What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing (IM) is a term coined by Hubspot, Inc., a US-based Tech Company, and it describes the strategies, processes and tactics a company can use to attract their ideal clients by delighting strangers, converting them from leads to clients, nurturing existing clients and keeping them happy. As an online marketing strategy, it is based on a four-step action process specifically sequenced to generate leads and clients by means of content creation and other "customer delight" methods.
In a nutshell, while inbound marketing is not just online or content marketing, it is a kind of window dressing in the digital information age. Think of your website as a shop window enticing the passer-by to come in and see what’s on the shelves. The right online content on your website targets and attracts a predetermined customer (the buyer persona) to take a closer look at what you have to offer and further lead nurturing eventually convinces them to spend money with you. Where outbound marketing is like a random poster on a lamp pole, broadcasting to a mass market, inbound is about understanding your customer and inviting the right people in to shop.
- Attracts specifically targeted visitors who are potential customers;
- Converts these potentials to valuable leads;
- Closes the deal by nurturing the lead into a customer; and
- Delights its customers by continuing the conversation with them, even after conversion.
How does Inbound Marketing work?
The nuts and bolts of the inbound methodology are content creation and content marketing. By creating content that is relevant to your buyer personas you are able to initiate the opportunity to generate leads which will, in turn, transform into sales for your business. They buyer persona refers a culmination of your customer research into the type of person you’ve identified as the ideal customer for your business. This is a valuable aspect of inbound marketing.
The four-step process that drives the strategy of inbound marketing successfully is outlined below.
Step 1: Attract
Inbound marketing is not just aimed at getting lots of attention for your business online; it is driven to attract the best possible potential buyer. By determining the buyer persona first and understanding the customer inside out, a business can create specific content that attracts, not just a person, but a potential lead that will eventually become a customer. But what does this mean in practice? It means a multi-dimensional online presence using blogs, social media, search engine marketing (SEM), landing pages and other platforms.
Step 2: Convert
The conversion from a visitor to your website to a potential lead is the next step. This is achieved by gathering contact information from the visitor – at the very least an email address. By offering your visitors a valuable reward in the form of content (such as ebooks or other free downloads) you can request their contact particulars and grow your data base of leads. Important to note is the necessity of this content being of high quality and of relevance to the intended audience. On a practical level this translates to call-to-action buttons or links, landing pages, forms to be filled in and keeping track of conversion points to optimise on an ongoing basis.
Step 3: Close
Vitally important is turning the leads into customers – closing the deal. But how will you know when a lead is ready to buy from you? The most effective tools in this phase are lead scoring (a numerical representation of sales-readiness), emails which contain relevant high quality content will keep leads interested in your business, and closed - loop reporting (making use of Customer Relationship Management systems integrated with your marketing automation software).
Step 4: Delight
The Delight phase is about keeping conversations going and retaining your customers but also still delivering outstanding content to all visitors and potential leads. Social media is effective for this, as well as clever call-to-action links, emails and specialised offers for existing clients. The final step is about prolonging the after-sale satisfaction for a customer.
Why does it work?
This style of marketing speaks directly to the current generation of buying power worldwide, i.e. the information geared generation. And online content is information. It works because you should market where the people are and people are online. This is where we spend our time and this is where we are spending our money.
The ability to have closed-loop reporting, knowing exactly from which channel which client came, is an invaluable tool in today's marketer's arsenal. ROI suddenly becomes very visible in the marketing department of today - thanks to the methodology and tools of Inbound Marketing.
Inbound marketing succeeds for the following reasons:
- Content creation establishes an online presence that has value;
- It attracts potential customers (the right kind of person) to your website;
- It generates leads that are relevant (no more brochure websites);
- It keeps the conversation going with customers, securing their loyalty and keeps the marketer at the pulse of the customer’s needs and trends for upsells and future business; and
- It informs the marketer (in detail) with what is and isn't working.
We, at bandv, have recently decided to integrate these new strategies and tactics and, subsequently, offer them to our clients. We have partnered with the leading marketing automation vendor, Hubspot, to offer a holistic marketing service to our clients.