When it comes to Marketing your business, it can be tough to know where to start. There seems to be endless options as to how to get your business out there, and these methods have been around for years. But then you start to think about the cost of all these options, and being a SMB, these may not be in your budget to accomplish. Well we’ve got good news for you! The world is changing! People no longer want to be told what to buy, and why they need it. People want to make their own decisions and are doing their own research. But what does that have to do with you? The world WANTS inbound marketing, and Inbound is an extremely affordable alternative to a traditional marketing strategy.
The topics we are going to be discussing are all on why Inbound Marketing should be your go-to when it comes to creating your business marketing campaigns. We’re going to talk about what Inbound is, versus traditional marketing, and how Inbound works towards your end goals. We’re also going to discuss the Inbound Funnel, aka the buyer’s journey, and how all of that can turn strangers into website visitors, which can generate more leads, and in the end, close more customers.
So together let’s take this deep dive into the wonderful world of inbound! Time to buckle your seat-belts, keep your hands and feet inside the blog at all times, and enjoy the ride!
An Outbound Marketing Strategy v. An Inbound Marketing Strategy
First things first, let’s discuss the differences in Outbound versus Inbound marketing.
Outbound Marketing is what you picture when you think of a more Traditional Marketing approach. This includes things like, magazine ads, pamphlets, billboards and commercials. With outbound marketing, the advertisers have all of the control. Consumers get these things pushed at them, whether they’re interested or not.
On the contrary, with an Inbound Marketing strategy, the buyer is in control. They get to do their own research, and have access to all the tools that they need to make their own decisions. Now-a-days, it’s easier than ever to just whip out a phone, or open your laptop and have access to unlimited information.
With Outbound Marketing, consumers can tune you out when they don’t want to listen to you. To be frank, the Outbound method of marketing doesn’t work in today’s technology forward world. 56% of people skip TV ads, and as more people switch to streaming television, less ads are being seen at all. Furthermore, the majority of people unsubscribe from unsolicited emails, so buying lists are just going to land you in the trash folder, or worse, SPAM. Plus, those methods are going to leave a bad impression of your business with those consumers and severely injure your IP reputation. Even direct mailers have seen a decline in effectiveness, with 20% of them never even getting opened. Additionally, calling campaigns are marked for extinction with over 5 million people on do not call lists.
Outbound marketing is all about interrupting consumers, and hoping they’re listening. Where Inbound is all about reaching consumers at the exact moment they are ready to learn more.
So how do you attract attention to create an Inbound campaign? To do this, you need to create something people love and value. You’ve probably heard the saying “Content is King” – well, the saying hasn’t changed. People LOVE content! Especially as we move forward into a more digital and mobile world. The great news is there are lots of different content types out there that you can create for your consumers.
For example, Blogs. The great thing about blogs and inbound, is that you can basically set it, and forget it. It will still be there, driving customers to your page whenever they search for something relatable to that topic. It can still be a tool, years down the road. You can even Google to find out what your customers might be searching for, and create a blog post relevant to that need, to start bringing more organic traffic in.
Additional Content Types
Along the same line as blogs, you can also create eBooks, downloadable pamphlets, brochures, reports. Pretty much anything that you think your customers will find value in.
Let’s jump into an example. Say you offer Cloud Services. Well that’s a pretty blanket term with all the different things that could encompass. Your prospective client may not know specifically what it is they’re looking for. A rising trend, with the evolution in technology, is that people want to do their own research, before they ever even reach out to talk to another person. Why not create a downloadable of some type, listing what cloud services you offer, and maybe even expand on what those services mean? You’ve now created something tangible, so that when Client Chris searches Cloud Services, he’s led to you. And you’ve just given him a helpful tool.
How do you think that makes you look to Client Chris? Do you think he’s going to go with this company setting him up to be successful with the tools he needs, or the company throwing their sales pitch in his face?
When it comes to content, don’t shy away from creating a variety of different types as well. Along with what was previously mentioned, using photos and infographics, or even videos and podcasts can be beneficial. Creating something visual can put you at an advantage over your competitors if it captures your customers attention. Plus, not all people like to consume their information the same way. Maybe your client would enjoy listening to a podcast on his way into the office, or watching a video while getting his morning cardio in.
Anything extra you can do to help them, will give you an edge and is a key component of your Inbound Marketing strategy.
It all comes down to content being king. The more content you create that people love, the more that content generates what you love. Traffic, leads, and customers.
A successful Inbound Marketing strategy is actively delivering a variety of content specific to where your potential clients are in their buyers’ journey. There are three stages to a buyer’s journey. Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
In the first stage, the Awareness Stage, your potential customers are only just becoming aware that they have a problem. They may not even know what the solution is. This is where they start researching to see how to fix it.
