Meet Buyers Where They Are in the Journey … Using Inbound Marketing Methodology
The term “inbound marketing” has soured in popularity and stature ever since it was coined by HubSpot’s CEO Brian Hannigan in 2005. So much so that it has ousted the traditional form of marketing through advertisements, cold calling, and distributing flyer. The inbound marketing methodology focuses on earning your audience’s interest through the creation of quality content through mediums such as blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, SEO, social media marketing, podcasts, videos, and other valuable content. You’re not “buying, begging, or bugging” your audience for attention, you’re taking the time to provide something of value so that you can earn their attention, and more importantly, keep it.
Let’s take a closer look at what the methodology is, how it works, and why it will improve your brand’s performance.
As with most budding relationships, the first requirement is attraction. As a business, your goal is to attract individuals who you have a realistic potential of becoming valued customers. These individuals are called buyer personas. All your inbound marketing actions should be taken with them in mind. They are the lifeblood of your business. Attracting your buyer personas requires a focused inbound marketing strategy that starts with quality content creation. This content needs to not only draw your personas in, but compel them to transition to the next step of the conversion process.
Start a company blog that is integrated with your main website. Blogging is one of the best methods to succeed in the “attract” stage of the methodology. A blog allows for consumer engagement with your brand. Blog content can include industry tips, trends, reviews, comparisons, and even visual content such as videos and infographics. Give a voice to your company, and let blogging be your mouthpiece. Your blog should educate and engage your buyer personas in a way that speaks to them. Use the language they use, address their dissatisfactions, and offer resolutions. It is good to know that companies’ which blog get 55% more traffic and 70% more leads than companies that don’t blog or have just jumped on the blogging bandwagon.
Cultivating and maintaining a social media presence is also crucial for attracting visitors to your business. It not only acts as another great resource to share and promote your outstanding content, but is also the key to humanize your business. Take the time to build and nurture your business relations on social media. This will build added trust, transparency, and authority for your company. If your ideal customer is on social media, your business should be to. Occupying the same digital space as your target audience is integral for a successful inbound marketing strategy.
Optimize, optimize, optimize. In order to drive qualified traffic to your site you need to rank prominently in search results, and achieving this largely comes down to keyword optimization. To do so you need to know what your targeted buyers are searching for and utilize those keywords in your content. In order to rank you need to place your keywords in the places that search engines crawl. This includes the URL, page title, H1 header, body text, alt text for images, and tags. Keywords help search engines determine what a page is about, making it easier to provide relevant results to searchers. Not only will doing these things improve your rankings, but it will appeal more to your personas when they navigate to your content. Do not throw keywords into your content that is unrelated to the context of a piece of work. This will not only annoy potential consumers, but also negatively affect your page authority with search engines.
Not only should you optimize your website with keywords, but it should also be optimized in a way that visually and interactively appeals to your buyer persona. Using pleasing images and graphics, having a user-friendly navigation, as well as an interconnected links throughout your website are key to optimization. While keywords will help users find your pages, usability and attractiveness will keep them there. In addition to on-page SEO via keyword optimization, it is also important to generate outbound links. These are links on other webpage’s that lead to the pages on yours. Having outbound links gives your website authority, which affects your rankings on search engines. These links, however, need to be built on credible websites. Having a bunch of random links will do more harm than good
Once you have successfully attracted visitors to your site by following the above guidelines, the next step is to convert them into marketing qualified leads (MQLs). In order to nurture an MQL you will need to obtain their contact information. Contact information is currency to the inbound marketer—it is all about giving, giving, giving … and then asking them for their contact details. For that you need to offer something of value to your buyer persona for them to be willing to provide you with their contact details. This “something of value” comes in the form of content, which includes whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, reports, and any other educational material that your audience would find valuable.
CTA’s are buttons or links on your website that entice visitors to take action that will enable them to access one of your valuable resources. This action, for example, can be to “Download an eBook” or to “Attend a Webinar”. Make your CTA button enticing by using eye-catching graphics and clear and compelling wording so that visitors will not only see it, but also be willing to click on it.
Once your visitor clicks on your CTA, they should be directed to what is known as a landing page. This is the stage at which the exchange process is fulfilled. The landing page should include a form for your visitors to fill in with their contact details. This form should be optimized for ease of use. Some common fields include name, email address, company, and role. After submitting the form your visitors will have access to the resource highlighted in the CTA and you will have a new lead! You can now begin having a more targeted conversation with your buyer persona, leading them further along the buyer’s journey.
As you continue to generate new leads it is important to keep track of them. Creating a marketing database will help you keep track of which interactions you have already had with certain leads and what the appropriate next steps will be in your marketing efforts. By keeping your contacts organized will make the lead nurturing process efficient and effective!
The next step in the inbound marketing methodology is closing your leads and turning them into happy customers. This process involves alignment of your marketing and sales efforts. Your leads should be sales qualified and at the point in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey where they are ready to invest in your products or service. There are a few tools that will help you push your leads that last little bit to becoming customers.
Lead scoring is a tactic by which you assign a numerical value to the sales-readiness of a lead. You can determine a prospect’s readiness by tracking their behaviors and web activity to determine their level of interest in your brand. You can use this score to determine what kind of marketing or sales initiative should be taken with different groups of leads.
This is a good tactic for leads who have interacted with your content, but have not yet made the move to buy. Your goal is to build their trust in your business so that they can make the final leap. Sending a progression of emails with relevant, engaging, and helpful content is a great way to achieve this.
Target your communication efforts with marketing automation. It is the union of marketing and sales. This is one of the most effective ways to nurture your leads. Depending on where your leads are in the marketing funnel the context of your messages will vary. You can determine the appropriate message for each lead by taking stock of how they have interacted with your business. Have the downloaded a whitepaper on a certain topic? Have they liked your Facebook page? Attended a webinar? With this information you can modify your messages to the interests of your leads, thus building your relationship with them in the hopes of closing them as customers.
This step is critical for determining how well your marketing and sales efforts are working. Have your sales team regularly report to you and the rest of the marketing team with the status of their leads. This will help you understand where the best leads are coming from and conversely, which efforts have been weaker. Integrating this with your customer relationship management (CRM) software will give you insight on how well your marketing efforts are working with the efforts of the sales team. With this data you can work on refocusing those efforts that are less successful to create a strong, robust conversion strategy.
With inbound marketing you don’t abandon your customers after they have made a purchase. You not only want to keep them as customers, but you should also want them to become promoters of your products or services. Your goal is to establish brand loyalty. To do this you need to continue to show your customers that you value them and have not forgotten about them. You do this by continuing to engage with your customers through content that will delight them. Highly targeted calls-to-action, interaction on social media, and email and marketing automation are some of the most effective strategies you can use to achieve this. By delighting your customers you create greater sales opportunities - not only with your existing customers, but also with those that they share their positive experiences with!
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