The Incredibly Simple Guide to Inbound Marketing

We don’t know about you, but constantly reaching out to prospects can be exhausting. 

All those cold calls that go straight to voicemail…

Those cold emails that they never open…

And then there’s that one Zoom call that your cat completely hijacked.

But what if there was another way to get highly qualified leads?

What if people reached out to you instead of the other way around?

That, my friend, is what inbound marketing is all about. It has revolutionized the way people market their businesses and has been adopted by 74% of marketers worldwide.

Today we talk about this technique and how you can incorporate it into your overall marketing automation strategy. So, if you want to leverage its power, read on:

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of attracting ideal clients to your business. You can do this effectively by outlining your customer’s journey and creating valuable content that will help your prospect through every stage.

Inbound marketing doesn’t aim to sell products or services from the get-go. Instead, it’s designed to attract, engage, and nurture prospects until they finally convert into paying customers.

Inbound vs. outbound — what’s the difference?

Here’s how people used to do marketing:

  • Reach out to a bunch of folks.
  • Make them aware of a problem (that they may or may not even have).
  • Pitch their product or service as a solution.

This traditional marketing method is called outbound marketing, and, for many years, this was all people ever did.

This marketing strategy involves advertising your product or service to a broad and sometimes unqualified audience. Outbound marketing often disrupts the normal flow of someone’s day to get attention and pushes a product or service towards prospects without their explicit permission.

Some examples of outbound marketing include:

  • Running ads on mass media channels (e.g., TV, print, and radio).
  • Running PPC (pay per click) online ads to a cold audience.
  • Sponsoring events.
  • Cold calling.
  • Sending out cold emails.
  • PPC and other forms of online advertising.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, involves creating valuable content and establishing your authority within your niche so that prospects naturally turn to you for solutions. Instead of pushing out advertising non-stop, you pull prospects towards you.

You can do this by:

  • Creating in-depth blog posts and guides
  • Sending out email newsletters
  • Building a community on social media
  • Publishing video tutorials
  • Podcasting

Want an in-depth breakdown of the two strategies? Read our post on inbound vs. outbound marketing.

Here are some examples of successful inbound marketing campaigns:

Encharge

Not to go all meta on you or anything, but this blog post right here is an example of how we leverage inbound marketing to attract awesome folks like you who might be interested in automating their marketing efforts.

Basecamp

Basecamp books

Basecamp built its extensive client base by inventing a new coding language, publishing best-selling books on remote work, and hosting podcasts.

Shopify

Shopify attracts customers by creating guides that help budding entrepreneurs get on the eCommerce train. It also runs its educational platform and regularly publishes blog posts that highlight customer success stories.

Backlinko

Brian Dean’s authority in SEO helps him attract thousands of students each year. Through his blog, Backlinko, Dean regularly publishes case studies that get referenced by major publications.

Why you should use inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing has a lot of benefits that can help your business grow — but don’t just take our word for it.

Here are some hard facts that show why inbound is an effective and sustainable strategy to market your business:

  • Leads gained through inbound marketing are often highly qualified and have less resistance to the sale than outbound leads. Inbound leads that come from SEO have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads only convert at 1.7%
  • 17.4% of marketers ranked content marketing and marketing automation as the most effective digital marketing techniques.
Most effective marketing techniques according to marketers in 2020 graph
  • Creating inbound channels like blogs help prospects make more informed buying decisions. 60% of consumers say that they find value in blog content, especially at the beginning of their buyer’s journey.
  • 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to make a purchase yet. Instead of using pushy marketing tactics to get them to buy, it makes more sense to slowly but surely guide them through the process.
  • 64% of online users find ads annoying and intrusive. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, follows the natural course of the buyer’s journey and allows you to foster genuine relationships with your customers.

The bottom line is inbound marketing continues to be a sustainable way to market your business. 

With more and more organizations using inbound to generate leads, attract quality traffic, and improve brand reputation, it only makes sense for you to stay ahead of the curve and implement it in your own business.

How does inbound marketing work?

In inbound marketing, leads often start their journey as strangers to your business. At the end of it, they should ideally turn into customers and, eventually, brand advocates.

So, how does one go from stranger to raving fan? 

Let’s break down the stages of inbound marketing:

Stage 1: Generating traffic

The first step of inbound marketing is to attract your ideal customers. The goal of this stage is not to close a sale. Seriously, that’s like asking someone to marry you on your first date.

All you need to do at this point is to generate traffic to your top-of-funnel channels.

