The Nuts And Bolts Of Inbound Marketing
If you’re looking to scale your business and outbound marketing isn’t delivering (no surprises there), there’s only one thing left to do:
It’s Time To Go Inbound.
Because if those Oscar-worthy TV ads still haven’t got you the results you were hoping for, chances are they’re not going to.
After all, you need sales leads worth pursuing, not artsy types calling to compliment you on your latest ad. Compliments might fluff up your tail feathers, but they don’t pay the bills. Customers do.
What is Inbound Marketing?
"Marketing activities that bring visitors in are called inbound marketing. SEO, Content Marketing, and Social Media marketing are the most common form of inbound marketing tactics." From Digital Marketing Case Studies
The main goal of inbound marketing is to bring in customers using various methods then convert them and using same method try to keep them as long as possible. The whole process is passive and it doesn't interfere with user's attention like most of the convention outbound marketing methods do.
Inbound vs Outbound. What’s The Difference?
Outbound marketing is in your face.
It interrupts and it annoys.
It’s the TV ad you use as an opportunity for a fridge run.
It’s the flyer you throw in the bin without even looking at it
It’s the radio spot you mute because you’d rather not hear that jingle again.
Sometimes, depending on the audience, this can work. But wouldn’t you rather have a strategy that produces real results?
Inbound Marketing Is Subtle
It draws people in.
Quietly, cleverly, and with creative aplomb.
It’s stealthy in its approach, but it’s not deceitful (at least, it doesn’t have to be for it to work).
Inbound is about making something that’s so honest and bold and magnificent that people will have no choice but to want to take a closer look.
Inbound Marketing Works (only if you have a plan)
Let’s start by thinking about this: if your customers are online, then so are all your competitors.
Nowadays people not only have more to choose from in terms of products, services, and so on, but they also have less time to consider their options.
This means you have seconds (literally) to earn their trust.
Miss the boat and they’ll have sailed over to the next website - which also happens to be your competitor.
You have to grab their attention before that can happen.
Recognising the magnitude of the problem at hand, you’ll probably feel compelled to act.
And that’s precisely when things can go awry.
Before you know it you’ll be blowing your budget on ads and email lists, spraying and praying left, right and centre in the hope that it’ll earn you some new leads.
Along with being really exhausting, this approach is noisy, ineffective and completely disjointed.
What You Need Is A Plan
Something rock solid and actionable that’s also guaranteed to deliver results.
It’s time for a little inbound marketing, or, as I like to call it: the magic methodology of the digital age.
Where outbound have you desperately rifling the net for your customers, inbound will see you pulling them towards you with great content that they actually want to read and engage with.
In order for inbound marketing to work, it needs to be backed by a lead-gen focused strategy that follows these three steps:
- Attract visitors
- Convert leads
- Close customers
Content is your drawcard; it’s how you entice new visitors to your website and how you keep them there long enough to find out more about how your business can help them.
Good content though, is no longer enough to stand out from the crowd.
With everything that’s available online these days, readers are more discerning than ever. If you want to be noticed (in a good way) you have to place a huge emphasis on developing great content that is on-message and has a purpose.
That purpose could be anything: ranking for a specific keyword, showcasing someone in your company as an industry expert or providing a template answer to a popular question.
Whatever it is, you can’t move ahead with your content until you have the purpose crystal clear in your mind.
What exactly is purpose?
It’s your reason for producing a piece of content in the first place.
Think of it as your “why”.
You can be as funny and interesting as you like, but if there’s no “why” the reader won’t hang around for very long.
With fiction, the purpose is to entertain, with inbound marketing the purpose is to generate new leads that convert into paying customers.
But while you need to be thinking about this, your reader should not.
In other words, don’t be blatantly sales-y.
Your blog posts – along with whatever other content you create - should entice, rather than force.
Start by answering these four questions and then tailor your content accordingly:
- Where is it going?
- Who is it targeting
- What do you want the reader to do after consuming it?
As your online office, your website needs to take centre stage. It’s how you attract visitors and convert leads, so don’t just slap it together as an afterthought.
