The Definitive Inbound Marketing Guide for 2020
We are living in a world flooded with information. As per an IBM report, more than 90% of the data online has been created in just the last two years. That’s a massive amount of data, all competing for precious buyer’s attention.
This is where the traditional “push” marketing fails to create an impact. Cutting through this heavy noise and reaching the targeted audiences is inbound marketing that is present exactly at the time when they are searching for it.
We all get a massive amount of marketing emails delivered into our mailbox every day. How many of them do we really care to read on a daily basis?
The world is going through a transition phase where we are pulling down blinds to intervening advertisements. That means visitors to the websites consciously or unconsciously ignore banner-like information. And, Click Through Rates (CTR) are consistently dropping.
On the other hand, equipped with AI, Google has given the power in the hands of searchers or consumers to find the exact answers based on their intentions.
When you have highly informative content on the topic, your target customers are checking out on Google, your chances of showing up on Google and getting found by your prospective customer increases manifold.
Inbound marketing is geared towards building awareness, developing relationships, and generating leads.
According to a study by CEB Marketing Leadership Council, consumers cover 60% of their buying journey before they get in touch with the sales rep.
When your customers find your website in their early stages of the decision-making process, you will have a stronger influence on their future buying decision.
This explains why inbound marketing is the best way to grow your business in 2019.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to accelerate your growth with inbound marketing and sales.
- Inbound marketing fundamentals
- The right way to build the buyer persona
- Nitty gritty of designing an inbound marketing website
- Steps to create amazing content that drives engagement and following
- SEO steps to create search engine visibility
- Generating leads through the website
- Avenues to promote your content to drive engagement with prospective customers
- Building a relationship with lifecycle marketing
- Personalizing communications to suit visitors, leads, and customers
- Marketing automation to save time, energy and your sanity
- Best tools to take your marketing efforts to the next level
Inbound Marketing Fundamentals
Unlike outbound marketing where you have to fight for potential customers’ attention, inbound marketing emphasizes on creating valuable experiences that positively impact your customers and establishes your business as a trusted and reliable partner.
Digital marketing approach in inbound marketing employs websites, search engines, blogs, and social media to reach targeted customers and help them through their buying process.
How inbound marketing is different from traditional marketing?
Traditionally, businesses use every kind of approach for selling their products, hoping what they offer will interest people. Most of these methods are interruptive and intrusive.
On the contrary, inbound marketing helps potential customers find what they’re looking for. It involves the creation of useful and relevant content intended to help people genuinely.
Businesses use the below-mentioned inbound marketing methods to get found:
- Company website
- Company blog
- Search engine optimization
- Social media marketing
The aim is to create content that addresses the problems and pain areas of prospective customers. Inbound marketing helps brands and businesses attract qualified prospects to their website.
Inbound marketing follows the below-mentioned methodology:
The top rows are the four phases of inbound marketing
The middle row displays the relationship a prospective customer has with your brand
- At the very beginning, the customers are not aware of you.
- Then, there comes a time when customers get introduced to your products.
- The last stage is when they become customers.
The middle row describes the complete cycle where a stranger visits your website, soon turns into a lead, and then becomes customers. Later as customers, when they use the product and become convinced about it, they become promoters of your business.
The bottom row shows the stages of the buying journey.
One can simply define inbound marketing is an effort that matches the way people buy.
To develop an inbound marketing strategy for your business, you need to understand how buyers form their buying decision and based on it build your ideal buyer personas. Having an understanding of the buyer persona will give you enough clues to develop helpful and engaging content for every milestone of their buying journey. In the next chapter, you will learn how to build a buyer persona the right way.
The most significant advantage of inbound marketing is the value that your brand derives from the content itself. Your content becomes the most valuable asset to your brand and they continue to generate traffic and qualified leads for your brand year after year. Unlike an advertising campaign which runs once and shows one-time impact, inbound marketing requires commitment, strategy, and talent that beings results for a long time.