Let’s catch up with Client Chris again. Like the thousands of other businesses effected, when the pandemic hit, he had to find a way to keep his employees safe in their homes, and also keep his business afloat. He knew he needed to have a way for his team to access all of the company information, while working remotely. What did Client Chris do? He hit that ole trusty google and simply searched “How to set up my business to support remote work”. Want to guess what that brought him to? That’s right, a blog post. He now has access to all the information he needs to find out what his best solution is.
The second stage is the Consideration Stage. In this stage your client knows what his problem is, and he knows what solutions are available to him. He is now considering all of his options and narrowing in on what is best for his company specifically.
Client Chris is now aware that to help set up his team for remote work, he needs to switch to Cloud services, so that everyone can have access to all the information that they need, while still keeping his company secure, and he needs to set up Unified Communications and Collaboration Solutions to keep his team connected. From a marketing aspect, this would be the perfect time to lead him to a whitepaper or case study from your business that states what solutions you carry and how they can benefit his business.
Finally, we move into the Decision Stage of the buyers’ journey. Here, the Client knows what they need to solve their problem, and what it is that they are specifically looking for, and they are ready to decide who they want to go to for their solution.
At this point in time, you have already helped Client Chris do his own research on multiple levels of the buyers’ journey, and you already have an established relationship with him, all before he’s even reached out to you! More often than not, he’s going to go with the company that’s been helpful and empowering versus the one just trying to tell him what he needs.
And that’s what an Inbound Marketing strategy is all about! Bringing customers to you and earning their trust before even talking with them!
Now that we’ve broken down the buyers’ journey, let’s get into more detail on how to turn strangers into website visitors. The best way to think about this, is to use the funnel visual above.
This first step of the funnel, it’s all going to be on how to attract visitors. Here, all of your marketing goals and activities are going to be aimed at increasing brand awareness and website traffic. And again, we cannot stress this enough. Content is KING!
If you have nothing of value to share with your potential clients, then they have no reason to seek out a relationship with you. So, start with content! This can be a blog and web copy, photos, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, anything that can give your company value. You might be wondering what to start with.
To know what you need to create, you need to ask yourself, who am I creating this for? This step in an Inbound Marketing strategy is where you figure out your Buyer Personas. A buyer persona describes who your ideal customers are, what their days are like, the challenges they face and how they make decisions.
Creating a Buyer Persona will help you visualize a clear idea of who you are targeting, so that you can create the right content for them. Try to create content that mentions their goals, and discusses their challenges, and then offers solutions. Creating a buyer persona seems silly helps you get the right content to the right place, at the right time.
So, let’s pretend you have your buyer persona figured out, how do you decide what content to create? You have to ask yourself, what is my buyer persona searching for? You can use google to conduct SEO research to find out what is actually being searched for in your field.
For example, a quick Google Search can get you moving in the right direction. Start by searching a high-level topic you want your business to be known for. We’re going to use fiber internet as an example. Now, take a look at the auto-complete options and people also ask section. Here’s where you will get some basic ideas on what content to possibly create.
Now that you know who you are creating content for, how do you make that content compelling? Your content needs to offer a few different things to help you become inbound and drive sales to you. It needs VALUE, RELEVANCE, TIMELINESS, and UNIQUENESS.
Content Related to the Buyers Journey
There are different types of content that are relevant to different parts of the buyers’ journey. For example, In the awareness stage, you want lighter pieces of content like, eBooks, Blog posts, and videos just to name a few. However, as you move into the consideration stage, you will want to start focusing more specifically on the potential client’s needs, so now’s a great time to use webinars, case studies, and whitepapers, anything that can expand on their needs. In the decision stage, the client knows exactly what they want. Now is the time to offer free consultations, trials, demos. Anything to make going with you the simple decision. It also really helps to make that content easy to share. The simpler it is to share, the more likely it is to get passed on and start reaching further, organically.
Helpful Hints for Content Creation
Here’s a few helpful tips to consider when it comes to creating content.
For one, the higher the word count, the more likely it is that the content gets shared. It also makes the piece more SEO friendly, and can help lead more people to your site. Best practice is a minimum of 300 words. People also LOVE stats and quotes. They’re nice because it’s a quick tidbit to remember, and it feels like something worth sharing.
Once you’ve created this content, and you know it’s ready to be put out there, and it brings something of value to potential clients, how can you distribute that content and attract those website visitors?
Utilizing Social Media
In addition to posting it on your own website and formatting it to be SEO friendly, social media is another great tool you can use to distribute it. An extremely important factor to consider when utilizing social media platforms is that visuals matter. So, when you share, you want to make sure you are using great visuals or videos, or your content isn’t going to get any attention.
