Inbound marketing is an alternative approach to marketing which focuses on attracting prospects to your brand holistically before delivering personal, timely and relevant information, whether they’re visiting your website for the first time or have already shown interest in, or even purchased your products or services before. This differs from traditional ‘outbound’ marketing which focuses on interrupting prospective customers through means such as email blasts, telemarketing calls and web page pop-ups.
The ultimate purpose of inbound marketing is to attract new prospects, engage them with insightful content and delight them by delivering expert advice, products and services; all without annoying or interrupting them with traditional marketing methods.
Technology is moving faster than ever before and for many businesses, keeping up has never been more daunting. It would be great to believe that prospective customers will naturally fall upon our website and come knocking down our door to buy our service or product, but the truth is that life in the connected world has never been noisier or more competitive.
Traditional means of “push” marketing are simply not working, and businesses are beginning to see revenue stagnate or even drop as they fail to keep up. Shouting about offers in an impersonal and intrusive way via cold calls, direct mail and other forms of hard selling are wearing thin and customers are no longer responding. Inbound marketing and sales is the way forward. Pulling your customer in through a campaign that offers valuable insight and solutions will not only cultivate results but help gain the trust, loyalty and respect of your audience that leads to the long-term relationship and advocacy your business craves.
Buyer personas are the most important step in creating an inbound marketing campaign, and yet you’d be surprised at how many marketers haven’t created buyer personas to focus their campaigns around! Buyer personas (also known as marketing personas) are semi-fictional representations of your perfect customer and are key to ensuring your marketing campaigns are effectively targeted and speak to the right people.
When creating a buyer persona, picture your “perfect” customer or buyer and ask yourself the following questions –
Considering these questions when creating your buyer personas helps to keep your inbound marketing campaigns as targeted and efficient as possible. This is a relatively quick process and existing personas should be reevaluated and updated before creating any new campaign. After all, if your customers have changed then your message should too!
If you need some extra guidance creating your buyer personas then this great tool from HubSpot will help you through the process.
Inbound marketing was created in response to a fundamental change in the way people buy. With this in mind researching and understanding the journey your buyers go through, from first discovering your brand to making their first purchase and beyond, should be your first step in creating any successful inbound marketing campaign.
The buyer’s journey is made up of three key stages –
Having an intimate understanding of the journey your buyers undergo before making a purchase is key to crafting your marketing efforts to best suit them. Why is this so important? Even if you’re able to create a perfect marketing email complete with convincing copy and beautiful creatives, it’s next to useless if it’s telling somebody something they already know. Inbound marketing is all about delivering the right content to the right people at the right time and understanding what content buyers want and need to see at each stage of their journey allows us to do this.
When defining your buyer’s journey the best source of information is your existing customers. Interviewing them alongside those members of your team that have frequent contact with them – such as sales and support – will paint the clearest picture of how they found your product and what burning questions they needed answering before making a purchasing decision. Here are some questions to consider asking when defining your buyer’s journey.
At this stage your buyers have either identified a problem they’re having or an opportunity they want to pursue. They’re likely still trying to define their problem or goal and are searching for solutions in broad terms, so consider asking:
At this stage of their journey, your buyers have defined their problem or objective and are actively looking for a solution. They’re considering different methods of addressing it rather than specific product or brands. For example, a digital marketer knows they need to drive more traffic to their website and are considering whether improving their search engine optimisation (SEO) or utilising paid advertising is the best method. Consider asking questions such as:
At this stage of their journey your buyers have completed their initial research, decided on the best solution for them and are now considering competing products and services that will deliver the results they require. Using our example from above let’s assume this marketer has decided to improve their SEO and is looking to hire an agency, which one will they choose? At this stage consider asking questions such as:
Considering every stage of your buyer’s journey is key to delivering a robust, engaging inbound marketing campaign that delivers results. It is your job as an inbound marketer to lead buyers seamlessly through their journey, delivering insightful, engaging and most importantly valuable content at each one of these stages. Before creating any piece of content for your inbound marketing efforts consider asking yourself what stage of the buyer’s journey it will be consumed at, what burning question it will answer for your buyers. and whether you’ve already given them this information. After all, the more valuable and informative your content the more your buyers are likely to engage with it.
Despite its increased prominence over the last several years, content marketing is by no means a new thing and has existed in one form or another since 1732. It has however found increased popularity in the last decade, with the rising popularity of the internet allowing consumers a quick and easy way to research products and solutions without ever having to talk to a salesperson. This has led to a world where ‘Content is King’ and the company that’s able to educate and answer their customer’s question best is the one that wins their business. Content marketing is just one piece of the inbound marketing toolkit but is quite possibly the most important one.
