The 4 steps of inbound marketing and how they can help your business
Updated 24 October 2022
Learn how the right inbound marketing strategy can help connect your business with the right customers at the right time.
What is inbound marketing?
First things first. Inbound marketing refers to marketing strategies such as content marketing, pay per click (PPC) advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media that "pull" prospective customers at their exact moment of intent.
As opposed to traditional marketing, which is based on the idea of outspending your competitors, inbound marketing connects you to motivated consumers at the right time and place. Think of it as attracting customers to your company rather than having to chase after them.
So, what does the data say about inbound vs outbound?
Inbound generates 54% more leads than outbound
Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound
Inbound generated 3x more qualified leads than outbound
The inbound marketing methodology
The inbound marketing methodology typically has 4 steps. While no customer journey is perfectly linear, this methodology uses the most common path people take when making decisions about the brands they buy from.
By having stronger influence and authority over your customer's decision-making, you’re more likely to shape their buying habits.
It all starts with attracting the right customers, who you then work to convert, close, and delight.
OK, let's take a look at each step in more detail.
Step 1: Attract
This is all about turning strangers to your brand into first time visitors. It starts by attracting the right audiences who are interested in what you are offering.
So logically the key here is to create the right content at the right time and place which helps meet their needs and answer any questions they have. What are the most effective methods for attracting the right people to your brand?
"Not more blogs!" we hear you say. Despite nearly 10 million blogs published daily around the world, blogging remains the most effective activity for attracting people who are on the lookout for your goods or service. The most successful content is informative, entertaining, educational and helpful.
Most commonly, a customer's purchasing process starts with online research. The most effective method for attracting the right people is to increase your presence during their phase of research. So producing a range of content – including blogs, eBooks, whitepapers, infographics and videos – covering information they'll find useful is essential. Think of Hints & Tips, FAQs, Cheat Sheets and How To's as the type of content people are keen to find with your inbound marketing strategy.
So you've created all this awesome content, now all you need is your new fans to share it on social media. Shareable content is the most effective in building your brand's credibility. Being active and helpful on social media is the best place to engage with new audiences and become a brand that is easily remembered when it comes time to buying from you.
Step 2: Convert
Next, we aim to convert these visitors into leads by gaining personal details. The most valuable currency during this phase is their contact information. A good way to obtain their details is to exchange content, including eBooks, whitepapers, infographics and cheat sheets, for their name and email address. Always be conscious of the value exchange during this stage: are you asking too much of a potential customer with the information you want from them?
Contact Forms are the most popular method which allow the right people to submit their personal information. Once you have their details, you can reach out in whatever method suits best.
Speaking with the right people in person or via phone is an incredibly powerful way of converting leads into new business. Creating the right tools and processes to make this process easier for everyone is important.
Chatting with the right people at the right time is more effective when these conversations are an organic part of your sales process. Live chat tools are growing in popularity during this phase, but generally speaking customers are just looking for a prompt reply to their questions.
It's vital to keep track of all leads in a centralised contact database or CRM. Having all your data in one place allows you to effectively make sense of every interaction within the customer journey. Not only does it mean you know what stage of the process each customer is at, it also reduces the burden on you and your team to manually keep track of what could be 1000's of leads.
Step 3: Close
If you have succeeded in attracting the right customers during their consideration phase, then closing is a natural next step with inbound marketing. But you need to understand how to best maximise each customer, ensure they become repeat buyers and that your brand is kept 'top of mind' into the future. You can achieve this with the help of reporting and lead intelligence tools.
Throughout the entire process, it's critical to analyse just how well your marketing and sales efforts are doing. It's important to see what works, what doesn't and to close or re-gear if necessary. Getting the most out of your CRM in generating revenue is critical for the health of your business. So no matter what software you use, ensure your team understand the data and where you need to focus your resources and efforts on.
Nurturing each lead according to their interest and lifecycle stage is fundamental. Messaging should be adapted through the different stages to maintain relevance and suitability. As customers become more familiar with your brand (and also your competitors) you can then tailor your messages. Slowly you will begin to see the types of content your different target audiences like and then use to form their buying decisions.
For example, if you've built trust with someone buy providing a helpful guide on a particular product or service then they're more likely to be open to your direct offers and pricing.
Email communications are a great way to build relationships with your customers. No longer are 'email blasts' used to see what customers in your database will reply. Instead, targeted emails which talk to their specific needs and interests is fundamental to the success of any inbound marketing strategy.
You probably know of companies who are very good at this – they seem to provide the right product offers, industry news or thought leadership at the right time. While a customer may not buy directly from an email campaign, they help establish trust and rapport in the longer term.
Predictive Lead Scoring
This is really just a fancy way of saying who is most likely to become an actual customer for you. Basically, what separates a qualified lead from an unqualified one?
You and your team want to make sure you know the factors that make someone 'qualified' so you can focus on creating and delivering the right content through the promotional channels that make these most sense.
As a Hubspot partner, we use Predictive Lead Scoring to help sales teams be more efficient with their leads. This could be a simple metric like the @ address for a potential customer's email if you're in B2B. If it's a business address then you'll most likely score them higher than someone with a @gmail.com or @yahoo.com.
It also uses other factors like audience demographics, geography, and the information they provide in online forms. All these helps to create a qualified customer list.
Once you begin to build a baseline scoring system, you can then better guide your sales team on which leads to prioritise.
Step 4: Delight
"It's the little things that count" – this saying has never been more true then in delighting your audiences with the experience you provide. Unfortunately it's often overlooked in the rush to just get something out there.
The truth is Step 4 is less about what you're saying and more about how you make someone feel. Your goal in delighting is to provide a memorable experience which speaks directly to your audience's needs and wants. It makes them more likely to become referrers and sing your praises to friends and family.
It's often about the unexpected, like a small gift or special offer arriving in someone's inbox, or perhaps rewarding a loyal customer on social media, or pre-populating form fields for returning visitors, or it could be making your Terms & Conditions a relatively fun page to read. Sometimes it's about flipping a negative experience someone has had with your brand and going above and beyond to make them feel amazing.
Granted, not every effort to delight a customer will be noticed. But the more you can put yourself in their shoes and think about what makes them happy, the better chance you'll have of keeping them loyal to your brand.
Original ongoing Content
As we mentioned above, you have already attracted the right people, but now you need to keep delighting them. Part of delighting your customers is the content you share. Provide ongoing value by updating your website headlines and images, creating new CTA's, and publishing fresh content that keeps audiences wanting more.
Maximise your social media channels with shareable content. And don't just tell them things about your brand, get them involved – ask for input on upcoming products, use promotions or competitions, and provide free stuff where possible.
How do you get started with inbound marketing?
It's natural to feel overwhelmed when considering inbound marketing for your company.
That's why you need Honest Fox digital marketing agency on your team to help create an Inbound Marketing Gameplan. Rather than producing content on a hunch, we can strategically guide you through how to most effectively reach your target audiences. It's about creating a marketing strategy that's sustainable, scalable and repeatable.
Shift your budgets and resources to more effective and measurable strategies with our help.
Head of Marketing