What is inbound marketing?

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You’ve likely heard the term Inbound Marketing. The name is pervasive and the number of agencies claiming Inbound chops has exploded in the last few years. But do you really understand the totality of what the term means?

Inbound as an approach is sometimes tough to delineate from automated marketing technology, demand generation, artificial intelligence (or AI) and other more modern marketing terms, as they all can be perceived of as being part of the same overall ecosystem.

As a marketing and PR agency, we’ve seen Inbound transform from an industry disruptor to what its now become: The norm and the best practice approach for attracting and converting customers (and repeat business from existing clients) that are becoming more and more difficult to reach and persuade.

To us, there’s no “one size fits all” approach. We don't consider ourselves a pure Inbound Marketing agency. We believe Inbound is a valuable approach, as are elements of traditional marketing. It depends on the client and their audience. That said, Inbound is part of the foundation of how we help businesses like yours grow efficiently.

So, you ask, What Is Inbound Marketing? Here’s your 40,000 foot view answer:

Inbound Basics

The philosophy operates on the following fundamental principles:

  • Attract. You get a customer’s attention by providing valuable content tied to their underlying pain point/s. You attract via blogs, keywords and social media posts. Organically generated interest is key.
  • Convert. Now, once you have their attention, you motivate the customer to act. This is where call-to-action buttons leading to content offers (eBooks, checklists, videos, etc.) linked to the buyer’s journey come into play.
  • Close. This can mean a few different things, depending on how your business defines a sale; at this point, a lead has become a customer.
  • And Delight. Once you win a new customer, you need to keep them engaged and happy. By doing so, you create a brand champion and advocate that will help you generate new leads and repeat business.

Developing a strong content strategy that’s tethered to buyer behavior and then delivering relevant, timely content is critical to Inbound Marketing success. Every step-Attract, Convert, Close and Delight- is designed for a specific goal and has content tailored not only for specific audiences, but also for where those audiences are along your sales pipeline and their buying processes.

While Inbound’s linchpin is “Right Place, Right Time”, the execution of the Inbound process also requires great patience and team discipline. If your team jumps the gun and tries to close too soon, that could be disastrous. To succeed with Inbound Marketing you need to “Trust the Process”, as they say.

So, What Process Am I Trusting?

Put simply, the process is:

  1. Understand the fundamentals of Inbound
  2. Research and document your key target audiences, or Buyer Personas
  3. Research and map each persona’s buying process, or Buyer’s Journey
  4. Create a Content Strategy that helps solve a buyer’s problem and deploys content for each stage of the buyer’s journey and each segment of the sales funnel (top, mid, end)
  5. Execute content consistently and measure constantly
  6. Stay engaged with your existing customers, continually providing them value (Delight them)
  7. Adjust: repeat what’s worked and tweak or delete what hasn’t worked

The key is patience, consistency and agility when it comes to maximizing Inbound performance.

Patience means letting the process play out and avoiding trying to close a sale too soon. If an individual reads your blog for the first time, it’s not effective to send them a discount code or detailed product spec sheet or call them to meet you face-to-face. That will come in due time if you nurture the lead according to the fundamentals of the approach.

Consistency means delivering content and communicating with your existing customers and prospective clients on a regular cadence and with forethought. Every piece of content needs to build on the piece before it and lead to the next deliverable, guiding a lead along the sales funnel. Writing five blogs in a week and posting to Facebook daily, followed by one blog in a month and one post every two weeks won’t work.

Agility means measuring results, analyzing data and being agile enough to alter your approach fast enough to adapt to changing customer behaviors or a rapidly evolving market. A highly digital approach gives you the advantage of adjusting very fast; there’s no printers, post offices or mailing lead times.

In a Nutshell…

The paradigm shift represented by moving from outbound (traditional) marketing to an Inbound approach is one from shouting to listening, in many ways. If you create great content, provide value and generate solutions, your customers will find you and trust you more, making them more likely to convert and make a purchase.

Your job then becomes maintaining that trust so that a “sale” happens naturally and organically, rather than aggressively and artificially. Successfully implementing this approach requires your business to:

  • Research and listen to what your customer’s need and understand how they behave at certain times
  • Be disciplined and patient
  • Deeply understand your customers and their pain points
  • Focus on content creation, timeliness and quality over quantity (though consistency still matters)
  • Stop selling and transform into a trusted resource and problem solver

This shift in mentality and its subsequent execution is not easy for companies with a history of relying on word-of-mouth and traditional marketing tactics.

But it can be done, and, in fact, must be done. Businesses of all kinds-national, regional and local-that don’t adapt to our rapidly changing consumer environment won’t grow.

And as we all know, if you’re not growing, you're likely dying.

Adopting an Inbound Marketing approach, even on a small scale, is an important first step to keeping your business growing and thriving.

Illumine8 Marketing & PR can help you take that important first step, or work with you to improve your existing marketing program. Reach out to us, we’d love to learn more about your business.

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