The principle of inbound marketing is to meet your customers at any stage of their buying journey with valuable, tailored content.
If outbound marketing can be described as pushing content outwards onto your customers, initiating the conversation with the intention of making a sale. Inbound marketing then is the methodology of pulling customers and prospects into your brand, answering their questions, and boosting engagement.
Inbound marketing does however complement outbound strategies, so when both are used in tandem, the chances for growth are multiplied significantly.
If we consider that 81% of consumers conduct research online before buying, we can appreciate the notion of creating customer-centric content that brings customers to us, rather than always trying to chase them.
What is the inbound marketing methodology?
The inbound methodology is built on three pillars; Attract, Engage and Delight.
It’s a self-sustaining loop that puts customer satisfaction at the centre.
When customers can succeed in having their challenges met and desires fulfilled by a product or service, this success translates into referrals, lead generation and more customers.
And around and around the flywheel goes!
This momentum serves as the foundation for the flywheel. HubSpot describes the flywheel as being representative of how an organisation can grow by delivering outstanding customer experiences.
The premise is this: strategies that propel your momentum, things like customer acquisition and retention, keep the flywheel spinning through positive customer experiences. Anything that slows your momentum and the flywheel from spinning, is considered friction.
HubSpot cites that hand-offs between teams are one of the leading causes of friction which in turn can give negative customer experiences, thus slowing the flywheel down. Let’s look at the inbound marketing stages of attract, engage and delight in more detail with some examples of how to approach them:
What are the stages of inbound marketing?
The first stage of inbound marketing is to attract your customer.
Wooing strangers online is no easy feat these days. As marketing techniques develop year on year, businesses are able to gather more precise data on their customers. This data leads to better insights which inform more accurate strategies for how best to reach a company’s target audience.
What all of this means is that in terms of how to reach the ideal customer, your business is unlikely to be privy to anything that competitors don’t know too. Because of this almost-level playing field (some do it better than others), businesses have to stand out on the merits of their content.
So how should you go about attracting customers to your website? Here are some of the best-used inbound marketing strategies:
Search engine optimisation or SEO is the practice of optimising your content so that it provides answers and useful information to your customers, based on keyword association.
SEO is a dense field so we’re oversimplifying it for ease but in relation to attracting customers, you want to use keyword research to identify your target audience’s most commonly used phrases or search queries and pepper these words throughout your blogs and hashtags on social media.
Google ranks based on relevancy and pushes companies higher up the search results page if they offer what the customer is looking for.
A blog is a perfect way to build brand authority in your niche, rank higher on Google results and attract customers. Creating informative and educational content, that taps into customer pain points and provides solutions, gives you a competitive edge.
Blogs have a lot of flexibility too. From writing about basic introductions on industry-relevant topics to providing extensive guides that give specialist insights, blogs remain one of the best sources for attracting new customers.
Further to this, blogs can be repurposed for other mediums like video marketing or turning them into social media posts. Blogging could be considered the original channel of inbound marketing.
Video marketing is used to increase brand awareness, encourage virality and even help improve SEO. Platforms like YouTube and TikTok are built around video content but we’re seeing how non-native video platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, are starting to prioritise video in their algorithms too.
40% of people prefer to consume video content, so it’s no surprise to see businesses leveraging it for their inbound marketing.
Social media marketing is a proven inbound marketing force. Again, social media for businesses works best when you create value-driven and informative content that positions your company as an authority.
It’s not about cramming sales pitches and constantly trying to convert sales, people are generally unresponsive to those tactics. 4.48 billion people own a social media account so there’s no shortage of prospects!
Choosing the right platform to market on comes down to your business’s target audience, so be sure to look into which one performs best for your industry.
Now that you’ve managed to pull your prospective customer in, it’s time to help them along to the next stage of the journey; getting them to engage.
This stage also encompasses the convert and close stage, where the opportunity to turn leads into buying customers happens. Some definitions include these as separate inbound marketing stages but we’ll include them here under the one pillar.
The key in this stage is to make your customers want to complete an action.
For businesses using sales reps and customer service teams to entice customers, having a solid inbound call strategy can be the difference between a lead and a paying customer.
These agents are focused on providing solution-based information and maximising value for the customer. Building strong relationships is key to long-term success and the groundwork is often laid here, with the initial follow-up call or enquiry. This is all about empathising with customers rather than pushing the hard sell.
CTAs on your website
A call-to-action or CTA as it’s known, are the buttons and links on a webpage that asks the customer to complete an action.
"Buy Now", "Find Out More", "Sign Up", these are all common examples of CTAs.
To make sure you’re getting the most from your CTAs, be sure to make them highly visible (different colours etc) and placed strategically throughout the website and subsequent pages.
The landing page is the first place a customer arrives after clicking a link to your website. A crucial step in the inbound marketing process. First impressions are everything so this is where you want to position an offer with a benefit-laden explanation for how your product or service can improve the customer’s life.
Landing pages are a great way to capture contact information (such as name, email, and location) which can be used for other forms of marketing, such as email. Tips for making landing pages stand out are to make sure the copy is focused and relevant to the offer, use attractive images and graphics, or embed content like explainer videos. A good landing page should emphasise value and entice visitors.
Similar to a landing page, pop-up forms are a great method for capturing data and generating leads. There are many types of pop-ups depending on what it is you’re offering but the key difference to a landing page is that pop-up forms show up at predetermined times, based on what your visitor is doing.
A pop-up might kick in when the visitor scrolls past a certain point, spends a certain amount of time on a page, or any number of other triggers.
Email as an inbound marketing strategy works a little differently than outbound. Here, we’re specifically talking about using email marketing as a way to keep existing customers informed of updates and changes within your company using organic content.
Not emailing cold prospects. These might be emails about new products, newsletters, events and so on but the recipients are qualified leads who have already signed up for marketing communications.
Email marketing as an inbound strategy also applies to the final stage, Delight.
Now we come to the third and final stage of our inbound marketing methodology: delight.
Perhaps the most important stage, delighting your customer means giving them exemplary experiences which drive referrals, retention and revenue. Happy customers are loyal customers and they account for roughly 20% of new sales. They’re also a lot cheaper than acquiring new customers, 5x times as much, so best to keep them smiling!
(As we mentioned earlier, email marketing can be used here for the same purposes as engaging customers, so we’ll skip over it in this section.) Here are a few examples of inbound marketing strategies to delight your customers:
Surveys are a surefire way to help businesses understand what works and what doesn’t. There’s nothing complicated about this inbound marketing method, just ask customers for their feedback!
Most people are happy to share positive experiences but occasionally a little incentive doesn’t hurt. Prize draws and competitions are a great way to boost survey completions if you see a dip in uptake.
Smart content by HubSpot delivers content that varies depending on the customer’s specific behaviours and demographic. By tailoring content to the user, smart content adds a deeper level of personalisation that increases engagement, is more relevant and offers more value to the recipient. A great tool for improving inbound marketing.
Social media listening
Social media listening refers to how businesses analyse the conversations and trends happening in and around their industry. Companies can gauge how their audience feels, what’s important to them, and what challenges they face while providing helpful answers or suggestions that improve the experience.
These insights help to shape future marketing campaigns and decisions which makes social listening an excellent inbound marketing that supports outbound marketing too.
So there we have it! Inbound marketing explained and its methodology to attract, engage and delight your customers.
At the heart of inbound marketing is the desire to provide value to customers. It’s about pulling them towards your brand, rather than reaching out and using helpful content to empower the customer at each stage of their journey.
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