Where and How Does Inbound Come into Play?
Before we get started, for those of you who missed Part I, be sure to head on over and read up before continuing here!
Now: back to it. The majority of buying processes start on a computer, phone, or tablet; the modern customer is a multi-screen researcher. That said: it all begins with a search engine like Google.
Using the search engine of their choice, customers look for an answer to their problem using search terms related to their problem. They type into the search engine a description of what they are looking for and the search engine returns what it deems the most appropriate and helpful information. Search engines like Google and Bing shape search results around what they determine to be the most valuable results related to the terms being searched—and this is where the inbound marketing methodology comes into play.
Inbound Marketing focuses on being the most valuable result in the search engine and to the customer. That is to say that companies who publish the most authoritative and helpful content on the web are the ones being found. They are the ones receiving relevant web traffic, which allots them the opportunity to convert visitors into leads, and leads into customers. Searches are made up of what marketers call “keywords,” and the people on the other end of the computer doing the searches are what we affectionately refer to as “buyer personas.”
Inbound takes an entirely different approach than outbound marketing, as it shifts the focus so that it’s all about the customer, not you. Inbound allows for heightened transparency while you assist people in making their marketing dreams come alive.
We truly believe Inbound to be the most sincere form of marketing, and hope that soon enough, you, too, will believe that in no time.
Breaking Down the Inbound Methodology
Since we last talked about it in The Three Pillars of Understanding Inbound, you might have started making yourself more familiar with the methodology on your own terms. If that’s the case: good for you! You’re well on your way to becoming a stellar Inbound Marketer. And if that isn't the case—well, that's quite all right, too. Because we have a good deal of follow up information about Inbound here for you, including details on the following:
- Buyer Personas
- Who are the influencers and decision makers as people?
- Keywords and Attracting Website Traffic
- Developing Premium Content
- Promotion and Distribution
- Lead Generation and Conversion
- Converting Leads into Customers
- Lead Nurturing: Email and Work Flows
- Delighting Your Customers
All of these aspects of Inbound are absolutely imperative for implementation in an intelligent, effective manner. There’s a lot to cover here, but no fear—we’re going to walk you through it step by step.
For even more confidence and understanding of Inbound download our Quick Start Guide to Inbound Marketing.
Inbound places a distinct focus on targeting relevant traffic, otherwise known as people searching for answers to their problems… and finding you. What is the “right” kind of visitor to your site? Well, it’s whoever is likely to value what you offer. This is where buyer personas come in.
Who is most likely to search for what you sell? A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your best-fit client. It helps you focus your messaging so that you are answering your personas’ most important questions using the most effective demographical language. An optimized marketing campaign should be created for specific buyer personas. The first step in creating buyer personas is to create a description of your best-fit client. It may be helpful to consult clients and account managers, or those who know most about the type of person to whom you’re selling. If you are selling B-B, you are still selling to individuals in a group setting.
Who are the influencers and decision makers as people?
Once you’ve created your buyer personas, it’s almost time to begin creating a content strategy. But first, you must review how your personas will search and find you. That brings us to another important aspect of the Inbound methodology: keywords. Here are a few examples of persona information that can be helpful in developing a useful persona:
- What is their typical job title?
- What is their average age?
- Do they primarily live in urban or rural areas?
- What is their education level and degree, if any?
- What problems are they trying to solve?
- Are there any distinguishing demographic or psychographic characteristics?
You’ll need to answer these questions for yourself first before moving onto the next step.
Keywords and Attracting Website Traffic
The second step in creating a successful Inbound campaign is to develop a specific list of keywords your persona is likely to use when searching for answers to their problems. While creating your content strategy, it is important to keep these words in mind. Keywords are also what drive the algorithms the search engines use to create their search results. Search engine optimization is no longer a matter of website trickery and farming back links. It is about creating valuable content that answers people’s questions in a way that is shareable. Always optimize your keywords for real human beings and not for the search engines.
Get into the head of your audience—how are they searching Google? What order are they putting their words in when asking a question? Remember: not everyone thinks, speaks, or types in the same way. Variation in this sense is key. Additionally, keyword phrases, or what we call “long tail keywords,” are usually more effective than short, one-word searches. So do some research. Tools like ‘Google Trends’ can help you understand how your keywords rate by order of difficulty, and where you currently stand on Google. If you have all of your ducks in a row with your keywords, you’re so much more likely to attract visitors to your website—these visitors can then become leads, and then customers.
Developing Premium Content
The next step in the methodology is to develop premium content for your persona. Your premium content, or ‘offer,’ needs to be so valuable that your visitor is willing to provide their name, email, and other information in exchange for it. If done correctly, the content will establish your credibility as a valuable resource, and begin the process of building trust with your persona.
For most businesses, a good place to start in developing your first piece of premium content are the FAQs of your business. Consider these questions:
- What are the most common questions people have upon first hearing about what you do?
- Is there an interesting and educational way to answer those questions?
- How about farther along during the buying process?
Premium content is most effective when it educates, informs, and entertains readers. If it can do all three simultaneously, you may have a winner. Once your offer is complete, it is time to promote and distribute it via your website and various social media platforms.
