How many ads do you see every day, peddling products that don’t interest you? There’s a good chance it’s so many that you don’t even notice them anymore. In the face of constant bombardment by advertisers, consumers have become immune to traditional, or ‘outbound’ marketing and that means diminishing returns for brands. The answer? Instead of trying to approach the consumer directly, brands are getting the consumer to come to them. ‘Inbound Marketing’ is an approach that ‘draws’ potential customers in instead of overtly promoting a product or service. As we’ll show below, the results can be remarkable. We’ll be explaining how inbound marketing works, when to use it and how to turbo-charge it (Maverick-style, of course). First, let’s start with some stats (spoiler: inbound marketing works).
- Inbound marketing delivers 54 percent more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound marketing. (HubSpot)
- B2B companies that blog generate 67 percent more leads per month than those that don’t. (Social Media B2B)
- Inbound marketing costs 62 percent less per lead than traditional outbound marketing. (Mashable)
- Brands that create 15 blog posts per month average 1,200 new leads per month. (HubSpot)
If that hasn’t whetted your appetite for inbound marketing, there’s no pleasing you.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing technique that involves using valuable, relevant content and experiences to draw customers to you. This can be via a number of marketing channels, but often involves content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media. For example, a plumbing firm might attract potential clients by publishing how-to articles on basic plumbing, YouTube videos about correct plumbing practice and newsletters about developments in the industry. The goal is to reach further, drive more quality traffic and boost engagement with customers.
The term ‘inbound marketing’ was originally coined by HubSpot in 2006 and described as “the best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.” HubSpot continues to offer this handy free inbound marketing course.
Inbound vs outbound marketing vs content marketing: what’s the difference?
Before we go any further, let’s just back up and take a look at the differences between inbound and outbound marketing. As we mentioned above, inbound is about pulling customers in, while outbound is about pushing out your brand’s offering.
For starters, inbound focuses on high quality content, whereas outbound is focused on sales. Inbound builds brand awareness and long-term relationships. Outbound converts new users. Inbound saves you money on marketing, while outbound involves outlay. Then, there’s media: owned and earned versus paid.
Inbound uses owned and earned media. By owned, we mean channels such as your website, blog and social media feeds – ones that you control. By earned media we mean the kind that you don’t own, but which covers your brand, product or service as a result of your hard work. This can be news sites and general online buzz on social media and forums. Think mentions of your brand and product, and conversations about them. Earned media also includes offline channels such as newspapers and magazines. Attention from earned media is what happens when you get your inbound marketing campaign right.
Outbound marketing tactics, meanwhile, include paid media, PPC, display advertising, paid emails and traditional offline advertising. It’s worth noting that social media advertising, although more commonly used for outbound marketing, can be drafted in to support inbound marketing campaigns. For instance, a well-targeted Facebook ad can be a highly effective way of getting your content in front of the right eyes.
So, that’s the difference between inbound and outbound. But where does content marketing come into it? Although inbound and content marketing are often used synonymously, they’re not quite the same thing.
Content marketing can include:
- Blog posts
Inbound marketing is broader – it includes content, but also the tools and strategies that encourage people to enter an inbound marketing funnel that leads to conversions and loyalty. These can include:
- Sign-up forms
- Effective Calls To Action (CTAs)
- Smart pop-ups
- SEO – search-friendly text and descriptions
We’ll talk more about these in a moment.
The fundamentals of inbound marketing
Successful inbound marketing follows five key principles. Broadly speaking, these tenets include Attraction; Conversion; Lead scoring and nurturing; Loyalty; and Analysis, but similar models exist. For example, HubSpot divides these stages into three: Attract, Engage, Delight.
