Your inbound marketing strategy is a critical part of your media mix to growing your business online.
When was the last time you opened a promotional marketing email instead of deleting it right away? Do you enjoy receiving cold sales calls from car dealers and insurance companies in the middle of a hectic workday? How do you feel about loud television commercials interrupting your favorite show? If you dislike self-promotional marketing tactics used by brands, you aren’t alone.
Today’s consumers are growing increasingly wary of brands that blow their own trumpets. They find it difficult to trust businesses that promote their products using gimmicky and in-your-face marketing tactics. Instead, they like to research and analyze various options before deciding to purchase a product or avail a service. They want to know how others perceive your brand and whether you value your customers.
In a fiercely competitive market, convincing such informed consumers to choose your brand over others is a herculean task. Winning their trust and loyalty is even more challenging. This has made it crucial for marketers and business owners to overhaul their existing marketing strategies. It has also emphasized the need to develop an inbound marketing strategy to organically attract consumers to your brand.
For modern businesses, inbound marketing is no longer an alternative to traditional advertising. It’s gradually becoming the universal norm. It’s the only way to break through the clutter of your competitors and reach the right consumers at the right time. It helps you attract your target audience, generate qualified leads, nurture them, and finally, convert them into loyal customers.
In this guide, we’ll delve deeper into the concept of inbound marketing and understand how it works. We’ll also take a look at its benefits and outline the steps to create a powerful inbound marketing strategy. Let’s get started.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Simply put, inbound marketing is the practice of attracting your target audience towards your brand by creating valuable content and personalized experiences. Unlike outbound or interruption marketing, inbound marketing doesn’t involve pushing your product or service to the forefront.
Instead, inbound marketing focuses on addressing your audience’s pain points and resolving their problems. It also involves educating them about your brand and products/services at the right time. Finally, when they’re ready to purchase, you can position your product or service as the solution to their problems.
It’s worth mentioning that inbound marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses various marketing techniques such as:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Social media marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Remarketing, etc.
Usually, you must use a balanced mix of these techniques to attract website visitors, convert them into leads, and convince them to purchase. Moreover, creating and executing a successful inbound marketing strategy requires extensive coordination among various departments including marketing, sales, and customer support.
Image via WordStream
Different Stages of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing isn’t just about luring potential customers to your website and compelling them to share their contact information. It’s also not just the process of converting qualified leads into paying customers. Instead, an inbound marketing strategy requires a concerted effort to handhold your customers from their first website visit to their final purchase decision. Even after they’ve become paying customers, you must continue to provide them with meaningful content and convert them into brand promoters.
Typically, inbound marketing involves the following stages:
- Attract – This stage focuses on grabbing the attention of your target audience and driving them to your website. It involves publishing informative blog posts, social media posts, podcasts, etc.
- Convert – This is the most crucial stage for lead generation. You must provide website visitors with an irresistible lead magnet that compels them to submit their email addresses. You can use e-books, whitepapers, checklists, etc. along with optimally designed landing pages and calls-to-action (CTAs).
- Close – The next stage is all about nurturing and convincing qualified leads to purchase your product. You can use webinars, tutorials, product demos, free trials, testimonials, newsletters, etc. for this purpose. Email marketing also plays a crucial role in this stage.
- Delight – This stage involves providing your newly acquired customers with more valuable content and experiences. You should also provide impeccable customer support and ensure that your customers achieve their desired outcomes using your product. Moreover, it’s essential to seek their feedback via online surveys and social media polls to further improve your product. This, in turn, converts them into loyal brand advocates and helps you attract more paying customers.
Image via LYFE Marketing
The Importance of an Inbound Marketing Strategy
It’s natural to wonder why there’s an urgent need to switch from traditional advertising to inbound marketing. To begin with, outbound advertising channels such as radio ads, TV commercials, etc. are expensive. This makes them unsuitable for startups and small businesses because they often don’t have huge marketing budgets.