At its most basic level content marketing is the act of creating and sharing content such as blogs, videos and podcasts in order to encourage interest in your products and services rather than directly promote your brand. Instead of shouting your message for as many people as possible to hear, you’re aiming to engage and educate your prospective customers and drive awareness of the problems that your product is capable of solving.
The tweet pictured to the right from HubSpot is a great example of content marketing in action. There is no mention of their brand products or services, it simply addresses and informs the reader about a problem they may not have even been aware of (the issue of low mobile form submissions), educates them on how to resolve it with a link to a genuinely insightful blog post, and positions HubSpot as the best solution to do so, all without a hard-sell.
Quite possibly the most important part of any inbound marketing strategy is your website’s blog. It doesn’t have to be called ‘blog’, it could be ‘resources’, ‘insights’ or any number of things – but they all play the same role. A well kept blog is one of the most effective ways of regularly publishing interesting and insightful long form content relating to your business or industry. Offering content that’s genuinely valuable to your readers helps to build trust, prove your expertise and establish you as a thought leader in your industry.
Creating a successful blog post is no small feat. In fact DigitalMarketer found that on average the ideal length for a blog post is 1,600 words and research done by Brian Dean in 2016 found that the average page ranking at the top on Google contains 1,890 words. On the flip side however, informative, well written blog posts are able to continually bring traffic to your site and generate new leads for years after they’re first posted. In fact (so long as you keep it updated where necessary) as a post ages and accrues more social shares and SEO authority, it can become an even more effective source of new leads for your business than when you first posted it. When looking to create a new blog post the most important considerations are –
Having exceptional content is one thing but how do you actually drive traffic to it? Promoting it via social media and paid advertising is one way, but having a strong search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy that helps your content rank highly on Google and other search engines when people search for relevant keywords is the key to generating new leads from your content years after you’ve created it. Modern search engines use sophisticated algorithms that look at the content of your site as well as its structure. Pillar pages and topic clusters are a method of structuring your website’s content to ensure search engines consider it to be an authority on the topics you’re trying to rank for.
A pillar page should act as a central hub of information on a relatively broad topic. They’re unique in that they’re usually extremely long (over 5,000 words on average) and are regularly updated and expanded to remain relevant and informative to their visitors. It’s very rare for a single user to read a pillar page end to end, they’re more likely to select their area of interest from a table of contents, however keeping all of this information on a single page cements your authority and knowledge on any given topic for both the user and the search engines.
As you build out your pillar page it’s important to include links to other relevant areas of your website such as blog posts, services pages or content offers. These other pages on your site are called ‘cluster content’. Your cluster content should also link back to your pillar page; this process of interlinking helps Google and other search engines to understand that the pages relate to one another and a user who has visited one may find another useful in the future.
Creating a pillar page can seem like a daunting task, but if you have a well established blog that already covers parts of the topic your pillar page can utilise it to speed up the creation process. Choose existing blog posts that relate to areas you’d like to cover and use the content from each to create the subsections of your pillar page. Although proof reading is necessary to ensure information is still relevant and up-to-date and time should be spent creating a highly engaging introduction, this method can be used to create your pillar pages quickly if you’re short on time or resources.
Developing a highly informative pillar page and linking it to related cluster content on your site is one of the most effective SEO strategies today and is capable of growing your authority and search engine rankings.
Having a strong social media strategy is key to the success of any inbound marketing campaign as it offers you a platform to engage with your audience both en masse and in one to one conversations. This gives you the opportunity to be more personable and conversational with your prospects, leads and customers, building lasting relationships and increased trust and advocacy for your brand. An effectively implemented social media strategy can help you to –
Social media is also the core driver you should be using to promote and encourage engagement on your blog posts and other pieces of inbound marketing content. Every piece of content you create should be supported by social activity across all of the platforms that are relevant to your business. If you’re unsure which platforms are best for you then consider taking a step back and looking once more at your buyer personas. Which platforms are your buyers active on and how can you best reach them? All social media platforms are not created equal, so spend some time determining which ones are the best fit for both your business and the individual offers and pieces of content you’re looking to promote.
