A Beginner’s Guide To Inbound Marketing To Increase Online Sales
This blog post about inbound marketing is specially written for those businesses having a website and wish to generate more online sales.
A beginner willing to adopt and understand inbound marketing methodology can also take away loads of insights about the inbound process by reading the blog post.
Who Introduced Inbound Marketing?
The concept of ‘Inbound Marketing’ was introduced by – Brian Halligan, the co-founder of HubSpot, in the year 2005. It has now turned to be a famous online marketing methodology (can be used offline too) used by marketers throughout the world.
Inbound Marketing In A Nutshell :
Inbound Marketing methodology is a concept, that is unique and effective, in which, the power of high-quality content (laser-focused and created for your prospective customers) is leveraged to attract customers to your business website and later convert them into loyal customers through strategic nurturing. In simple words – First Attract, later convert.
Difference between ‘Inbound Marketing’ and ‘Traditional Marketing’ :
Inbound Marketing is a concept that is totally opposite to traditional marketing.
In traditional marketing, a seller/marketer has to put in enormous efforts (both in terms of money and time) to gain attention from his/her customers through advertisements, cold calling and distributing pamphlets and flyers.
This inefficient marketing methodology involves huge costs and fewer returns compared to the inbound marketing methodology. In traditional marketing, the marketer will force, beg and bug customers for their attention. Trust building among potential customers is truly a challenge.
As opposed to traditional marketing, inbound marketing is all about attracting customers towards your business offerings naturally and organically. This methodology basically focuses on earning customers interest strategically using the power of ‘Quality Content’.
A series of quality content that is educative, informative and positively addictive is created and freely distributed to customers in the form of blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, videos, SEO etc. with the sole intention to attract, engage and gain interests of your customers to visit your website. Think – the idea is – first attract, later convert.
With inbound marketing methodology, you are investing your precious time and money to provide something valuable – that customers value a lot – in the form of quality content – in order to earn their attention in return.
Inbound marketing tends to build a long-term relationship with customers. This requires the customers to have deep trust in your website and your business offerings.
The fundamental idea of inbound marketing is simple – to make your selling process easier through deep trust building. Once you have built trust in the minds of your customers, it is easy to sell your products/services to them. Period.
The 5 stages of ‘Inbound Marketing’ :
IMPORTANT NOTE: According to the standard definition of Inbound Marketing, there are only 4 stages. To make it more precise for the sake of understanding, I have added an important stage called – ‘NURTURE’
The 5 stages of inbound marketing methodology are:
- Nurture (Added By Author)
At every stage, there are specific actions to be taken by businesses (or its marketers) in order to turn ‘strangers’ to ‘friendly customers’ who in turn will become brand ambassadors for your business offerings.
Let us discuss each stage one by one.
The first stage in the inbound marketing methodology is – ATTRACT. With common sense in work, every online business (or marketers) should realize that, without attracting and instilling trust in their customers, it is impossible to persuade them to pay for your premium products/services. Therefore – first ‘ATTRACT’ and later ‘CONVERT’ is the core mantra of inbound marketing. (This concept holds good in real life relationships too).
‘ATTRACT’ing customers to your website have to be done strategically. As a business, your main goal must be to ‘ATTRACT’ only those individuals to your website, who fall in the category of your buyer persona.
In simple words, ‘ATTRACT’ only those individuals who, in the future, have a realistic potential to become your valued customers.
“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers” – Source: Hubspot
The best and the smart way to ‘ATTRACT’ your audience is by providing ‘Quality Content’ free of cost in the form of text, videos, podcast etc. It is of utmost importance to keep in mind your buyer persona and their pain areas while creating content.
Make sure your content is giving them satisfactory solutions to their problems (of course free of cost – to improve trust building). This will inspire them to engage with your website even at a later stage (‘CONVERT’ stage) for a premium service.
‘Quality Content’ allows customer engagement resulting in your business brand building. The content should be related to your business niche. It can include industry tips, trends in your business, reviews, comparisons etc. Your content’s main purpose should be to educate and engage your buyer personas in a way that connects to them at a personal level.
To touch them more deeply, use the language they use, address their immediate dissatisfactions and offer them satisfactory solutions.
In What Forms Can Quality Content Be Created?
In the digital world, quality content can mainly be created in 4 forms:
a. Text Format (Think of Blogging)
b. Video Format
c. Audio Format (Think of Podcasts)
d. Infographics (Rich Images)
The content in either of the form or in a mixed form should be present on your website. Keep in mind that, the idea is to ‘ATTRACT’ your potential customers to your website.
How To Reach My Buyer Persona With Quality Content?
To implement inbound marketing methodology, you have to distribute your website content using digital marketing channels such as:
a. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for organic reach
b. Organic and Paid Social Media Marketing (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter)
c. Search Engine Marketing (Google AdWords)
The whole purpose of the above digital marketing channels is to get your potential customers to visit and engage with your website.
Once you are successful in ‘ATTRACT’ing visitors to your website and engage them with your rich and quality content, it is now time to convert them into Marketing Qualified Leads (simply called – MQLs). A lead is a term used in marketing for – “prospective customer”.
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead who has shown interest in what a brand or business has to offer based on marketing efforts. They are also the ones who otherwise are more likely to become a paying customer compared to other leads.
