Ever since I was absorbing adverts like a sponge as a child, marketing has always been something that’s interested me. Granted, over the years it’s appealed for different reasons, such as initiating a purchase, or impressing me through creativity or being different, but none the less it’s had a huge impact on my life and career.
If you think about your daily routine, how many forms of marketing do you come across without even realising it? Watching TV in the morning, collecting your post, on the drive to work, checking your emails - I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.
Due to the ever growing prominence of digital, we are now inundated on a daily basis with marketing, so how do you ensure your message is heard by consumers?
The answer is Inbound.
What is Inbound?
Inbound marketing is the process of attracting customers to you through quality content rather than traditionally working to attract consumers attention, in what is usually an invasive way. No longer is it the one that shouts the loudest gets the prize. Consumers want value.
I recently became certified in Inbound Marketing through Hubspot, and it is a certification I would strongly recommend to all marketers, even if your organisation adopts traditional marketing practices. Simply put, there are skills you can learn and apply to further develop your strategy and improve customer engagement and conversion rates.
Some key differences between traditional and inbound marketing are highlighted in the table below:
Why not? Once you look at the principles of Inbound, it all makes sense. There is a strong focus on content creation and distribution, life cycle marketing, personalisation, multi-channel and integration. In a world where consumers hold the power, a valued and seamless experience is essential.
Think as a consumer. What would you respond better to - a hard sell you weren't expecting or valuable content to allow you to make an informed decision in your own time?
Benefits of Inbound include:
- It’s cheap in comparison to traditional marketing
- Easy to monitor success
- Easy to make changes and improve
- Easy to test through analytics
- Increases engagement
- Promotes relationship building
- Warms and qualifies leads
- Consumer focused resulting in brand advocates
And here you can find some key stats from Hubspot that highlight the benefits of Inbound for ROI.
Inbound is a strategy that takes time to develop and implement effectively, as it’s focused around educating consumers through quality content, although steps can be taken quickly and easily to begin your Inbound journey.
The Inbound framework is simple:
This full process works to convert strangers to brand promoters.
But how do you implement and follow this framework? As marketers, some of the below you will no doubt already utilise, but not perhaps in an Inbound way and so, this may help you get started on your Inbound journey:
This section will be very familiar to marketers, in particular any marketer that’s heard the phrase ‘Content is King’:
- Blogging with quality content - no doubt you’ve heard by now, blogging is key to marketing, but for Inbound, make sure it’s written with your personas in mind.
- Social media messaging via relevant channels - as above, you know you need to be social, but don’t bombard all channels and hope a blanket approach works! Choose the channels your personas use and engage with them. Open dialogue and engagement is essential.
- Keywords - importantly, don’t pack keywords into content. Use the appropriate keywords when and where they are relevant and if your content doesn’t make sense and add value to customers, it’s no good for search engines either.
- Pages - this is an extension of the above, whereby you should include key content to attract and educate consumers, rather than taking the hard-sell approach.
This section is one that is traditionally seen as key to revenue, converting visitors into leads:
- Calls to action - these must be consistent and prominent, but be careful not to overload your page. They must be relevant to where users are in the buying cycle and take them on the most direct journey to achieve what the call to action is prompting (e.g. contact us linking to a contact form).
- Landing pages - these dictate the user journey. Where does a user land on your site? What content do they see? What do you want them to do? Are you making this task easy and obvious for visitors? Landing pages are very important in reducing bounce rate, keeping all important visitors on your site.
- Forms - keep them concise and collect only relevant data. The simpler the form, the more likely users are to complete and submit it. Locate relevant call to actions in strategic areas of the site.
- Contacts - 'be clever with data' is another popular phrase you’ll likely have come across. Segment your contacts and learn about them. Discover where they are in the buying process and how you can assist. Don’t cold call, but learn about your leads, and most importantly, listen to them!
Now to close the lead as a customer without the hard sell:
- Email - be persuasive. If a customer is in the decision making stage, offer a demo or a free download. Provide an incentive for users to interact and help them make that buying decision.
- Workflows - this effectively comes down to marketing automation. If you know where your users are at in the buying process, you can target them effectively, via emails, for example.
- Lead sourcing - verify who is interested in your product / services. To what level have they interacted with you? Have they submitted a contact form? H ave they downloaded a document? For instance, someone who has submitted a contact form would be further in the buying cycle than someone who has downloaded a brochure. Verify your leads to improve targeting and ultimately, increase conversion rates.
- CRM integration - if someone interacts with your site, record those interactions. If you have a visitor who speaks to an advisor on live chat, downloads a brochure and requests a demo, you know they are in the decision stage of the buying process and you can target this lead effectively. Recording this data is essential.
Just because a customer has purchased, it does not mean you can forget them. Instead, you need to make them feel valued, and as a result they will promote your brand:
- Social media - one of the most effective channels for consumer engagement. Interact with consumers, even if they are negative, and provide a response. Give customers reason to be proud brand ambassadors.
- Smart calls to action - display relevant call to actions to different users depending on where they are in the buying process, as once a customer has purchased, it may then present an opportunity to upsell.
- Email - on completing the Hubspot Certification, I received a brilliant email with blog posts in that they thought would interest me. It was a great way to make me feel warm and fuzzy and most importantly, valued.
- Workflows - as mentioned previously, this effectively comes down to marketing automation. If you know where your users are in the buying process, you can target them effectively and not waste time and money sending sales messages when someone has already purchased that exact product or service.
Inbound is becoming more and more prominent and valued within organisations. Whether you are currently adopting Inbound methodology or not, it is definitely something worth educating yourself about, as in my eyes, it genuinely is the present and the future of marketing.