An Introduction to Inbound Marketing

Three steps to create your own inbound marketing strategy

Tenfold is an inbound marketing agency, but what does that mean exactly? We’ve talked about several of the inbound values in our previous blogs, but we haven’t fully explored the topic as a whole. That’s where this blog comes in. It’s a 3-step guide to creating your own inbound marketing strategy – one that gets results – using the inbound methodology.

First, we must tackle the question: Why? Why, do I need to change from using my traditional outbound marketing strategy? It’s been used effectively since the Mad Men days of advertising.

The answer: because it isn’t actually that effective anymore, and your brand deserves better.

In fact, outbound marketing may be doing more harm than good to your brand. According to a recent study by HubSpot, 44% of direct mail is never opened. In the minds of your potential customers, outbound marketing is intrusive, interruptive, and often seen as spam.

The Megaphone vs The Magnet

A good way of looking at outbound vs inbound marketing is the megaphone vs the magnet metaphor. The megaphone (outbound marketing) blasts out messages to the masses, regardless of whether they want to hear them or not. In comparison, the magnet (inbound marketing) seeks to attract specific people with tailored messages that are relevant and helpful.

So, how do you become a magnetic marketer? It all starts with creating remarkable, tailored content for your ideal customers. To do this successfully, you first need to understand how your customers think.

Step One: Understand

Buying behaviour has changed dramatically over the last few years. The way companies interact with customers is now personal, like a relationship. One of the keys to maintaining a good relationship is understanding the needs of the other person and adapting to meet these needs.

But how do you know what your customers really need? You might be guilty of thinking that the only thing that matters is whether they need your product or service. But to truly understand your customers and to be truly helpful to them, you need to go much deeper than this. We suggest you begin by creating ‘Buyer Personas’.

Buyer Personas are semi-fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers, based on research into your existing customers, as well as some educated speculation. They paint a picture that helps you to understand your prospects and tailor your communications and marketing materials to their goals and challenges. They help you to provide solutions that will genuinely help clients, not just once they buy your product but from the very first time they encounter your brand.

A well-constructed set of buyer personas will allow you to anticipate your potential clients’ needs and, in a continually evolving industry, give you the level of understanding required to ensure that you are always ready to meet customer demand.

You don’t want to attract just anyone to your business – you want to attract people who have the potential to become customers. Creating these personas will ensure that you know who you’re trying to reach and help you to create content that they want to engage with.

Step Two: Create

Content is the driving force behind the entire inbound methodology (shown above). It’s what carries the customer through the three stages of the Buyer’s Journey (Awareness, Consideration and Decision). The methodology breaks down into four content categories:

1. Attract

The goal for ‘attract’ is to convert strangers to your brand into active visitors. And the right strangers – those with the potential to become leads and customers – your Buyer Personas. To do this you can use various types of content:

  • Blogging is the best way to attract your buyer personas. It’s an opportunity to make a great first impression as a company.
  • Social media is a great way to distribute your blog and other content. Share with your buyer personas where they spend their time online.
  • Longform content, such as eBooks, can be a great way to catch the attention of prospects who might be actively looking for solutions such as yours.
  • PPC (pay-per-click advertising) and SEO (search engine optimisation) are both important ways to get your content in front of the right people at just the right moment.

According to HubSpot’s Demand Generation report, 47% of buyers read 3-5 pieces of content before deciding to interact with a sales rep. You need to take advantage of this opportunity to get in front of your potential customers – before your competitors do!

2. Capture

In this next stage, the goal is to “capture” and “convert” active visitors into leads for your business. The content for this stage is going to be more educational and specific, in forms such as:

  • Whitepapers
  • eBooks
  • Webinars/Podcasts

The plan here is to give something away that’s of value to your Buyer Persona, in exchange for their personal details such as email address. It’s classic lead-generation stuff. Your goal is to get people into your database (the right people, of course) so that you can follow up with them, educating them with helpful content that drives them towards a sale (see below).

What you give away will vary depending on your industry and your buyer personas. It could be as simple as your brochure, or it could be a toolkit or resource that helps your buyer persona to overcome a small part of one of their challenges, leaving you to step in as the obvious provider to help them overcome the challenge as a whole.