Creating a social media strategy that delivers reliable, predictable results hinges on being able to create and publish interesting and engaging content that delivers value to your audience. Learning to reliably create content that engages your audience is an art form that takes time to master and is different for every business and their buyer personas. There are however some basic principles that can be applied to any social media strategy to foster increased engagement. Here are some things to consider including and avoiding when creating content for social media –
As you create more content across your social platforms it’s important to track what’s working and what isn’t, alongside auditing and adjusting your social media strategy once every 12-18 months. This not only ensures your social media channels are generating the results that you want, but offers an opportunity to optimise for increased efficiency and garner even more insights into your buyer personas.
If you’re still unsure about creating reliable, captivating social media posts for your brand then click here to read our top 10 tips for writing engaging social media posts.
When creating a social media strategy for your business it’s important to remember that creating and posting valuable content for your audience to interact with is only one half of the puzzle; the other half is social listening.
Social listening is the process of monitoring discussions about your brand, products or industry that are happening on social media and engaging with these conversations to shape the direction of the conversation. There are several key benefits to social listening –
Remember that social listening is not just about monitoring those having conversations about your brand and your other areas of interest, but also engaging with those conversations and putting yourself in a position to drive people towards your products and services. You should ensure on all channels you’re clearly pointing your audience towards the best way to have a conversation with you. There’s nothing worse than seeming unavailable to a prospect, lead or customer that is trying to get in touch.
A conversion is the moment when a prospect – whether a visitor on your website, subscriber to your mailing list or follower of your social profiles – takes a desired action. They act as checkpoints that lead someone through their buyer’s journey and progress them down your marketing funnel. Conversions are flexible and can be triggered by a near infinite range of actions from someone submitting their email address on your website, to following your twitter profile or making an e-commerce purchase. They depend entirely on your business, industry and the desired path you intend your buyers to follow.
For inbound marketers, as a general rule the more conversions taken the better. Therefore it’s our job to design conversions paths that encourage users to trigger a conversion and lead them through their buyer’s journey using features such as buttons, landing pages, text links and other forms of calls to action.
A conversion path at its most basic level is the process by which an unknown visitor to your website, regardless of the traffic source, converts into a known lead. A well designed conversion path should include –
These four elements come together when a lead sees a content offer they’re interested in such as a free PDF download, and clicks your call to action to access it. From there they’re sent to a landing page where they fill in information like their name, email address and company in exchange for your content offer. Once the form is submitted they’re sent to a thank you page where they can access the content.
Of course setting up conversion paths including these four elements isn’t enough alone to start converting visitors into leads, so consider the following suggestions when designing your conversion paths to maximise their efficiency –
Calls to action (CTA) are a key part of every inbound marketing campaign. They help to guide your audience into taking your desired action by showing them a clear next step that will lead them through their buyer’s journey and move them closer to a purchasing decision. While the most common style of CTA is a simple button on a website, they can take many forms including –
Regardless of the format your call to action takes they should utilise punchy and action oriented copy. Small changes to your call to action such as adjusting the colour or verb in the copy can result in significantly higher click through rates and increased ROI. With this in mind it has become common practice for inbound marketers to conduct extensive testing to optimise their CTAs for their buyer personas. This most frequently takes the form of continuous A/B testing otherwise known as split testing, to ensure they’re maximising their ROI from their existing conversion paths and providing a reliable framework for future ones.
Landing pages are the heart of your conversion path and facilitate the conversion action itself. Even if a user has clicked on your CTA there’s no guarantee they’ll complete the form and submit their information on the landing page. In fact the average landing page conversion rate is only 2.35%, although a well designed landing page can easily increase this to over 30%, making landing page optimisation quite possibly the most important part of the conversion path design process. Landing pages are treated in the same way as CTAs by the majority of inbound marketers who are constantly testing, tweaking and optimising them to bring in more leads and a higher ROI. While this process is iterative and different for every business, there are a few key points to consider when designing a landing page –
Remember that finalising the design of your landing page and pressing publish isn’t the end of the process. A good inbound marketer constantly monitors, tests and refines their landing pages to increase the rate at which they convert, as well as to learn more about their buyers’ wants, needs and pain points.
You didn’t think your job as an inbound marketer was finished as soon as a prospect converts into a lead on one of your landing pages did you? Lead nurturing is the next step in the inbound marketing process and is your chance to keep at the forefront of your buyer’s minds until they’re ready to make a purchase. It’s estimated that only 3% of your audience are ‘ready to buy’ at any given time so it’s important to continue delivering valuable, insightful content to your leads until they’re in a position to speak to sales and make a purchase.