There’s no reason to break the bank, but this is definitely one area you shouldn’t skimp on. Just because your cousin writes funny emails doesn’t mean they’ll be any good at website copy. Hire a professional and get it done right.
The same goes for your web design.
This is your chance to make a good first impression, don’t blow it for the sake of saving a few coins.
If you hire someone on the cheap and they end up building a site that doesn’t meet your business requirements, you’re just going to end up paying a second person to fix it.
Don’t make the mistake of seeing your website is a once-off task on your to-do list either. It’s very much an ongoing project.
Launching it is just laying the groundwork. The real building begins once you start attracting visitors and seeing how they react.
It’s a constantly evolving platform, you need to make sure you’re continually testing and reviewing how it’s working to support your strategy.
Automated marketing software
Your campaign is also going to need a launch pad slash virtual HQ, somewhere you can manage the entire process easily and efficiently without ever feeling like you don’t know what’s going on.
A 2016 MIT study found that using HubSpot will result in 3x more leads per month within one year. As ROI goes, that’s pretty impressive.
You can’t just sit around waiting for HubSpot (or whichever platform you decide to go with) to do all your heavy lifting though. Put some effort into the process and design strategies that form the holy trinity of inbound marketing: bespoke, creative and effective.
From there it’s an ongoing process of reviewing and adapting your objectives on a monthly basis to ensure you’re meeting them.
Let’s take a look at the individual steps
Like most things, a successful inbound marketing campaign requires careful planning.
Luckily, HubSpot created a practical guide that outlines exactly what you need to do, with additional links at the end of each section to ensure you have as much information at hand as possible.
The eight step process looks like this:
- Identify your audience First and foremost, find out who you’re talking to.If you don’t know who your marketing efforts are aimed at, it’s unlikely they’ll be successful.Baby boomers will respond to something that millennials won’t and vice versa.
- Set benchmarks and goals There’s no point in saying you want "more sales" or "more money".That’s a wish, not a goal.You need to be specific so that you can measure your progress.For example: "generate 1,000 leads who are interested in inbound marketing by December 31, 2016."
- Choose keywords and optimize for search It’s time to get your SEO cap on and figure out which keywords you want to rank for.Once you’ve identified them it’s a matter of putting them in all the right places (headlines, content, URLs, etc.). Just don’t go overboard. Google doesn’t take kindly to keyword stuffing and your readers will see right through it as well.
- Create a tracking URL Doing a post-mortem at the end of your campaign will help you to see what worked and what didn’t.There’s no point in shooting in the dark if you don’t have to and a tracking URL will help you not have to.
- Develop offers and landing pages With the foundation of your marketing plan in place, you can turn your efforts to creating an offer. This will entice potential customers to your virtual doorstep.A well designed landing page will get them through the front door.
- Choose your promotion channels and get the word out It’s time to start shouting from the hilltops (as it were).How do you plan on getting the word out?There are plenty of options to choose from, such as email, blog posts social media, paid search and so on. Ultimately, what you decide to go with will depend largely on your resources and budget.
- Nurture leads generated through your offers So you’ve generated a new lead and you’ve converted it.Well done!But it’s not time to break out the champers just yet.First you need to nudge more of your prospective customers along the path with a succession of follow-up emails.Done right, they’ll eventually be happy to take a call from someone on your sales team. If that goes well then you can celebrate.
- Report on your results Reporting is the last piece of the puzzle.With your campaign up and running, it’s time to take another look at your original goals to see how you're doing.Analytics will show you what changes you need to make to improve your results.
The more you delve into inbound marketing, the more nuts and bolts you’ll discover it has. But don’t let that thought overwhelm you. While it can be complex and in-depth, it’s important to remember that inbound marketing is still a three-step process. You want to attract visitors, convert leads and close customers.
In addition to her role as founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, Heather Baker is also an inbound marketing aficionado, PR pundit and prescriptive grammarian. In short, she’d sell her grandmother’s best china for a good story.