However, affordability isn’t the only factor that attracts brands to inbound marketing. Here are the main benefits of creating and implementing an inbound marketing strategy:
1. Long-Term Relationship Building with Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing isn’t just about driving conversions or closing deals. Instead, it focuses on addressing the needs of your potential and existing customers and providing solutions to their problems. You leverage useful content and flawless customer support for this purpose. This, in turn, makes them feel valued and helps you build an enduring relationship with them.
2. Improve Your Brand Trust & Authority
When you consistently create useful, valuable, and relevant content for your audience, it strengthens your online reputation and credibility. This, in turn, positions your brand as a trusted industry authority. Consequently, your audience looks up to you for accurate and meaningful information. It helps you win their trust and makes it easier to convert them into leads and customers.
3. Increase Your Customer Retention & Loyalty
Handholding your customers after their first purchase is an integral part of inbound marketing. It positions your brand as one that prioritizes its customers’ needs over everything else. Moreover, when they achieve their intended goals using your product/service, they’ll likely return for more purchases. Thus, inbound marketing helps you retain your existing customers by staying connected with them.
Moreover, when you consistently impress your customers with inspiring content and tailor-made experiences, they become fiercely loyal to your brand. This, in turn, encourages them to recommend your products/services to their contacts. It lets you reach a wider audience, further reinforces brand trust, and helps grow your brand.
4. High ROI from your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing typically uses online marketing channels such as search engines, social media platforms, emails, etc. These channels are less expensive than their outbound counterparts. Even paid channels like PPC ads and Facebook advertising are more cost-effective than print ads, hoardings, etc. Thus, you can successfully implement an inbound marketing strategy without blowing your budget.
Moreover, inbound marketing delivers long-term results. A comprehensive e-book, for instance, will continue to generate qualified leads even years after it has been published. Additionally, inbound marketing focuses on retaining existing customers. This, in turn, makes inbound marketing more cost-effective and results in a high return on investment (ROI).
5. Scalability with your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound techniques such as SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, etc. are highly scalable. The same strategies you use to get the first 1,000 Instagram followers can be applied to get another 5,000 followers. Likewise, an email marketing campaign that drives conversions from a small mailing list can be used to drive more conversions as your list grows. This, in turn, makes inbound marketing a great choice for small and growing businesses.
6. Precise Targeting
Let’s say you run a digital marketing agency. The CEO of a startup sees a print ad about your company in the newspaper and decides to visit your website. Another startup founder searches for “content marketing services” on Google and lands on your website. Which of these two people is more likely to avail of your services?
One of the main benefits of inbound marketing is that it lets you reach the right audience with the relevant content at the right time. This, in turn, helps generate qualified leads for your business. These are people who are actively looking for information related to your product/service and brand. Therefore, they’re more likely to convert into paying customers.
Moreover, techniques such as PPC ads and social media ads let you leverage razor-sharp targeting. You can define your audience based on various parameters including their online behavior, spending habits, etc. Likewise, you can use relevant keywords and hashtags to help your content reach the right audience on search engines and social media respectively.
7. Improved Lead Nurturing & Conversion
In addition to lead generation, inbound marketing helps you nurture hot leads, re-engage inactive leads, and drive conversions. It outlines a system to stay connected with your leads while before they make a decision. This is particularly crucial because most leads won’t purchase your product right away.
Let’s go back to the previous example of the digital marketing agency. Let’s say you’ve published an e-book titled “The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing in 2020”. An aspiring entrepreneur, who wants to learn more about Instagram marketing, downloads the e-book by submitting their email address. However, they won’t avail of your services right away.
Now imagine the same person launches their business two years later. This is the time when they’ll want to invest in a powerful digital marketing strategy. If you’ve continued to communicate with them via insightful newsletters, webinars, case studies, etc., they’ll remember you at this point. Since you’ve already built a rapport and earned their trust, they’ll consider outsourcing digital marketing-related tasks to your company.
