What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is about drawing potential customers’ attention to your company with relevant and helpful content and providing them with added value across the entire customer experience – via your website, blog, and social media. Meanwhile, potential customers have the opportunity to interact with you via email, chat, and other channels. You can prove your competence by providing further information and resources and offering excellent service.
Unlike traditional outbound marketing, you don’t have to impose yourself on your target group and fight for their attention or pay for it. Instead, you focus on creating content that is directly tailored to the interests and needs of your target audience. In this way, you attract qualified prospects and establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.
Outbound versus Inbound
Outbound marketing encompasses traditional advertising measures. These include television and radio advertising, advertisements in print media, online banners, and classic cold calling.
Outbound marketing is interruption marketing. It interrupts its recipients and informs them very aggressively about offers that are downright pushed. This approach is less and less effective. Potential customers react annoyed to calls; TV viewers switch channels during the commercials, Internet users no longer even notice online banners.
The consequences: The number of leads generated by outbound marketing falls, while the price per lead rises. In inbound marketing, on the other hand, marketers set tailor-made incentives. These act like a magnet, because they literally attract interested parties (pull). Useful content acts as a magnet, giving valuable tips, and answering urgent questions.
As part of their Google research, potential customers end up exactly where they can find the information they are looking for: on the provider’s website, which in addition to its services and products, also provides a lot of helpful content on relevant topics.
What is the inbound methodology?
The inbound methodology describes an overarching corporate strategy that includes marketing as well as sales and customer service.
The focus of this methodology is on the customers and the goal of building a basis of trust in them and continuously offering them added value. Rather than imposing on customers, this is about piquing their interest, interacting with them, and getting them excited.
The focus is on being as friendly and helpful as possible with customers – and using the technologies and channels they prefer. With the inbound methodology, the processes in your entire company can be optimized. Because what is good for your customers can only be good for your company. And if you concentrate fully on increasing the satisfaction of your customers, your company will grow on its own – more sustainably and more effectively.
The inbound methodology is divided into three phases: attract, interact, inspire. Companies that use the methodology pursue the goal of establishing themselves as trustworthy companies, gaining loyal customers, and offering them added value – in every phase of their purchasing process.
For companies, this approach means effective and sustainable growth. Because satisfied customers stay loyal to you and recommend you to others, which means that new customers are generated by themselves, on the other hand, if your customers are dissatisfied because your product does not really suit them or disappoints their expectations, the opposite is the case.
When your teams are optimally coordinated with each other and the inbound methodology, you can offer your customers a unified, seamless experience throughout the entire buying process. It is important to note that not one team is responsible for each phase, but that all teams that are in contact with potential and existing customers work together to arouse their interest, interact with them, and trust to win and inspire them. The result: convinced customers who remain loyal to your company over the long term.
What does inbound marketing bring me?
Compared to traditional methods, inbound marketing has a number of advantages.
Since the inbound process is digital, with the help of the right software, it is possible to see exactly which measures generate traffic, which visitors come to the website and how, and where visitors can be converted into leads and ultimately into customers.
Improved market presence
By using different channels – for example, a corporate blog, social media, special content offers – to make information available, marketers increase their market presence.
The providers of products and services are experts in their field and competent contacts when it comes to helpful tips and ways of solving specific problems. By sharing their knowledge with their customers, they increase their authority. They become valued partners.
In inbound marketing, marketers and sales work hand in hand. This speeds up processes and reduces friction losses.
Improved return on investment (ROI)
The advantages mentioned ultimately lead to improved profitability of the launched marketing measures.
How does inbound marketing work?
How exactly does inbound marketing work? In inbound marketing, the focus is on ensuring a stable relationship of trust between provider and customer as early as possible. This relationship of trust is the basis of every inbound marketing strategy. It arises when the provider stands by his customers as a helping expert who is happy to share his knowledge free of charge.
So he makes useful content such as checklists, white papers, podcasts, videos, or demos available on his website. There are no limits to your creativity. The provider does not hold back any information. Why should he hide his knowledge too?
