What Is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing? This article will introduce you to the world of inbound and provide you with a big picture view of the inbound marketing methodology. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Let’s start with the biggest question of them all – why should you care about inbound marketing? Before understanding why inbound is transforming the way the world does business, let’s take a moment to think about traditional marketing.

In traditional marketing, companies focus on finding customers. Generally, they use techniques that are interruptive. These techniques could be anything from cold-calling and print advertising to TV commercials and junk mail.

Technology is making these techniques less effective and more expensive. Caller ID blocks cold calls, DVR makes TV advertising less effective, and spam filters block mass emails. It’s still possible to get a message out using these channels, but it costs a lot more.

Traditional marketing is interruptive and centered on the marketer’s needs. The traditional way of doing things is convenient for the marketer, because they can push content in people’s faces whenever they want – even when those potential customers don’t want it. But it’s not such a great experience for the user – the potential customer.

Inbound Marketers flip the traditional marketing model on its head. So what is inbound all about?

Inbound Marketing Empowers Customers

Inbound is a fundamental shift in the way we do business. Instead of that old, interruption-based message where the marketer or salesperson had all the control, Inbound is about empowering potential customers.

Instead of interrupting people with television ads, they might create videos that potential customers want to see. Instead of buying display ads in print publications, they could create a business blog that people would look forward to reading. And instead of cold calling, they create useful content so that prospects can contact them when they want more information.

Inbound Marketing is marketing focused on getting found by customers. It’s customer-focused. It’s helpful. Wouldn’t you prefer to deal with a business that is focused on your needs instead of their own?

You’ve probably come across some of your favorite brands actively practicing inbound marketing. It’s that problem-solving blog post that shows up near the top of the search engine. It’s the new solution that was discovered on LinkedIn or the product review that was found on Facebook.

Inbound is about being a part of the conversation.

Being a part of that conversation means sharing helpful, relevant content with the world. It’s about drawing people in — that’s why it’s called Inbound, after all.

And most of all, it’s about creating marketing that people love. So how do you actually do inbound? Well, the best way to start is by understanding the Inbound Methodology.

Inbound Marketing Methodology

The Inbound Marketing Methodology is a systematic way of helping a customer through four main stages. These stages are Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight.

inbound-marketing-methodology

Listed along the bottom of the methodology are the tools we typically use to accomplish these actions. The tools are listed under the stage where they first come into play, but that’s not the only stage where they’re applicable! Some tools, like email, can be essential to multiple stages of the methodology.

1. Attract visitors to your website

Starting at the beginning, on the left, you’ll need to attract strangers to your site, turning them into visitors. Some of the most important tools to attract new users are blogging, optimizing your website, and social media.

2. Convert visitors into leads

But it doesn’t end there. Once you’ve attracted new visitors, the next step is to convert some of them into leads by gathering their contact information. At the very least, you’ll need their email addresses. Contact information is the currency in the Inbound world. In order for your visitors to offer up that currency, willingly, you’ll need to offer them something in return. That ‘payment’ comes in the form of offers, like eBooks, whitepapers, or tip sheets – whatever information would be interesting and valuable to your prospects. You can convert visitors into leads by using what’s called, as you might have guessed, the conversion process. Website components like calls-to-action and landing pages can entice these visitors and help you get information about them.

3. Close leads into customers

Moving along, now that you’ve attracted the right visitors and converted the right leads, it’s time to transform those leads into customers. In the Close stage, tools like email and a CRM can be used to help sell to the right leads at the right time.

4. Delight customers into promoters

Inbound is all about providing remarkable content to your users, whether they’re visitors, leads, or existing customers. Just because someone is already a customer doesn’t mean that you can forget about them! Inbound companies continue to delight and engage their customer base, turning them into happy promoters of the products and services they love.

Then the whole methodology starts back at the beginning when promoters talk to their networks – more strangers — and spread the word about your products and services.

What you don’t see written in the methodology is “Analyze.” Why? Because analysis is part of every single thing you do with your inbound strategy. Anything you do – any piece of content you create, any campaign you launch, or any marketing action you undertake – should be analyzed. To be a true inbound marketer (and a truly successful one) you need to know what’s working, what isn’t, and how to implement new solutions and improve your efforts as efficiently as possible. And again, the only way to do this is by taking the time to analyze your work.

Are you empowering your customers?

And that, folks, is why inbound is changing the way the world does marketing and sales. In today’s world, buyers have all the power. Think about the process you went through the last time you made a purchase. Did you call up a salesperson, asking to buy? Or did you hop online and do some research? I’d be willing to bet you did the latter. It’s time for you to support that buying process. It’s time for you to join in and empower your potential customers to make the right decisions for themselves.