Inbound Marketing Strategy

Creativity and technology to help fuel innovation and drive business growth

Why Inbound?

Before understanding why Inbound is transforming the way the world does business, let’s take a moment to think about traditional marketing. In traditional marketing, companies focus on finding customers. Generally, they use techniques that are interruptive. These techniques could be anything from cold calling and print advertising to TV commercials and junk mail. But technology is making these techniques less effective and more expensive. Caller ID blocks cold calls, DVR makes TV advertising less effective, and spam filters block mass emails. It's still possible to get a message out using these channels, but it costs a lot more.

Inbound is a fundamental shift in the way we do business. Instead of that old, interruption based message where the marketer or salesperson has all the control, Inbound is about empowering potential customers. Instead of interrupting people with television ads, they might create videos that potential customers want to see. Instead of buying display ads in print publications, they could create a business blog that people would look forward to reading. And instead of cold calling, they create useful content so that prospects can contact them when they want more information.

Inbound Marketing is marketing focused on getting found by customers. It’s customer focused. It’s helpful. Wouldn’t you prefer to deal with a business that is focused on your needs instead of their own? You’ve probably come across some of your favorite brands actively practicing Inbound marketing. It’s that problem solving blog post that shows up near the top of the search engine. It’s the new solution that was discovered on LinkedIn or the product review that was found on Facebook. Inbound is about being a part of the conversation. Being a part of that conversation means sharing helpful, relevant content with the world. It’s about drawing people in - that’s why it’s called Inbound. And most of all, it’s about creating marketing that people love. So how do you actually do Inbound? Well, the best way to start is by understanding the Inbound Methodology.

The Inbound Methodology

Inbound Marketing Stratregy

This is the Inbound methodology. It illustrates the four stages that make up the Inbound marketing and sales process. These stages are Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. Listed along the bottom of the methodology are the tools companies typically use to accomplish these actions. The tools are listed under the stage where they first come into play, but that’s not the only stage where they’re applicable! Some tools, like email, can be essential to multiple stages of the methodology.
Starting at the beginning, on the left, you’ll need to attract strangers to your site, turning them into visitors. Some of the most important tools to attract new users are blogging, optimising your website, and social media. But it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve attracted new visitors, the next step is to convert some of them into leads by gathering their contact information. At the very least, you’ll need their email addresses. Contact information is the world of Inbound’s currency. In order for your visitors to offer up that currency, willingly, you’ll need to offer them something in return. 

That ‘payment’ comes in the form of offers, like eBooks, whitepapers, or tip sheets - whatever information would be interesting and valuable to your prospects. You can convert visitors into leads by using the conversion process. Website components like calls-to-action and landing pages can entice these visitors and help you get information about them. Moving along, now that you’ve attracted the right visitors and converted the right leads, it’s time to transform those leads into customers. In the Close stage, tools like email and a CRM can be used to help sell to the right leads at the right time. 
Inbound is all about providing remarkable content to your users, whether they’re visitors, leads, or existing customers. Just because someone is already a customer doesn’t mean that you can forget about them! Inbound companies continue to delight and engage their customer base, turning them into happy promoters of the products and services they love. Then, the whole methodology starts back at the beginning, when promoters talk to their networks (more strangers) and spread the word about your products and services.

What are the fundementals of Inbound success?

Before practicing Inbound marketing, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of Inbound success. Remember, customers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be educated, and Inbound tactics can deliver the kind of information your prospects need to help them make smart, well informed decisions. You can begin to do this by keeping these best practices in mind. First, by using buyer personas, second, by using the buyer’s journey, then by creating remarkable content, and knowing how to leverage it.
Let’s start by taking a look at how to use buyer personas. Since Inbound marketing and sales are customer focused, you need to know who you’re trying to reach. You don’t want just any traffic to your site, you want the right traffic. You want the people who are most likely to become leads, and, ultimately, happy customers. Who are the “right” people? The right people are your ideal customers, what we call your buyer personas. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of an ideal customer, based on real data and some educated speculation about demographics, behaviors, motivations, and goals.
Personas are created through research, analysis, and taking a close look at who’s already buying from you. They can help you get into the mindset of your potential buyers and create the right content. When you create the right content, you’ll effectively attract your ideal visitors, convert them into leads, and close them into customers. They’re the glue that holds every aspect of Inbound marketing together. So, you could say that they’re a pretty big deal, but how do you create buyer personas? There are three things to keep in mind - research, identifying trends, and creating persona profile stories. First, do your research. Buyer personas must be based off of actual research, not assumptions. Yes, research takes time, but if any of those assumptions are inaccurate, your personas will be, too.

