What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing focuses on creating compelling website content that aligns with your customer’s desire to educate themselves about the products and services they are interested in buying. In contrast, outbound marketing is disruptive by nature, using tactics such as telemarketing calls, spam e-mails, pop-up ads, junk mail and TV commercials.

The effectiveness of interruptive forms of marketing is quickly fading. Our ever-accelerating lifestyle has made time our most precious commodity and the Internet has given us the power of information at our fingertips. We are no longer beholden to the best laid plans of marketers. With the ability to skip commercials, block telemarketers and click the back button to escape web ads, traditional forms of outbound marketing are becoming far less relevant to today’s consumers.

Take a look at these stats from Mashable:

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened, wasting time, postage and paper.
  • 86% of people skip through television commercials thanks to DVRs.
  • 84% of 25- to 34-year-olds click out of a website due to intrusive pop-up ads.
  • The cost per lead in outbound marketing is higher than that of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing helps potential customers locate you the way people naturally research things they’re interested in. Users typically start with a Google search or by asking their Social Network. This leads customers to web pages or blog posts about the product or service they are interested in. As a result, users are being educated and proceeding on their purchasing journey at their own pace.

As a result, inbound marketing doesn’t have to fight for the attention of your prospects. It all happens as you are educating them with the amazing content you are putting out on your website and blogs. The magic passively happens as visitors are being naturally attracted to valuable information that will help them overcome the problems they are having. Let’s be honest, do any of us really enjoy disruptive and annoying hard sell tactics anymore? Think of conventional outbound marketing in the same way you think about that pesky and annoying telemarketer and you’ll understand why it doesn’t work anymore. Inbound marketing reverses that approach and aligns your marketing and content with the interests of your prospects.

In a nutshell, inbound marketing is about attracting prospects to your business through valuable insights, information and education instead of annoying and disrupting them at inopportune times.

The 4 Pillars of the Inbound Marketing Methodology

There are four pillars of the inbound methodology:

  1. Content Creation: Content is king, and it’s not about to give up its reign any time soon. It’s imperative to create content that answers your customers’ questions, informs them and educates them. As you do this, your stock rises in their eyes and you become a trusted resource whom they will contact when the need arises. The second part of the equation is getting your content out onto the proper channels, such as major search engines, social media sites, press releases, etc. so that it can be found and consumed.
  2. Lifecycle Marketing: Customers often start off as website visitors who are virtual strangers. Your marketing process needs to turn those strangers into customers and then on to lifelong promoters of your brand throughout the entire lifecycle. You do this with marketing automation tools which help you deliver the most relevant piece of content to each visitor, at the most opportune time. You can’t just blast out the same message to everyone as that violates the laws of proper marketing.
  3. Personalization: Customize the content for each of your different potential buyer types and for each of the five stages they might be in, in their buying process. This makes your marketing message more powerful and effective. This involves research on your part about who your ideal customers are, what problems they have and what’s the best marketing message for each type of buyer.
  4. Multiple Channels: Inbound marketing should engage people where they hang out and seek advice. This occurs most often online via Google searches, social media sites, online forums, blogs, etc. By engaging them in the environments in which they’re most comfortable, you’re more likely to find them in a receptive mood.

The Inbound Marketing Formula

Attract, Convert, Close & Delight: These are four critical elements of the inbound marketing formula that must be performed well.

While the below process is geared primarily toward larger sales, it  can also be adjusted for smaller product or service sales.

  1. Attract: The most powerful way to attract visitors is to provide that visitor with the right content at the right time and place. This approach acknowledges that your buyers go through several distinct stages during their buying process and that you need to have specific content that addresses their concerns at each stage. The content you create needs to be readily discoverable by your buyers through various channels such as SEO, paid ads and social media marketing.
  2. Convert:  Once they’ve arrived to your website, you have to convert that visitor into a lead. You achieve this by having valuable content and by using a variety of proven conversion tactics that get that visitor to willingly provide you with their contact information. Leads which quickly become sales-ready are passed on to the sales team while those leads which are still researching and learning are nurtured using marketing automation until they raise their hand and ask for help.
  3. Close: Once you are converting leads in volume, prioritizing your leads becomes important so that your Sales team focuses its time and energy on the most qualified leads first. This can be done by utilizing a marketing automation system which helps you score leads based on their level of interest and engagement. Since sales rarely occur on the first touch and often require 7-14 touches, it’s important that you are also using a CRM system to aggregate, track and follow up on your prospects. Much of the effort involved in the lead follow-up process can be reduced by implementing automated workflows within your CRM/Marketing automation platform.
  4. Delight: The lead may be closed, but this is no time to let up. Delight customers by acknowledging and resolving the concerns most buyers have after they’ve made a big purchase. This mitigates buyer’s remorse and builds a strong bond with your customer. Continue to engage your customer after the sale with periodic check-ins, surveys, tips and advice. Your goal should be to so thoroughly solve their problem that they feel almost compelled to advocate for your business.

Engage…convert…close… delight. These are the components of any successful marketing and sales program.

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