Lead nurturing is the process of developing relationships with your contacts through every stage of their buyer’s journey with the goal of earning their business when they’re ready and is key to maximising the long term conversion rate of your inbound marketing efforts. On average it takes between 6 and 8 touches with any given lead before they’re ready to buy. It is the job of your lead nurturing strategy to deliver this content to each one of your leads in a timely, efficient and targeted manner.
While there are may potential mediums for lead nurturing – from social media to instant messaging – email is by far the most commonly used and effective approach. It offers a direct line to your leads and allows you to easily monitor opens, reading time and click through rates to gauge the success of your overall efforts and individual elements. However before diving in and drafting the copy for your emails and content there are some points to consider, the first of which is ensuring your audience is both segmented and well defined.
Remember, inbound marketing is all about delivering the right content to the right person at the right time, every time. This means our lead nurturing efforts should always aim to deliver content that is relevant to its recipient. For most businesses this means segmenting their audience and setting up different lead nurturing campaigns for each. This helps your leads to feel connected with your brand and avoid causing a disconnect by sharing content with them they have no interest in.
If for example, your business offered professional training services, would you want to send an email promoting a sales course to someone you know works in accounting? If you received an email like this would you feel like a valued customer or simply another entry in that company’s CRM? A good place to look when considering how to segment your audience is your buyer personas, this will not only help you to segment your audience but also the content included in your lead nurturing campaign itself.
Now you know who you’ll be sending your lead nurturing emails to it’s time to set your objectives and goals for both the whole campaign and individual emails. Think about questions such as ‘how frequently do I want to send this person emails?’ ‘What action do I want this person to take as a result?’ And ‘what content do I have or need to create that will help me to achieve this goal?’ This is also the perfect opportunity to consider segmenting your audience further. Test the water with different content topics and see which your leads are most interested in, then feed them more content related to that. Remember, lead nurturing is all about content, not sales pitches. Your job as an inbound marketer is to steer leads in your desired direction, not to spam their inboxes with constant requests for a sales call or a product demo.
Once you’ve planned who will be receiving your lead nurturing campaign and what emails you’ll be sending them, it’s time to put pen to paper and finalise your plan. A popular method for this is to create a spreadsheet for each campaign and plan the topic and timings for each email to be sent, as well as to record your results once the campaign is live. This all important step gives you a way to visualise the overall layout of your campaign and spot any gaps in your messaging schedule, as well as a resource to manage the campaigns delivery from the first email sent through to the last click.
Of course lead nurturing isn’t just for your prospects and leads; it’s a valuable tool for making the most out of existing customers. Nurturing your customers allows you to not only fuel additional purchases or a conversation about increasing their spend with your company, but is also your primary tool for driving customer engagement and advocation. Consider setting up lead nurturing campaigns to –
There’s no debate about the fact lead nurturing campaigns take a lot of hard work to both design and deliver, especially if you have to remember to send each email manually. Thankfully this is where marketing automation tools come in. Marketing automation is the process of using software to automatically segment your audience, enroll them in your campaigns and send them emails according to your (and even their) timeline. This software is capable of automating many repetitive tasks such as social media posting, sending emails and most importantly for us, delivering lead nurturing campaigns.
While there are many competing solutions on the market such as HubSpot, MailChimp and Zoho Campaigns, the majority offer a free package for lightweight users and all contain the same features at their core –
Regardless of whether you choose to utilise a marketing automation product or manually track and deliver your campaigns, lead nurturing is a key part of any inbound marketing strategy and is responsible for progressing your leads along their buyer’s journey and down your marketing funnel until they’re ready to make a purchase.
Inbound marketing has proved itself to be the most effective method of digital marketing of our time, and the best approach for businesses and marketing teams looking to transform the way they do business in the 21st Century. Today’s buyer has more access to information about your company, products and competitors than ever before and knows which solution they’re willing to purchase without ever having spoken to a sales person. In this age of consumer enlightenment, having a strong grasp on the inbound methodology and a marketing plan that reflects it is the key to crafting successful relationships with your prospects, buyers and customers.
Here at Digital Media Edge we specialise in helping businesses embrace inbound marketing and the benefits it can yield if properly implemented. If you’re interested in making the most of inbound marketing for your business then consider booking a free 30 minute consultation call with us where we’ll talk about your business, what success looks like for you, and how you can use inbound to generate more leads, revenue and growth for your business. Simply use the app below to choose a time that works for you and we’ll be in touch to confirm your appointment.