Understand, ‘CONVERT’ is not the time to persuade them to buy from you. Instead, it is the time to ethically bribe them for their contact information like email Id (which will later be used to push your paid products/services)
How to obtain MQLs contact information?
‘CONVERT’ is the stage where visitors are happy and engaged with your content. This is the time you can ask them for their contact information. It can be done through several ways (called ‘ethical bribing’), most common being asking them to:
- Enter your email to download an interesting e-book
- Enter your email to subscribe for newsletters
- Enter your email to attend a webinar
The above-mentioned ways are implemented using CTA (Call-To-Actions) – which are links on your website that entice readers to take specific action to access one of your valuable resources in exchange for their contact information. The design of CTAs and wordings used to entice your visitors (to provide their contact information) will play an important role in successfully converting website visitors into MQLs.
Once MQLs submits their information, make sure you fulfill your promise of valuable resource delivery as quick as possible through email or asking them to download it by redirecting your sign-up page to a separate landing page.
With the above step, you now have a qualified lead who has to be further nurtured in order to make them your paying customer.
Continue the steps in ‘ATTRACT’ and ‘CONVERT’ stages to generate as many MQLs as possible. More MQLs – more paying customers – more businesses.
Just because someone ‘CONVERT’s (provides their contact information) on your website doesn’t mean they are ready to buy from you. It is still not the time to send them an email about a sales demo or a sales pitch. If done, you are screwing up your inbound marketing strategy.
Instead, you have to nurture your MQLs to get them ready to buy from you. You got to instill more trust and confidence in them about you and your services. You have to take them to a stage where they don’t even think for a moment to make a purchase decision from you. This requires a strategic lead nurturing process.
Lead nurturing is nothing but offering value for a steady period of time until you feel your MQLs are ready for purchase. Value can be offered by sending out an email about your latest blog post or to download an irresistible e-book or invite them to attend a free webinar.
You can also invite MQLs to join your online community, engage them through question and answers on Facebook groups, ask them to review your blog posts etc. The fundamental idea behind ‘NURTURE’ stage is to get MQLs closer towards your business in terms of engagement and trust.
With the above methods discussed, they build a special trust and bonding with your brand. This special bonding and trust are what helps marketers pitch in your brand’s premium offerings with ease (in the ‘CLOSE’ stage).
Lead nurturing can be done based on a fixed weekly calendar without spamming your MQLs. Typically, it’s a good idea to send 6 to 8 emails to your prospects in a lead nurturing campaign before you make your actual sales pitch.
Email marketing automation tools are the best to be utilized when it comes to lead nurturing campaigns.
Let’s move on to the next stage.
The next stage after ‘NUTURE’ is the ‘CLOSE’ stage. The stage where your MQLs are nurtured enough and are qualified to make a purchase. This is the stage where you lead turn into happy customers.
After being engaged with your website through the ‘ATTRACT’, ‘CONVERT’, and ‘NURTURE’ stage, they will now be ready to engage with your business at a premium level. This will be a step behind the end of a sales funnel.
Here you can send out an email about your premium services/products and ask your leads to make a purchase. The number of leads who make purchases is 50 percent higher in inbound marking methodology compared to traditional marketing.
As the nature of leads is different, to close sales with the majority of your nurtured MQLs, you may require 4 to 5 sales pitch related emails.
Again the wordings, templates and overall content of the mail determines how effective it was to persuade a lead to buy from you.
This is the last stage in the 5-stage inbound marketing methodology. Inbound marketing encourages after-sale customer relationship which it calls – ‘DELIGHT’ – your customer.
The sole purpose of ‘DELIGHT’ stage is to establish brand loyalty among existing customers. To do this, you must continue to offer value to your customers as you did in the previous 4 stages – through free, rich and quality content. This brings in ‘DELIGHT’ to your customers.
Apart from content distribution, you can go a step ahead and ask them about their personal experience with your business. It can be done through emails or phone calls. This makes them feel valued and prove to them how much you value your customers.
Every happy customer who feels valued will come back to you for another business transaction – you call them ‘repeat customers’. Psychology says people love to be with the ones who respect and value them.
Once you ‘DELIGHT’ your existing customers by valuing their emotions, they turn to become your brand ambassadors. They refer your business to their friends and family.
It means, by ‘DELIGHT’ ing your customers you create greater sales opportunities not only with your existing customers but also with the people with whom they share their positive experiences with.
This completes one complete rotation of the inbound marketing methodology.
Adopting Inbound Marketing to your business will definitely bring in a competitive advantage to your business, not only in terms of revenue but also in terms of brand building. This is because of the consumer-centric approach that this methodology is based upon.
Inbound Marketing brings in better ROIs compared to other marketing methodologies for the reason that, you don’t go behind customers, rather customers opt for your services. Moreover, it is natural and organic. It will definitely work wonders.
Wish To Learn Digital Marketing In Depth?
Subhash.K.U is a Professional Programmer turned Digital Marketing Enthusiast. He is the most sought marketing consultants for small and medium scale businesses. He founded Subhash Digital Academy to teach professional digital marketing skills to students, entrepreneurs, and working professionals. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and is an Oracle Certified Programmer. He also holds certificates of Google AdWords, Facebook Blueprint and Hubspot Marketing. He is the co-author of the best selling book – Cracking The C, C++ and Java Interview published by McGraw Hill. He is now penning another book on the subject of marketing and entrepreneurship.