We live in a digital era where access to information is abundant, the creation of new content is rapidly growing, and the public’s attention span is shrinking. By now, your business has probably heard of the buzzword “inbound marketing,” and found yourself asking if it’s a strategy that’ll align with your company’s needs and help you get more qualified leads.
Inbound marketing is all about creating positive and valuable experiences for your customers and target audience to help attract new business opportunities and drive leads to your website and blog.
Inbound marketing takes a holistic approach that leverages an array of different channels, such as social media and conversational tools, to engage prospects, customers, and deliver value.
This strategy differs from traditional outbound marketing because it emphasizes the entire customer journey. Rather than fighting for the attention of your intended audience, the purpose is to design content that addresses the needs and challenges of your ideal customer profile, so you can generate qualified leads, build trust among prospective customers, and boost the credibility of your brand. Ultimately, you want to guide the entire customer journey from education to purchase.
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Inbound Marketing & The Customer Journey
Prospective buyers all travel a similar path, known as the customer journey. The customer journey is when a consumer becomes aware of a product or service, considers and evaluates if it can deliver value, and determines whether or not it can alleviate the problem they are facing, ultimately helping them to make a buying decision.
Consumers are generally resistant to being a sales target. From their perspective, the traditional demo and close process fail to deliver personalization or establish a definite value for them as a buyer. Without an intimate and robust understanding of your target audience, it’ll be virtually impossible to develop an inbound marketing strategy that effectively attracts these individuals.
Through market research, speaking with internal salespeople, and conducting interviews with prospects and customers, you’ll be able to uncover the overarching themes that define their buying journey.
To better understand the customer journey, you should focus on these five stages for a successful inbound marketing campaign:
The awareness stage is the first step of the customer journey, where consumers are faced with a specific challenge or need that they wish to pursue. If you know the problem your audience is facing then this provides your business with the opportunity to build brand awareness for these individuals through your content. To design a strategic inbound marketing plan, you should be able to answer the following questions:
How are your prospective customers educating themselves when faced with a challenge or goal?
What words or phrases are your customers using to describe their needs (and subsequently, to find your business)?
What are the potential consequences consumers would face should they fail to take action to solve their problem?
Are there any myths or misconceptions potential consumers have surrounding the particular challenges or goals your business can resolve?
How does your target audience prioritize their goals or issues they are facing?
#2. Enlighten & Consider:
When your potential customers are in the consideration phase, they have already identified and defined the need they are looking to address and are now assessing different products and services available to them. During this stage, your company should be delivering content that specifically focuses on enlightening your target audience to usher their buying decision towards your company.
To help you craft the right resources to enlighten consumers, you should be able to answer what types of outlets or categories do your customers typically turn to when investigating solutions, how they interpret the various pros and cons of each category, and how these individuals typically decide which solution is right for them.
#3. Convert & Close:
At this point in the customer journey, consumers have already settled on which solution will properly address their needs. For your company, that means converting traffic into leads and then transitioning those leads into actual customers. You will need to understand the criteria your potential customers use when evaluating the various offerings available.
It’s also important to do a deep dive into what your business is providing potential clientele to determine how individuals will see your product or services in comparison with your competition.
Will they have any concerns that would prevent them from converting into a client? Would your company consider a ‘try before you buy’ option? Are you able to offer all the necessary resources, including training or implementation assistance to ensure the buyer has a seamless purchasing experience?
These types of questions will help boost the efficacy of your buying process and ensure you’re able to optimize the customer journey in a way that’ll lead to retained business and referrals.
#4. Retain & Excite:
This step is a part of the post-sales process, designed to maintain clientele and get your consumers excited about your brand and products. Keeping a customer for life can be accomplished in many different ways. For example, you can use email marketing to continue delivering relevant information to your customers based on your buyer personas.
You want to create valuable and contextual conversations with your consumers, as well as social posts and content that is memorable and will entice your customers to share with family and friends.
Retaining and growing your customer base means ensuring consumers have a positive experience. Continually collect feedback to improve upon any inefficiencies or gaps in the customer service process.
Knowing your short-comings and strengths will help you refine and enhance the type of content you produce and share amongst both your customers and target audience.