We also recommend using high value stats and facts from your content to help grab your audience’s attention. Studies show that tweets with quotes are 19% more likely to be retweeted! And again, share a variety of content, not all of the same type. Don’t just sell to people, provide value. The rule of thumb is 80% educational, 20% sales.
Additionally, with social media, you have different tools available to you to help reach more people. You can target your posts, or even pay to boost your posts to more people if you believe this post could be super helpful in growing your business.
When using social media platforms, don’t be afraid to try other channels that might be a good fit for you. There’s lot of options out there, and something that works for someone, may not work for someone else. It’s all about testing the waters and seeing what works best for your business.
With an Inbound Marketing strategy, you also have to give it time. People need to see or hear things 3 to 5 times for their behavior to change, so be consistent. Your hard work will continue to pay off for years to come. You just have to be patient.
Now that you’ve capture their attention, they have gone from strangers, and are now visiting your site. How do you turn those site visits into leads? If you have traffic to your site, but no conversions, then you have no business.
One of the ways to start converting visitors, is to establish a relationship and open communication by turning them into a subscriber. When they become a subscriber, they have given you just the bare minimum of information about them, but it’s a step in the right direction. When they subscribe, at this point you’ve gotten their name, and email.
As they move into the next stage, they become a lead. In this stage you get even more information from them, so now you might also know their Company name, Job title, employee count, etc. So, you probably got this information by them going a step beyond subscribing to your blogs, and maybe now they’ve downloaded or used a more specific piece of information or tool that you offer. You get more information by providing more value.
From here, they would move on to being considered a Marketing Qualified Lead, or MQL. This means, they are a potential customer, and they have signaled in some way that they want to begin a sales conversation. This can be from either downloading a free trial, or even filling out a contact form. While this might not directly mean they are ready to purchase, it does mean they are ready to hear what you have to say and have that discussion.
Gathering Lead Information
So, how do you generate subscribers? This is as easy as sharing your blog posts on social media, and optimizing your SEO to lead people to your blog posts naturally. Once they are there, you need to have an obvious call to action, or CTA on your page. So, people that find your blog post relevant can simply click on that subscribe button, fill out their info, and continue to receive helpful content from you.
After you’ve got those subscribers, how do you then capture them as leads? Well placed, relevant CTAs. For example, let’s say you have a blog post on How Cloud Services Help Businesses. Simply add a CTA to the bottom on the page that can lead them to a Flyer listing the Cloud Services you offer. To download it, all they need is to fill out a small questionnaire. You get more information, because that flyer is more valuable. You can then use the answers in that questionnaire to see if the people downloading the flyer are even quality conversions. Are they high enough in their company to make decisions? Do you offer packages that cover their company size?
Now we want to turn those leads into MQLs. Because they seem like they meet all of your qualifications on those forms, now is the time to try and get their attention by offering free trials, or consultations. Anything you can offer to deepen that relationship.
Now that you have the leads, you need to nurture them. That’s where email marketing and also paid retargeting comes in. With Email Marketing, you can keep their interest by continuing to supply them with relevant content. And relevant is the key word there! Nothing will drive away a potential customer faster than being bombarded by information from you that they don’t want, or need.
When composing those emails be sure to have a compelling subject line, don’t be afraid to test out different options, there’s tools out there for that! In addition, make sure to have a sender name, and have it be an actual person. After all, no one wants to talk to a robot. Well – at least not through email. Personalize the copy so it feels like a real person sent it, you want to build this relationship, not give it the cold shoulder. Include an image or two, don’t go overboard, but keep it appealing, and you must, must, must, have a call to action, or what was it all even for? And as required with all marketing emails, don’t forget the unsubscribe button.
You also have the option to use Targeted Ads to stay relevant to leads, obviously this is an additional cost, but it’s a great way to keep you in front of their eyes.
Sending to Sales
Now your website visitors are leads! Great! But how do you close those leads, and turn them into your customers?
At this point marketing has done all it can using an Inbound Strategy to attract potential customers to you. From here, marketing hands in those precious leads to the sales team!
Sales and Marketing should be well aligned and not afraid to collaborate. If these teams aren’t working together, than the lack of communication will be felt by the potential customer, and it won’t be beneficial to anyone. So be sure to schedule meetings and have conversations regularly between the two to nurture the good relationship which will ultimately build good customer relationships.
You’re on your way to a winning Inbound Marketing Strategy!
So, when it comes to being Inbound, it is essentially, all about just being human and helpful. Do what you can to attract customers to you by creating value through quality content, and utilizing the buyer’s journey to figure out what type of content is perfect for your buyer personas! Remember that this all takes time and is not a quick-fix or a get-rich-quick tactic. You have to put time and heart into what you’re producing and, in the end, you’ll have a winning inbound marketing strategy that educates and equips your potential customers and turns your website into a lead generating machine.