The online marketing climate has changed, and so have your resources. Inbound marketing utilizes constant information flow to invigorate the consumer. Gone are the days of spam emails, information-pumping services and general appeal. The Inbound methodology provides a strong framework for your marketing campaigns and your business as a whole. In fact, HubSpot found that companies, no matter B2B, B2C or nonprofit, are three times as likely to see a higher ROI on inbound marketing than on outbound campaigns. It really works.While seemingly promotional, effective inbound strategies are anything but. Here is your crash course in the inbound marketing methodology, and the tools and tactics used to drive customers through each stage of the sales cycle:
Stage 1: Attracting Website Visitors
Attraction is the first step in the inbound marketing funnel -- and probably the step that most companies are already trying their hand at. The idea is to use a variety of tactics to drive the right traffic to your website. Common methods used to attract website visitors includes:
- Search Engine Optimization: Utilizing keywords and links to help search engines recognize that your content (blog articles, press releases, and website pages) are relevant to the search query (what a potential customer is searching for)
- Blog articles: Consistently publishing valuable content to your website (content that helps customers find solutions to their problems) is one of the best ways to to drive traffic. In fact, companies that make blogging a priority attract 55% more visitors than those who don't! Rule of thumb: Blog at least twice per week to see maximum results.
- Social media marketing: Publishing high quality content is just the start to attracting visitors. Sure, in the long run your SEO game may drive you organic traffic (people clicking on your website in the search engine results page). If you want immediate lift, however, you have to get your content in front of your audience. Using tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other more niche networks related to your target market, you can drive immediate traffic to your new posts, and give older posts a lift. (Hint: Make sure you have social sharing enabled on your website! Not only can it provide some social proof, but it can be valuable in driving more traffic to your site.)
- Content marketing: Content marketing involves many different tactics (and honestly has some cross over with inbound, depending on who you talk to). But the tactics we find to assist inbound campaigns including guest blogging on other publications, or syndicating your content through paid media or getting it reposted on another site (word for word). This tends to be time consuming as it can involve more public relations-type tactics, but it can be great for business, too. If you go down this route, be sure to track referrals so you can see which publications are really giving you an ROI.
The modern consumer is always connected. Attracting consumers is a game of need identification. The companies that are most successful in inbound marketing take the time to understand their prospective customer's needs, wants and common pain points. Addressing these through your content is an effective way to attract the right people to your website, where you can then convert them into a lead.
Stage 2: Converting Visitors to Leads
Conversion is inbound marketing’s key step. If you’ve attracted traffic to your site, you now have the opportunity to convert that visitor into a lead. Assuming you’ve kept your visitors onsite through helpful and interesting content (whether that be video, blog post or web page), the next step is serving up an offer that prospective customer should want. An offer can be a premium download, such as an ebook or checklist, a coupon, an exclusive video, or even access to an exclusive event or webinar.
The conversion happens when a prospective customer gives you their information in exchange for your offer. That's the beauty of inbound marketing, and why it works so well: everything is an exchange of value. While your prospects receive valuable information that can help them solve problems or learn something new, you receive the value of their contact information (which you need in the next phase of the sales process).
In short, content really is king—the king of conversion. Your conversions (turning website visitors into leads) primarily relies on the following tools:
- Premium offers: The offer is the valuable content, resource or coupon that the prospect is being presented with in order for you to gather their contact information. Offers can be anything that is exclusive (can only be received here) and is perceived as valuable to your customers. Consider talking to sales about your customers' commonly asked questions during the beginning, middle and bottom of the sales process. These can be good fodder for offers.
- Call To Actions: Call to actions (CTAs) are the visual cues, such as a button or image, that get a visitor to act. To do that, CTAs always use action words, such as "download," "buy," "submit," and "contact" to drive clicks (see example at the end of this post). The CTA should drive to a landing page.
- Landing pages: A landing page is a special page set up to act as a conversion point for a specific offer and action. For example, if your CTA is "download our guide," it should link to a page (the landing page) that houses the form through which the prospective customer can request the guide. Best practice for landing pages is to remove site navigation and keep to one call to action on the page (usually the submit button at the bottom of the form). This directs the eye and helps to eliminate any distractions from completing the task.
- Forms: As mentioned, the form is a series of fields in which the prospect must enter his or her information in order to receive the offer. Forms are typically 4-5 fields only, as to not scare away the visitor. With tools such as HubSpot, you can create "smart forms" that will automatically swap out fields that the visitor previously filled out for an earlier offer. This way you can slowly gather more information on an engaged prospect, which we call "progressive profiling" in inbound marketing. This helps with qualifying your leads.