Inbound marketing is a long term growth strategy that continuous, compounding results over time.
The Right Way to Build the Buyer Persona
The best thing about inbound marketing methodology is that it transforms the marketing and sales methodology to match the buying behaviour of people.
Therefore, for an effective inbound marketing strategy, you need to understand how your buyers are thinking and getting to their buying decisions. This includes the steps they take to evaluate your product or service before buying.
Without figuring out your buyer’s persona, your inbound marketing efforts is akin to doing guesswork every step of the way.
Ironically most marketers think they know their customers extremely well, but in reality, have very little knowledge of the process a buyer follows to reach their purchase decision.
Here are a few questions related to the buyer persona. Most marketing and sales professionals can answer only upto 2 to 3 of these statements correctly.
- Do you know your buyer’s favorable and unfavorable perceptions related to your product?
- Do you understand what triggers your buyers to search for a solution to their business problem?
- What are the top three factors your buyers use to choose their solutions?
- Who in the buyer’s organization is the decision maker in each step in the buying process?
- What are the top three resources your buyer uses in each stage of the buying process?
- What are some of the barriers that prevent your buyers from choosing your solution?
If you know your buyers fairly, you will have the answer to most of the questions. These answers will help you develop the buyer persona. Buyer research interview will reveal the attitudes, concerns and decision criteria that need to be addressed to win their business.
Here is a list of things that the buyer persona reveals.
- The conditions that prompt the buyer to look for a solution
- Results or the outcome that the buyer expects from the solution
- Attitude or concerns that prevent the buyer from purchasing the solution
- Features that buyer compare while evaluating the alternatives
Creating a buyer persona is important to win over your target consumers. But creating a buyer persona requires deep commitment and research.
Nitty Gritty of Designing an Inbound Marketing Website
On average, it takes 4 months to develop a perfect website.
The traditional approach to designing a website requires a significant time investment, large up-front costs and still, there is a high probability that the project will run late and exceed the budget.
A typical traditional web design approach
The problem with this type of web design approach is that it is not designed to drive traffic, leads, and sales. The traditional approach to web designing is not suitable because it depends on sales guesswork.
However, there is a better and smarter approach to web design. It’s a Growth Driven Design (GDD) process. It focuses on using real data to lead the design process and involves continuous improvement throughout time.
The continuous iterative process produces reliable growth month-over-month. The website starts to drive leads and sales as you continue to measure, iterate and act on website design elements.
This approach is better over the traditional approach since it is result oriented, reduces your initial upfront cost in terms of time, money and resources.
In GDD methodology the improvement of your website never ends. It is designed to adapt and change to match the way your target buyers purchasing decisions change over time.
In this method the website is built in stages according to the scientific method, considering fundamental assumptions through the analysis of the available data. These assumptions are used to develop a hypothesis that is either invalidated or validated based on resulting user data.
An inbound marketing website is focused on conversion.
Steps to Create Amazing Content that Drives Engagement and Following
The biggest differentiator between the Growth Driven Website (GDW) for inbound marketing and the traditional website is the content creation part.
Here are some of the ways in which Inbound marketing helps the website:
- Leads to increased website traffic
- Creates brand awareness
- Enhances lead generation and sales
- Establish brand identity and create a positive brand association
- Establish communication with the visitors, prospects, and customers (key audiences)
The more the visitors are engaged on your website, the easier it will be for you to achieve your marketing goals.
It will be more appropriate to say that inbound marketing is all about content. It attracts visitors to your website. Here are some examples of the most common form of contents for Inbound marketing.
- Educational Articles
- eBooks & Reports
- Images & Photos
Having said that, one has to understand that it’s not just about content, but content with the right context. Publishing the right content at the right time and at the right place will help increase traffic to your website manifold.
