More and more companies are looking for ways to grow their leads and increase revenue without using face-to-face interactions at trade shows, networking events, and other live events.
You could try many different marketing tactics with varying costs and results to see what will work. But there is a process of lead generation that’s proven to work in all types of economic situations and without face-to-face interactions.
Let’s look deeper to see what inbound marketing is and whether it’s right for you.
Inbound is more than a marketing tactic in a toolbelt of marketing activities. It’s a business philosophy. Inbound organizations use valuable content and experiences, tailored to their target audiences, to develop trust, and encourage interaction.
Inbound marketing positions you as a problem solver and works well for attracting people you’ve never met and for interacting with your existing customers.
Become a problem solver.
This sounds good, but how does it actually happen? Let’s take a look at the marketing and sales processes to see how inbound fits in.
The general process followed for decades is that marketing creates leads, hands them off to sales, sales are closed, and salespeople move onto the next prospect.
This has traditionally been called a sales funnel with lots of potential customers at the top. From there, the sales team turns some of the leads into customers as they move down the funnel.
The thing about funnels is they have a hole at the bottom. Once a lead becomes a customer, they fall out the bottom of the funnel. And, often never heard from again by the sales or marketing teams.
ENTER the world of online reviews. There’s always been word-of-mouth marketing, but the last decade has increased the quantity of online reviews and our trust in them. Nearly everyone uses online reviews for business and personal purchases. Inc. Magazine reports that 84% of people trust an online review as much as a friend’s recommendation!
Inbound organizations are committed to helping their current and potential customers throughout a decision-making process and throughout a customer’s experience after making a purchase.
Inbound marketing plays a role in growing sales amongst current and potential customers. It includes attracting, engaging, and delighting customers – depending on where they are in their decision making process. There are actions to be taken at all stages of a customer’s journey.
At the heart of inbound marketing is education. You’re going to present helpful information to people that you’re targeting and guide them to other information that allows them to progress through the buyer’s journey. This is called trust-based marketing.
Building these important relationships can be done using quite a few marketing tactics that help, not interrupt, those who might be considering a purchase.
Being helpful and open with potential customers (and existing customers) builds trust. And people want to buy products and services – whether it’s a personal or business purchase – from people they trust.
Meeting someone wherever they are in the buyer’s journey – beginning, middle, or end – to help them progress to the next step.
Ongoing. Even after a purchase is made, the inbound marketing process continues through education and helpfulness towards your customers.
Trust building. Whether they buy from you or not, your commitment to being helpful and honest will stick with those who encounter your process.
Tied into sales. The inbound marketing process helps nurture leads further until they’re qualified candidates for the sales team.
Trackable. You can show proof of your activities and how they produced results.
Ideal for longer-cycle sales processes targeting businesses or consumers.
NOT interrupting someone with information that they weren’t looking for.
NOT a one-person activity. For inbound marketing to have a positive impact on growth, it needs to be a part of the day to day activities for marketing, sales, and customer service teams.
NOT a buzzword created by a company like HubSpot, although they revolutionized it into what it means today.
Companies around the world are using inbound marketing to build trust in their organizations and grow their sales.
Recognize that this is a process, and results aren’t instantaneous. While ads can help bring you results quicker, they are a tool used to direct your target market to the content you have to offer.
With inbound marketing, you’re aiming to drive more traffic from:
Without being defensive or pointing fingered, figure out where you’re at right now so that you take the best steps for the company.
Do you get enough traffic to your website that you have an opportunity to convert enough visitors to leads to keep the sales pipeline full? If not, you may have a traffic problem. You should focus heavily on the attract phase.
Are you getting a lot of visitors, but not converting them into leads? If not, this is a conversion problem, and you should focus on the Attract and Engage phases.
Do you have a lot of customers who could buy from you again, but aren’t? This could be a problem with delight.
While all the phases are important, there is probably one that stands out above the rest as the first and easiest place to get results. Start there using the tactics to achieve the goals you’ll set for yourself. Then add on the other areas with goals for each progressively.
Not sure which things you should do first? Do you wonder if your website is up to the challenge? If you have questions, we offer a 30-minute free consultation that can point you in the right direction for getting started.
If you know what you need to do, then it’s time for the right technologies to be put in place to make it all happen.
Having a plan for how to actually make your inbound marketing program operate is really important to have before starting. We meet a lot of people who don’t realize all that it takes until it’s too late.
A successful inbound program is not a one-person job.
There are a lot of tasks that require attention daily, including:
In most cases, there is more than one ongoing campaign at a time, each needing the things listed above. It’s best to commit to inbound marketing if you have an in-house team to help or you have the budget for an agency to assist. If not, your bosses are likely to wonder why they’ve invested so much time and money into inbound marketing only to be disappointed with the pace of the results.
And on top of this, you need to be familiar with the software required to get everything done. No matter what technology you choose, there can be a learning curve. And if not, there’s still time needed to ensure everything is getting set up correctly.
Worth all the hassle? Absolutely. But you should plan to have a few people available to get the work done.
You’re going to need technology to make all of the inbound activities happen and to track the results.
We prefer HubSpot. It’s an all-in-one inbound tool that will support the inbound philosophy for marketing, sales, and customer service. That’s why we choose to partner with them.
Other inbound marketing software out there includes; Marketo, Sharpspring, Pardot.
While we can go on for a while about why we prefer HubSpot, you should know a couple of things:
This is where the rubber meets the road. You need to know what worked and where you can improve so that you can build relationships with website visitors -- whether they’re new to you or an existing customer.
Be sure that you have a plan for proving the return on investment (ROI) for your inbound marketing work.
Read more about how to calculate the ROI of marketing in our blog:
The most important thing to note is that you MUST define your goals before you begin.
Here are some data points you should be tracking over time to demonstrate how well your inbound marketing strategies are working. Remember… it’s not an instant answer. Watch for trends rising over time -- typically 3-6 months after starting, you should gain enough momentum for a noticeable change.
If you’re using the right technology for inbound marketing, most of this information will be available in easy-to-access reports.
There are some indicators of whether you’re ready for an inbound marketing strategy. If you can answer yes to more than half of these questions, you’re likely a perfect candidate and may want to start assessing what you can do for quick inbound marketing wins and long-term goals.