These personas give you a really clear idea of exactly who these potential customers might be, what they are interested in, what they are dealing with, and what they are working towards. But when it comes to creating a great Inbound strategy, it’s not enough to know just who you’re trying to reach, you also have to know what they want to see. And who are buyer persona’s right for? Is it B2B, B2C, or nonprofit? Buyer personas are necessary for any type of business. That brings us to the buyer’s journey. Every interaction your persona has with your organisation should be tailored to where they are in the buyer’s journey.

The Buyers Journey

The buyer’s journey is the active research process someone goes through leading up to a purchase. Knowing the buyer’s journey for your persona will be key to creating the best content possible.  Instead of talking about top, middle, or bottom of the funnel, the buyer’s journey is made up of 3 stages: the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage that portray the experiences your potential customers go through.
Every single one of us has gone through the buyer’s journey. It’s the path we take when you have a problem to solve, from researching potential solutions to purchasing one. The awareness stage is when your prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity. They’re doing education research to more clearly understand, frame, and give a name to their problem. The consideration stage is when a prospect has now clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity. They are committed to researching and understanding all of the available approaches and/or methods to solving the defined problem or opportunity. The decision stage is when a prospect has now decided on their solution strategy, method, or approach. They are compiling a long list of all available vendors and products in their given solution strategy. They could also be researching to whittle the long list down to a short list and ultimately making a final purchase decision.

Often, with website content, rather than creating content that covers your buyer persona’s problems and potential solutions, we jump to explaining our products or our services and why they’re the best option. Website visitors might come to your website for the first time in any of the different buyer’s journey stages, but you need to have content prepared for each and every stage. When you’re creating content, specifically blog posts, keep it educational. Not educating them on who you are and what you do, but educating them on their problems and solutions. It’s the Inbound way. A way to build trust. Once you understand your buyer personas and their buying journey, it’s time to start doing Inbound marketing. Inbound marketing can’t exist without content, and that’s why the third best practice is to create remarkable, tailored content.

Inbound Marketing Strategy is content plus context

Your content is your marketing toolkit. Things like blogs, interactive tools, photos/infographics, videos, and eBooks/presentations work to attract, convert, close, and delight. Context is who you’re creating it for. You can’t just write any blog posts, you have to write the right ones, tailored to who you’re trying to reach and what they’re interested in.  The best content (the stuff that’s really going to fuel your entire Inbound strategy) has to be grounded in the correct context. It’s not enough to just write a blog post or send out an email. The content in that blog post and that email need to be tailored to who you’re trying to reach (your persona) and what they’re most interested in seeing (which depends on where they are in the buyer’s journey). 
The last best practice is to leverage your content. Make that content available for your buyer personas to find: content distribution is what provides the context to your content. It’s not enough to just have great content. You need to have a way to get that content out into the world. Distribution makes content relevant. There are a few different tools you can use to leverage content by distribution. The right distribution technique gets the right content in front of the right person at the right time. You can use your website pages, business blog, social media, landing pages, calls-to-action, and marketing emails. Just make sure you’re using tactics that help your content reach your buyer personas where they’re spending their time. If they aren’t spending their time on Twitter, Twitter shouldn’t be a major part of your distribution plan. 

And that brings us to the end of Inbound marketing strategy best practices. Remember: research, develop, and use your buyer personas. Then combine that new knowledge with the buyer’s journey to help you create and leverage remarkable content. If you're keen to begin and would like some help pointing you in the right direction, get in touch for a free consultation and we'd be delighted to assist.