Inbound marketing is a magical game-changer, and if you aren’t already using its principles to discover and serve your clients, please – PLEASE – pay attention and get ready for a ride that can both challenge and delight.
I’ve been building websites for, ahem, 20 years, and in the beginning things were pretty much like A Field of Dreams. (“If you build it, they will come.”) When the technology was new, there was a fairly steep learning curve, and people mainly just wanted to have an online presence. In the early days, companies literally turned over their global branding to their IT guys.
Then the process began to get more sophisticated, and people started thinking about being found in search results and getting more visitors. A surge in search engine optimization helped people improve their search results and eventually their content. Google and other search engines learned how to spot people gaming the system, and every day they are becoming better at sorting the wheat from the chaff to help us all find relevant, trusted answers to our queries.
Finally, websites are now much easier to build and maintain, leaving people with more energy for the all-important question of WHY they have a website and for WHOM. The focus is on the message, not just the medium, starting with the audience for whom your message is meant and continuing the process with not just a message, but a meaningful conversation.
For one of my clients, dedication to this process has meant a 1,000% (yes, one thousand percent!) increase in sales leads over the past six months.
If this is not something your website is doing for you, now is a good time to roll up your sleeves, sit back and watch a few videos about inbound marketing that will help you change your game.
Recently I’ve become certified in inbound marketing via two platforms, Hubspot (an industry-leading marketing and sales platform for larger enterprises) and Hatchbuck (an email marketing and automation platform for small businesses). Full disclosure: I am a Hatchbuck certified partner and affiliate, and inbound-certified at Hubspot.
Based on the fundamentals I learned as part of the certification process, here are six reasons why I believe inbound marketing is a magical game-changer:
1. Inbound marketing provides you with a road map.
After all, we won’t get anywhere if we don’t first know where we want to go. Your first step in inbound marketing is to set some SMART goals that are:
Focused on this campaign topic/product, we want to attract ___ (number of) visitors, convert ___ new leads, and close ___ new customers by ___ (date).
2. Inbound marketing helps you know your customer.
Once you know where you want to go, the next step is figuring out with whom. The process starts with a look at your existing and ideal customers.
Create a buyer persona (or several) about each type of customer. Be specific. Who are these people? What are their pain points or problems for which you can offer a service or solution? How old are they? How do they access their information? Where do they hang out online? What do they do in their free time? Why would they want what you can provide?
3. Inbound marketing earns the attention of your customers.
Let’s look at the definition of inbound marketing on Wikipedia:
Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.
That’s not just any content. Specifically, it’s content meant to help your prospective client by providing information NOT especially relevant to your brand (at least not yet.) As part of your inbound marketing campaign, you provide trusted information that helps solve the problems and pain points your customers and potential customers are experiencing.
4. Inbound marketing helps you position yourself as a trusted authority as you craft content for each stage of your buyer’s journey.
But if you are to be trusted, you can’t blow your own horn. Be of service and do your research to present industrywide best practices and solutions. Hubspot defines the buyer’s journey and applicable content in three stages. Note, it’s not until the final stage that we present our branded solution.
- Awareness stage: Prospect is experiencing and expressing symtoms of a problem or opportunity. (Analyst reports, research reports, ebooks, editorial content, expert content, whitepapers, educational content)
- Consideration stage: Prospect has now clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity. (Comparison whitepapers, expert guides, live interactions, webcasts, podcasts, videos)
- Decision stage: Prospect has now decided on their solution strategy, method, or approach. (Vendor comparisons, product comparisons, case studies, trial downloads, product literature, live demos)
5. Inbound marketing offers an ongoing course correction.
Following each campaign, or even during a campaign, we can measure our results so we can make course corrections along the way to provide better content that reaches more of our audience. Rinse and repeat.
6. Inbound marketing offers a defined path to success.
By creating valuable content for our customer/buyer personas, we can both attract and serve our customers using these steps in the inbound methodology (courtesy of Hubspot):
- Attract strangers via keywords, blog posts and social publishing.
- Convert visitors to leads with calls to action and forms on landing pages that capture their contact details in exchange for valuable information that informs, enlightens or solves their problems.
- Close sales by converting leads to customers by nurturing them via email marketing, automation and contact management.
- Delight existing customers with outstanding customer service, getting their feedback with surveys, offering smart content especially for them, and monitoring their needs via social media.
Granted, most of this is not really new anymore, all the more reason now is a good time to start if you haven’t already. This History of Marketing infographic adds perspective.
However, every day I meet people who aren’t specifically working with inbound marketing to grow their businesses. Every day I meet someone who says they have a website but they still don’t really know what to do with it or they have not updated it in months or even years. (The lights are on, but nobody’s home.)
A final caveat: While inbound marketing is not the only thing you need, it’s a great start. It’s the WHY for having a website, the WHO, and the HOW to attracting more clients. Need assistance with your WHAT, WHEN and WHERE? I can help.
Julie Wolpers is a web developer and inbound marketer dedicated to helping businesses grow and serve their customers.