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How Inbound Marketing Works and Why You Need It

Inbound marketing is a strategic method of drawing customers to a company’s products and services through providing content where and when the prospects want it and then nurturing them through the sales process. The result is increased revenue at a lower cost. According to Hubspot.com, 92.3 percent of the companies that adopted an inbound marketing strategy showed an increase in website traffic and 40 percent of them saw an increase of at least 75 percent.

Inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing in that it provides information rather than placing advertisements and direct mail. With inbound marketing the company produces and distributes useful and valuable content (blog posts, articles, email newsletters, etc.) and couples this with strategic search engine optimization, social media and mobile marketing. Companies that use inbound marketing report a higher number of qualified leads, higher conversion rates and increased revenue.

So how does it work? It matches with the way people want to buy today. To put it simply, when people are considering purchasing a product, they do not want to be interrupted with ads and they do not want to be sold to. They want to be helped, on their own schedule and in the way that works for them. When they are investigating a solution to a problem, they do research into both the problem and the possible solutions long before they talk to potential vendors. Studies have shown that consumers have done up to 70% of their research online before they contact a company for more information about the product or service. Inbound marketing provides useful information for the consumer to study and learn from in order to build credibility and trust in the company’s brand and products.

Inbound marketing consists of four things: attracting prospects, getting an initial conversion, nurturing the lead and closing the sale.

inbound marketing

Attract: Attracting prospects is accomplished through web presence. What is important is attracting the right people to your website. These “right” people are buyer “personas” that are developed in the planning phase of the project. They are holistic ideals of your customers. Personas encompass the goals, challenges, pain points and common objections to products and services, as well as personal and demographic information shared among all members of that particular customer type. Your buyer personas are the people around whom the inbound marketing campaigns for the brands, products and services are built.

Once the persona is defined content is created that will appeal to the persona and then placed where and when the persona will most likely be interested in finding it. Content can include blog posts, online articles, social media, research papers and ebooks. The purpose is twofold: to begin building a relationship with the prospect and to entice them to visit the company website where they will, presumably, enter the sales funnel.

It is at this point that search engine optimization (SEO) is most important. Content must be highly optimized so that the prospect, when searching, will find it. Optimization helps the content rank higher in the search engine results pages and therefore will be more likely to be found.

Convert: When prospects have come to your web site, the next step is to convert those prospects into leads by gathering their contact information. Contact information is gathered by offering further content such as ebooks, whitepapers, tip sheets, online calculators or other items. These content pieces help the prospect further research solutions to their problem. Therefore the content must be interesting and valuable to the prospect.

Nurture: Nurturing the lead is next. Once the contact information is gathered, a series of nurturing activities takes place. The prospect is sent useful information regularly in order to build the relationship as well as entice them to return to the website to review the product offerings again. Nurturing the lead is a critical balance of enticing the prospect while keeping “score” as to what they respond to and when. As the prospect responds to offers in the communications sent to them, they are given a score. At some point the score is high enough that the sales team gets involved and contacts the prospect.

Close: When the prospect shows enough interest the sales people can make contact with the intent of closing the sale and converting the lead into a customer.

This is not the end of the relationship, though. Once the sale is made the nurturing continues. The customer can be put into a pattern of contact from the marketing department and/or the sales force. Repeat customers keep a business in business. Careful nurturing through continuous delivery of more useful and valuable information builds a solid relationship and entices the customer to purchase again. A continuous inbound program means that the customer receives information from you and they also find information by you on the internet and social media when they are looking for other products that might be within your purview as well.

After all this “how to”, you might be asking “Why do I need it?” There is a very simple reason: It works. Inbound Marketing delivers highly qualified leads who are very close to making a purchase. As we mentioned earlier 92.3 percent of the companies that adopted an inbound marketing strategy showed an increase in website traffic. It also cuts costs. On average, businesses save 31% on inbound marketing costs compared to paid search. Leads from an inbound campaign cost 61% less on average than leads from outbound campaigns.

Inbound also is data and performance based. Every step in the process can be tagged for tracking. As a result, data can be gathered on the performance of all aspects of the inbound effort. Blog articles, web pages, rankings for keywords, email campaigns, lead nurturing emails, conversions on specific landing pages and content types can all be tracked for later evaluation. All of this information delivers insight into what is performing and what might be underperforming and it is delivered in real time. The campaign can be adjusted as frequently as necessary to ensure good results.

Inbound marketing is one of the most effective marketing methods for doing business online. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your prospects’ interests, needs and challenges, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close and delight over time.

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.