There are different ways to make content accessible. While some content is immediately visible to every visitor, further, more in-depth information is provided in exchange for relevant data.
It is important that potential customers find exactly the content that they need right now, and that will help them further during their entire “buyer’s journey” – their decision-making process. In this way, trust is created long before the actual purchase decision is made.
Inbound marketing is basically always about a well-thought-out content marketing strategy. In fact, inbound marketing and content marketing have some things in common. Both disciplines pursue a similar intention and the common goal of attracting the attention of potential customers through informative or entertaining content.
Nevertheless, the two terms can be distinguished from one another: content marketing does not necessarily have to aim at establishing contact with a potential customer, but rather serves to position a brand in the consciousness of potential buyers.
In contrast, inbound marketing is based on the specifically formulated goals of the sales department. It, therefore, goes beyond the actual content marketing and, in addition to the production and provision of useful content, also includes other disciplines such as social selling or clearly structured sales processes.
No matter what happens in detail in inbound marketing, it always includes the actual behavior of the customer. The provider’s website is at the center of all activities. This can be a newly created page or an existing one and then specially optimized for inbound marketing criteria. This is the only way to reliably measure and check all inbound activities.
Also Read – Inbound Marketing For IT & SAAS
The inbound marketing process
The entire inbound marketing process is divided into four phases,
ATTRACT – getting dressed instead of yelling
In this phase, it is important to make your own website so attractive that strangers can get to it actively and on their own initiative. The tools of choice are engaging blog posts, cleverly researched keywords, a good social media strategy, and other useful content.
CONVERT – convince instead of forcing
Anonymous visitors to the website are only half the battle. They are comparable to people who enter a store, look around a bit, and then leave the store again because they don’t want to make a purchase decision yet. The aim is to find out who is behind this anonymous mass. That happens through skillful content marketing. In this phase, special content offers to take effect, i.e., the content that marketers provide in exchange for user data, for example, an email address. This could be helpful white papers or webinars, for example. If this content manages to convince, initially, anonymous Internet users become qualified leads.
CLOSE – advise instead of harassing
Every contact is different. And only a few users are ready to make a purchase decision as soon as they arrive at an interesting website. It is, therefore, important to accompany potential customers through the various phases of the purchase decision and to support them in the lead nurturing with tailor-made content at the perfect time. Lead nurturing means using smart email marketing and automated workflows to promote and nurture leads and to manage existing contacts in a meaningful way. If the marketer is finally sure that there is a concrete purchase intention, he can pass the collected data to the sales department with a clear conscience.
DELIGHT – fans instead of customers
Happy customers are the best selling point. Outstanding service, exclusive content, and constant innovations turn satisfied customers into fans. As active promoters of your company, they ultimately share their experiences with others – for example, in personal contact, as commentators on blog posts, or on social media. The inbound marketing process is entering a new round.
Buyer personas instead of target groups
The tailor-made approach is an essential part of a smooth inbound marketing process. Traditional outbound strategies are known to work with target groups.
As you know, the term “target group” summarizes all those people who you want to address with a marketing campaign. So it is the result of market segmentation.
There are various parameters to define target groups, for example, age, gender, education, and origin. In addition, target groups can be broken down into first-time and returning customers. For example, a division into the traditional print newspaper and online readers is also possible in principle.
Despite all the limitations, a target group is always faceless. Even if the individual members have certain characteristics in common, the group as a whole remains heterogeneous and unspecific.
Ergo: The approach to potential customers also remains unspecific.
A simplified target group could look like this:
This is where the buyer persona comes into play. A buyer persona has a face, a name, a clearly defined position in professional life, and a specific age. It supports the provider in better understanding customers and their individual needs and problems. A precisely defined buyer persona enables an ideal customer to be addressed precisely.
Since the pain points of the buyer persona are known, the provider knows where the problem is with the target customer. He uses this knowledge and has a tailor-made solution ready. A properly created buyer persona is also essential when it comes to improving your own content marketing.
