Have you ever searched for the term "Inbound Marketing" on Google? Well, I have and it gave me around 82.3 million results. This shows the significance of this term and methodology today. Whenever I have a conversation with young marketers or entrepreneurs, they all pop up some common questions like:
Does Inbound Marketing work?
Is it tough to implement?
Is Inbound Marketing "free"?
That's why I wanted to write this article where I help them understand what Inbound methodology is and how it can help them. So let's go.
Let's start with the most important question - What is Inbound Marketing?
According to Wikipedia, Inbound marketing is a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and branding.
Yeah, that's right. Inbound marketing is the exact opposite of old-time outbound marketing where a marketer used to reach out to the audience via the medium of print or tv ads, billboards, etc. In inbound marketing, marketers leverage content catered to their specific audience to pull them towards the brand. In inbound marketing, the mantra is not to interrupt people when they are busy with their lives; it is rather to educate them about your offerings so that whenever they are ready to buy, they think of your brand.
What is an Inbound Marketing Methodology?
Inbound Marketing was the brain-child of HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah (I love him) and they coined the term around 2005. They developed this methodology as they predicted that outbound methods may not be way forward. And boy, were they right?
Inbound Marketing Methodology can be best summarised by using the diagram from HubSpot below:
There were a couple of iterations of this methodology and flywheel is the latest. So let's understand this better. In inbound methodology, your job as a marketer is to understand the buyer's journey and cater to each stage with the right content and tactics.
As you can see, there are 3 phases a customer can traverse through which are as below:
Attract - Where they are mere strangers to your organization and end up being prospects
Engage - Comprises of their journey from a prospect to customers
Delight - The stage where they graduate from mere customers to promoters or brand advocates
Content plays a critical role in this journey of your customer from stranger to advocate
Your knowledge of your customer journey and lifecycle is crucial for your success
How does Inbound Marketing work?
For a rookie marketer or a small business owner interested in this methodology, all this might be too much to take in. So let me break this down a bit. Let's have a look at how the inbound methodology works in a real business scenario.
In the first stage (attract), your job as a marketer is to grab the attention of your target audience. So the most critical task to accomplish here is your buyer persona exercise.
What is a buyer persona? They are fictional representations of your target audience where you research and nail down their specific characteristics like demographics, their goals, and challenges, their information sources, etc. You can use this tool from HubSpot for building your persona.
Once your buyer personas are ready, you can start building your strategy to gain their attention towards your brand. All the tactics will be shared below. So in attract phase, you drive the target audience (strangers) to your website or any other destination where they can take their next action.
In the second stage (engage), your job is to help your prospects at your doorstep to take the right action and become your customers. These actions can be filling out a form asking for more information or booking a demo or calling you. All the tactics for this to happen will be discussed below. In this stage, the most important action takes place - which is a prospect becoming your customer. So you need to plan the strategy for this phase with a thorough understanding of your customer's journey and with the right tactics.
Then arrives the final stage of this methodology - Delight. This stage has the power of making your brand or business the next "Starbucks" or "Apple". Raving fans can be an asset for any brand (however big or small), so pay special attention to this phase of Inbound Methodology.
So now you know how Inbound Methodology works, it is time to look at some tactics which fit perfectly into each stage.
What are Inbound Marketing Tactics?
There are a plethora of tactics that you can employ across your Inbound Marketing strategy. Let's have a look at some of the important ones which you need to master to reap the best results.
Search Engine Optimization
This is a very critical tactic you need to understand while building your inbound marketing strategy. This cuts across almost all the stages of the methodology - from performing keyword research to identify the key terms your prospects use to find services you offer or solve a problem they face to writing the best copy for your landing page or social media post.
Note: Understand keyword research well as it can come handy at all the stages.
Content can be called as the backbone of every Inbound Marketing strategy. Without content, your strategy won't breathe a day. Content is used at every stage and for achieving every goal of your strategy. Make sure you leverage a mix of content formats according to the goal and the stage of the customer journey.
Note: Make sure you research the type of content your competition is putting out for their customers.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media is a crucial piece of your inbound marketing puzzle. Social media is a tool that every inbound marketer leverages to identify, attract, engage and delight their audience. So perform research on identifying the preferred social network of your buyer persona and spend some time to understand how the platform works.
Note: Do some research on what brands similar to yours are doing on these social platforms.
Emails play a crucial role in your inbound strategy as they find multiple applications across the stages. Email can be used for lead nurturing or to keep active communication with your customers. So it is good to brush up on some email marketing tactics and tools so that you are ready to employ it for your business.
Note: Learn how to leverage emails for lead nurturing as it can prove critical based on the length of your sales cycle.
There are many other tactics to make yourself comfortable while building your strategy. Some of them include landing pages, influencer marketing, social media ads, surveys and copywriting.
Why Use Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing has evolved into a "need of the hour" thing for marketers and businesses. Let me explain why:
No-one likes to be interrupted with ads and other outbound methodologies these days
People have technologies that can shut out your outbound tactics. For example, apps like Truecaller to mute out cold calls, ad blockers, etc.
It is tough to prove the ROI of most of the outbound tactics like print or tv ads
Last but not least, not every organization has the fat pockets to spend on the costly tactics
So it becomes a wise decision to leverage Inbound Marketing as part of your business growth strategy.
So you might have understood how Inbound works and you might see how it may work for your brand. But how to learn this methodology in-depth and how to gain practical knowledge on implementing the strategy might be the question bothering you at this point. Don't worry. I have got you covered.
Where to learn Inbound Marketing?
I got introduced to Inbound Marketing around 2010 or so and I learned if from the masters themselves - HubSpot. So my first recommendation for learning all about this methodology is HubSpot Academy.
They have a course on Inbound Marketing which is as complete as it can get. They cover all the major topics around the methodology with high-quality videos and worksheets. I highly recommend the same.
Other places to explore for your learning include Udemy or training institutes like Digital Vidya (India).
Any article on Inbound Marketing will be incomplete without the mention of some of the useful tools for implementing the strategy. So here we go:
HubSpot: Well, duh!!! The market leader for Inbound Marketing software comes with a BIG price tag for small businesses. But they have the perfect tools for the job. Do check out their offers for specific geographies before making your decision. Also don't miss out on their free tools like HubSpot CRM.
Ubersuggest: This free tool from our own Neil Patel can help you with your keyword research and finding the right ones for your content. You need to register for an account to use additional features.
Canva: Canva is an amazing tool for all the design work which will be a crucial piece of content development. You can use this tool to create all sorts of graphical content like social media posts, infographics, ebooks, banners and more.
Google Analytics: This free tool from Google is a real blessing for all marketers to analyze their website performance. It helps you understand where are your visitors coming from, where are they landing on, their behavior on your website.
To conclude, I will recommend making an effort to understand Inbound Marketing better so that you can leverage it for your business growth. There is only one prerequisite for succeeding with Inbound Methodology - Understanding your prospects and customers well. If you possess that knowledge, you are set for success.