#5. Advocate & Sponsor:
Incredibly vital to the entire customer journey, is turning your customers into brand advocates. When consumers view your brand as a credible, valuable, and trustworthy source, they’ll, in turn, be willing to refer new clientele, as well as leave positive reviews for potential leads to use for insight on your brand.
Channels & Assets Marketers Use for Inbound Marketing
By employing a sound inbound marketing strategy, your business will be able to use a plethora of channels to target different buyer personas, connect with your target audience, amplify your brand presence, and generate more leads.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
SEO is a significant contributing factor to getting your business’s brand and voice out into the marketplace. Influencing search engine ranking requires a strategic keyword strategy and understanding what your different buyer personas are typing into a search to find your website and content. Your site should be appropriately structured, error-free, and your content adequately optimized for search engines.
Blogging is another great strategy for driving relevant traffic to your website and content offer landing pages. Discover what your different buyer personas are searching for, and then the key is to develop content that specifically addresses the pain points of your target audience, covering main industry topics and highly relevant information.
Blogging is all about consistency; the more you post, the more traffic you’ll drive to your site. Don’t forget: your content needs to be engaging and deliver value. If you are merely putting words and ‘fluff’ on a page, it won’t convert into leads, and visitors will be quick to dismiss your business as lacking credibility.
Content marketing is all about sharing educational information, not just promotional, to gain backlinks and web traffic. Not only is devising an effective strategy good for your company’s bottom line, but it’s highly beneficial for your customers – and potential customers – as well.
Businesses that create highly targeted content marketing campaigns will not only see an increase in sales, but they’ll enjoy cost savings and higher customer loyalty/retention. To find out what your audience responds best your business should leverage a range of platforms and experiment using tactics like A/B testing. Consider using email marketing and newsletters, podcasts, events, webinars, videos, and social media marketing as channels to create brand equity and generate leads.
Many businesses will use paid marketing through display ads and Google AdWords, which provides your company with the opportunity to advertise your message in front of a specific audience. Pay-per-click campaigns give you the bandwidth to use strategic bidding, unique and compelling advertisements and targeted keywords to generate results.
Implementing a paid marketing strategy via social media channels is also a widely popular and effective way to reach your intended audience. From creating engaging Facebook and Twitter campaigns to using an influencer marketing strategy on Instagram, there’s no shortage of creative tactics your business can utilize.
A bulk of the visitors who come to your website for the first time will leave without making a purchase. For the visitors that bounce of your site, this is where re-targeting ads can come in handy. Re-targeting will help engage and convert website visitors into clients after they’ve left your site. A site-based re-targeting strategy leverages cookies by capturing previous site visitor data to stay in front of potential clientele.
Once a potential lead has exited your site, they’ll begin seeing advertisements for your brand, products, and services while browsing the web, reading an online article, listening to music, or perusing their favorite celebrity gossip site.
By using this tool, your brand will stay top-of-mind with potential customers, reminding them of all the fantastic products you have to offer and enticing them back to your website to make a purchase.
There is a myriad of resources just waiting for your business to take advantage of – blog posts, landing pages, eBooks, digital guides, infographics, podcasts, banner ads, calls-to-action, emails, and more.
There’s no denying that in our increasingly digital world that the customer journey begins online, meaning your business must attract, engage, and continue to delight customers in a way showcases your brand as a valuable and trustworthy source.
Other channels needed to support your inbound efforts are email marketing and conversational tools.
Still wondering “what is inbound marketing?” and whether or not it is right for your business?
Fortunately, almost all businesses can plan and execute an incredibly successful inbound marketing campaign. However, if you offer emergency services, such as water restoration, plumbing, or provide a service that doesn’t have a consideration process, maybe inbound marketing isn’t the right strategy for you.
If you’re looking to breaking into new customer segments, build brand awareness, drive business revenue, and showcase your company as an expert in the field, then establishing digital inbound marketing initiatives for your company is the way to go! The critical thing to note is, there needs to be a consideration process on the consumer’s part to reap the benefits of inbound.
Inbound marketing is a great way to humanize your business in an era led by technology, providing consumers with opportunities to connect, learn, and communicate, and resolve their needs.