So, what exactly is inbound marketing, and what are the elements involved? Great question! It is the best system of marketing for lead generation. According to HubSpot, Inbound marketing is the methodology of taking all of your online resources, website, podcasts, social media, videos, etcetera, and pulling your customer in at the right time with information highly relevant and valuable to them.
Let’s explore an example, assuming you’ve had a business problem that you’ve gone on to Google to search for, maybe something like, how do I get more engagement on social media?
You end up with a massive list of results, you select one, typically one of the first three, and get to a blog, maybe a pop-up comes up asking you to subscribe to the blog, so you do. Tidbit: backlinko did a research study of 5,000 Google searches, that’s only 0.00001% of google searches conducted daily, BUT what they found was the top three posts received more than 75% of clicks. ASTONISHING!
Imagine you continue to find valuable and relevant content, like an ebook that goes into greater detail about how to tell a story on social to increase engagement. You fill out a form, download the eBook, read it now, read it later.
In a day or two, you receive a call from a salesperson, and they ask you if you have any questions about the ebook you downloaded, they might ask you about your pain points and get to know you a little bit.
This is a friendly exploratory sales call that encourages you to take a look at the services they provide – maybe you can take this one thing off your plate, so you decide on viewing a demo of their product. It looks great, it’s affordable, and will certainly lighten your load – BAM! You’re sold.
About a month into using the software, they reach out to you to see how it’s going. You’re pleased with the results! They offer you a short consultation to go over some tips and tricks to make your experience even better.
Now, doesn’t that sound dreamy? What a smooth, easy peasy sales process! While that would be nice, it requires more effort for sure. However, keep reading and discover a structured and systematic plan for getting through the elements of inbound marketing.
So now you’re probably thinking, Whoa! I’m not sure that approach is right for my business or I sell a product, not a service, or I’m B2C and not B2B. All very relevant questions and points, but we would say this approach can be used for any type of product or service, heck, it can be used across multiple departments.
You may also be thinking, what does all of that mean, and boy it sounds a bit overwhelming? Yeah, it does, but it doesn’t have to be if we take it in bite-sized pieces. It’s important to talk about inbound marketing because there are still so many out there who don’t know what is or understand how it can help you to generate more leads.
First, we have to understand what it is exactly, and in the coming weeks and months we’ll plug away at these pieces. By all means, though, don’t wait for me! Charge on ahead, and drop in with questions or comments along the way. It will certainly make for a more dynamic conversation.
Inbound Vs. Content Marketing
We know inbound marketing, thanks to Brian Halligan of HubSpot for coining the term, as the method of reaching your ideal customers at the right time with relevant and valuable content. The best way to do so is to think differently about your perfect customer and align that with your content messaging.
“The first method is to think across the traditional boundaries of your marketplace to alternatives, not just competitors.”― Brian Halligan, Inbound Marketing, Revised and Updated: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online
Content marketing is where strategy and tactics come into play. Your content is what drives your ideal clients through the buyer’s journey. Marketers are creating tons of content, but is it all relevant and valuable? That’s what you have to figure out. And, we’re here to help, let’s breakdown the following elements.
Element #1: Buyer Persona Research is a Critical Element of Inbound Marketing
With inbound you have to FIRST and foremost know who your ideal client is, their industry, their job level – are they CEO, entry-level, mid-level management, what’s their income, what are their pain points, where do they look for information, how do they stay current in their industry, which brings us to the buyer’s persona.
Inbound marketing gives you an opportunity to solve your ideal customer’s problem strategically by identifying your ideal customer during the development of your buyer persona. Buyer personas are partially fictional, you’ll make up a name, and some of the details of what you expect this “person” to be like, problems, pain points, and demographics.
There will be more non-fiction to your persona’s, you’ll already have done enough research beforehand that you’ll be able to add things like knowing what keywords they are entering in search, where your ideal customer spends most of their time on social media, what problems and barriers they face, and where you provide a solution.
