How have your communications with customers changed? Your business communications have likely become more complex and demand more involvement from you over the past couple of years. Businesses that have established themselves as a knowledge base or authority figure, a reliable source of information and content for their field or industry have gathered loyal followers. Leads and customers expect to be engaged consistently, using helpful content that builds trust and communication channels that keep potential leads hooked. Building these long-lasting, meaningful relationships with your customers is important, but where does one start? An inbound digital marketing strategy is the beginning of building those relationships.
What Is Inbound Digital Marketing?
Inbound digital marketing is the methodology for drawing customers towards your products and services through content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and branding. Inbound marketing focuses on attracting the right people naturally through shared interests and establishing those long-lasting relationships.
Part of what makes inbound marketing effective is that your unique content, personas, and lead segmentation helps provide your customers with the right information at the right time. According to a 2018 HubSpot report, 53% of marketers report that inbound marketing provides a higher ROI than outbound marketing. What makes inbound marketing so useful is that messages are specifically targeted to the user and then processes and methods draw in leads and convert them into customers.
How Inbound Marketing Differs From Traditional Marketing
One of the significant differences between inbound digital marketing and traditional marketing is that, with inbound marketing, your business shifts towards nurturing and developing leads and more so than selling. An example between the two would be a billboard advertising your products or services (traditional) vs. a blog that answers a specific question for your audience (inbound). Inbound marketing emphasizes targeting specific but multiple audiences, from local to global and particular demographics, while traditional marketing typically targets one audience, everyone, and hopes that enough people will take action.
Thanks to platforms such as SharpSpring or Constant Contact, targeting specific audiences is becoming easier and easier, leading inbound tactics (such as personalized newsletters and email marketing) to produce greater results over the one-way, one-to-many traditional advertising tactics (such as a billboard). Providing your audience with relevant and valuable content, rather than focusing solely on what your business does, is another crucial difference in these methods.
Inbound Marketing Best Practices
With any strategy comes best practices, and inbound marketing has plenty. You can create more blog posts and more social media posts, but having an inbound strategy will ensure better results from your campaigns. An example would be one that we created for one of our clients, Burkholder Brothers. We developed buyer personas for their business and created a content plan that directly spoke to their customers’ needs, and as a result, the website generates more traffic and more people engaged with Burkholder Brothers’ content. Below are a couple of best practices to help your inbound marketing efforts.
Funnel VS. Flywheel
The first part of an inbound digital marketing strategy is shifting away from the traditional sales funnel and towards a flywheel. The traditional marketing funnel emphasizes 3 main steps: attract, engage, and convert. Your marketing team attracts visitors, your sales team engages with those visitors, and the end result is those visitors converting into customers.
A flywheel model is cyclical, accounting for the fact that a portion of customers you get can become recurring customers with the right tactics. Flywheel models also place the customer in the center of every stage, rather than a result of your marketing and sales processes.
The flywheel model is better because a long-lasting, recurring relationship between a business and their customers is better for long-term growth. Flywheel models allow your company to better serve your customers, which will lead to more of those customers returning and giving you more business. Retaining customers after a purchase is taken or a sale is made is important for companies to sustain and grow their business. Funnel models tend to think of all of your visitors or leads entering and going through a prescribed process together with customers being the result. Viewing customers as the result, rather than a driver of growth, can lead to businesses neglecting client retention after their clients have made purchase.
Inbound Marketing Stages
The 3 stages that the flywheel model emphasizes are: attract, engage, and delight.
The attract stage is all about understanding who your audience is so that you can more easily center your content around them, addressing their needs and pain points, enticing them with relevant content.
Once your audience starts consuming or interacting with your content, the engage phase begins. At this point, you should provide a great experience and meet their expectations, and even try to gather more data from your leads to implement in your next attract phase.
After you have attracted and engaged with your customers, the next step is to delight them. Delighting your customers and delivering enough value will lead to those long-lasting relationships and keep your customers returning to your business.
Think of online marketing as a continual interaction between a business and a customer.