Inbound marketing is multi-channel marketing that includes:
- Keyword search
- Calls-to-action on your website and landing pages
- Social media
- Marketing automation
The main aim of blogging, SEO and social media is to get traffic to the website. Then with the help of call-to-action, landing page and forms, turn the visitors into leads. With continuous nurturing through email and lead intelligence, the leads convert to customers.
SEO Steps to Create Search Engine Visibility
Search engines and social media have changed the way people make their buying decisions. According to a recent report by Search Metric, about 92% B2B purchase start with the search.
Prospective customers search for solutions online and educate themselves with the option available. They consider their challenges, costs, reviews, testimonials, and case, all by themselves without speaking to a salesperson. In fact, buyers progress 60% of the way through the buying process, before they get in touch with the salesperson.
In short, the search is the first step in the buyer’s journey.
Therefore to be successful in inbound marketing, you should be aware of what your prospects are searching online and how does your website show up in search results. Moreover, you should also be mindful of what triggers them to look for a solution that your product provides.
To attract targeted customers, you will need to create relevant content that interests your buyers and leads them the solution they are looking for.
Once you have identified the right topic, your next logical step should be to plan and develop content that satisfies the searchers intent or in other words, matches buyer’s interests and needs.
Here are some kinds of content that can be created:
- Site Pages
- Blog Articles
- In-Depth Guides
It requires both the technical and design elements to improve the rankings in the search engine.
Also note that SEO is not just about search engine optimization, but is also about making the websites better for the users. The goal of Google is to provide users with the most relevant and useful information on the web.
If you can understand the intent of what the user is searching, you can create content that addresses the audience’s intent in the best way possible.
There are hundreds of factors to consider when optimizing the web pages. Majority of them are such that you cannot control (off-page-SEO). However, there is one thing in your control and that is to create a website that is easy for both users and search engine robots to understand.
If your website addresses searcher’s intent but is not SEO optimized, you may struggle to drive traffic to your website.
Generating Leads through the Website
If you want to turn your website traffic to revenue for your business, you will need to create content that delivers value to your visitors.
With the help of surveys and buyer research interviews, you can develop a buyer persona. A buyer persona will give you a good clue of the type of content to create, matching each stage of their journey.
To create unique content that can only be found on your website, you can follow the STEPPS framework. The framework focuses on creating content that people want to consume.
STEPPS Framework in a gist:
- Social currency- People are conscious of their public image and care about how they appear to others. Make people feel like an insider.
- Triggers- Consider the context – Top-of-mind means tip-of-tongue. By making your content available on multiple platforms, your brand remains on top of your customer’s mind. When they take a buying decision, they think about you.
- Emotions- Emotional content get shared more and often go viral. People share what they care about.
- Public- Built to show, made to grow. Design products and initiatives that advertise themselves.
- Practical Value- News and information that your prospective buyers can use will stick with them.
- Stories- Stories are vessels that act as a Trojan Horse. Build a story or a narrative that people want to tell which carries your idea along.
Every content you create should contain at least two or more of the STEPPS triggers to make it contagious.
Avenues to Promote Your Content to Drive Engagement with Prospective Customers
Social media has come a long way where it is no more than just a place to hang around. It has become a channel to communicate for people of all ages.
According to statistics, there are about 1.37 billion average active users on Facebook.
This means Facebook marketing should also be part of your social strategy. You should also identify and target other social network sites where your target buyers hang out, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
Social media, as the name implies, is all about being social on the platform. That means you shouldn’t use it to broadcast impersonal promotional marketing messages.
Use the social media platform to strike real conversations with real people. Make sure you are relevant, helpful and friendly.
Be helpful. Share content on social media platforms that adds value to the conversation.
Attracting the right audience and engaging with them is the first step. Your next step should be to focus on conversion because that’s what will drive the business forward.
Building a Relationship with Lifecycle Marketing
After a website visitor converts into a lead, you need to determine if the contact is a fit based on your buyer persona.
How do you do that?