You want to drive traffic to your brand’s website – but not just any old traffic. You are aiming for visitors with high potential to become customers. A good way to achieve this is by establishing an ideal ‘buyer persona’ and building your inbound marketing around this. Your content marketing should offer relevant, useful information for your ideal customer and help them solve their problems. Use social media to diffuse and publicise your content so it reaches the right users. You should also think about search engine optimisation for your website and make sure it is appearing high in search results. Just remember that this is not about aggressive “buy now” messaging. The goal is to build trust and provide genuine value.
A user has seen your post on social media, followed the link, read the content and is now visiting your website. This is it – your chance to turn them into a lead, and potentially, a customer. A classic strategy is to start by asking them to leave their data in an online form. To encourage them, create an incentive – like access to more valuable content. Other conversion tactics include product demos and possibly personal interaction via phone or online chat. Once you’ve got that precious data safely tucked away, it’s onto the next stage.
3. Scoring and nurturing
With any luck, your inbound marketing campaign will have generated lots of juicy leads. Now you need to communicate with them – and here, marketing automation is your friend. With leadscoring, you can create a system of evaluation that spots the leads most likely to become customers. Leadnurturing lets you automatically send communications to these leads that are tailored to their preferences.
You attracted a lead and converted them by sending regular communications using marketing automation software… Boom! You’ve got yourself a happy customer. However, this is only the start. To keep that customer coming back you need to build customer loyalty. There are various strategies including newsletters, offers and incentives but ultimately, it’s about giving them attention and TLC. But hang on a second. Why go to all this effort? Because it’s cheaper to keep hold of a current customer than it is to win a new one.
5. Analysis and improvement
You’ve built your brand’s profile, generated leads and won new customers – but this is no time to sit back on your laurels. Now you need to analyse the results of your inbound marketing strategy and compare them to your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Look at the data carefully to identify where the strengths and weaknesses lie. With this insight, you can adapt and improve your strategy so it’s even more effective.
Inbound marketing strategies
Now you know the principles, it’s time to devise your strategy. There are loads of options to explore, mostly in the digital marketing arena – here are a few to consider.
Andrew Davis, author and marketing expert said, “Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” And that pretty much sums up the principle of content marketing. This strategy is about using relevant and authentic communications, including blogs and articles, to bring a brand to life. By providing material that a reader finds genuinely interesting, useful or engaging, you can attract them, build a relationship and explain how your product or service meets their particular need. The rewards are long-term revenue generation (ker-ching!) if you do it right.
If you want any persuasion, you only have to look at the stats: content marketing delivers three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing for 62% less spend. Furthermore, 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content. There’s just one thing to remember: content marketing is a far longer-burn model than traditional advertising. Don’t expect instant results.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
If you really want to bring customers to your website, you need make sure it ranks highly in the search engine result pages (SERPs) of Google and other search engines. To achieve this, you can use SEO: Search Engine Optimisation. Search engines decide which websites are the most relevant to a search query using complex algorithms. Some elements are out of your hands, but there are plenty you can influence. A good start is your meta data – the information that your website displays to search engines in order to be found and categorised. This includes the titles of your web pages, their descriptions and keywords. Effective meta data is clear, relevant and contains the kind of keywords that your ideal customer would be typing into the search engine. Take time to get it right if you want search engines to notice you and give you pride of place in their rankings.
SEO is just as effective when applied to the text of your website or content. Make sure relevant keywords are sprinkled throughout the copy, especially in the titles, subheadings and introduction. A word of warning: don’t be tempted to try and game the system by cramming as many keywords in as you can. Google and co. are smart: their algorithms can spot ‘keyword stuffing’ a mile off and will penalise you for it.
Social media can be a powerful tool when used as part of a wider inbound marketing strategy. You can use it to distribute content, generate engagement and encourage interaction. Every platform has its own particular user demographic, so choose your channel well. Use analytics to see how well your material’s performing and tweak and refine as necessary.