How can I research my ideal customer?
- Interview current and past clients
- Listen in on calls with your sales team or customer service
- Review profiles in your LinkedIn network, or your sales team’s network
- Conduct a search on Google, Bing, and Firefox
This is not a complete list, so go out there, think creatively and conduct your research.
Everyone is Not Your Ideal Client
You may have customers in all ranges of ages, roles, demographics, and that is awesome! However, that does not mean that everyone is your ideal client.
So, don’t tell me everyone is your ideal client. It’s not. Trust me here, it’s not. Think about this differently, who is most likely to purchase, who has the most to gain by becoming your customer. Just because the director or CEO has the final say, doesn’t mean that they are who you are targeting.
That is your ideal client.
You’ll likely have more than one buyer persona, and it’s probably two or three. At least to start with, that is plenty. There is a lot of work to be done here!
Inbound made me a believer in buyer personas.
Listen to this, in a former role; it was my responsibility to manage the content and social media efforts. I began with some research and learned about this awesome tool that would make my life easier and better align marketing and sales. I was the worker bee doing the work and could not say yes! to the sales guy, but I could certainly buy into it and make a solid recommendation to the folks who could.
I read blogs, downloaded content that was of value and relevant to me, and was contacted by someone in sales. Next thing I knew, we were purchasing this software.
That’s the shortened version, but you see how it works. The company, using inbound, had me pegged, right from the get-go, because they had a persona that aligned with my problem and position. They knew what to say to attract, engage, convert, and delight me!
Go ahead and take these action steps right now.
- Develop your buyer persona’s – I like Make My Persona by HubSpot. You’ll need to add specific details about your client in addition to what they ask you.
- Research and make a list of relevant keywords your ideal client is using in search.
- Find out what kinds of questions folks are asking about your product or service.
- Determine which social media platforms your personas are using most.
- Which platforms demographic matches your buyer personas?
Which brings us to discovering the buyer’s journey.
Element #2: Buyer’s Journey
Once we know who our buyers are and how to reach them, we start thinking about the various stages of the buyer’s journey. It’s the strategic inbound marketing method of getting to your ideal client at the right time by attracting, engaging, converting, and delighting them. Remember what I said about my experience above? The delight part is precisely why I share this information with you and have dedicated my career to it.
- Attract – attract new buyers
- Engage – content that solves their pain points
- Convert – they purchase your product or service
- Delight – make current customers happy so they become brand champions
All very important because each persona should have content that you’ve created that hits them at every stage of the journey.
If you align your buyer persona with where your customer is in the journey, you’ll quickly develop your content assets. Depending upon their stage in the journey, you may choose to gate some of that content.
What do you mean “gate” your content? Excellent question! This is content that is more valuable, that has more information than a blog, or infographics. Think of an ebook that is 35 pages long, and walks your client right through the process. This is valuable, not only because of the amount of time it took your team to put together, but because the content within is more than needed by your target audience.
This is content that they are willing to pay for, and in this case, our currency is an exchange of information > your name and email address > for the downloadable PDF.
Element #3: Content Development
The content development is the heavy lifting; however, some of that work we did in the beginning, the keyword research, and our buyer personas will help guide you.
First of all, create a content calendar, the topics and keyword discoveries will make this easier.
However you plan your content is up to you, but I like to plan out my year in advance. Now, hold on, I know you’re thinking whhhaaaat?! No, nothing crazy, pick the main topic for each month – from your keyword research and customer pain points.
Then take your topic for the month, and break that down into bits. Consistency is key; can you commit to one blog post per week or month? What about one post per day on each social channel? It’s really up to you in how much time you have to dedicate to content.
Consider this though, the more you post the more you reach people. If you are looking to drive leads, you are going to want to be on social – at least once a day. Depending on the platform, like Twitter, you may even be there up to 10 times a day. Now, if you’re planning content out for 30 days, or even 15, there is software available to streamline this.
