For many years businesses relied on interruptive marketing techniques such as buying ads, buying email lists, or cold calling to sell their products and services. Over time as markets became saturated with advertisements and potential customers became inundated this loss its effect. Somewhere along the journey to the perfect marketing formula, the most intelligent advertisers realized interrupting consumers with untrustworthy advertising that overpromised and under-delivered was no way to function and instead created inbound marketing. Inbound marketing functions as a way to build relationships with prospects, leads, and consumers based on where they stand within the different stages of their buyers journey. From this point forward agencies and companies alike, could continuously attract, convert, close, and delight their customer base through thought leadership.
Pre-internet buyers were relatively uninformed and their buyer journey was linear. However, today’s buyers are well informed due to the Internet, namely Google, being one of the first places they look for information about the product or service they are looking to purchase. As potential customers begin their fluid and random discovery phase of the buyer journey, brands have the responsibility of attracting customers to their sites and content while competing with millions of other companies offering similar products and services. Essentially buyers know most of what they need to know about a business before they provide their information to a company.
So why inbound? Inbound marketing allows businesses to meet their consumers, leads, and prospects where they are by outsmarting the competition. This is carried out as thought leadership through content creation. As a business you now have to ask permission to engage consumers or you might miss a potential sale which can lead to missing out on many potential sales with modern-day complaints being published on the internet for all to see. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests and earning permission to market to prospects that you can convert into leads, close into customers, and delight to the point they come promoters of your brand. Asking permission can be carried out in the following methods:
- Content Creation – Targeted, sharable content that answers your customer’s basic questions and needs;
- Lifecycle Marketing – Recognition of people going through stages as they interact with your company, and that each stage requires different marketing actions;
- Personalization and Context – As you learn more about your leads over time, you can better personalize your messages to their specific needs by creating personas and marketing to similar customers using similar methods;
- A Multi-Channel Presence – Allows marketers to approach people where they are, in the channel where they WANT to interact with you; and
- Integration – Remember this: if content is king, then distribution is queen. Your publishing and analytics tools all work together like a well-oiled machine, allowing you to focus on publishing the right content in the right place at the right time. Additionally, within inbound marketing, professionals have the privilege of evaluating their techniques and adapting their strategies as a marketing campaign is being carried out.
Essentially, inbound puts brands in the position to own their place in a customer’s buyer journey and control their selling destiny.
The methodology of inbound facilitates the buyer journey through the sales funnel – from strangers to promoters of a brand. This is carried out in a continuous cycle of asking permission. As brands attract strangers through their blogs, SEO keywords, social media platforms, and website pages they become visitors who must be converted using calls-to-action, landing pages, and contact forms. After brands are able to convert their visitors to qualified leads they have then have permission to close the sale through email, workflows, lead scoring and customer relationship management (CRM) scoring. Once brands are able to close they must continuously delight their customers through social media, smart-calls-to-action, email and workflows. When carried out properly the inbound methodology allows brands to create promoters. In doing so, brands will build trust and be loved by their customers while outsmarting, not outspending their competitors.
Delightful isn’t it? Inbound marketing allows brands to create the right content within the right context. This allows marketers to produce qualified leads online with content (website pages, blog articles, social messages) optimized for search and social media. It makes the job easier and more time efficient by weeding out unqualified leads!