Inbound marketing is so relevant it is right there among the top buzzwords that you hear near a boardroom today. It might sound funny but it is true. Because it is one of the most reliable ways to engage a user and convert them into a potential customer through various means such as search engine optimization, chatbots, and marketing automation.
And people do talk about it. Like a lot.
Pivoting around customer satisfaction and its replication, inbound marketing is an established methodology that allows your business to:
- target users (pitching a product that they need),
- provide them with tailored experience (information they are looking for), and
- nurture that relationship (through active customer support) to achieve loyalty and thereby grow your business
It’s like matchmaking for you and your target users. And the good part? Both of them are totally into it.
Opposed to the concept of outbound marketing where, for example, you splash a zany, one-line ad on the face of a non-suspecting user, the inbound methodology focuses on delivering customized solutions that will facilitate and enrich a user’s consumer experience as they transform into advocates of your products and services.
Of course, there are several moving parts involved when you talk about it. So, let’s dig deeper into the features of the inbound methodology, a proven way (pdf) to boost your business performance in today’s volatile digital world.
This is a primer for anyone who wants to start and win at the global marketing solution. We’ll cover the basics, the internet funnel, and modern ideas for your marketing strategy. Don’t forget to check out the infographics.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a business technique that is designed to attract consumers using various marketing, sales, and content strategies rather than ‘forcing’ them to check out a brand and its products and services. It depends on providing a tailored journey to your users that would not only help them wilfully convert into customers but also make it a delightful experience for them.
Here’s a fantastic overview of the world of marketing and public relations in the form of a Venn diagram by marketing executive Tony Ahn. Inbound is at the crux of concepts such as performance content, digital, and marcom.
It is like having a user enter Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York City, buy the latest iPhone 11 through a pleasant shopping experience, and walk out with a bunch of deals that will make them a lifelong loyal Apple user. The magic of inbound begins the moment that the user must have seen an advertisement for the phone.
And the best part? The magic of a successful inbound marketing strategy continues to help grow your business. If you do it right with constant updates and adaptation to changes in your business atmosphere, there’s no expiry to it. Before we find out how, let’s understand some key terms associated with this technique.
The Inbound Methodology – Attract, Engage, Delight
The technique stems from the concept of inbound which describes the positive journey of your customer while considering your businesses. It generally starts from them visiting your website and should ideally end in a conversion i.e. the purchase of your product.
How you identify them, bring them in, provide them with a unique experience while achieving your end goal, and make it memorable is what the game is all about. In other words, it is a method of attracting, engaging, and delighting. And the process typically starts from identifying your buyer personas. Ask yourself: who will buy your product or service and why?
In the above example of the Apple store, if you know a person is looking for a smartphone who identifies with lifestyle products and has the capacity to spend a premium amount on it, then it becomes easier to shape a plan. Instead of shooting in the dark, you pick at the right places. For a business interest, that is the biggest win.
According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 Global Report (pdf), 69% of businesses believe that attracting users and converting them into customers is their top priority. Since inbound puts the most focus into the first step of attraction, it automatically becomes one of the better, more personal ways to sell.
But how do you go about it? As an owner of a business or its marketing head, where do you begin with inbound? You might already know the answer.
Activating the Inbound Marketing Funnel
You have set up your business and now want to create an inbound marketing strategy. As you might have guessed, you start with content.
Attract Strategy – Content, SEO, and Promotion
In the initial step of attraction, after you have recognized your buyer personas, you begin with content creation and branding. For your audience to find and distinguish you in the herd of white sheep, you need to be a black one. No need to call your users ‘hey dudes’ or do a PR stunt that slants to the unethical to look different.
We mean having a USP and at least one differentiating factor. Chinese technology giant OnePlus is different from its compatriot Xiaomi how? The latter identifies itself as a premium brand while the former produces smartphones that are cheaper in price.
Pro Tip – Including why you are doing what you are doing in your branded content often helps you set your business apart.
Creating content that is valuable to your audience and which solves their problems is key. This can be in the form of:
- Featured content and basic information about your products and services on your website
- Guides, walkthroughs, and tips on your supporting blog
- Syndicated content through partnerships
- Engaging videos on your YouTube channel
Focus on what a user in your target group would click on and consume without resorting to tactics that may not sit well with your brand. For a wearable tech product like Fitbit, the focus is then health monitoring, a healthy lifestyle, and technology.
After the important step of content creation comes dissemination and promotion. Setting up a complementary SEO plan will increase the visibility of your content on search engines like Google and Bing. The same for social media, networking sites, and forums. As you might know, organic search and direct website visits are two of the biggest traffic sources globally, with paid media trailing well behind.
This is why optimizing your content and customizing it for your target audience is the biggest challenge in the execution of the inbound methodology.
Pro Tip – Take a cue from publisher Slate to see how they focused on podcasts to drive digital growth in a matter of months. They increased year-on-year website traffic by 30% (quick case study here).
Engage Strategy – Longterm Commitment is the Goal
Once you have your users on the website, the next step is to gift them a unique experience. This can be through targeted content and direct marketing of your products and services.