On their own, emails might not seem like a particularly effective option. How many go straight into your spam or junk folder without you ever opening them? However – when used as part of a larger inbound marketing campaign emails can really come into their own. The key is not to use them not to attract, but to convert – when your leads have already shown an interest and given you their email address. You can start by sending a welcome email and follow up with a series of lead nurturing emails that are tailored to your leads’ particular interests. If they abandon a shopping cart, you can send an email to give them a nudge – gently pushing them to conversion. The best thing is that all of this can be automated, so it doesn’t eat up your time. Don’t forget to keep customers coming back by continuing to send them useful content or asking for reviews.
Inbound marketing is all about building relationships – and that means getting to know your leads. Online surveys help you learn more about them, for example, how far through the sales funnel they’ve progressed. With this information, you can make sure that your communications are relevant, timely and successfully guiding leads to conversion. Surveys also give you the data you need to segment your leads, and customise and automate communications. Remember that people are giving you their time and information, so an incentive may be appropriate. The longer the survey, the greater the incentive should be.
The benefits of inbound marketing
Inbound marketing connects you with the right people – the ones who are most likely to buy. With the right strategy, you can reach the right audience, in the right place and give them what they want. It means you’re spending your budget where it’s likely to give you the best ROI, instead of trying to attract leads who are unlikely to convert. And by using various channels – such as social media referrals, content and SEO – you reduce the risk that come with relying on a single (paid) channel.
Crucially, inbound marketing also builds trust. By providing useful, compelling information instead of hard sales messages, potential customers view your business as helpful rather than a nuisance. Hopefully, when the time comes to make a purchase, your website will be their first stop.
How to get started
So, we’ve discussed the whys of inbound marketing – now it’s time for the hows. If you’re thinking of kicking off your own campaign, here’s a handy guide. One thing to remember is that throwing money around won’t help with lead generation. If you want your campaign to work, you have to give it a little thought and attention.
1. What do you want to achieve?
Like any marketing campaign, the first step is to identify your objective. Do you want win new customers? Raise brand awareness? Increase Customer Lifetime Value? Boost revenue? All of the above?
2. Create buyer personas
Who is your target audience – your ideal customer? What are they like? What would interest them? You can’t create an effective inbound marketing strategy until you know who you want to attract. The more you know about them the better, so do your best to get under their skin. Gather information where you can through forms and surveys. Watch the analytics. When you send an email, who clicks on what?
3. Keep the content coming
Now you know what your target audience wants, you can create content to suit. If you can segment the audience and tailor specific content to each category, even better. The key is being consistent and providing ongoing communications. These should cater for potential (and existing customers) at every stage of the sales funnel. Think about what leads want to know at every stage of the journey and give people a reason to choose you. What is your brand’s story? Why should leads listen to you? Don’t forget to stay in contact with qualified customers – customer loyalty is gold.
4. Choose your platforms and strategy
Creating valuable content will draw people in. But, to make the most of it, you have to put it in the right place. Where do your ideal customers hang out online? Facebook? TikTok? Twitter? Or would your blog be a better way to connect with them?
5. Create a content calendar
The content you publish must be carefully considered. It should answer customer’s questions, address pain points and be fresh and interesting. It should also be regular and consistent to keep your brand front of mind. By creating a content calendar, you can plan ahead and make sure the content you’re putting out is varied and targeting relevant segments.
6. Analyse and optimise
No inbound marketing campaign is complete without a thorough evaluation of its performance. Choose your analytics and check them weekly – it could be SEO ranking, inbound links, email click-through rates or social media stats. Whatever the results, there’s always room for improvement. Tweak, refine and repeat until your campaign is optimised in every which way possible.
As we mentioned earlier, inbound marketing is not a ‘quick-win’ approach. You need to think carefully about what potential customers want and plan content that’s useful and interesting enough to cut through all the noise. Then, you need to create it, which takes time and skill. Will you need the help of writers, content creators, designers, developers, social media marketers or other professionals?
There’s no doubt that getting a campaign up and running is labour-intensive and time-consuming, even if you know your stuff. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie, we will be happy to hold you hand. We’re only a call or email away. Give us a shout.