What is Inbound Marketing? You’ve probably heard the term before, but you aren’t sure what it’s all about or how it can help your business. We’re here to help with that.
- What is Inbound Marketing?
- Who Should Use Inbound?
- Your Buyer Personas
- Inbound Methodology
- How Does Digital Content Generate Leads?
- The 4 Key Ingredients to Your Content Strategy
At Red-Fern, we're constantly approached by business owners who have the same issues. My website isn’t generating leads, I’m having trouble converting prospects into customers, I’m having problems retaining existing business.
All valid concerns. When we answer with “Have you thought about investing in inbound marketing?”, we’re usually met with confused faces.
A lot of business owners haven't heard anything about inbound. They don’t understand it or haven’t realised its true potential to replace ALL their current digital marketing expenditure. Yes, we said that. ALL.
1. So, What is it?
Inbound marketing helps you understand how your customers buy from you, then attracts them with relevant and helpful content. With inbound marketing, your potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.
Unlike more traditional, old-fashioned methods, inbound marketing does not need to fight for attention with expensive advertising. By creating content designed to address the specific problems and needs of your ideal customers, your business can focus on being customer-centric; focusing on leads that are interested and rather than those that aren't.
Inbound is the first significant shift in marketing method in the digital age. Instead of reaching out and invading a potential customer’s space, it challenges a business to create engaging content which is easy for people to find and offers value once they do.
In its simplest form, inbound marketing is a way to pull people to your business, rather than relying on advertising or PR to push potential customers towards you.
If you would like to delve a little deeper into what inbound marketing is and how it can help your business, see our blogs below:
2. Who Will Find Inbound Useful?
Inbound marketing will work for the vast majority of B2B and B2C companies as a part of a long-term digital content strategy.
While you may not call it by the same name, inbound marketing is probably a tactic you already use in some capacity. Many business owners today take advantage of a mixture of different types of content, across several platforms to connect with their buyers at each stage of the buying process.
So how do you do that? The idea is that creating content like e-books, infographics and white papers, along with blog posts and social media profiles will increase a customers awareness of your brand, bringing them in with targeted, continuous marketing efforts personalised to their general challenges and pain points.
This would be instead of more traditional methods of 'outbound' marketing such as ads or mass emails that go to prospective buyers directly, in a much more intrusive way.
The first step to building an Inbound Strategy is building several detailed buyer personas.
3. Your Buyer Personas
Buyer Personas are fictional, generalised characters that personify your ideal customer- and are imperative to having an accurate picture about who you should be marketing to. However, many companies choose to skip this step, insisting they already know their audience. While most businesses expect to have some idea of who they sell to, narrowing down those people into detailed profiles including their goals, challenges, gender and social class is a little more complicated.
For example, if you're a B2B company with a high-value service, such as a recruitment agency, your ideal customer might be this HR Director. ‘HR Joe Bloggs’ will have challenges and goals the need help with.
Your job is to help them with these pain points through inbound marketing. This could include building a digital content strategy engineered to increase engagement from any prospect that fits into the ‘HR Joe Bloggs’ persona; creating content for each part of the inbound marketing funnel discussing solutions to each goal and challenge.
In return for content designed to help them, ‘HR Joe Bloggs’ is more likely to give you some of their details.
By engaging with your content, this prospect has qualified themselves as a lead. It’s then up to you to market to them and push them further down the funnel.
According to HubSpot, using Buyer Personas made websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use, so it’s clear that defining your personas early in the planning process of an Inbound Strategy is key to its success in the long-term.
For more information on Personas and a FREE Buyer Persona template, visit our blog below:
4. Inbound Methodology
In the modern business world, the same change in buying behaviour that sparked the success of inbound marketing has also spread throughout the whole customer and sales experience. How people communicate and what they expect from your business has changed on a fundamental level.
To combat these changes and find ways to adapt, the inbound methodology was created.
From left to right are the four key stages (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight) that you would categorise your content into when building an inbound marketing strategy. No matter which stage you're creating for, the content will focus on converting strangers into visitors, then leads into customers, and finally into promoters. The method becomes even more powerful when coupled with your sales strategy.
Along the bottom is the relevant software for marketing, sales, and customer information databases that Red-Fern and our clients use to deliver a digital content strategy. They’re powerful alone — but even better when used together, helping you grow and push as many leads as possible down the inbound marketing funnel.