Promotion and Distribution
To support your premium content, you should also write and publish several other peripheral pieces of content, including but not limited to: blog posts, tweets, and LinkedIn and Facebook posts. Some companies also utilize a PR strategy to promote content or even use Outbound methodologies to promote content and fill the top of their funnels. All of these published pieces should ultimately promote your anchor content via a Call to Action (CTA). Additional content like blog posts and the like will add to the performance of your most important, valuable piece of content, and increase overall web traffic. It is important to note that when dealing with social media for the purpose of Inbound Marketing, consistency is key. Traffic and lead generation are dependent upon publishing consistency. The more content you create and publish, the more indexed pages you’ll have appear in search engines; this means heightened likelihood of being found online.
Few campaigns will come out of the gate fully optimized. It is important to review your results weekly and monthly in order to determine how to improve their performance. Review from where your traffic is originating. Is it organic to the search engines? Coming from social channels, or even a backlink from a popular website? Test alternative headlines, subjects, landing page copy and any other key variable that might affect overall performance. This is not the time to guess. Clients will often surprise you with their behavior. Headlines that you are in love with may not perform well and headlines you think are ridiculous might work very well.
Lead Generation and Conversion
If you evaluate your website’s performance and find that there’s been an increase in traffic, congratulate yourself! You’re on your way to gaining leads! This is a big step in the Inbound methodology, and it stands to illustrate that you’re doing something very, very right. However, just because your volume of website traffic is up, it does not mean that you’re closing these leads and converting them to customers. Converting web traffic into leads isn’t as hard as it sounds, but it does mean putting in the time and effort.
As mentioned in our Developing Premium Content section, presenting your web visitors with valuable, downloadable content is what will make your business resonate over someone else’s. Premium content is what you offer your visitors in order to encourage them along in the Inbound process. Once you’ve created your offer, you are to present it on a landing page—another important piece to the Inbound methodology. After clicking on the Call to Action that we talked about earlier, your visitor is redirected to this abovementioned landing page. Hint: the more offers you have, i.e. valuable content to give in exchange for prospective customers’ information, the more landing pages you should create. Each landing page is attached to its own offer. With every landing page you put into the world, you’re generating an opportunity for your business to be indexed in search engines.
Converting Leads into Customers
At this stage in the game, you’ll have created successful buyer personas that appropriately represent the type of customer you’re trying to attract. Your forms, CTAs, and landing pages have all worked towards one thing: to convert potential customers into actual leads. Closing leads and converting them to customers is perhaps the most important step to the inbound methodology. And while providing timely, personalized content is one of the first steps by which you can begin to make leads into customers, there’s more to it.
Lead Nurturing: Email and Workflows
Marketing automation software like HubSpot allows you to create something called smart lists. These lists categorize leads without you even having to do anything... they then send out emails targeted at specific buyer personas. Smart lists have the intelligence to put on an email nurture track even the most specific of customers. This list segmentation technique is a must when it comes to the Inbound methodology, and software like HubSpot makes it incredibly easy to achieve. As long as you provide the context for lists to be created, you’ll see results. If your leads aren’t getting the attention they deserve, then you’re wasting money, resources, and worst of all—time.
Most of what workflows do is explained right in its name: they drive leads—that’s the work—through the sales funnel—“the flow”—depending on the action they took on your website (either triggering a programmed email response, or, the beginning of a workflow). But what workflows really do is take your relationship with your potential customer to the next level.
A ‘workflow’ is defined by our friends over at HubSpot as, “a series of automatic actions that you can trigger to occur based on a person’s behaviors or contact information.” Sounds simple enough, right? And to an extent, it is. But there’s still a bit more to be done on your behalf when it comes to workflows.
First, you need to decide what your goal is in creating this workflow. Once the goal has been decided, you’ll need to parse out the steps that bring a lead towards their ultimate goal (does this mean getting your lead to download an eBook, tutorial video, or blog article?) As something of an added bonus, workflows also exist to ask the important questions; they gather information about a new content, and determine whether or not they’re qualified for a business relationship. If come the end of the process, your lead has either become a customer, or is very close to being one, you’ll know that your workflow succeeded.
Delighting Your Customers
You’ve done the dirty work—attracted visitors to a website, converted them into a lead, and sold them on your product. Well done! But the work isn’t finished. Now it’s time for what is arguably the most important part of the entire Inbound methodology: it’s time to delight those customers, encouraging them to advocate for your brand as well.
Listening to your customers and what they have to say once they’ve taken part in this process is perhaps the best way to delight them. Providing customers with the best user experience possible is invaluable. You can monitor conversations your customers are having on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and if you see something you want to respond to—join the conversation! Proving that you aren’t just there to gain them as a customer and then leave them to fend for themselves is an important piece of the Inbound methodology. You’ll find that once you’ve successfully delighted your customers, they become your business’ very own promoters.
And there you have it—the Inbound Methodology in a nutshell. There's a lot one must consider when implementing Inbound as their marketing strategy, but when done correctly, it can be a magnificent way to bolster the success of your business.