In essence, offering valuable resources assists in converting visitors to leads. If your offers and CTAs are enticing, you'll start gathering leads by having visitors submit contact information--thereby entering your sales funnel (without any kind of over marketing or pushy salesmanship).
Step 3: Closing Sales
Closing sales opportunities means that you successfully attract the right visitors, get prospects to convert to a lead, and have nurtured them through your sales process. While traditionally this stage involved your sales team picking up the phone or emailing every single lead that came through the door, inbound marketing mixed with marketing automation can help qualify and nurture leads before your sales team has to do any work.
Sound a bit far fetched? I hear you. I thought it sounded a bit crazy at first, but it's actually a very cool process. With some set up and planning, when your leads take an action, a specific response from your company can be triggered while you sleep. Most of these take place within your marketing automation tool (such as HubSpot) or your email client (such as MailChimp). Here's how we do it:
- Email workflows: After a visitor becomes a lead by filling out a form on your website, they can be dropped into a "workflow." This workflow is a series of actions you want your lead to take and the response you want to send them in return. Here's an example: After a lead subscribes to your inbox, you automatically send them a thank you email with a link to some blog posts they should read to get started. Your lead decides to visit one of the links. Your marketing software sees that they opened your email and clicked through to your site. Since you (and your software) now know the lead is engaged, you can then trigger a follow up email a couple days later with a special offer to try to gather more information. The possibilities are endless, really -- and that's the fun of it! (Psst...if you're interested in workflows, check out this article from HubSpot).
- Lead scoring: Within your software, you can also attach a score to each action a lead takes or each interaction they may with your company, a process called lead scoring. For example, reading a blog article could be one point, while using the contact button could be 5. If the lead gets to 10 points, they get moved from just a lead to a marketing qualified lead and can then be handed over to sales or pushed into a sales funnel for qualifying. Again, this all happens automatically within your software
- CRM integration: When you capture new leads, they automatically get dropped into your CRM. More than that, though, it will track your leads every interaction with your brand online, such as your website and social media. As a lead moves through the sales cycle, you can keep notes there of each interaction, and keep track of where each lead is in the cycle. It's a great tool for transparency and keeping the whole time in the loop.
Success isn’t a state, it’s a process. Constant upkeep of resource management, planning, and campaign movement equals a winning strategy. In other words, learn from your victories. Summarize your winning tactics. Adapt any techniques that aren't working. Inbound is a learning process, but with tool, all the data is up for grabs and you can make changes easily based on what has worked and what has not.
Step 4: Add Delight
Delight is one of inbound marketing’s finest offerings, and one which takes things a step further than traditional sales has in the past. This is where your company's culture and customer relations kicks in to help with the longevity of your business. Developing close, personal relationships creates lifetime product and service value. Offering customized resources can enhance brand loyalty (think special content or offers for your customers and clients. Delighting customers with custom-tailored messages and unique opportunities will also further your brand’s notoriety. Delighting consumers, while a continuous process, is incredibly viable when using:
- Smart calls-to-action: Within your marketing automation software, you can customize CTAs to show only to a select list segmentation, such as customers.
- Social media: Have a big win? Give your customer a shout out on social media! Interact with your customer's social channels to help them boost their reach. They'll appreciate it.
- Email workflows: Just because a lead has now become a customer doesn't mean that the nurturing is over. If you're a product company, especially, this is when your onboarding emails come into play. If you are a services company, an email drip with important information about how you work or a newsletter with industry insights can help build a stronger relationship with clients.
Delight comes from the relationships and bonding between you, as the provider, and your customer/client. Inbound marketing is about selling, but selling is about offering remarkable content to customers and leads. Someone might’ve signed a contract, purchased a good or invested in a service, but they should never be forgotten.
In fact, failure to delight and provide follow-up services can be a weakness for many companies. As an inbound marketer, you must continue to engage, enrich and inspire your consumers. Reward your current customer base. Grow your happy promoters. The more value you show your clients, the more likely they are to want to help you grow, too.
At the end of the day, businesses exist to help customers solve problems, and inbound marketing is the vehicle for that. Smart website content, surveys, social media monitoring, trigger marketing and smart content all play a role.
Your inbound marketing efforts should be cohesive. While attracting and converting consumers are vital marketing actions, closure and delight sustain a brand’s impact. The modern world has adapted to marketing, and intelligent buyers deserve quality service. Now, it’s your job to ensure a simplified buying process.