That’s why it’s essential to stay connected with your leads even if they don’t make a purchase for a long time. Inbound strategies such as email marketing and content marketing help you achieve this. Consequently, very few leads leak out of your sales funnel. This, in turn, skyrockets your conversion rates and revenue.
8. Effective Brand Building with Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
A good inbound marketing strategy helps grow your business and build your brand. You can reach a wide audience and reinforce your authority. Moreover, you can build a powerful online presence across various channels. You also get to build a huge army of loyal brand promoters. Ultimately, these factors contribute to building your brand and distinguish it from your competitors.
So far, we’ve understood how inbound marketing works and why it’s important. Before you jump right in and start developing your inbound marketing strategy, you need to take care of a few things.
The Prerequisites for Inbound Marketing Strategy
Building a rock-solid inbound marketing strategy requires extensive research and planning. Before you start creating relevant and helpful content, it’s crucial to understand and identify your target audience. However, the groundwork for inbound marketing begins even before you define your goals and audience.
Make sure you take care of the following things before developing your inbound marketing strategy:
Build a Website & Blog
Great content is the backbone of inbound marketing. But you need a well-designed website and blog to showcase your content and attract your target audience. Whether you want to generate leads or drive conversion, a website is your most critical marketing asset. Make sure your website is fast, easily navigable, and mobile-responsive.
Create Your Social Media Profiles
Your potential customers are likely active on more than one social media platform. You must identify these platforms and create social media profiles for your brand. These will be instrumental in delivering your content to your audience. Make sure you complete your profiles and provide important details such as business description, website URL, contact information, etc.
Understand the Sales Funnel
A sales funnel outlines the journey a consumer takes from a prospect to a lead to a paying customer. A deep understanding of the sales funnel helps you select the right content formats and marketing channels for each stage. It involves the following stages:
- Awareness or top-of-funnel (TOFU) – At this stage, the consumer is looking for general information about a subject. They’re likely looking to educate themselves about a specific topic. You need to grab their attention using engaging blog posts, infographics, etc. Your content should address their pain points and struggles.
- Consideration or middle-of-funnel (MOFU) – This is the stage where a consumer is contemplating making a purchase. They’re evaluating various options including your competitors. You should focus on educating them about your product and why it’s the right solution for your problems. You can use how-to guides, video tutorials, newsletters, etc.
- Decision or bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) – At this stage, the consumer has almost come to a conclusion and needs one final push to make their decision. You must give them that extra nudge in the form of a testimonial, case study, free trial, cost estimate, free consultation, product demo, etc.
Image via Medium
A great inbound marketing strategy is one that handholds your potential customers throughout this journey and gently pushes them down the funnel.
Build Your Team
Inbound marketing isn’t a one-person job. You need a team of skilled content writers, copywriters, video producers, and graphic designers. You also need efficient data analysts, marketers, sales reps, and customer service executives. That’s why it’s crucial to build a dedicated inbound marketing team. If you can’t afford to hire full-time employees, you should consider outsourcing certain tasks to third-party agencies or freelancers.
Allocate a Marketing Budget
You can execute a marketing campaign without spending money. It is, therefore, essential to allocate a dedicated inbound marketing budget. It’ll impact your team size as well as the content formats and distribution channels you use.
It’s now time for us to discuss the steps to build a rock-solid inbound marketing strategy.
Developing an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing isn’t just about creating keyword-rich blog posts and engaging social media posts. Instead, it involves a series of steps aimed at nurturing and guiding your potential customers as they move down the sales funnel. It even goes a step further and delights your customers after their first purchase. If you want to achieve these outcomes, you must outline an actionable strategy.
Here are the steps to build a strong inbound marketing strategy:
1. Define Buyer Personas
A thorough understanding of your target audience is mandatory for every marketing strategy. Start by taking a look at your social media analytics to identify your audience’s age group, gender, geographic location, etc. You’ll also get an idea of their online behavior including the channels they prefer and when they’re most likely active. Additionally, you can use Google Analytics to obtain similar information about your website visitors.
