Inbound marketing is designed to nurture a customer’s relationship with your business. The Ascent breaks down the four phases of inbound marketing implementation.
Marketing your business generates new customers and increases your revenue.
But when many people think of marketing, their minds turn to TV commercials or those annoying banner ads on websites that become even more irritating when they pop up and block the article you were reading.
Yet that article you wanted to see could also be a form of marketing, a form in which the company entices you with desirable content.
That’s what inbound marketing is for: customers come to you so you don’t have to chase them away. As a result, your business has the opportunity to build lasting relationships with your customers.
It’s a powerful concept and one of the reasons the approach has taken off over the past 20 years with the advent of the internet.
Let’s explore how inbound marketing can help your business.
Overview: what is inbound marketing?
At its core, inbound marketing allows your business to attract and engage with customers in a way that builds trust and delivers value. It is a customer-centric strategy designed to deepen a customer’s relationship with your business over time.
This relationship building is achieved through a variety of digital tactics. Examples include search engine optimization (SEO), video tutorials and webinars, podcasts, and social media posts.
If the content you provide benefits the consumer, they will be motivated to buy because they are already deriving value from their initial engagements with your organization.
Depending on how big you want your inbound marketing strategy to be, you may need a dedicated marketing team to manage these efforts, such as someone responsible for maintaining the company’s presence on social networks.
Inbound marketing takes time to develop good content, nurture leads, and create evangelists for your business.
But if you’re looking to grow your customers, increase retention, use it as part of your business development efforts, or expand your B2B marketing strategies, inbound marketing is for you.
Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing: what’s the difference?
A word on the difference between inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
While inbound marketing is about attracting customers to your business, outbound marketing is about your business spreading its message to the world, usually through advertising.
Getting your company’s message in front of consumers through outbound marketing is expensive. Buying advertising is rarely cheap and the results can be elusive as consumers tend to ignore advertisements.
In contrast, inbound marketing can be inexpensive or even free, and because you’re building relationships, you’re also building the lifetime value of your customers.
What is the inbound marketing process?
Implementing inbound marketing has four phases.
As a pioneer, you need to know your customers well. Use a tool like a buyer persona, which is a representation of the customers in each of your customer segments, to help crystallize and communicate to your organization the types of customers you are targeting.
Also set measurable goals. For example, if your goal is to increase sales leads by 10% in the next quarter, this quantifiable goal lets you see how you’re progressing.
Now let’s take a look at each step of the inbound marketing process.
Every inbound marketing strategy starts here. It’s about getting consumers who aren’t yet customers, called prospects, to visit your website through tactics like SEO, educational blog posts, and social media presence.
For example, using search engines like Google has become a key step in the consumer buying process, and SEO helps your website appear higher in search results.
This makes it easier for prospects to find your business and increases the number of visitors to your site.
At this point, the focus is on converting leads to leads. This means collecting contact information to nurture those leads. For example, if your company offers business-to-business (B2B) offers, you can use B2B sales.
Other methods include an option to sign up for a newsletter or obtain a white paper (an in-depth informational document on a topic) in exchange for name and email information.
Once you’ve narrowed leads down to leads, the next step is to close the sale. This is done by helping customers find the right solution to solve their problem. You can do this by having a customer service team answer questions or by posting a blog post comparing different products.
Once the sale is made, you’re done, right? Not enough.
The power of inbound marketing lies in its ability to turn customers into loyal subscribers who refer your business to others and keep coming back. The fun stage is about this evolution from a customer to a fan of your business.
There are many approaches to achieve this. Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that works well here; once a customer has made a purchase, sending occasional emails about special promotions or new offers can generate recurring business activity.
Another tactic is a loyalty program offering rewards to repeat customers.
Inbound Marketing Examples
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at some real-life inbound marketing examples.
Chewy sells pet products and one of the inbound marketing tactics he uses is his website and SEO to drive sales. SEO attracts consumers to your website; a good site makes them convert.
Chewy did a masterful job with SEO. Let’s see how Chewy pulls it off here:
- SEO facilitates the search for the company: Type keywords like “pet food” and “dog food” into Google, and you’ll see Chewy.com pop up at the top of the results. This is because Chewy has optimized his site to appear in front of many rivals, which gives him an edge when it comes to driving pet owners to his site.
- Good content helps customers decide: Once the consumer arrives at Chewy.com, they are greeted with rich content to help them make purchasing decisions. When choosing a dog food product on the Chewy site, you can see the product page has a detailed description, feeding instructions, nutritional information, videos, key benefits and customer reviews.
Birchbox offers consumers a personalized box of personal care and beauty samples to try before purchasing the full-size versions.
Originally, Birchbox used TV ads to advertise their service, but that approach became too expensive. So the company shifted to inbound marketing, using social media as its primary tactic. Social media enables deeper engagements with customers.
Social media naturally lends itself to conversations. This allows businesses to build relationships with customers.
Here’s how Birchbox did it:
- Offer useful information: Birchbox uses online videos to offer advice and educate customers on topics such as makeup tips, and uses livestream sessions to allow customers to ask questions.
- Adapt the approach to the social media channel: Birchbox publishes longer video content on YouTube. On Facebook, videos are shorter and include text because most videos are watched without sound. On Pinterest, where photos are prevalent, Birchbox groups its photos into useful topics, such as hair tips and eye makeup.
Should you use a CRM for your inbound marketing?
A business needs to know where each prospect or customer is in the inbound marketing process. Otherwise, it is not possible to take this person to the next stage.
This is where customer relationship management software, or CRM, comes in.
Here are some ways CRMs can help you:
- Identify prospects: CRM software tracks actions taken by prospects, such as how often they open your email or visit the website. Use this data to segment prospects in the CRM so you know which ones to pursue and which ones are unlikely to turn into customers.
- Track your leads: Your business needs a way to track leads who have provided contact information. Hosting this information in a CRM makes it easy to track who has asked to know more and who needs follow-up to close the sale.
- Use automation: Sending follow-ups via email is a good tactic, but without automation this task can be time consuming. Many CRMs offer the ability to send automated emails and schedule these emails to be sent at regular intervals.
- A unified view of your customers: A CRM serves as a repository for all customer data that the company’s teams can access. This single view of the customer ensures a seamless experience when engaging with your business, even if different employees manage each engagement.
Given its usefulness, CRM software is a key tool in the inbound marketing process. HubSpot’s CRM can be a good choice for getting your feet wet since it offers a free basic version.
Final tip for inbound marketing beginners
To achieve successful inbound marketing results, the key is the quality of content you create. It should be entertaining, informative and valuable to your customers.
Content that is too commercial or focused on promoting your business will fall flat.
Put the customer’s needs first and your inbound marketing strategy will turn prospects into customers for life.