While having fresh users visiting your website is a good thing, turning this into the right kind of traffic is the key. As a company, you need to decide what your ideal customers will be like both inside and out, and of course, this requires well-researched buyer personas from the very start of the campaign.
What is inbound marketing? Well, it’s content. A well-researched, keyword optimised blog remains the single best way to attract new visitors to your website this year. To get found by the right prospective customers, you need to create educational content that speaks to them and answers their questions.
When a prospective lead begins their buying journey, it will usually begin with research on a search engine. So, it's very important for you to appear wherever they're searching. Select words that will attract the type of lead that you want to consume your content. Building links around the keywords that your ideal buyer is searching for will also help you to achieve this.
In the last couple of years, SEO is becoming more effective, with 82% reporting effectiveness is on the rise and 42% of this group stating effectiveness is increasing significantly.
Social media houses a significant amount of data that can help you in understanding your audience. To create content that will garner the visitors you want, you need to make sure that you're writing for your audience.
You can use social media analytics tools to gather data about your leads, as well as gain insight into what kind of content they engage with the most.
Doing this will also allow you to create content that is search engine-friendly, because Google will usually raise rankings for content that has low bounce rates (the searcher has interacted with your page and not exited immediately) and answers the question a user is asking within their search terms.
After you've attracted your chosen buyer personas to your site, the next consideration is how you go about converting them into marketing qualified leads (MQLs). This requires lead generation services to begin the process you'll need to obtain the contact information of your site visitors. Contact information is the currency of the inbound marketer. The challenge is getting it.
In the modern marketplace, consumers are savvy in a way they haven’t been in the past. They're aware you want their details, so it’s up to you to give them something in return that will help them solve some of their problems.
This ‘something’ comes with the introduction of premium content - eBooks, whitepapers, blog posts, webinars, etc. - any material that your potential leads would find valuable and focuses on their unique goals and challenges.
You can keep track of the leads you're converting in a CRM, a shared contact database that houses your entire marketing funnel and where each contact sits on it. Having all your data in one place helps you make sense of every interaction you’ve had with your contacts and optimise any future interactions to convert them into customers.
Delight your customers by determining when the right time to remarket to them might be.
Landing pages have so many uses and should be an essential part of any inbound marketing strategy. They provide many valuable advantages over sending customers to your homepage. The main reason to use landing pages in your inbound marketing efforts is that they're focused on converting visitors into qualified leads. This is done by exchanging the contact details of a user for a piece of content that addresses their pain points in some way.
Of course, this doesn’t always transform into a lead that is ready to make a buying decision; only that they're interested to hear more from your brand.
This statistic will help your sales team down the line when they try to push this lead further down the inbound marketing funnel.
So, you’ve attracted the right visitors and generated those qualified leads, but now you need to transform those leads into customers. How can you do this? There are sales/marketing tools available at this stage to make sure you’re closing the right leads at the correct time in the most efficient fashion.
What do you do if a visitor clicks on your call-to-action, fills out a landing page, or downloads your eBook, but still isn’t ready to become a customer? A targeted sequence of emails focused on useful, relevant content that addresses any further pain points they may have can build trust with a prospect and help them become more ready to buy. You would base this email on their buyer persona.
Nurture each lead according to their interests, and what lifecycle stage they're at. Pages they’ve visited, content and premium content – all these indicate shifting pain points and goals. Good nurturing adapts messaging to stay relevant to each lead and helps marketers and salespeople push them further down the buyer's journey at a quicker pace.
a digital content strategy is all about providing a higher level of experience for your leads and customers. In the modern business climate, they have much higher expectations of your business and how they’re looked after than ever before. So, it’s even more important to engage with, delight, and ensure that your customers are successful in the long term. If you do, they will buy more, be with you longer, refer you to other business contacts and be happy to let the world know about your successes together.
With only 29% of brands nurturing their existing customers beyond the initial purchase, it’s important that once you have customers, you engage with them and show that you have a vested interest in their continued success. Nobody wants to be forgotten about once they have paid their money in favour of prospects that haven’t committed at all.
Start to consider your customers as partners and your business relationships as partnerships. Those bonds need to be maintained in order to remarket in the future--if your customers are doing well as a result of your products or services, then it’s more likely they'll be open to being upsold.
No one wants to see a sales pitch when they've already bought into. Split testing makes sure you don't show your existing customers CTAs or content meant for first-time buyers that are in the Awareness or Consideration stages. With smart calls-to-action, you present different visitors with offers that change based on their buyer persona and lifecycle stage.
