Everything You Need to know About Inbound Marketing
Some marketing techniques can leave prospective customers feeling cold, unengaged or at worst annoyed by how intrusive they feel. When it comes to digital marketing there are so many options now that there really isn’t any excuse to be causing that kind of response anymore. As marketers we should not be using cold sales calls or blanket emails, instead the Inbound methodology enables us to develop lasting relationships with our prospects and customers.
This section will give you all the information you need to know about Inbound Marketing and how it can help your business. While Inbound Marketing is a term that is often over-used it is worth knowing that applying a handful of simple principles to the way you communicate can help turn even more of your prospective leads into customers for life and even brand advocates.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is a methodology which focuses on providing your prospective customers with helpful content designed to solve their queries and problems. Instead of focusing on outbound techniques (for example cold sales calls), Inbound Marketing is about putting the right content in front of the right audience at the right time, in order to encourage that lead to move along your customer journey or down your funnel to, ultimately, purchase and re-purchase from you.
“If you write it, they will come” as long as you optimise it too!
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is easily defined as marketing activities which interrupt user journeys by pushing the marketer's agenda on to the user. These can include blanket marketing emails, cold sales calls and TV advertising which are often jarring when used out of sync with the user journey. How many times have you had to sit through an advert on your favourite streaming service and thought ‘this has nothing to do with me’?
Inbound Marketing focuses on providing the user with answers to their queries as and when they need it. For example, when a user searches for "how to check the oil level in my car" a digital-savvy local garage might have an article on checking car oil which is ranking well in Google. The crucial element here is that this initial article is helpful and genuinely answers the user's query.
The Inbound methodology doesn’t just stop once you have acquired the customer either; it’s about continuing to engage with your customers through engaging and relevant content and delivering an unbeatable customer experience. There are a variety of models that have been defined but we like the HubSpot definition; they see the customer journey in three stages that are Attract, Engage & Delight. In other words, Inbound Marketing is about building relationships with your prospects and customers.
HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Flywheel
The goal is to attract prospects to your company using compelling and useful content, then continue to engage with and delight them once they have become customers. This in turn can lead them to become brand advocates that help to perpetuate brand awareness and deliver more leads for your business, bringing us back to the attract stage of the process.
In many ways Inbound Marketing is like etiquette at a drinks party. People don’t want to hear you talking about yourself all night (this is Outbound Marketing), they want insightful, meaningful and useful discussions on topics they’re interested in, balanced with periods of you listening to them talk about themselves.
Inbound Marketing turns traditional Outbound or one-way marketing into a two-way conversation. By bringing value and interest to the conversation the aim is to be invited back to future conversations and develop long-lasting relationships.
Find out more about HubSpot’s intuitive Inbound Marketing software and why we’re a HubSpot partner agency.
Why Inbound Marketing should be important to you
So, why is Inbound Marketing so important? Let's take another look at the local garage which provided a ‘how-to’ style article answering the user's original query about checking their oil level.
At some point the car owner is going to need an MOT, a service or a repair. When they come to book in one or more of these activities, they are likely going to remember the helpful local garage that provided them with free information about checking their oil level and therefore make steps to book an appointment.
By paying attention to what your prospective customers are asking you can learn about their needs and interests. This helps you continue to provide high-quality content that is in-tune with your customers.
7 Most Important Elements You Must Know About Inbound Marketing
- Create helpful content that answers a specific problem
As we have already mentioned, producing content which helps your customers by solving their problems and fulfilling their needs is key to the Inbound philosophy. At Innovation Visual we like to say you should always be helping instead of selling. Of course, to do this you have to be sure you know what your customer’s problems actually are.
- You need to develop a robust content plan
Developing a content plan is essential. This will help you create an ongoing strategy for answering as broad a range as possible of your customers’ needs whilst building a depth of knowledge that sets you apart from your competitors and marks you as an authority on the topic.
Find out how Innovation Visual can help you develop a content strategy to drive your Inbound engine.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is key
Customer relationship management is about building relationships with your customers. Using a powerful CRM (like HubSpot) will allow you to build up a data-driven picture of your customers and give you to better understand their needs and their behaviour.
- Automated marketing allows your marketing to be more targeted and more timely
Automation allows the intelligent deployment of tools like email marketing, paid advertising and SMS messaging based on the users’ behaviour. This means your marketing activities are in-tune with your customer’s journey and so stands the best chance of providing value in a timely manner.
- Inbound Marketing is not a replacement for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
In fact, SEO is an important element of Inbound. You can write detailed, in-depth and helpful content that genuinely answers your customers’ queries, but if it doesn’t rank in search engines, they aren’t going to find it, or you. It is worth saying, however, that if you create high quality content on a topic that answers real-world questions that have come from market or keyword research, then you stand a much better chance of ranking well and seeing decent volumes of traffic coming to your website.
- Topic clusters can be used to make you an authority on a subject
Another key element of Inbound Marketing is topic clusters. In order to demonstrate your authority on a subject you need to be able to demonstrate a depth of information. This means producing multiple content pieces around the same topic.
In the case of our local car garage the topic might be something like ‘car maintenance’ which would form the basis of a central pillar or core topic page. This pillar page would then be surrounded by a cluster of related topics or sub-topics. For example, ‘How to check the oil level in your car’ and ‘How to check your car tyre pressure’.
