Within the marketing community the term ‘inbound marketing’ is becoming more widely used. Admittedly, it is a term more recognised in North America than in the UK, but it is only a matter of time before it is the accepted phraseology for this discipline of marketing.
But what does it mean?
Well, one way to answer that question is to look at traditional marketing methods that companies use, such as cold calling, door knocking, leaflet drops, newspaper advertising and the like. All of these advertising methods are interruptive outbound activities that aim to divert the recipient from their current activity and state of mind, to looking at or considering the advertiser's message. They are often done in a blanket fashion with little or no regard to targeting, or to the stage of the buyer’s journey that the recipient may be currently at (if they are in the journey at all!). The whole process is very much seller centric, focusing on the fact that the seller wants to sell more and uses the same indiscriminate message broadcasted to everyone.
These marketing activities have become less and less effective over time as the buyer has more access to information than ever before, they are now educating themselves prior to contacting the vendor. Think about it, if you have a problem or need, the first thing that you (often) do is jump onto Google (other search engines are available) and search for an answer to your question or problem. You’ll gather and assimilate the information that you find and you’ll delve deeper and deeper until you have an understanding of how to answer the problem or satisfy the need yourself and if it involves a third party product or service provider, you’ll look at a number of different provider’s websites comparing their offerings.
Then, only after you’ve done this research, will you contact your chosen provider. At this stage you’ll generally have a good idea of what you need and how much you’re likely to have to pay. The whole buyer’s journey is certainly now under the control of the buyer.
So, this is where inbound marketing comes in. Inbound marketing is the process of providing the information that the buyer is looking for, at the right time, and then nurturing them down the buyer’s funnel, by being the company that’s the most useful and the most helpful. That way, when the buyer is ready to buy, the inbound marketer is the one that is most likely to get a call.
Another way to think about inbound marketing methodology is that instead of the seller going out to hunt for customers, the buyer is hunting for the solution provider. It is the inbound marketer’s job to make sure that they are easily found with the most relevant and useful information.
The Inbound Marketing Model
Now we understand what inbound marketing is, let’s look at the basic model of inbound marketing campaigns. It has four stages:
At this stage, we’re looking to convert strangers to visitors of your website. You’ll optimise yourwebsite pages, create interesting content that answers the questions that your searchers have. You’ll take into account the stage of the buyer’s journey that each persona is at and you’ll tailor your content to appeal to them. As well as climbing up the natural organic search engine listings that come with providing quality content, you’ll want to promote your content using social media and paid search.
When a visitor lands on your website, your aim is to get them to take action. Arguably one of the most valuable actions that they can take is to opt in to your database. This then gives you more control over your marketing actions, enabling you to remarket to them using email, Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter Ads and more. This is done by offering a “lead magnet” such as an eBook, a whitepaper or a free webinar - something that is significant enough value that the user is willing to give you some details in exchange for the content. Once they’re in your database, you’ll be able to send them more relevant messages, based upon the actions that they have taken on your website and based upon the original information that they have requested.
Once they’re in your database, you’ll be able to send them more relevant messages, based upon the actions that they have taken on your website and based upon the original information that they have requested. You’ll nurture them down the buyer’s journey, encouraging them to take the next action in your sales sequence. Based upon their actions, you can lead score the contact and work with your sales team to identify the hot leads and the ones that are worthy of spending more time on. At the right time, the sales team can take ownership of the lead and continue working with the contact in order to progress any opportunity through to sale. It’s important that the sales and marketing team align to form a ‘smarketing’ team feeding back to one another about the status of each lead and continually improving the process
Once the lead has converted to a customer, the journey doesn’t end. We want the customer to become a repeat customer and we look at strategies to get the customer buying more often as well as buying more products and services. We want them to become advocates and get them to shout about your offering, helping you feed more people into the top of the funnel.
An inbound marketing strategy can transform your sales and marketing process, taking away the drudgery of prospecting that most salespeople shy away from, allowing them to concentrate their time and effort on what they should be doing, which is working with qualified prospects who are more likely to buy.
For more details on how to setup an inbound marketing campaign, we’ve created an eBook that looks at each stage in more detail.