what-does-inbound-marketing-really-mean

Inbound Marketing – A New Approach to Marketing

The days of cold calling are behind us. These dated outbound marketing methodologies such as buying email lists and calling every company in town have become less and less effective over the years. There’s been a major shift occurring over the past ten years in the marketing world that has popularized inbound marketing. The problem is, there’s so much hype around the term that it’s often times misconstrued.

Before jumping into what inbound marketing is, let’s take a step back and discuss where it came from.  Inbound Marketing, a term popularized in 2006 by HubSpot, focuses on creating content that appeals to your customers. By aligning your company’s messaging with what your customers are interested in, you will naturally pull them to your company’s digital properties.

That sounds simple enough…

At a high level of thought, inbound marketing is simple. The most challenging part is not understanding the concept, but strategizing, executing, and measuring the success of the campaign. Many C-levels’ first reaction to this concept is to have an intern start a blog or post on social media every once in awhile.

We’ve completely skipped the strategic element, and we’ve clearly botched on execution. Let’s take a step back and really get to understand the methodology as defined by HubSpot.

The methodology…

HubSpot Inbound Methodology Process: Attract, Convert, Close, Delight

Source: HubSpot Inbound Marketing

This is fairly straightforward visualization. These four stages allow for us to create funnels that turn strangers into promoters. It’s worth noting that there’s a great deal of terms used that may not be clear in the context of inbound marketing. However, HubSpot has a glossary that covers nearly all of the terminology used.

Stage 1: Attract

To quote HubSpot “We don’t want just any traffic to our site, we want the right traffic.” This is the reason why strategy plays a huge role in your inbound marketing strategy. It all starts with defining your buyer personas. We need to know exactly who we’re creating content for, so that we can provide as much value as possible to turn these strangers into visitors.

The most popular methods for bringing in visitors are search engine optimization (SEO), social media messaging, and content marketing (blogging). These platforms represent the voice of your brand from a digital perspective, so you need to define rules for how you speak, what you share, and what your graphic assets look like.

The key is not to spend time talking about your company, products or services. This is your opportunity to connect with people and provide value for free. Talk about industry-relevant news, a new free tool your company created, or a how-to guide.

Stage 2: Convert

Once you have visitors on your website, the next step is to turn them into leads. This is an extremely valuable piece of information to collect, and many internet users aren’t willing to just give it away.

It’s now time to create content that can be given to visitors in exchange for their information. Often times this comes in the form of downloadable guides, tip sheets, infographics, whitepapers, and eBooks. Your offer must be valuable to your visitor, so this is not the time to have an intern write up a short how-to guide.

The most popular use-case for turning visitors into leads is through the use of a Landing Page. The link to HubSpot’s glossary leads to a free download in exchange for some contact information.

HubSpot has over a hundred of these landing pages related to online marketing as a whole. If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can see their entire Marketing Resource Library here; all of which is free in exchange for your contact information.

Stage 3: Close

You’re collecting contact information from relevant visitors, but this last step is the most crucial to the sale. Everyone expects a lightning fast response nowadays, but often times it’s not feasible to have a sales team working 24/7.

This is when your CRM and use of Marketing Automation come into play. To stay top of mind and not let a lead go cold, you need to send occasional touch points. This typically comes in the form of email automation, where you can create the emails ahead of time that automatically get sent to your leads at intervals of your choosing. Here’s a great infographic from Pardot on marketing automation and drip campaigns.

Make sure that your emails are personalized. When collecting information, consider asking for their full name, company, and position so you can incorporate those into your email campaigns. No one feels special receiving an email that starts, “Hello Client,” from a website that you gave your first and last names to.

Stage 4: Delight

Many companies end their sales cycle at the sale, and while that makes sense, there’s another step that you’re missing out on. Turning your customers into proponents of your brand opens you up to their audience as well.

If you haven’t read it already, The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz discusses how to take your best clients and generate clients just like them. The inbound methodology pushes you to do the same by staying in contact with your customer after they’ve signed the check.

By continuing to provide customers with value, you open yourself up into another sales channel that is known to be the highest converting of all – personal referrals. People that love your product will buy it again, but people who love your company will tell all their friends about it.