These channels could include your:

  • Social media accounts
  • Blog
  • YouTube channel
  • Podcast

You can organically generate traffic to them by producing informative and entertaining content. For example, you can:

  • Create in-depth blog posts that answer your audience’s questions and present your solution as a great option if it fits their needs
  • Produce video tutorials that teach them how to solve a problem while using your product
  • Share a relatable meme on social media.

Since 68% of online experiences start with an inquiry on the good ol’ search engine, you should also optimize your content for search so people can find them easier.

If you need a little boost, you can even use paid strategies like ads to gain more visibility and funnel traffic to your content. Again, the goal of this stage is just to attract people and let them get to know your brand.

Once you’ve generated the traffic, it’s time to move on to the next stage: capturing leads.

Stage 2: Lead capture

So you and your prospect have finally gone out on your “first date.” Fantastic. The next step would be to ask for their number — or in marketing terms, to capture the lead.

In this stage, you ask your prospect to leave their contact information so you can keep in touch with them in the future.  Note that you’re not forcing them to give you their contact info. You’re explicitly asking for their permission and are giving something valuable in return…

…by offering a lead magnet — usually a free trial, a downloadable PDF guide, or a discount — in exchange for your prospects’ email addresses.

Other ways you can capture emails include:

  • Funneling traffic to landing pages
  • Encouraging your prospects to book a free demo
  • Hosting webinars
  • Running giveaways

Stage 3: Lead nurturing

Okay, so you’ve collected leads. Now what?

It’s time to nurture them, of course.

In this stage, you further build trust with your audience by providing them with content tailored to their needs.

Much like the first two stages, lead nurturing is not about asking for the sale. Instead, it’s about deepening your relationship with your subscribers.

You can do this by uncovering their pain points, aligning with their goals, educating them about your product, and slowly overcoming their objections to the sale.

Most marketers nurture leads by sending regular emails.

But wait — it’s not enough to just send random email blasts to your list. 

People respond better to personalized messages, so it’s essential that you craft customized emails based on the type of lead and how they interact with your business.

Encharge allows you to score your leads and create nurture strategies around them. This way, you don’t have to figure out which lead gets what type of email. With our marketing automation tool, you can simply segment your audience and create various email flows based on time or behavior.

Stage 4: Conversion

Congrats! After slowly nudging your lead through the customer journey, the time has finally come: they’re ready to buy.

The conversion stage is all about putting the right offer in front of your prospect and ensuring that the transaction goes as smoothly as possible.

For example, if you’re a SaaS provider, you can provide clear pricing plans and feature comparisons and implement a seamless onboarding process.

Or, if you’re in the eCommerce space, make sure checkouts are fast and easy.

In any case, the conversion stage doesn’t stop after the purchase. You should continue supporting your client by:

  • Providing resources like user guides, FAQs, and insider tips
  • Having a chatbot ready to answer common inquiries
  • Making sure that your customer success team is ready to assist if your client encounters some problems along the way

Remember — you’ve put in so much work to turn that lead into a paying customer, so make the experience worth their while.

Stage 5: Loyalty

When people say it’s more expensive to acquire new leads than keep existing ones, they aren’t kidding.

That’s why there’s one more stage after conversion: the loyalty stage.

This is where you further interact and delight your clients, so they continue to use your product or service and perhaps even upgrade their subscriptions or buy other items from you. 

You see, existing clients are more likely to make bigger purchases over time. And if they’re happy, they can even become your brand advocates and refer your business to others at no additional acquisition cost to you.

At this stage, retention is the name of the game. You can do this by:

  • Highlighting customer milestones
  • Creating loyalty programs for recurring customers
  • Incentivizing referral programs
  • Reminding them of product improvements and new features
  • Reconnecting with inactive customers
  • Using upselling and cross-selling strategies
  • Encouraging feedback and acting on their suggestions

And that’s basically how the inbound marketing funnel works.

Different organizations have different names for the customer journey, but the concept is the same: you attract leads, nurture them, convert them into paying customers and keep them happy.

Now that we’ve discussed how inbound marketing works, let’s take a look at up-and-coming trends that you can implement in your strategy:

Dominate the content marketing game

You’ve probably heard this a gajillion times: content is king — and it’s still true.

To this day, content marketing remains to be one of the most effective ways to drive qualified leads to your site.

But it’s not enough to churn out mediocre, keyword-stuffed, 500-word articles anymore. Honestly, that type of content marketing is so 2009.

Search engines are becoming smarter. Google, in particular, values expertise, trustworthiness, and authority above quantity.

This means that if you want to drive traffic to your site organically, you should invest in creating long-form content that is at least 1,500 words long. These articles should be in-depth, informative, and, most importantly, satisfy the user’s search intent.

Video content is also an extremely effective way to dominate the content marketing game. Studies show that demand for video is still increasing — 54% of consumers want to see video content from brands and organizations.