Companies should focus on a few buyer personas. Two to three buyer personas are usually enough. Each one needs a profile. This includes the aforementioned points, such as age, income, and professional position of the buyer persona. He also mentions the most relevant channels that the buyer persona prefers to use for information.
A simplified buyer persona could look like this:
Important: When creating the buyer personas, sales should be on board. After all, this is exactly where the people who maintain daily customer contact and who therefore know the company’s clientele and their preferences sit well.
The Buyer’s Journey
If you want to address your buyer persona with the right content at the perfect time, you should, of course, know exactly at which point in the buyer’s journey – i.e., the decision-making in the buying process – it is currently.
- Analyst reports
- Research reports
- Editorial content
- Expert content
- White papers
- Educational content
- Expert guides
- Live interactions
- Comparison whitepapers
- Vendor comparison
- Product comparison
- Case studies
- Trial download
- Product literature
- Live demo
As you know, this buyer’s journey describes the process from the first interest to the final purchase decision.
In the beginning, there is the Awareness Stage. The customer notices a symptom but does not know where the problem is coming from. So he goes to look for the source of the problem.
In this phase, the customer needs a very specific type of content. He needs relatively general information that will help him identify the causes of his problem.
An example: Master carpenter Stefan Schreck notices a high level of sick leave in his company. This already has a negative effect on the productivity of his company. He goes on a search for possible causes and uses Google research to discover a caterer’s blog post on the subject of corporate health management.
The Consideration Stage follows. The task now is to develop strategies that can alleviate symptoms and eliminate any sources of problems.
An example: Master carpenter Stefan Schreck now knows that company health management can help reduce the sickness rate in his company. Now he is looking for service providers who can support him. He comes across a free whitepaper that shows how he can actively promote the health of his employees: for example, through a healthy lunch menu.
At the end of the buyer’s journey, there is the decision stage. This is where the customer ultimately selects the option that, in his opinion, is best suited to solving the problem at hand.
An example: Master carpenter Stefan Schreck has decided to offer the workforce a cheap, healthy lunch menu in the future. In this way, he is certain; he will permanently reduce the sickness rate in his company. When looking for a suitable delivery service, he was ultimately won over by the provider, who had been informing him about catering tips at work for some time by the newsletter.
Who is inbound marketing suitable for?
Inbound marketing is particularly suitable for providers in the B2B segment. The products and services in this area are usually very complex and expensive. The need for information from potential customers is correspondingly great. Interested parties who are considering buying a fully automated high-bay warehouse will deal with the topic more profoundly than private individuals who are looking for a suitable barbecue sauce.
In the high-priced B2B segment, the advantages of inbound marketing are, therefore, particularly evident. By providing exactly the content and information on your website that their customers need free of charge, providers are breaking the ice and have already built a first, important bridge to the target customer.
What inbound marketing can’t do
Anyone who understands inbound marketing merely as a tool with which marketing measures can be implemented easily and inexpensively has not understood the underlying philosophy. Inbound marketing is not a buzzword and certainly not a fad.
If you are enthusiastic about inbound marketing and want to use it for yourself and your company, you should be willing to change your previous habits in marketing and sales and focus on providing sustainable support to potential customers with expert knowledge.
Inbound marketing is not a sure-fire success. Companies that want to introduce inbound marketing shouldn’t expect skyrocketing immediate returns. However, those who are willing to leave the beaten track and invest the necessary time can look forward to a well-thought-out, sustainable system, and improved profitability of the marketing measures they spend.
Summary and conclusion
The era of the barkers is over. In times of digital overstimulation on all channels, it is no longer the loudest competitor who wins the favor of customers, but rather those who know how to secure the trust of their clientele at an early stage. Inbound marketing creates this trust as providers support their customers with helpful tips and useful content in every phase of the buyer’s journey. In this way, companies become reliable partners – long before the actual purchase decision is made.