If you’ve talked with anyone from Riafox, you’ve probably heard the phrase “inbound marketing” or “content marketing” mentioned.
While it’s not a new idea, it has been gaining traction within the last few years. If you aren’t familiar with the term, you may have heard of the concept—essentially, inbound marketing is sharing content with the online world specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers. If you do this well, you’ll attract qualified leads and prospects to your business and keep them coming back.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
When most people think about marketing, the tactics that come to mind are usually of the outbound variety. Some examples of outbound marketing include print advertising, TV commercials, cold calls, etc.
Here are some of the disadvantages associated with outbound marketing:
- It’s easy for people to avoid. People buy DVRs specifically to avoid commercials and put their phone numbers on Do Not Call lists. They’re so used to being interrupted by these unwanted advertisements that they’ve figured out how to avoid them as much as possible.
- It’s hard to target the right people. When you send out a mass email newsletter or start cold calling, there’s only so much you can do to specify what type of people are seeing your efforts. More often than not, those people aren’t actually interested in your product or service.
- It’s expensive and difficult to determine your ROI. With all of the technology created to making these kinds of techniques less effective, your efforts will become more expensive. And how are you going to know if the person who just called about your product or service came from your TV commercial or saw your ad in the newspaper?
Is it still possible to get your message out using outbound marketing tactics? Yes, but it usually costs more, and, like I mentioned, it’s hard to track and quantify results. The behavior of consumers has changed drastically, so it only makes sense if your marketing tactics get their attention change as well.
Inbound Marketing—the Solution?
So, we’ve established that the old way of marketing to consumers isn’t working anymore. “Buying, begging, or bugging your way in” won’t get you the results you want—you have to earn your way in by producing valuable content and becoming a source of information that people can trust.
- Inbound attracts rather than interrupts consumers. Look, consumers are smart—they know when the blog post they’re reading is really just a thinly veiled attempt to sell them something. What you need to do is become a wealth of education and knowledge. When people have a question about something related to your industry, wouldn’t it be great if the first place they thought to look for the answer was on your blog or website?
- You can target exactly who you want. One of the most important aspects of successful inbound marketing are personas. They’re essentially generalized, fictional representations of your ideal customers. They will help you understand how you can shape your content to meet specific needs and problems of various customers.
- It’s easy to determine which tactics are and aren’t working. With inbound marketing, you’re able to track various metrics to know if what you’re doing will give you a return on your investment.
Jay Baer, president of ConvinceandConvert.com, outlines four types of metrics:
- Consumption (how many people see or watch your content)
- Sharing (how many social media shares your content gets)
- Lead generation (how many of those people actually become leads through signing up for newsletters and blog subscriptions)
- Sales (how many people that see your content end up becoming customers)
At Riafox, we like Hubspot’s methodology for how you can turn strangers into customers and, ultimately, advocates of your company.
Attract the Right Customer
It’s not enough to just get more traffic to your site—you want to get the right traffic. Remember when we talked about personas? This is really when those come into play. Personas are built from answers about your ideal customers’ goals, challenges, common objections, and pain points as well as broad demographic information.
When you’re looking to make a large purchase, like a car or an expensive household appliance, where do you go to find ratings, reviews, and consumer feedback? Probably Google. There are thousands and thousands of questions being sent through search engines every day, and chances are, some of those searches are questions that your product or service can help answer.
Here are some ways you can help attract the right persona to your website:
- Blogging – Creating content is the most important thing you can do to get the attention of the right kinds of potential customers! I don’t think I can overemphasize this enough. You have to create great content that speaks to them and educates them—you want to become the trusted resource.
- Social Media – You want to be able to share your great content with the world, and the easiest way to do that is through channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you can figure out where your personas are spending most of your time, you can make sure that your content is there to engage with them.
- SEO – Search engine optimization, or SEO, is something that gets thrown around a lot when talking about websites, and if you aren’t familiar with it, you can read our guide here. You need to carefully choose keywords and key phrases that you think your ideal customers will search for and then create content around those terms.
Convert Visitors to Leads
So, now you’re getting a lot of traffic to your website because of your awesome content—that’s great! The next step is to convert those visitors into leads by getting some kind of contact information from them. Email addresses are absolutely necessary, but any other information you can get will only help you be able to continue to refine your personas and content.
In order to get that information from a potential client, you need to give something in return. Again, this is where personas play an important role. What kinds of information would be valuable enough to each of your personas to convince them to give up their name and email address?
- Forms – In order to get your content offer (an ebook, white paper, case study, etc.), visitors have to fill out a form. You don’t want to ask too many questions, or people won’t be willing to complete the form.
- Calls-to-Action – Calls-to-action, or CTAs, are links or buttons that entice your visitors to complete an action, like sign up for your newsletter, sign up for a webinar, or download your case study. You can’t generate leads without these, so make sure you create ones that encourage people to give you their information!
- Landing Pages – After clicking on a CTA, your visitor should be taken to a landing page where they fill out the form to give you their information and then your content offer is delivered.
Close Leads into Customers
If your sales and marketing teams weren’t on the same page before, this is definitely the time to ensure that closed-loop reporting is implemented! You’ll want to know how many leads the marketing team is bringing in and how many the sales team is able to transform into customers. At Riafox, we use HubSpot for the following tools, but there are many options out there to use based on your business. Using the following tools can make that a little easier:
- CRM – You’ll need a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to keep track of incoming prospects and deals in your pipeline. This is the place where both your sales and marketing teams are able to easily get in touch with leads at the appropriate time.
- Email – For the leads who have downloaded your content offer but aren’t ready to convert into a customer, sending out additional content through an email newsletter is a great way to build a relationship with a prospect. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll trust and value your company’s expertise.
- Workflows – This can be a little time-consuming but worth the effort. Let’s say you have two ebook offerings for real estate agencies about different topics—one about social media marketing and one about website design. Wouldn’t it make sense for the people who downloaded the one about social media to get information that continues to help them improve that area? You want to keep track of how each contact is interacting with your website, social media channels, and content offers, and adjust your messaging accordingly.
Delight Your Customers
Don’t forget about your customers after you deposit their check! You want to continue to engage with your current customers so that they turn into promoters of your services or product. Let’s look at some ideas for continuing to delight your customers:
- Surveys – Use customer feedback and surveys to make sure that your customers are happy and that you’re improving in all the ways that matter to them.
- Smart Content – Give current clients different CTAs or content that is tailored to their challenges or pain points. Introduce them to new products or additional services that can help them achieve their goals.
- Social Monitoring – It’s not enough to simply post content on your social media channels—you want to engage in conversations that matter in your industry. Be on the lookout for customer questions and comments, and sing to them by producing relevant content.
It doesn’t matter how many blog posts and ebooks you read about inbound —eventually you have to do it! Inbound marketing is a little bit of an art and a science rolled into one, and if you don’t have the expertise to execute an inbound marketing plan yourself, it’s important to understand the basics and framework behind it. With these examples of inbound in mind, you’re well on your way to maximizing your company’s potential for sales and growth.