What Is Inbound Marketing and Why Does it Work?
If you own a business, you’ve probably already noticed the shift in the way people are buying. Customers are coming to you that already “know it all” or at least they think they do. They’ve done their research. They talked to family and friends. They “read online that ___.”
When you think about how much things have shifted, it’s no wonder that those direct mail advertisements that used to work so well aren’t working anymore. Consumers are bombarded by sales pitches everywhere they go. They’ve learned to throw away anything that looks like junk mail, drive by billboards without looking up, and skip commercials.
Inbound Marketing aims to leverage this shift to provide a better buying experience for the consumer and business owner. It attracts prospects to come look at you instead of shoving ads at them. It is the most cost-effective way to convert strangers into customers, and eventually promoters of your business.
But how does it work? Let’s take a look!
What is Inbound Marketing
Put simply – it’s the combination of any and all online marketing tactics and technologies into one cohesive marketing strategy that is designed to attract visitors and move them through a process that converts them into customers.
Some of the tools/technologies/tactics leveraged include:
- Email Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Pay-Per-Click Marketing including Paid Social Ads
- Landing or Splash Pages
At the heart of all of these is your business blog.
So what is a Business Blog?
It is not the same as a personal blog. You don’t talk about your hopes, your dreams, and what’s going on in your life. Your business blog is designed with content that your ideal customer is going to want to read. That content should do one of three things:
- It could solve a problem that they have.
You have knowledge in your field that they don’t have. By sharing some of that knowledge and being helpful, you can be regarded as a thought leader in your industry and potential customers will trust you to help them.
- It could help them reach a goal they are striving towards.
This is the flip-side of the problem-solver approach. Instead of talking about what’s wrong, you talk about how to get somewhere before problems start. Or how to make things better than they are now – even if they don’t currently have a “problem.”
- It could present an opportunity, or give them advice on an opportunity, that you know they have.
Sort of like the goal-based approach, this one is more positive. You can look at industry trends and customer concerns to learn what opportunities would excite them and write about those.
How do those articles get found??
So you put in the work and you wrote some amazing articles… but what happens next? How do people find them? There are a few different ways that can happen.
Once you’ve been blogging for a bit, you’ll build up a list of blog subscribers that want to receive your articles. You’ll use Email Marketing to send a newsletter that has links to your articles to those subscribers. This process can help nurture a lead that isn’t quite ready to buy from you yet and keeps you top-of-mind while you’re continuing to establish a level of trust with them.
Social Media Marketing
You can also use Social Media Marketing and share a brief intro and link to your article on your social channels like Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. You can even add a small boost to reach people that haven’t followed your page yet. AND you can refine your audience to reach specific types of people that meet your criteria.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Google and other major search engines will also pick up your article and will index it so that people doing a search can find it. Each article is an individual page on your website! That page is filled with new keywords that Google can find you for. So you will be found for more terms, by more people, and ranked higher overall when you write more.
People can also share those articles off to friends and colleagues. This word-of-mouth marketing is great and can bring more people into your article.
How to turn Visitors/Readers into Customers
The real power of Inbound Marketing is what happens next. You got them to come read your blog article – but now you need to turn them into a real lead for your company.
The way you do that is through a call to action button. At the bottom of your article, you include a button that takes them to a next step with you. It should entice them to click it by providing something that they would want to get… and Inbound Marketing Offer. When they click that button, they will be taken to a Landing Page.
A landing page will contain information about the offer, and a form they can fill out to get the offer.
These offers are pieces of content that you offer to prospects for free in exchange for information about themselves. This transaction should be equal. Their contact information is currency in the online marketing world. You should make sure that the information you ask for is equal in value to the offer you’re providing. If it is a simple, low-value, offer, then keep the information you ask for basic – like Name and Email. If you have a higher-value offer, then ask for more information – like company name or phone number.
Move them to the next step
Once they fill out the form you should take them to a thank-you page. That page has one primary goal – to provide the offer you promised them. So make that clear and easy to find. But you can also use another call-to-action to send them to the next stage of the journey from there too.
For example, you could:
- Send them to another blog article or page on your website with more information related to the offer they just downloaded.
- Ask them to subscribe your email newsletter and tell them why it would benefit them… what are they going to receive?
- Ask them to follow you on social media and tell them why it’s worth their while to do so.
- Ask them to share this offer with anyone else they think could benefit from it and include share buttons to the original landing page (not the thank-you page) to make it easy.
But what if they don’t click the call-to-action?
That’s ok too. Not everyone will be ready for the offer that you’re showing on that article. Or maybe they’ve already downloaded it. They still read your article, and were exposed to you and had a good initial interaction with you and your company.
They may also choose to go to another page on your site – like a resources, FAQ, or contact page to learn more about you before downloading an offer.
Or they could go to another blog article… and that article will have another call-to-action… and that will go to another landing page… do you get where I’m going with this…?
Why this whole thing is awesome!
This whole Inbound Marketing Journey is what makes it possible to bring in more customers and leads instead of just a bunch of anonymous visitors.
You gather information through the whole process that lets you constantly track and improve it. Such as:
- What content attracts the most visitors to your site – you’ll look at the most clicked on articles in social media and page views to see this
- What ctas (calls-to-action) perform the best by looking at the view to click ratio – # of page views / # of clicks on the button
- What offers and landing pages work the best – # of page views / # of form submissions
- And most importantly, what is bringing in the most customers – the # of submissions/leads that converted to a customer
By having this data, you can see what your actual ROI is from your online marketing. You can see that spending time/money on Facebook is (or isn’t) generating actual customers. You can see that customers respond better to content about XYZ better than ABC.
Exponential Growth over time
Another cool thing is that it keeps working even when you stop putting in as much money! Unlike Pay-Per-Click where the volume of leads/traffic you receive is directly related to the amount of money you put in, Inbound keeps working and grows exponentially over time for the same investment.
This is because the blog articles are at the heart of it all. So let’s look at an example: Let’s say that you write 5 new articles every month and publish and promote those.
- In month one, you have 5 articles total on your blog. (remember – each article is an individual page that can be searched for and promoted)
- In month two, you wrote 5 more (same investment), but now you have 10 total articles.
- In month three, you invested the same amount – 5 articles – but now you have 15 total articles that are working on bringing in leads for you.
So from one month to the next, for the same monthly investment, your total assets (blog articles) are growing over time. With traditional marketing, you would have to increase your investment to see the same results or increase your reach. So that’s a huge advantage for Inbound Marketing. That is what makes the cost to acquire a new customer so much less with Inbound.
How can you use Inbound?
Now that you know what Inbound Marketing and how it works to grow your business - how do you think it's going to help you the most? Leave me a comment below and let me know!
Written by Christina Hooper COO & WEB NINJA AT SPARKITIVE
I was blessed to grow up in a small town with a grandfather that owned the local corner store. His hard work and dedication taught me what it is to use your business to build a community. After working with so many businesses in the last 14 years, I know the power of building relationships. I believe that in order to succeed, businesses must build relationships - with customers, with each other, and with their communities. Thanks to technology, it is easier than ever before to build relationships with people all over the world and I love that I get to help make that happen.
My mission is to help businesses get better at building connections with prospects, turn customers into raving fans, and build brands that clients and customers are proud to know.