- Inbound Marketing works for both B2C and B2B business models
Whether you’re developing a strategy for a B2C e-commerce website or a B2B SaaS company, Inbound Marketing is still a useful and effective methodology as it is designed to attract users based on their needs, regardless of the type of need or user. Whatever industry you operate in, you are still talking to people, your products and services should solve problems for people and the decision to become a customer is made by people. Inbound Marketing is all about helping to increase, develop and nurture your relationships with those people.
Elements of an Effective Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound is not defined by the tools you use, but by the intelligent way these tools are brought together. An effective Inbound strategy will use a broad range of channels and tools which can enhance the user journey from acquisition through to advocacy.
Within HubSpot’s flywheel, the acquisition process is referred to as ‘attract’ and is a fundamental part of the Inbound process. This is where a combination of keyword research, high-quality content and a content strategy to build out topic clusters can start to form the basis of a knowledge hub or resource centre on your website.
Remember, the goal here is to show your visitors (and search engines) that you are an authority on your chosen subject. The information provided in this knowledge hub is being offered for free, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also use gated content techniques. Gated content is content that the user is required to perform an action, such as complete a contact form, to access. If the content we are offering is answering a problem and the landing page where they can download the gated content is compelling, then your site visitors will be more likely to complete the form and download the content in exchange for their details.
Once you have the users’ details in your CRM you can start to use marketing automation to continue to engage and nurture those leads.
Lead nurture is the engage phase of Inbound; where you should deliver timely, relevant and useful content to your leads based on their behaviour, interests and preferences. This where a CRM is an invaluable tool, as it will enable you to segment your audience and customise the journey for each of your prospective customers.
Lead Scoring & Qualifying
Part of this segmentation process is scoring and qualification, both of which are an ongoing process designed to continue to segment, route and engage with users as they move through your nurture workflows.
Not only can scoring be used to flag when a contact has become ‘sales ready’ and therefore be handed over to a sales team, but it can also be used to segment your audience based on where they are in the buyer’s journey. It allows you to deliver content that is relevant to the awareness, consideration or decision phases of their journey and assist in moving them along to the next stage.
Developing Brand Advocates
Once a lead has converted and is now a customer, the Inbound methodology focuses on continuing to engage through a variety of channels, including chat bots, live chat, content and emails. The goal is to ensure that the customer experience is every bit as good as the lead nurture experience so you can start to develop brand advocates.
This is a key part of the flywheel model. Brand advocates will drive awareness for your brand and feed back into the attract phase; perpetuating a cyclical momentum behind your marketing activities. These brand advocates might just be customers who have completed a satisfaction survey which has automatically been delivered following their purchase. If their satisfaction survey returns a positive response the system can automatically prompt them to leave a Google review. The review then adds to the first phase, attracting new potential customers to become engaged with your business.
By automating these types of engagement, it can free up your marketing and customer service teams to be producing more great content and continuing to drive more energy into the flywheel.
How to Improve your Inbound Marketing strategy
To improve your Inbound Marketing strategy, you first need to identify where your weak areas are. For example, are you missing a certain type of content? Are visitors using the search functionality on your site and not finding what they’re looking for? Is part of your user journey causing friction that is destroying your conversion rate?
Understand Your Audience and Customer Journeys
The first thing you will need to get in order is mapping out your customer journeys. If you don’t already have them, you will need to create personas for each of your target customers. Find out more about how to create personas using the Jobs to be done method.
With a clear idea of who your prospects are you can map out their journey from awareness through to customer and brand advocate. Take a look at our guide on mapping out the different stages of the customer journey.
You will also need to ensure you understand what your prospective customers are looking for. This might take the form of keyword research, competitor analysis or asking your existing customers. Discover how to go beyond keyword research to truly understand your audience.
Harness the Power of Marketing Automation
Because high quality content is at the heart of Inbound, we want to free up as much time as possible for you and your team to be able to create the best content they can. Investing time and effort in the setup of a CRM like HubSpot will not only give you a centralised database where you can see all of your prospects and customers, but it will also enable you to harness the power of marketing automation.
Getting started with Inbound Marketing
Inbound Marketing is an ongoing marketing activity that can include a wide range of tactics and tools. From the outset it can seem a little daunting, attempting to build a knowledge hub on your website that provides enough depth to demonstrate your authority on the subject or developing a highly targeted series of automated nurture workflows from scratch.
To make it a little less daunting we’ve put together a list of areas to focus on when getting started with your Inbound strategy.
- Find out what your customers are searching for. You can use tools like answerthepublic.com, perform keyword research around your product or service or you can reach out existing customers to find out. Whichever method you chose, this step is arguably the most important, if you don’t know what queries you are trying to answer then you’re not going to be able to answer them!
- Next you will need to compile your content ideas into a content plan. This plan will form the backbone of everything you do and needs to factor in your available resource for producing the content (be that written, video or otherwise) and should factor in the time it will take to produce a good depth of content.
- Now you can start producing the content and posting it on your website.
- There are a lot of resources on our website to help you get your Inbound marketing up and running effectively but if you need some help, just get in touch.
Further reading on Inbound Marketing
Want to find out more about how Inbound Marketing could work for your business? Take a look at our Inbound Service page.