What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is the practice of attracting customers to your brand by creating consistent, useful content. It allows potential consumers to come to you, adding value to any experiences they have when they deal with your company. Gone are the days where sales people held all the information. Consumers are better informed than ever and will usually research before they buy, giving you the chance to reach them through blogs, social media and an optimised website.
With your customers looking for you, you no longer need to compete for attention in the same way that “traditional” outbound marketing requires. The fact that your potential customers are searching you out and finding your content useful means that the leads you generate will be better quality. This is because they have issues that you address, and are showing interest in your products/services without prompting, so already they’re pretty serious about finding solutions to their problems.
So how does it work?
The Inbound Marketing approach focuses on four main stages, or “phases” of the journey an individual undertakes from discovering a problem through to finding a solution that they’d happily recommend to others. It is, according to HubSpot ‘The best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.’
|The four phases of the customer journey: Attract, Convert, Close, Delight|
Inbound Marketing ensures that you get quality leads and are reaching the right people. How do you know it is doing this? Because people are finding the right information at the right time. Namely, what they are searching for, when they are searching for it.
There are a number of ways to generate Inbound content but it’s important to plan it out carefully and make sure that your content is relevant to what they’re looking for and is released at the right time (there’s a reason you don’t see adverts for wellington boots in June). To maximise the impact your content has, you’ll need to optimise your website and make sure your articles/posts/information is appearing in the right places. There are a number of tools which will help you increase your presence.
Creating a blog is the most straightforward way to ensure that you can tackle issues that are likely to be relevant to your target market (based on research, not just what you THINK they’ll find interesting). In these, it’s important not to plug your products/services or over-complicate things. Remember, this is about making your brand a helpful source of information and positioning yourself as an expert in your industry. Your blog will draw visitors to your website and has the capability (if you enable comments) to spark conversations with potential customers.
Social Media is the next logical step. It’s a great chance to showcase your products/services, as well as keep people up to date with what’s going on in your company. It also provides another platform for your customers, existing and prospective, to interact with one another and engage with your brand. People can discuss the service they received, the quality of what you’ve delivered and leave reviews for others to read. This acts as another form of research for potential customers. Remember that even if people have something negative to say about your brand, if you respond in a positive manner and resolve issues to their satisfaction etc. it can actually be more powerful than getting things right first time.
|Using the right content, through appropriate channels at the right time will help pull customers into your sales funnel|
So, you’ve pulled the visitors into your website with your amazing content. Now you need to convert them into leads. The best approach to get this underway is to open a communication channel with them in a way that they allow. This usually starts with a landing page form that requests their email address or phone number. Often they’ll exchange this information for an offer from you - perhaps a free downloadable paper or a discounted option on your products/services. Once they’ve expressed a preference in how you contact them (email, online chat window, phone call, text message etc) you can open a conversation with them.
The landing page form should be simple and easy to use, just a couple of boxes for vital information. “What’s your name?” and “How should I contact you?” are usually the only pieces of data you’ll need from people at this stage unless you’re running a specific campaign that requires more.
No matter how great your product is, you can’t sit back and expect it to sell itself. If you’re going to nail new deals, you’ll have to speak to potential customers at some point. The easiest method is usually by phone, although many video applications are now available to provide “virtual meetings”. Some people may still prefer a physical face-to-face meeting so that they are able to “get to know you” better, which builds trust. However you go about conversing with your prospects, make sure that it’s easy for them to express a preference, easy for them to get time with you and that you flex to meet their needs.
|Open up lines of communication in order to build a relationship with your potential customers and convert them into leads|
You need to speak to people who are checking out your website and online chat can be a great way to do this. Ensure that people feel connected, listened to and valued. Talk to them when it matters (when they WANT to hear from you). Build this communications into your everyday sales process and monitor the success of using an online chat as a conversion tool.
It’s important to set up a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). There are a number of dedicated tools, systems and technologies that do the job, but essentially, you’ll be creating a centralised database of your contacts and their stage in the process (subscriber, lead, customer etc). This will help you monitor a customer’s progress through your sales process and help you to optimise processes going forward. Optimised processes are more effective at achieving success throughout the four phases and will help you turn your prospects into evangelists in the long run.
So, you’ve managed to draw the right people to your website. You’ve got contact details for them and transformed them into good quality leads. The next step is to turn them into paying customers and, again, there are several tools designed to help you do this.
An effective CRM tool will have an aspect that allows you to look at your lead generation and quality. Where are your best leads coming from? How many of those leads are being converted into customers? Are your marketing/sales efforts aligned? Having this information available allows you to focus your efforts to maximise reward, but also shows your any areas for development so that you can improve experiences for your customers going forward.
Lead nurturing is the process of building a good relationship with your potential buyers and your customers at every step of their journey with your brand. It focuses on communication and puts emphasis on to listening and responding to customer needs. Use your CRM to identify which pages people have visited and which content they’re accessing/downloading. This will give you a good idea of where their interests lie, where their challenges are and what you may be able to do to help them. Keeping up to date with their requirements allows you to tailor your messages to them so that your communications are always relevant and can help you to convert leads into customers faster.
At some point, it is inevitable that people will fill out your landing page form, or download your content, or frequently visit your site but fail to convert into a customer. In this instance, a series of automated emails can keep the visitor up to date with relevant content which keeps them engaged with your brand and builds trust. When they ARE ready to make a purchasing decision, you’ll have created a good relationship and positioned yourself as an expert in your field, which can influence them to choose your products over a competitor’s.
Predictive Lead Scoring
Lead Scoring allows you to prioritise potential customers based on a set of criteria. This means that visitors who fall into certain categories will be contacted before leads who don’t “tick as many boxes”. Ultimately, the purpose of lead scoring is to ensure that your sales teams aren’t focusing their efforts on the wrong people and are, instead, contacting the leads which are most likely to respond positively (based on research and existing data).
In the age of information, people are more knowledgeable about what they’re buying and they tend to expect more from the companies they deal with than ever before. Inbound Marketing focuses on ensuring your customers have an outstanding experience every time they deal with your brand. Engaging with them, listening to them and taking their issues into account means that you are better positioned to help THEM become successful. Achieving this will delight them, and lead to a happy and fruitful relationship, as well as encouraging them to become brand advocates who are happy to recommend your business to others.
|When you delight your customers, they will tell the world how incredible your brand is. Don't miss out on this powerful method of promotion.|
This one is a little more advanced, but can make the world of difference to your customers. Once people have bought something, they don’t need you to sell it to them anymore. Upsell, by all means, or offer complementary products, but they don’t need to see what they’ve already purchased. Tracking movement on your landing pages and segmenting your customers in your CRM system can allow you to tailor your offers and calls to action (CTAs), ensuring that people only see relevant content, which increases the likelihood of them buying more.
Inbound Marketing provides a way to move consumers through your sales funnel effectively, ensuring that every contact with your brand is a positive one.Using this many-pronged (multi-channel) approach means that you are more likely to reach people who are genuinely interested in the services you provide and will give you better quality leads and a higher conversion rate.