It’s also essential to dig deeper and identify your audience’s ambitions, dreams, struggles, pain points, and spending habits. If you already have a mailing list, you can conduct an online survey. Social media polls and AMA (ask-me-anything) sessions are also useful. You can even host go live on Instagram or Facebook for a deeper insight into your audience.
Additionally, it’s recommended you leverage social listening. Keep an eye on the comments section of your social media posts to understand what your audience wants. Likewise, the comments section of your blog can reveal insights about what your readers’ pain points and what they expect from you.
Next, it’s crucial to create distinct buyer personas for different types of audience members. Assign a name, profession, age, gender, socio-economic background, etc. to each persona. This, in turn, will help you effectively identify and address the needs of each of them.
Let’s say you’ve launched a maternity clothing brand. Your target audience likely comprises the following categories:
- New mothers
- Expecting mothers
- Women who are contemplating having a child
- Working women
- Stay-at-home mothers
Each category has a unique set of needs, preferences, struggles, and goals. Defining a buyer persona for each category will help you better address their pain points. It’s also recommended that you outline individual buyer personas for each stage of the sales funnel.
Here’s an example::
Image via MacManda Media
2. Set Goals & KPIs
Before you create an inbound marketing strategy, you must know why you’re doing it. Goal setting helps you measure the ROI of your campaign and determine whether it was successful. That’s why you should define your marketing objectives and assign measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to each goal. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART).
It’s recommended that you evaluate the present status of your business before defining your goals. Otherwise, you’ll likely end up setting unrealistic or unattainable goals. For instance, if your Facebook page only has 100 likes, you can’t set an objective to get 10,000 in the next month. Additionally, each goal must be trackable and measurable.
Image via LYFE Marketing
Here are a few examples of SMART goals:
- Increase average monthly website visitors by 25%
- Get 100,000 Instagram followers in the next quarter
- Improve audience engagement on the website by 50% in the next six months
KPIs are measurable metrics or milestones that indicate whether a goal has been achieved. If you’ve chosen the first goal from the above list, unique monthly visitors is a suitable KPI. Likewise, bounce rate and time-on-site are appropriate KPIs for the third goal.
3. Identify Marketing Triggers
Marketing triggers are events that prompt your potential customers to search for information related to your brand, product, or niche. Identifying these events helps you reach out to them with relevant content using the right channels at the right time. Let’s say you work as a freelance social media marketer. Your services would be solicited by people who are:
- Starting a new business
- Planning to grow their business
- Launching a new blog/website
- Launching a new product
4. Choose the Right Keywords
Comprehensive keyword research builds a strong foundation for your SEO and content strategies. It lets you identify the terms and phrases your target audience uses when looking for information about your brand, product, or niche. It gives you a deeper insight into their pain points, expectations, and queries. This, in turn, helps you brainstorm content ideas and choose topics that will immediately strike a chord with your audience.
Moreover, optimizing your content using relevant keywords improves your website’s search engine ranking. It ensures that your website shows up in the topmost search results whenever someone uses search queries related to the keyword. Keyword research also helps you identify relevant and popular hashtags that can be used in your social media posts. Additionally, you’ll need a list of target keywords to create effective PPC ads.
You can use Google Trends and Google Search Console to identify the most popular and relevant keywords in your niche. You can also use tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer, SEMrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, etc. to find the keywords your competitors are targeting. The next step is to analyze these keywords and determine whether they’re worth targeting. Check the search volume, competition, and cost associated with each keyword.
5. Choose Your Marketing Channels
It’s crucial to select the right distribution channels to connect with your audience at the right place at the right time. The first step is to identify the channels that are frequently used by your potential customers. If your target audience includes Gen Z students, you can use TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to reach out to them. However, if your audience comprises strategic decision-makers, you can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and email to connect with them.