Check out Hootsuite or Buffer; there are others out there – using a tool like this will free up your time because you can schedule your content to publish throughout the day, and they’re equipped with built-in content calendars and social listening tools. The only thing you have to do after setting up for the month is to respond to engagement.
Now there is so much to content, and really this is a topic all of its own, probably a few content pieces really, but to keep us moving forward, you did that keyword research, now let’s put it to good use!
Keywords are essential for hashtags, but they are also what help you get found on search engines. You’ll want to make sure your content is not stuffed with keywords but uses a healthy mix of the exact keyword and synonyms. What I’m talking about here is a process called search engine optimization (SEO). It’s a big topic, so I won’t dig into that here, but if you want to know more, check out Rand Fishkin, he’s the guru of SEO.
Every person doing inbound marketing has to know a little bit about SEO, especially if you’re the one writing your content. We can get into this more another time, but for now, we’ll move on to repurposing content.
It’s true, inbound marketing requires more of your time, but gives you better results in the long run.
You have to ask yourself, whenever you are producing any type of content, Who will amplify this and why?~ @randfish
If you’ve been developing content already, then I recommend a content audit. Take a peek at the blogs and social you’ve already written and assess where you can repurpose your content.
Here are two action steps you can take right now.
- Complete a content audit; use a spreadsheet to note:
- Post title
- Social post content
- Buyer persona
- Buyer’s journey
- Evaluate ways you combine pieces or break them out into a series.
We’ll talk more about content delivery later on, but note where and what you can repurpose.
If you haven’t started yet, stay tuned, or start typing up those ideas you have because they will become super handy very soon!
All of this is great, but if you haven’t set any goals then what do you have to measure results against?
Element #4: SMART Goals Drive Inbound Marketing
Goals are one area often overlooked when developing your content strategy, not sure why, but they are. It’s essential you have established goals for your marketing efforts, and they HAVE to align with your overall business goals.
What’s even more important is that they are SMART, and we’re not talking brain smart here. We’re talking about the acronym that guides you through goal setting. Is your goal specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound?
For example, we might set a SMART goal that says, we want to increase sales qualified leads from 100 leads to 150 leads per month by the end of the year to reach a monthly confirmed sales goal of 5 new customers per month.
Now, these numbers are entirely arbitrary, so you’ll have to identify the SMART goals that are right for your business.
Element #5: The Other Side of Marketing – Outbound
Quickly, let’s address, what I like to call the “other side of marketing”.
Conversely, outbound marketing comes in the form of interrupting your target audience, think about ads on your favorite social accounts, or television advertising. It interrupts your show, your scroll, and takes a lot more people before you get a YES! I need that product or service.
While these tactics still work, it’s been my experience that inbound marketing is WAY more effective. Although, depending on your business and your budget, you may need to and should use both approaches.
Why Inbound Is The Preferred Method
Let me point out that inbound marketing is typically more cost-effective, so you small business owners and entrepreneurs, this is VERY important for you. Why? I’m glad you asked because your marketing budgets might be more conservative.
A lot of inbound marketing is organically driven; you publish content, optimized for SEO, including keywords for blogs or hashtags for social media, but there are times when it is appropriate to pay for some advertising. Outbound used to be the only way; now, inbound is taking the market share.
Luckily, social platforms and online advertising allow you to manage ads much better than traditional print advertising, or tv and radio ads. If you have advertising dollars to spend, spend it on social media.
The targeting capabilities over traditional advertising methods far exceed the value that TV or print ads. Typically, you’ll still pay by the number of impressions, but at least with online, you can see actual results and pivot quickly when something doesn’t work.
If you don’t have a marketing budget, then don’t worry, it is still possible to generate leads organically using inbound.
Now, that the main elements of inbound marketing have been demystified and you have a clearer picture, get to work and make your content work for you.