There are certain kinds of content you will want to offer like a carrot on a stick. Premium content is the kind of content that offers unique value your customers will willingly sign up to get. A company that sells editing presets for Adobe Lightroom, for example, might offer a Lightroom Editing webinar session for free and held at specific times. They can entice their audience to sign up for an email by offering real value and promising a link to the webinar when they have signed up. While the webinar itself is valuable information for the lead, the company can then show off the presets towards the end of the editing session and offer a unique deal. They can then additionally work to build a further relationship with more webinar content and offers in future emails. Without that premium content, the company would be hard-pressed to get an engaged and interested audience.
Always, always, always suggest an action to your visitors. You want to provide smart buttons on your site that are like mini-billboards to direct traffic. You want buttons to feel cohesive with your site and you want everything to feel professional and not over-stimulating. Many business owners tend to think that their CTAs need to “pop,” which can result in a lot of screaming elements on the page. Instead, you want your professional site designer to help naturally direct the visitor’s eye throughout the page and encourage action when he or she is ready to move on.
You’ve turned your leads into converts that are interested in your brand and the products you offer, now you need to close. You need to turn leads into customers.
Consider your sales funnel and make sure you are keeping the process streamlined. Get your sales and marketing team on the same page with the process. Keep your teams playing together to ensure a more effective process. Use your pipeline strategies to avoid distractions or loss of interest that could hinder a smooth process from visitor to conversion.
You need to have a strategy in place for nurturing new leads. When a visitor signs up for a webinar or whitepaper, you have to consider what information could be sent to move them closer to a purchase point. Relevant, useful and focused content can help build trust, encourage engagement and get them ready to buy. Your lists should be differentiated to ensure the right content is being sent to the right leads.
Product and Services Information
In order to effectively close, you need to have the right information very easy to find. As your lead hits Interest and Consideration points in the sales funnel, you need to offer clear listings that show details of your offer and pricing for easy comparison. Many companies offer services or products that depend greatly on the customer’s final choices, so you might have to explain the pricing process rather than give a hard number. If you are selling pools, plumbing repair, business consultation services or something else that has a sliding price point, you would want to include standard fees (like how much does a consultation cost?) and then offer examples of what changes the price of the item. Explaining the cost is going to help your leads make a choice to convert and will even bring in new leads that are already at the Decision point of the sales funnel but are looking at competitor options.
If you are convincing, you will be able to get your leads to either purchase the product as listed or call you for the consultation they need, so be as specific as possible. Include dimensions, materials, various product shots, an enticing description and even reviews on the specific product. The more information you include, the more accurate of a decision your lead can make, which is very important for continuing into the next phase of the Inbound Methodology: Delight.
Your job is not done after a purchase; you want to create a remarkable experience that keeps your customers returning and signing your praises within their own circles of influence. Engage and delight those customers, helping them be successful in whatever ways you can. By focusing on this part of the Inbound Methodology, you can create customers that will buy more, stay longer, tell their friends about what you’ve done for them and then go sing your praises to the rest of the world whenever the opportunity arises. You can have satisfied customers who don’t complain about what they’ve bought, or you can have brand advocates that post about your brand on social media just because they are so thrilled with their purchase and proud to sport it.
You can use various platforms to see what people are saying about you and your products. It is vital that you see the posts that are made about your brand, whether good or bad. You can reply to those that are public with offer professional responses to instill confidence in your brand. You can encourage more interaction by responding to those who have great things to say about your brand. However, you will struggle to see everything if you rely on tags or posts on your brand page alone. Use social listening to follow keywords, nicknames, common misspellings and abbreviations of your brand, products, employees, competitors or industry terms to stay part of the conversation. You will learn a lot about your audience and what they love (or don’t love) about your company, competitors and the industry as a whole.
Provide how-to guides and tutorials for products that might need a little extra support. Offering content for those that purchase is a smart way to keep engaging and delighting your audience. You can use frequently asked questions from your customer support team to help create some supportive content for sending out after the purchase is made.
Use your PPC ads to retarget those who have purchased, but looked at additional items. You can get your buyers to purchase again when you offer a special deal on items they are already interested in. You already have a foot in the door by getting them to convert and purchase once, so after a short amount of time, make sure you are targeting this group with relevant ads.
Be smart in what you send out; no one wants to see a sales pitch for something they’ve already bought. Track what has been purchased and send out content that is supportive of that data. Don’t send CTAs for first-time buyers to your loyal customers. You want to give offers that are based on buyer personas, life cycle changes, buyer’s journey and past interaction.
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