Demand Creation VS. Lead Generation
Demand creation is the process of generating awareness and developing demand for your products or services. Lead generation is the act of converting potential customers into actual customers. Both of these processes can be used in the inbound digital marketing stages. For example, giving people a free ebook (without requiring them to fill out a form or provide any contact information) creates demand for your business or services, and can be used to attract potential leads to engage with your business. An example of lead generation would be promoting an ebook your visitors have to fill out a form to download. Those visitors have now given you their personal and contact information to become leads, and now your sales team can engage with your customers even further.
Develop Buyer Personas
Since inbound digital marketing is customer-centric, you need to know which customers you want to reach. Understanding your buyers will help you attract the right people (those with greater potential to become prospects and future customers) to your web properties. Buyer personas, also referred to as marketing personas, are fictional representations of your ideal customers. Base your personas on market research (including demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals) and real data (like surveys and interviews) about your existing customers. Knowing what personas your business needs to target will make selling your products and services easier, as these personas will be people more likely to buy from you.
Segment Your Contacts for Better Results
Contacts are an essential component of your inbound strategy and resources of your business. Developing the criteria for these segments is the heart of inbound marketing. To manage contact segmentation effectively you must:
Understand who your potential customer is
Develop marketing content to address that specific person’s needs
Develop marketing content based on where that specific person is in the flywheel model
Use lead and consumer data to improve your marketing strategies
Segment your leads based on their location, interests, demographics data, their needs and desires, and many more factors.
Each time a contact interacts with your business, you obtain more information about them, which gives you more options to segment leads and create relevant content. This information is what you need to understand, segment, engage, and delight your contacts.
Define The Buyer’s Journey of Your Customers
The buyer’s journey is the process by which customers engage with and purchase from businesses. While each buyer’s journey is specific to certain industries, the general stages are as follows:
The Awareness Stage
A prospect is experiencing a problem or opportunity and is trying to clearly define what their problem or opportunity is.
The Consideration Stage
A prospect has clearly defined their problem or opportunity and researches to determine their options.
The Decision Stage
A prospect has decided on the solution to their problem or opportunity.
Defining the buyer’s journey for your own customers will help you create more relevant content for each stage.
Determine how long the buyer’s journey is for your customers, what type of content customers search for before purchasing from you, and how your customers make decisions. For example, a business-to-business (B2B) buyer’s journey can take several months, with the target customers (businesses) heavily considering all possible options and looking for demonstrations or data about your products or services. Business-to-consumer (B2C) buyer’s journeys are far shorter, with the consumer searching online or reading reviews to make their decision within a day or two.
Create Compelling Content
Relevant content that targets your audience’s needs and engages them is crucial to a successful inbound marketing strategy. Your website’s content should have a specific purpose and target a specific audience. For example, someone is searching online for hardwood flooring materials to remodel their kitchen or bathroom. A blog that examines and compares the differences between flooring materials directly addresses their current needs and questions. Users respond positively to content that provides detailed information that helps them make purchasing decisions.
High-quality, specific, and detailed content is a core focus of inbound marketing. The more targeted quality content you produce, the more potential customers you reach. Relevant content leads to more users staying on your website, reading other content pieces, and overall increases conversion rates. Customers are also more likely to return to (and do business with) businesses and websites that continue to provide relevant content and content that helps them make a buying decision.
How VIEWS Can Help With Your Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing focuses on adding value at every stage in your customer’s journey and creating lasting relationships, and we can make such a strategy for your business. VIEWS Digital Marketing is experienced in creating comprehensive, adaptable inbound marketing strategies that generate more traffic to your website and more leads for your business. Some of the areas of developing an inbound marketing strategy for you include:
Research, analysis, and recommendation of the CRM (customer relationship management) system, marketing automation system, and technical architecture to use,
Research, interviewing, and development of personas,
Industry, competitive, and keyword research and analysis to develop a blueprint or digital marketing strategy including the inbound plan,
Design, production, and management of lead nurturing campaigns,
Development of an inbound plan and implementation of the inbound marketing tactics, integrating with other digital tactics,
Tracking of inbound customer and prospect data, reporting of key performance indicators like completion of lead generation forms and phone calls, and measurement of the inbound plan performance indicators against the inbound plan.
Our results speak for themselves, with our clients receiving significant gains in organic and overall website traffic and leads. Feel free to read our case studies for a more in-depth look at our results. To develop an inbound digital marketing strategy for your business, contact VIEWS Digital Marketing today.