What is inbound marketing?
Simply put, inbound marketing is the art of drawing leads and customers to your business, as opposed to chasing them down with methods such cold calling.
Is it the same as content marketing? Pretty much. Both methods involve creating content that provides the type of information likely to be sought by potential customers. Both promote the idea of creating content that informs, educates or entertains, rather than content that attempts to aggressively push the company message or sell directly.
Does it work? Yes, if you do it well enough. The way to do that is to develop an inbound strategy that pays attention to every element and stage of the recommended methodology.
Inbound marketing agencies adopt a particular methodology. Important strategic elements are:
- Buyer personas
- Buyer journey stages
- Content creation selection based on personas and stages
- Lead capture
- Lead nurture
- Continued contact after closing
If you’re a marketing manager, you won’t find it difficult to understand the inbound concepts. Implementation requires substantial effort, and it can be much easier to do if you make use of an automated marketing tool like HubSpot.
For the SME owner (or the office assistant/sales representative who is inadvertently filling the role of marketing manager), it’s likely to be a little harder. You may need to engage an inbound marketing service to develop your inbound strategy and manage the process for you.
Inbound marketing services
Inbound marketing services are offered by some content agencies, content marketing services, and digital marketing specialists. Usually these firms have a partner arrangement with an automated marketing company like HubSpot and Marketo, so they can deliver the inbound services using their marketing automation platform.
Services usually include:
- Assistance/training on the automation platform
- Inbound strategy development
- Development of buyer personas
- Campaign planning for lead generation
- Creation of landing pages and lead capture forms
- Development and automation of lead nurture processes
- Creation of blog content, eBooks and newsletters
How effective is inbound?
Marketing automation is a powerful tool! To understand how much it could boost your lead generation, consider the following two scenarios:
Business A’s website looks great and receives 500 visitors a week. But they only receive a couple of enquiries a week. Over a few years, they’ve built a small email database which includes anyone who has ever made an enquiry. They send out a monthly newsletter, publish blog posts weekly and share them on social channels, but the number of enquiries doesn’t budget. They have a newsletter ‘subscribe’ button on the website, but only 1-2 people a month subscribe. In 2 years, their database has grown from 0 to 220 and they get virtually no response when they mail out a newsletter.
Business B’s website also looks great and receives 500 visitors a week. They used to receive only a couple of enquiries a week, but after implementing an inbound marketing strategy two years ago, things changed. Their database of 220 prospective clients has grown to over 1000. Every time they mail out a newsletter, they generate new enquiries.
That’s because they now have several downloadable eBooks on their website containing information of interest to prospective clients. Each week, 5-10 visitors check out the dedicated landing page for a particular eBook offer, register their details and download that eBook.
Why, when they each have 500 site visitors a week, are the results so different?
- Business B now knows much more about their website visitors than they used to, because they can see more data in their automated marketing software.
- They’ve created content of interest to particular types of buyers, and at each stage of interest: when they first search for information to resolve a challenge but aren’t ready to buy; when they’ve decided that they need help and are comparing service providers; and when they’re on the verge of making a decision.
- When a visitor chooses to download a particular eBook, it tends to confirms their area of interest, which in turn lets the company know which service they are most likely to require.
- The action of downloading an eBook also triggers a lead nurture workflow: if the prospect hasn’t taken further action after a few days, they’ll automatically receive an email inviting them to read another piece of relevant content, or making them a special offer. If they don’t respond, sometime later they’ll be sent more relevant information and have another opportunity to express interest or ask a question.
- Business A was only able to add people who made an enquiry to their database. Unfortunately, most of these people were already at the decision-making stage when they made an enquiry – so they either became customers, or lost interest because they chose another supplier.
- Meanwhile, Business B was populating their database with people at the earliest possible stage of their buyer journey. This enabled Business B to establish a relationship with them, and stay top of mind during the decision-making process over the coming weeks or months. And so many of the people on Business B’s database are genuine prospects, and a percentage of them will almost certainly become clients.
- In fact, Business B knows what percentage of subscribers will become customers. And they know what percentage of website visitors will become subscribers. That data is readily available in their automated marketing software.
Business B plans to scale up their inbound marketing efforts next month to increase revenue!
Inbound marketing platforms aren’t cheap – here’s how not to waste your investment
If you’re considering signing up to automated marketing platform, or engaging an inbound or content agency to do it all for you, the right mind-set is essential. Effort is required.
If you’re doing it in-house, you’ll be putting time into understanding the automated marketing software and the inbound methodology, and planning your content. If you’re outsourcing to an agency you’ll be paying a princely sum for them to do the heavy lifting. Either way, if you don’t strive for absolute perfection, the waste of time and/or money will be significant.
Your content needs to be carefully planned and targeted, whether you do it in-house or use outsourced content writing services. And whether it’s an eBook, a video, blog post or newsletter, it must look good, read well, and be of significant interest to the right people. If you’ve been churning out mediocre content with little planning, you need to put that behind you and step up to a new level.
It’s time to get serious!
Choosing an inbound agency
As you’ll be making a substantial investment, you’ll want to ensure you choose an agency you’ll be happy working with for the long term. You’ll also want them to be competent when it comes to:
- Content creation & publishing
- Using the automated platform
- Planning content campaigns
You’ll find the most inbound agencies located in Sydney and Melbourne, as you might expect, but the service is becoming more common. If you’re in a different capital, or even a country region, and you’d prefer someone local, chances are you’ll find someone in the region who specialises in inbound marketing. Different agencies have different strengths. For some it’s website and graphic design, for others it’s content creation and SEO, and for a few it may be social media. Consider which area of expertise is going to be the most important for your business, and for the type of content that’s likely to be your focus.
Help with inbound
Article Writers Australia can assist you to make the transition to automated inbound marketing. And if you are already using a service like HubSpot, but are struggling to produce the content required to make inbound work well, we’re just as happy to help.
Speak to our content strategist to find out more.