Moreover, it’s essential to identify the channels that are suitable for each stage of the sales funnel. Social media platforms and search engines are useful for top-of-funnel marketing. On the other hand, personalized emails and direct calls are suitable for bottom-of-funnel marketing.
6. Outline a Conversion Focussed Content Strategy
This is the most crucial step of creating an inbound marketing strategy. It’s crucial to understand that your content strategy must be aligned to your goals. Additionally, it should resonate with your potential customers at each stage of the sales funnel. If you’re randomly publishing a few blog posts and podcasts once in a while, it won’t yield the desired results.
The first step is to create a list of topics that’ll hit the right chord with your target audience. The keywords you’ve previously identified will come in handy here. It’s also essential to dig deeper into your audience’s mind to find what content they’re looking for. Use online surveys, social media polls, and social listening for this purpose.
Next, you need to identify the right formats that’ll attract your audience. If your audience comprises millennial office-goers, you can use insightful podcasts, infographics, and videos to get their attention. However, if you want to target school students, memes, TikTok videos, photographs, etc. are more suitable.
Typically, you can choose from the following content formats:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Video tutorials
- Online Courses
- Product videos
It’s crucial to identify the topics and formats that’ll resonate with your audience in each stage of the sales funnel. The idea is to use content assets in one stage to move your leads to the next stage. While blog posts, memes, and podcasts are great for top-of-funnel marketing, webinars, case studies, and newsletters are useful for middle-of-funnel marketing. Likewise, testimonials and product videos are suitable for top-of-funnel marketing.
Image via Crazy Egg
Let’s say you’re hosting a free webinar on “How to be an Instagram Influencer”. You can publish multiple blog posts related to influencer marketing to attract your audience. Next, you can use carefully placed CTAs in these blog posts to encourage readers to register for the webinar.
At the end of the webinar, you can offer a free consultation or discount code for participants who want to use your services. Alternatively, you can pitch one of your advanced courses and encourage participants to join it.
The final step is to create a content calendar outlining your publishing and distribution schedule. Identify the most suitable marketing channels based on the topic, format, and stage of the sales funnel. You should also repurpose content and promote it across multiple channels.
7. Build a Lead Nurturing Strategy
Lead generation and nurturing are one of the main purposes of inbound marketing. You should outline a systematic plan to nurture each lead as they trickle down the sales funnel. Make sure your marketing, sales, and other customer-facing departments work in sync with each other.
For instance, you can use a series of personalized automated emails to stay connected with new leads. Start the series with informational newsletters that provide useful and relevant content. Once a recipient clicks your website URL and visits it, it triggers the next email containing information about your product. If they don’t purchase right away, you can send weekly emails showcasing why your product is the right solution to their problems.
If they express an interest in your product again, it’s time to give them the final push. You can use product demos, free trials, promotional offers, and testimonials for this purpose. Next, send the lead’s details to your sales team and ensure that they close the sale.
8. Delight Your Customers
Your inbound marketing strategy doesn’t end once you’ve acquired a customer. You must continue to make them feel valued and special to earn their loyalty. Outline a concrete onboarding process to welcome new customers. Moreover, ensure that they receive prompt and helpful support in case of any issues.
Keep sending tailor-made newsletters to build a strong rapport with them. Inform them about new products and features. You can take this up a notch by providing them with early access to a new product. Additionally, you should ask for their feedback to improve your product and impress them even further.
Today’s competitive and consumer-driven market has rendered traditional advertising futile. Instead, businesses that build and implement a solid inbound marketing strategy are the ones that survive and thrive. It uses cost-effective marketing techniques like SEO, email marketing, PPC advertising, etc. to attract your audience and convert them into customers.
Developing an inbound marketing strategy requires you to have a deep understanding of your target audience and the sales funnel. It’s also essential to outline a powerful content strategy to attract, educate, entertain, and inspire your audience. Additionally, you must develop a system to nurture qualified leads and strengthen customer loyalty. So based on all the information above, start building your inbound marketing strategy right away to start making a positive impact on your business with each planned action.