January 10, 2018 Dev Chatterjee

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a popular method modern companies and organizations utilize to draw in customers or clients instead of spending valuable time and energy searching for them. Since 2006, leading companies have known that to truly connect with our customers, we need to tailor their experience with their own likes in order to achieve trust.

When we use inbound marketing to attract customers to the merchandise they need and want, they are more likely to stay loyal to our brands and our products. This trust we have earned with inbound marketing can last throughout the lifetime of the customer.

The Inbound Marketing Technique

There are four stages of inbound marketing that are utilized to attract the right customer to our businesses at the right time. These stages are attract, convert, close, and delight the customer using different tools for each stage. Some of the tools may be applicable to more than one stage such as polling, which can give feedback in several different ways. These methods are tried and true and have been tested with countless companies. Today, inbound marketing accounts for a large percentage of viable marketing.

The Four Stages of Inbound Marketing

 

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Stage 1: Attract

The first stage of inbound marketing is to attract potential customers to our business. This is done through search engine optimization. We can do this in several different ways effectively. How we attract our customers can vary depending on the age group we are targeting, demographics, and even the products themselves. For example, in the past if we were targeting an audience, we would do mass mailings, spend money for commercials, print-out flyers and business cards and other in-your-face methods of marketing.

In this new digital age, written brochures and mailings are much less likely to attract the customers we want. Today, digital inbound marketing is a perfect way to draw in the average modern consumer. Here are some examples of the ways stage one of inbound marketing can attract our customers to our business instead of having to actively search for them:

Blogs – These feature colored photos, catchy headlines, and informational posts to draw customers in and give them more information

Keywords or SEO – Search engine optimization links our sites to what customers are searching for, helping them to find our webpage when searching keywords in search engines

Social Publishing – With the ever popular social media becoming a daily part of consumers’ lives, it is crucial to utilize advertisements on social media as well as likes and shares, these result in more exposure and more business

Stage 2: Convert

The second stage of inbound marketing is to start converting searchers into customers. Some consumers are happy just to browse or look for an opportunity. Successful companies that use inbound marketing know the needs of their customers and give them what they want the most – freebies. Exchanging customer contact information for free company products or resources is a good way to establish a lasting connection with our customers and is a large part of inbound marketing. Free products could be ebooks, PDF instruction manuals, samples, or discounts for referring others to our business. Free item giveaways can also be essential if your business relies on word-of-mouth referrals.

As a company, we must anticipate the needs of our potential customers and supply accordingly; this is where inbound marketing can be utilized. These are a few ways that we can draw in consumers and convert them from lookers to buyers using this stage of inbound marketing:

Forms – We can utilize forms to gather customer information for immediate or future use by offering the customer a benefit for giving us their information
Calls To Action – These can be used to drive the customer to make an immediate purchase by offering new customers large discounts on products and services that they cannot refuse
Landing Pages – These can be very persuasive for customers as they are the first thing they see on our websites; best utilized with large pictures, customer reviews, and testimonials other customers can relate to.
Emails – Sending out emails that are in response to a completed form by an individual can be very helpful in bringing consumers back as new customers
Customer Contacts – Logging each and every customer contact in a concentrated location will help to track trends and to better optimize your future marketing for each type of customer profile

Step 3: Close

After we’ve used the above stages of inbound marketing to obtain our customers’ contact information through the convert stage, we can then proceed to one of the most difficult stages, closing. To close a customer using inbound marketing, we need to bring them from an interested consumer to a bonafide customer that can, in return, refer our company to others and keep the process going. We can accomplish this by educating the customer on current sales, discounts they may qualify for, or loyal customer benefits or clubs.

This can be the hardest stage of inbound marketing as the individual has to commit at this point to becoming a customer i.e., they must make a purchase. There are a few ways this closing stage can be accomplished:

CRM – Customer Relationship Management is when the customers information is stored and used for future inbound marketing
Workflows – This uses customer driven stimulus to support our inbound marketing efforts by tailoring the customers’ interaction via emails or other contact methods
Email – Also useful during closing stage; allows customers to drive their own participation in our business by receiving customized emails for their interests on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
Marketing Automation – These tools provide automated solutions by removing repetitive free-hand work, accomplishing more with less human error, and staying ahead of the customer’s needs by anticipating them automatically
Closed Loop Reporting – Marketing leads are useless when they cannot be tied in with actual business sales leads, so closing the loop makes sure that the sales and marketing teams are working efficiently together to produce more overall sales

Step 4: Delight

The last stage of inbound marketing is to delight the customer so that they will continue to purchase more goods or possibly lead to an up-sale in the future. As our businesses strive to satisfy our customers, their positive feedback will promote possible future business, therefore proving the success of the inbound marketing process over other methods.