It’s important to match the value of the resource that you’re giving away to the value of the information you’re asking for in return. For example, if you’re only giving away your brochure, a 20 question form that asks for lots of personal details is going to be too much, and people won’t answer it. People increasingly value their own personal data. The more value you can provide in your resource, the more value you’re going to be able to get in return.

3. Close

The third stage is to encourage the lead to make a purchasing decision – to “close” the deal. Your buyer persona is now moving towards the ‘decision stage’ of their Buyer’s Journey, so it’s in this stage that your content can become specific to your products and what you can offer them. You might use:

  • Product FAQs
  • Solution briefs
  • Product reviews and testimonials
  • Case studies or ”success stories”

The ‘close’ stage is often more of a Sales function than a Marketing function. Marketing’s role is to create opportunities for Sales. Towards the end of the ‘close’ stage, it will be all about a sales rep (or whoever’s responsible for business development) interacting with a prospect on sales calls, or perhaps through events or webinars. But earlier in the ‘close’ stage, Marketing needs to be continuously nurturing the leads developed in the ‘capture’ stage, creating those opportunities for Sales and driving the prospect towards their decision.

It can take a lot of touch points to turn a lead into a customer. Like any ‘funnel’, it’s a bit of a numbers game. Manually nurturing every lead – providing helpful content to each person at just the right moment – would be a huge amount of work, so one of the best tools to use is marketing automation. This lets you set up a series of events – interactions with your prospect – that will run themselves. For example, you might want to send a different piece of helpful content to a prospect every few days for two weeks, and set up workflow logic that takes different steps, depending on how the prospect interacts with the content.

Marketing platforms such as HubSpot will allow you to set up this marketing automation in an effective and efficient way. We’ll discuss marketing automation in more detail at a later date, but if you’d like to learn more in the meantime check out HubSpot’s page on it.

4. Delight

The fourth and final stage in the inbound marketing methodology is perhaps the most important of all… continuing to delight customers after purchase.

We all know that the best way to generate new business is through word of mouth and referrals. According to Gartner, 80% of your future revenue will come from just 20% of your customers. Inbound marketing doesn’t just convert visitors into leads and leads into customers. It also converts customers into promoters of your business, and promoters naturally create new visitors, leads and customers! It does this through content that ‘delights’ them, such as:

  • Client-focussed blog posts and newsletters
  • Social media
  • Surveys and monitoring resources
  • Smart content (e.g. consistently updated and personalised offers to keep customers coming back for more)

When your customers love your business, they naturally want to tell others about it. What’s more, they want to buy from you again. Customer service shouldn’t be an afterthought but a key part of what you do. Of course, it starts with providing a great product or service, but the support you provide around this and the ongoing way you communicate with you customers is absolutely crucial in turning them into promoters of your business.

Treat your customers as your number one priority and everything else will fall into place.

Step Three: Share 

An in-depth knowledge of who your ideal customers are and where they are at in the buyer’s journey will help you distribute your content most effectively. Distribution is just as important as the creation of content, because after all, if nobody’s looking at your amazing content then it’s of no value to your business.

You need to reach customers where they will be most receptive to your ideas, so find out where and when your buyer personas are online. Is it LinkedIn during the work-week? Then take advantage of that and ensure that your content is going out then. They may value a more informal approach, particularly if you’re a B2C business, so Facebook, Twitter or Instagram may be more appropriate. This knowledge will ensure your content gets to the right people at the right time and moves them through the buyer’s journey.

Read more about our approach to social media and distribution here.

The Results

If you follow these steps and use inbound marketing best practices you will start to see an increase in your lead generation and marketing ROI. Many others who have deployed this methodology in their marketing have demonstrated its success. For example, a recent study revealed that 41% of marketers reported that inbound marketing improved their ROI, whereas only 12% could say the same for outbound marketing.

It won’t always be fast or easy. You need to be in it for the long-term. You’ll probably begin to see initial results within around 6 months, building into a predictable and dependable funnel within 12-18 months, depending on your business and how much you invest in your inbound marketing.

The ‘proof is in the pudding’, so to speak, which is why we’re proud to say we’re an inbound marketing agency. It’s how we deliver our clients results, Tenfold.

Do you want to find out more about Inbound Marketing and how it can get you results? Get in touch, we’d love to offer you a free consultation.