If you are selling wireless headphones, make the case for them right at the beginning fold of your site so that users do not have to scroll down to see the information that they need. And for which they entered your website in the first place.
Attention spans are getting shorter and you need to captive your users in the first few seconds. Otherwise, they will bounce off and visit your competitor’s website.
Pro Tip – Instead of selling your product or service, sell a solution. Ask yourself: Why use wireless headphones?
Having a quick-response sales setup then becomes important. At the end of the day, you want the visitor to convert into a customer. So, make sure the visitor can follow a path that culminates in a conversion. This can be a successful form-fill, an ebook download, or a product order if it’s an ecommerce website.
Whatever you do, engagement should result in longterm commitment from the user. That is when you can move to the next step in the inbound marketing funnel.
Fact – 54% of consumers prefer videos over any other type of content (HubSpot’s Trends data published in 2018).
Delight Strategy – Requesting Loyalty from Your Customers
This stage in the inbound funnel involves maintaining a connection with customers long after they have made the intended action. You have to keep them engaged through emailers, follow-up calls, and periodic marketing prompts that can extend the experience they first had when they bought your product or service.
All of this combines into an experience that is not only memorable for the customer but ultimately makes them loyal to you.
For instance, auto manufacturers do this quite effectively. They take extra care of their customers through regular calls and occasional free servicing offers. Such gestures both keep the brand in close proximity of the user and help it project itself as a well-wishing entity. So, when the time comes for the user to upgrade, they successfully manage to retain them. This time with a new vehicle model and a renewed, longterm relationship.
Although, McKinsey & Company reports that the industry is still in dire straits when it comes to digitizing the customer journey.
(This example of the auto industry tactic is extremely important from a business point of view. When the passenger vehicle segment of the industry in India faced a prolonged slump earlier in 2019, manufacturers depended on committed and returning users to keep their retailers busy.) Another example is of smartphone makers that release a newer version of their popular models every year. This not only keeps their business healthy but also highlights their trust on their loyal customers. This is regardless of the hidden tricks involved in the model.
Turning your customers into advocates of your brands is, therefore, the ultimate goal. It validates the magic of inbound where the cycle keeps on going, also spawning new users on the way. This helps your business thrive with existing, loyal customers and an influx of new prospects from your original inbound strategies and through advocacy.
Marrying Sales with Customer Support
It is a myth that the inbound funnel only satisfies the marketing aspect of a business. In reality, it is a solid way to push your sales and servicing facets too.
The best example of this marriage is in the finance sector. When it comes to online financial transactions, users tend to get anxious about the slightest of hiccups. And it is in the best interests of companies to resolve these hiccups as soon as they occur. Instead of waiting for the user to contact a chatbot or dial up the toll-free customer care number, companies can utilize marketing automation to receive alerts. These alerts can then be routed to the customer support team which can directly call the user and help resolve it.
Such an experience will be extremely rare and surprising for a user. If not anything, it helped them get out of the anxious state. It’s going to be tough to convince them that the brand does not care.
But what are some of the most promising activities that you can do across these verticals in today’s always-online world? How can you adapt your business’ marketing strategy with the changing times, changing demographics, and ever-evolving user volition? By paying attention to the trends.
Actionable Ideas from Enfusen to Grow Your Business
Remember the volatile digital world that we talked about? It’s not just a buzzword anymore, but also reality. Today, consumer behavior is much more evolved, and therefore, highly unpredictable. The rise of the internet and the always-online culture have only fueled this changeability. And the key is to embrace and understand this change as you move ahead.
Thankfully, inbound marketing allows these changes. In fact, it is not influenced by them because the onus is on you to customize the strategy according to your varying business needs. The output will show itself automatically, all with the reliability and efficacy of the inbound methodology.
Here are some ideas that we at Enfusen believe are significant in 2020 and beyond.
Ever signed up for an online wallet and paid your power bill through it? Then received an email the following month reminding you that the due date is approaching?
That’s a brilliant example of a system of after-sales automation that you can use in your own business. For a modern, tech-savvy user, that’s a clear relief as one less item to check off from a cluttered to-do list at the end of the day.
Social Media Listening
Another great idea for customer support and reputation management. Listening and responding to both general and targeted feedback establishes a strong connection between you and your customers. Regardless of the sentiment of online chatter that your business receives, being communicative always helps. It always works in your favor.
Social listening can also assist in measuring the performance of your campaigns. A good example is this Uber case study where the global cab aggregator tracked online conversations about its new app through a tool and measured its effectiveness.
Mass Tools of Attraction, Engagement, and Delightfulness
Here’s a small infographic listing some of the most trending tools that can help you bolster your inbound marketing attempts.
The goal is to not just have a prospect transform into a customer. It’s about building a community of advocates. That is what makes a brand legendary and sustainable.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, inbound is such a popular and relevant technique today that everyone is doing it. It is a primary approach to more than 70% of businesses in the world. Which is why you need something different and trendy to set yourself apart and still win the game.
Inbound has the answers but are you ready to customize it for your own needs? Let us know your experiences with inbound marketing strategies in the comments section below.