How Does Inbound Marketing Work?
is the Head of Marketing at Lean Labs. His experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
It’s a warm summer day. You’re lounging in the great outdoors, and you decide to open up a jar of honey.
Perhaps the honey becomes more viscous and maybe you start to smell its sweet aroma emanating from the jar... but most notably?
Bees come in droves!
Like bees to honey, inbound marketing is the honey that effortlessly attracts your target customers to your business.
How Does Inbound Marketing Work?
Before we get into how that works however, let’s first discuss the differences between inbound and outbound marketing.
What IS Outbound Marketing?
Telemarketing, email blasts, commercials on the TV and radio, billboards – these are examples of outbound methodologies. They chase people who don’t want to be chased, they’re irritating, they’re invasive, and they’re quickly becoming useless due to caller ID, TiVo, and other advances in technology making these outbound tactics easier to avoid.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is the exact opposite of outbound, because rather than chasing down every reachable person with marketing tactics they don’t care about, you’re attracting your actual target customer with content that’s of interest to them. Inbound is about knowing your business and your customers really well. You create what is known as a “buyer persona”, or an outline of the archetypal customer your business generally sees, and you can have as many personas as you deem necessary so long as every type of customer is covered.
Once you figure out how many buyer personas you have, you get to know each one of them inside and out. You figure out their interests, hobbies, pain points, family life, shopping habits, and anything else you can, and then you create content based on what you know about them - that they will undoubtedly relate to.
Buyer personas are the key to a successful inbound strategy; they laser focus all of your efforts on the right kind of people who will actually want to buy your product or service. Otherwise you’re essentially throwing darts in the dark, and while you might hit your target one in ten throws, you aren’t maximizing on your opportunity to hit the bull’s-eye every single time.
Content is King
So, you’ve nailed down your buyer personas and you fully understand who you’re speaking to through your content - but what kind of content should you create?
- Premium content (eBooks, eGuides, white papers etc.,)
- Landing pages
- Thank you pages
- Automated workflows
- Social media posts (and interaction)
By blogging, writing eBooks, posting to social media, and creating landing pages, thank you pages and automated workflows, your business will not only rank higher in terms of SEO (thanks to giving Google more indexable pages to crawl with those pages), but your inbound strategy will maximize your number of qualified leads, because you posted right content at the right time.
Take the Journey with the Buyer
Lastly, every customer takes what is called a “Buyer’s Journey”, and catering all of your content to its various steps is the final key to a successful inbound strategy. The buyer’s journey consists of three stages: awareness, consideration and decision.
The awareness stage of the buyer’s journey is the stage during which person A identifies a problem that they have, such as “I need new running shoes”. Content for this stage should help potential customers realize that they have an issue, and could be something as simple as a blog titled “5 Signs You Need New Running Shoes”.
The consideration stage is the stage during which person A considers his or her options; they’ve identified their problem, so what’s their next move? An example of a piece of content for this stage could be an eGuide to the various types of running shoes your company sells. This is basically the stage where you inform your potential customer of who you are, and what you have to offer them in terms of possible solutions for their problem.
Finally, the decision stage occurs when person A decides to either make the purchase or not. Risk free trials and product comparisons with competitors are both great pieces of content for this stage, because they not only help your potential customer make their final decision, but they also help them to see that you’re the only sensible choice.
So, there you have it.
Do in-depth research on your typical customers and create your buyer persona(s).
Create all kinds of content that your persona would be interested in clicking on, and post that content in places where you know (thanks to your research) that they would be more likely to see it, i.e., Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Reddit, etc.
Once they click, nurture them with automated workflows, and make sure those workflows contain content that’s appropriate per their stage in the buyers journey.
The right content + the right people + the right time = new customers and increased sales. That is how inbound marketing works.
How to make a full throttle transition to Inbound Marketing
Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to cruising your way into a solid Inbound Marketing strategy.
1. PICK A SWEET RIDE.
Let’s be honest, we love metaphors, and we know you’re not going to go out and boost a car. But for the sake of this clever writing, let’s say you are. You wouldn’t risk arrest for just any junker in the parking lot. You’d take a look around and set your mind on the Shelby GT500 or Lamborghini.
Starting an Inbound Marketing strategy is the same. You’re not going to launch this endeavor without thought and that includes setting goals. Determine how Inbound Marketing will tie into your company’s overall mission. Get buy-in from your executives and make sure your new Inbound Marketing team is well-educated on what Inbound content looks and feels like.
2. DO SURVEILLANCE.
Once you’ve got your eye on the prize, you’re not stupid enough to walk up to it in broad daylight and smash in the window. You’re probably going to sit back a while and check out who’s car it is. When it’s left alone. You want the perfect time to walk up and get your adrenaline rush.
The same goes for Inbound Marketing. No longer are you concentrated on how many messages you can blast out to the biggest audience. You want to get to know your customers and pinpoint their emotional connection to your products and services. Create buyer personas so you can ensure you and your team are being deliberate about generating content for your target audience.
3. SKETCH OUT THE GAME PLAN.
Now you know which car you want, you’ve identified the best time to make your move. All that’s left is running through the game plan for where you go after you’re behind the wheel. You’ll need a safe getaway destination and maybe someone to help you out (we’ll talk about that in the next step).
Inbound Marketing is a continuous process, but having a plan is vital. You’ll want to create an approach that outlines how you’ll implement your Inbound strategy and ways to delegate that plan to your team.
4. CHOOSE A PIC (PARTNER IN CRIME).
You may have the confidence to jump in the driver’s seat and speed off on your own. That’s great! But odds are you’ll have a better chance of getting off free if you have a partner in crime (PIC) to be the lookout and make sure you remember to stick to your plan once you’re zooming down the freeway.
Inbound Marketing may sound like something you’d like to try on your own before investing in a full team, but a thorough strategy does best with several creative and energetic minds. There are a lot of ways to build your Inbound team within your existing budget and even more options if you’re willing to fully adopt Inbound.
5. HIT THE GAS BUT BREAK FOR THE CURVES.
You’re all set. The car is parked right where it should be. You know no one will notice it gone for at least an hour, and your PIC is on the other end of the walkie talkie ready to alert you to any changes. It’s go time! But don’t forget to look in the rearview and remember what you need to do to make a clean getaway.
Be flexible with your Inbound Marketing. You’ll want to test your content as you go, and find ways to use the results to adjust in the future. Your audience will appreciate it and your bottom line will, too.
3, 2, 1...GO!
Now you’re ready to put the pedal to the metal! You’ve got all the steps … for Inbound Marketing that is. We don’t recommend you try any Gone in 60 Seconds stunts based off our analogy. Inbound Marketing won’t always be a smooth ride but with regular service stops, you’ll learn how to create a fine-tuned marketing machine. And when you run into trouble or have questions, you can come back and visit for more information.