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Inbound 101

The fact is, consumers are getting more sophisticated and more inundated with information every single day. That's why, as marketers, we have to find new and creative ways of reaching out to them. Inbound marketing is a strategy for drawing visitors and potential customers to your business, instead of pushing a marketing message out onto prospects in hopes of getting sales. Inbound works by creating valuable experiences for prospects and customers instead of using boring old ads to coerce them into purchasing. With the right combination of content marketing, SEO and social media, you can attract customers with content they are already looking for.

How is inbound marketing different from other forms of marketing?

Inbound strategies are all about getting found naturally rather than going out and pursuing leads aggressively. The online search is the traditional form of a user finding a product. Let's say a user comes across an article reviewing the most essential spring clothing items for men. One of them happens to be a black bomber jacket. The user sees a picture of the jacket and clicks the link to purchase. They are presented with the opportunity to buy a jacket while reading what already interests them - that's why inbound is so effective.

Other types of marketing are often referred to as "interruption marketing," because they interrupt someone's flow of activity in order to get attention. This includes tactics like search spam, pop-up ads, paid email lists, contextual ads, most social media advertising, etc. In the previous example, imagine if a user got an email advertising a black bomber jacket - they might like the product but you have interrupted their day with an email and there's no guarantee that they are in the mindset to purchase. Plus, interruption marketing has a higher cost to acquire a new customer and is responsible for less than 10% of clicks on the web.

Interruption

"Selling to people who already want to hear from you is much more effective than interrupting strangers who don't."

Seth Godin
Seth Godin, Expert Marketer, Author & Speaker

On average, inbound leads cost 61% less on average than outbound leads.

Inbound marketing earns attention organically, without interrupting anyone's path. It includes tactics like SEO and PPC, opt-in email lists, blogging, earned social media, content creation, video content, etc. In all of these cases, users have expressed an interest in what you are selling so you know they want to hear from you.

What does the inbound marketing process look like?

Here's an overview of what the inbound marketing process
looks like for most companies:

Attract

Attract

The inbound marketing process begins by attracting strangers to your product or service by using blogs, social media posts, keywords and pages. All these are personalized around the specific goals and offerings of your business, and serve to solve a problem or issue for your prospect.
Convert

Convert

Once you have drawn in visitors to your site, the next step is to convert them with call-to-action, landing pages, forms and contacts. Opt-ins tend to resonate well with consumers because they are actively signing up to receive news and information that is of interest to them.
Close

Close

Now it's time to take the leads you've created and close the deal with tactics like emails, workflows, lead scoring and CRM Integrations. This part engages leads and offers them valuable information that helps entice them into making a purchase.
Delight

Delight

The final step is to delight customers in an ongoing fashion using social media, smart CTAs, email and workflows. This keeps them engaged, builds loyalty and encourages further purchases.

How and why does the inbound methodology work?

Inbound marketing is successful because it helps your business target not just a bunch of random people, but your ideal customer. You want to attract people who are most likely to become leads and, ultimately, loyal customers. You do this by giving customers relevant content at the precise time that they need it. This helps to build trust, reputation and authority in whatever niche you are marketing in.

SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of optimizing your site content and structure for search so that you get organic placement on SERPS (search engine results pages). Making sure your website and content are optimized for SEO means Google's web-crawling technology is able to identify and index your site's content to have it appear to people who are searching. If your prospects can't find you, you can't get their business - pretty simple. This process starts with identifying the most important keywords that apply to your company. This beginner's guide to SEO by Moz can help you get started.

From there, it's all about developing tailored content that is relevant, offers value and - above all - delights your customers. Publish fresh and useful content that helps your audience answer a question or solve a problem. The web is filled with clutter so you have to make your content stand out by educating, inspiring or entertaining your audience.

Create a marketing mix that includes various types of content and forms of media. Blogging will help you attract new leads and warm up returning visitors by establishing yourself as a thought leader. A whopping 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI for their inbound marketing. Guides, e-books and other downloadable content help you nurture your leads by providing more expert, in-depth information. Video tutorials and testimonials are a great way to engage and delight prospects and answer their questions at the same time. And testimonials and case studies give personal accounts of your customers and help boost the chances of conversion.

The quality of content that you create is arguably the most important feature of your inbound marketing strategy. Develop detailed buyer personas so you make sure that you know what kind of content will appeal to your customers. Best-in-class content marketers are 81% more adept at aligning content to the buyer's journey compared to all others, according to the Aberdeen Group.

The inbound methodology and the flywheel

The idea of the "funnel" has been the core of marketing strategies for years. But recently, marketers and business leaders have started to see the pitfalls of the funnel. These days, customer referrals and word-of-mouth have become the largest influence on the purchasing process - and the funnel doesn't account for this at all. In fact, it views customers as an afterthought, not as a sales driver themselves. That's why marketers are turning to the flywheel approach.

The flywheel is an energy-efficient wheel that stores more and more energy depending on how fast it spins, the amount of friction and its size. The funnel treats customers as the ultimate outcome - you spend energy to acquire them and then you're back at square one looking for new customers. With the flywheel, the customers actually keep the wheel in motion, driving referrals and repeat sales.

flywheel

The Inbound Flywheel

Think of the flywheel as a circle with the customer in the center. Your goal is to keep the flywheel spinning by consistently attracting, engaging and delighting customers. Using the inbound methodology, you align all of your teams so they can provide an amazing experience throughout the buyer's journey. That way, your company isn't the only one helping your business grow - your customers are helping as well. The customer experience depends on an integration of efforts between your marketing, sales, support and service teams.

81% of buyers trust their families' and friends' recommendations more than companies' business advice, and 55% report trusting the businesses they buy from less than they used to. The flywheel helps you account for the various factors that affect a buyer's purchase and also to channel the power of happy customers into your marketing mix.

Why is inbound important?

Inbound marketing can help your company achieve key marketing and sales objectives. It has a compound effect, unlike traditional marketing initiatives. Instead of dumping a bunch of money into running an ad campaign, you can develop a strong piece of content that offers both immediate and long-term benefits. It can garner attention when you first publish it and will continue to be a resource to clients as long as it stays on your site. When it gains more exposure, it starts to generate inbound traffic via SEO, social shares and word of mouth. That's why content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and triples the leads.

  • Generate qualified leads for less money
  • Make customers a driving force
  • Help fuel SEO efforts
  • Improve the customer experience
  • Generate inbound links
  • Generate social media shares
  • Increase brand awareness
trophy-happy-01

It also takes advantage of the power of social media. With 67% of online adults using social media to share information, you can't afford to neglect widely popular online communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sharing your content on platforms like these generates interest and drives traffic back to your site.

All in all, properly executed inbound marketing is 10x more effective for lead conversion than outbound. Being able to target customers who are already interested in what you are doing gives you a huge advantage. Instead of interrupting their online experience, you are empowering them with timely, helpful content during their search. Knowing who your leads are and targeting them specifically provides them with a more relevant and delightful experience. It also establishes you as a trusted source of information, ensuring that you don't come off as pushy and sales-focused.

By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business. That's why the inbound methodology is "the best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business."

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