You can do this by asking qualifying questions on your conversion form. There is no one special question that can help you determine the fit. A series of questions can be aligned with the buying stage of the offer. Answers to these questions will help you determine persona fit.
Here are some sample questions:
- What is your biggest marketing challenges?
- Getting website traffic
- Generating leads from the website
- Closing the sales leads
- No issues – we have no marketing challenges
- What best describes you?
- Business owner
- Marketing professional
- Sales professional
- HR professional
- How much can you invest annually to market your business?
- Less than 10K
- 10K to 25K
- 25K to 50K
- 50K to 100K
- Over 100K
Based on the questions above and more you will be able to determine fit. If the contact is a fit, you have generated a qualified lead.
You should continue to nurture your new lead through the buying journey. To make the deal sweet and close it early, you can provide more offers and opportunities.
Personalizing Communications to Suit Visitors, Leads, and Customers
The biggest problem with most websites is that they keep providing the same information, page after page to all their visitors.
Inbound marketing uses available data to create a personalized experience. This data is collected through visitors interactions with your site.
Personalized information provides a more engaging experience with personalized calls-to-action and web page content. Personalizing the content based on how visitors are engaging with the content and their interests and needs is referred to as – Contextual Marketing.
According to a study, Contextual Marketing provides optimal user experience and increases conversion rates by 20% on average.
Contextual marketing works by providing the right content to the right person at the right time.
According to yet another study, 73% of consumers prefer a personalized online shopping experience.
Contextual marketing works by improving the potential customer’s experience in all phases of the buying journey and doesn’t stop even after becoming a customer.
Contextual Marketing is an excellent way to improve customer experience, immediately after a prospect becomes a customer.
With the help of marketing automation, you can provide an excellent opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell more products or services.
Inbound marketing is successful in delivering a result because it doesn’t end with closing sales. It rather continues throughout the entire customer’s experience.
Moreover, it is essential to retain the customer through positive experience because it is 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one.
Marketing Automation to Save Time, Energy and Your Sanity
As your inbound marketing efforts progress, you will soon realize that it’s impossible to chase every single lead for your team. When things are working at scale, it’s not possible to manually nurture every relationship.
If you do not have an active lead management and prospect nurturing system, you will quickly waste your marketing budget.
Marketing automation is a technology effort to engage with prospective buyers at scale with multiple touch points along the way.
These touch points include smart content, email marketing, social media marketing, and SMS text messaging. Good marketing automation is connected with the database that keeps a record of all the interactions and the contact details.
The system automates the interaction based on user activity or lack of user activity in specific channels.
Marketing automation is great for the following activities:
- Providing support to your customers
- Quickly respond to inquiries
- Provide access to additional products and services
Best Tools to Take Your Marketing Efforts to the Next Level
Chief Marketing Technologist, Scott Brinker, found in a study that marketing software technology companies grew from 150 to 5000 between 2011 to 2017.
Here is a list of some of the most popular tools used to support digital marketing and sales effort.
- Content Management System (CMS) + Business Blogging such as WordPress and Drupal
- Email marketing such as MailChimp
- Marketing Automation & Landing Pages such as Unbounce
- Search Engine Optimization tools such as SEMRush
- Social Media Management and automation tool – Hootsuite
- Customer Relationship Management such as Salesforce
- Sales Enablement Software such as Trivia
- Marketing & Sales Analytics such as Google Analytics
Using too many marketing and sales technologies lead to inefficiencies. Many times they don’t work together.
You can overcome this challenge by using a software toolset that works an all-in-one solution. Hubspot is a recognized technology leader and one such toolset that offers a full stack software. It has tools for marketing, sales, and customer success.
Here are some of the benefits of using an all-in-one solution like HubSpot.
- One platform for your team to learn and work on
- One login to access all your information
- Seamless integration to all other tools
- A central database that stores all the interactions
- Access to analytics and reports
Use of this kind of platform for inbound marketing activities will make it much easier for you and your team to handle everything from one place.