Each customer that has gone through the inbound marketing method, could possibly end up being an unpaid spokesperson for our company, passing on the word that we have a viable product that someone may need. A customer that wants to come back is much more valuable to our company than one who comes only by necessity. After we’ve gone through the steps to gain the customer, now it is time to make the customer happy to come back over and over again. Some of the various ways that we can delight our customers using inbound marketing are:

Surveys – These promote customer loyalty by allowing the consumer to rate our products honestly and tell us what they want to see next
Polls – When used properly these can allow customers to choose what they want changed or what works with what we are doing already
Smart Content – Allows for personalized experiences with the customer through various means of contact such as website, emails, and social media
Social Monitoring – Tools that give feedback to our company in regards to how our brand or products are being mentioned or advertised online

The Verified Way to Market A Businesses

Now that we’ve covered the key stages to inbound marketing, why should you choose it against traditional marketing? The reasons are plenty. First, inbound marketing results in less cost to our business. We can avoid costly marketing techniques like forced advertisements, commercials, email blasts, and other methods that attempt to force a customer into hearing about our business. Instead, inbound marketing simply provides tried and true methods to encourage the customer to investigate our business on their own. When you lure a customer in with inbound marketing, they are enticed to see more.

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Why Should We Get Away From Outbound Marketing?

There are countless reasons why outbound marketing is a strategy of the past. It is built upon a relationship of overwhelming the consumer with gimmicks that they feel like they have to purchase whatever our business is selling. This interaction starts off negatively, and often ends with a negative experience. A person who has a negative experience is not going to recommend our company to a friend or family member.

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How Can We Use Local Inbound Marketing To Our Advantage?

Using inbound marketing is a surefire way to stay competitive with other businesses. These are the best ways that our businesses can use inbound marketing to create lasting positive connections with customers in order to build a strong and reliable consumer base:

Design Content

  • Inbound marketing encourages businesses to create thoughtful and enjoyable content
  • Share content in every platform available e.g. social media, website, blog, emails, etc
  • Make sure the content provides an answer our customer’s question and/or need

Support the Customer

  • Relationships with our customers take time to build, and each customer needs to have a reason to search for our product
  • Inbound marketing teaches that supporting our customer’s lifestyle choices allows a deeper connection and more lasting relationship
  • Giving the customer what they want to see, makes them happier and will keep them coming back
  • If we advertise where our customer spends the most time, they will have better access to our products and services

Celebrate Individuality

  • Just as each product is different, so too are each of our customers
  • Customize each customer contact for their interest and needs
  • Inbound marketing allows our customers to choose how they are reached e.g. text, email, phone, direct-mail for a better connection from business to consumer
  • Listening to customer feedback and adjusting our inbound marketing accordingly is good practice

Branch Out

  • Inbound marketing shows us that each customer is different, so we must try reaching them in different ways
  • It’s not enough to utilize one method of social media, we must use them all so that no customer is left out
  • Loyalty to one type of media may affect our customers negatively
  • It’s a waste of money to try to make customers find us, inbound marketing allows us to be where the customer is when they are there
  • Customize each customer contact for their interest and needs
  • Inbound marketing allows our customers to choose how they are reached e.g. text, email, phone, direct-mail for a better connection from business to consumer

Keep Things Tidy

  • Inbound marketing allows us to make sure our customer contact leads do not fall through the cracks between the marketing team and sales team
  • Each customer contact must be treated as a potential sale for our company
  • Marketing and analytic tools should be used hand-in-hand for greater control over our inbound marketing success

As the years go by and social media and online networking grow stronger and more prevalent in our society, so too will inbound marketing. It is undeniably the optimum way to obtain loyal customers that will purchase goods and services from our companies for years to come. With the four simple stages that inbound marketing encompasses; attract, convert, close, and delight, we are better able to communicate with our customers we ever have been before.

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About the Author

Dev Chatterjee I am an inbound marketing expert and search engine optimization (SEO) specialist who helps businesses attract visitors, convert leads and close sales.

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