To delve further into inbound marketing methodology and its uses within your Marketing Plan, visit our much more detailed blogs below:
5. How Does Digital Content Generate Leads?
If we answer the question of “what is inbound marketing” with the methodology and tools we use without mentioning the desired result we would not giving you the full inbound blueprint.
Inbound marketing is designed to aid your business in generating leads.
However, what these Marketing and lead generation services are particularly good at is generating the right leads at the right time.
These are qualified prospects that are educated about your business and trust that you're an authority in their marketplace and that you can deliver what they want from you as a customer.
Inbound gives your marketing team the ability to generate MQL’s for your sales team with detailed information on the pain points of the prospect they're chasing, about what content created touches for them and why they're interested in the service or product you provide. That’s a pretty warm sales call to make!
For a much more detailed analysis of how inbound marketing can work for your business to generate traffic and conversions, visit our blogs below:
6. The 4 Key Ingredients to Your Content Strategy
Ingredient 1: Research and Analysis
From blog posts to videos to thought leadership articles, the key to any good inbound strategy is to create content that doesn’t say ‘use our service, use our service, use our service’, but instead grabs the attention of the right people with something interesting, useful or informative that addresses their pain points. The right message to the right people at the right time. This can be followed up with lead nurturing to convert the prospects you generate and change them into customers.
The first step is to conduct in-depth research and analysis into your business goals and who your target personas might be, to ascertain the marketing tactics you can use to achieve those objectives and target the correct audience.
So, how do we do this?
Firstly, it’s time to talk numbers:
- What traffic does your website currently generate?
- How many of those visitors can be considered leads?
- How many of those leads are nurtured and converted into customers?
Secondly, let’s discuss budgets and wastage:
- What's currently spent on attracting visitors to your website?
- What's currently spent on converting those visitors into leads and customers?
These two points are crucial, according to EConsultancy in 2016, For every $92 spent attracting website visitors, only $1 is spent converting them into customers. This is a harrowing statistic for any inbound marketer and is the main cause of business failure for many B2B and B2C companies.
After conducting research and analysis into what are achievable and measurable goals for your business and creating buyer personas as described above, it’s time to start creating a strategy.
This must inevitably lead to what assets and content you already have.
Ingredient 2: Content and SEO Audit
So, to start planning how to push leads down the inbound marketing funnel by building an Inbound strategy for your business, an audit needs to be completed of what existing assets you have. This is to work out where they might fit in the journey you're sending visitors on when they arrive at your site.
This involves several stages:
- What keywords are you already ranking for on SERP’s and what pages are they linking to?
- What pages might need SEO improvements to better rank for those keywords?
- What content already exists that you can use and how does that fit into the strategy?
- How quick is your website? Is there any optimisation that can be done to improve page speeds?
- Any general SEO improvements. This could be metadata optimisation, sitemap changes, reviewing the index-ability of your site (how easy is it for google to crawl your site's pages)
Once you know what currently works and what could be improved, a plan can be put into place that incorporates that data into the decision process. For example, if the website already has content based around a certain stage of the funnel that's quality and optimised, then the strategy can skip that area of the journey.
Ingredient 3: Planning and Implementation
Planning and implementing your strategy is the ingredient that a lot of businesses get wrong. Working out what needs to be done and doing it correctly are two different things.
Here’s a quick checklist to follow:
- Create a strategy for each month. Try to separate it out into what content you'll create for each section of the inbound methodology.
- Create a buyer persona for each campaign you're undertaking. This will help you create content designed for a certain section of your ideal target audience.
- Create a content calendar so that every person on the team knows what their job is and set deadlines for those tasks.
- Work ahead of time. Strategise for the future so you aren’t rushing through key parts of the process.
A full inbound marketing strategy is a team effort and requires a lot of investment from both your marketing team and sales team in the long term. So make sure everyone knows what they have to do and who they're responsible for. This will help the sales team (who convert leads to customers) to coordinate better with the marketing team (who generate those qualified leads).
Ingredient 4: Evaluation and Optimisation
The final ingredient of any marketing strategy is an evaluation. This will help you optimise in the future and ensure you can amend and improve anything that didn't work.
Start to look at:
- What was successful? What can you learn from that success? Use the data from your successes to inform your decisions in future strategies.
- What wasn’t successful? How can you improve on it? What part of the journey suffered and did not work?
- Did the strategy achieve the goal that you set out to achieve? If not, why?