Last but not least, make sure that your content marketing is aligned with the customer journey, and it’s helping people progress from one stage of your sales funnel to the next.

Consider using AI-powered marketing automation tools

Marketing automation is on a steady rise — and for a good reason. Studies show that 80% of companies who use marketing automation have increased leads, while 77% reported an increase in conversion rates.

Automation tools like Encharge save you a lot of time and energy by enabling you to automate tasks like keeping tabs on leads, setting up workflows in advance, and sending personalized email campaigns to your audience. 

You can sign up for a free 14-day trial here to see how it works.

Thanks to digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google, voice search has grown over the past couple of years. In fact, 40% of internet users in the US now use voice search to browse the web. If you want to leverage this audience, make sure to optimize your inbound marketing efforts around voice search.

One simple thing that you can implement is to use questions in your blog headers and video descriptions. 55% of people who use voice search ask questions directly on their devices, so creating content that answers these questions will give you a higher chance of ranking on search — which will, in turn, give you all that good traffic.

Take advantage of content distribution channels

Lots of businesses spend time creating great content, but few have mastered the art of distributing it to the right channels. If you want to amplify your reach, you need a solid content distribution strategy.

Here are 3 main content distribution channels that you can take advantage of:

  • Owned content channels – these include platforms and accounts that you own, like your website, blog, newsletter, podcast, and social media.
  • Earned content channels – these are content distribution channels that you’ve gained either through word-of-mouth and organic shares, media coverage, and features on platforms other than your own
  • Paid content channels – this is where you pay to get traffic or coverage, like ads and influencer marketing. 

Use chatbots to increase conversions

We want to be there for our customers 24/7, but if hiring support staff just isn’t possible right now, chatbots are your next best bet.

Chatbots can help your customers resolve quick queries and complaints. They can also help drive conversions by walking prospects through the purchase process.

Here’s an example from Invision:

Studies from 2020 show that more than half of consumers used chatbots to buy something, while 33% used a chatbot to make a restaurant or hotel reservation. If you currently don’t have a chatbot, now may be the right time to get one.

Inbound marketing isn’t working for me — am I doing something wrong?

If you’ve tried doing inbound marketing in the past but haven’t seen substantial results, chances are you might be committing some of these mistakes:

You don’t understand your audience

Do you know who your ideal customer is? Do you intimately understand their challenges, problems, and needs? 

Like any marketing strategy, inbound depends heavily on you understanding your customers and targeting the right audience. 

If you are unsure who you want to target, it’s best to take a step back and do some customer development. Reach out to your perfect customers and identify patterns. Then flesh out 1 to 3 ideal customer personas. You can use our template below:

Once you have a clear vision of who your customer is, make sure to align your content and lead nurturing efforts to each customer profile and their stage in the customer lifecycle.

You are not leveraging the right channel

What is the most effective channel for you? One easy way to find this out is to track conversion goals in your Google Analytics account (and if you are not doing this yet, you should — check the next point).

Are most customers coming from Google, PPC, email, or another channel?


Note that not all channels will work for you. For instance, email is great, but it won’t help you much if you are targeting an audience that checks their inbox once a week or worse — not checking their emails at all. If that’s the case, you have to be more creative and rely on other channels — SMS texts, for example.

You’re not measuring effectiveness

Repeat after us: you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) at the beginning of your inbound marketing campaign is crucial if you want it to be successful. 

Data should drive your inbound marketing decisions. If you do not see results, take a look at your stats. Establish baseline data and check back after a set period.

You should then be able to identify which efforts move the needle and which ones don’t. From there, you can double down on effective strategies and discontinue the ones that aren’t.

You’re not optimizing for mobile

4.32 billion people use their mobile phones to browse the internet. If you’re not optimizing your inbound marketing efforts for mobile, you’re missing out big time.

Here are some tips that’ll help improve your mobile inbound marketing efforts:

  • Make sure that your website is responsive
  • Keep your mobile UI/X simple
  • Since most mobile users also like to go hands-free, optimize your content for voice search

You’re going for quantity, not quality

We’ve mentioned this before, but we’ll repeat it: focus on quality content.

Both humans and search engines appreciate content that’s useful and compelling. Instead of producing lots of content, focus on creating effective strategies to educate, entertain, and nurture your audience.

Why invest in inbound marketing today?

Inbound marketing has changed the way businesses market themselves. When done right, this methodology can help you cut down costs, establish your authority in your niche, and, most importantly, create genuine relationships with your audience.

And don’t forget to nurture those inbound leads through email marketing automation to get ROI from your efforts (inbound’s no joke!)

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