What is Inbound Marketing and Why You Should Focus on it?
Human behaviour can change a lot in a very short amount of time. Who can feel this better than marketers? Not so long ago it was enough to put your ad on TV during your customer’s favourite shows or games or in the newspapers they are reading and they would come.
But not any more. Now, you see, those same customers have changed. They’ll switch the channel or flip the page. They won’t answer your call or open your email. They no longer wish to be interrupted. And you are interrupting them. They would rather spend their time doing what they intended in the first place – watching their show or game or reading the newspaper.
Where are you when they need you? People have become much more active in looking for solutions for their problems and needs. There are over 40,000 search queries on Google per second. 3.5 billion searches every day. These are people that are looking for something that they need. Can they find you? Will you be there for them with the right message in the right time? Not if you are not using inbound marketing.
What is inbound marketing and how can you use it as a magnet to attract customers?
What is Inbound Marketing?
So what is inbound marketing exactly? There are several ways people are defining inbound marketing. For instance, you can say that:
Inbound marketing is the strategy of attracting people who have needs through content marketing, search engine optimization and social media and converting them into customers through relevant, useful and timely content.
Here is what HubSpot says about inbound marketing:
Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer’s buying journey.
However you want to define inbound marketing, we can all agree on one thing:
Inbound marketing focuses on approaching customers with the right message at the right time.
What does this mean, right message at the right time? Think back again about the last time a TV ad or a pop-up ad interrupted you while you were busy with something else. Was that the right time for the marketer to approach you? Of course not. All that company was doing was pushing its offer to you, without even thinking if you have any need for it. It did not send the right message at the right time. Did you decide to buy from them? Probably not.
But what does an inbound marketer do differently? He considers the stage of the buyer’s journey you are in and based in it, offers useful and relevant content. It makes total sense when you think about it. You go through several stages before you finally pull out your wallet and take out your money. This is called the “buyer’s journey“.
Let’s take a look at what buyer’s journey is:
What is the Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey is, simply put, the process through which the buyer goes between realizing that he has a problem to choosing a solution to fix that problem.
For instance, let’s say that you need a new computer. The first step would be recognizing that there’s a problem with you current one. Perhaps it’s broken and can’t be fixed or is just too old for what you need now. Next, you would look for a solution for your problem. In this case, this would probably be looking for a new computer to buy. Chances are, you would look at several models and compare their specs. Finally, you would pick one, based on the specs, your needs, price or something else and you would make the decision to buy a computer. You have just chose a solution.
What you did here was go through three stages of the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness stage (when you realized that you need a new computer)
- Consideration stage (when you started researching for a replacement computer)
- Decision stage (when you decided on which new computer to purchase)
Inbound marketing needs to follow all of these stages to be able to deliver the right message.
How Does Inbound Marketing Turn Strangers to Promoters?
Outbound marketing is only focused on the short-term gain. Get a person to buy your product. It doesn’t care about anything before or after that. It doesn’t care about providing value. Inbound marketers, on the other hand, want to turn strangers not just into customers, but into their promoters. How?
By using inbound methodology.
The inbound methodology has four steps:
Through them, strangers are turned into visitors, who grow into leads. Leads become customers and finally customers evolve into promoters of your brand, product or service.
Let’s take a look at each of the four stages of the inbound methodology in order to better understand this.
Attracting someone who is a stranger and knows nothing about you and transforming them into visitors is the first step of inbound methodology. The problem is that many marketers fail already here. What are they doing wrong?
They focus on numbers and on attracting as many people as possible. As a result, most of their visitors don’t make the next step. You simply do not have what they need and want.
You need to be picky at this stage. Attract only people will have a need for what you are selling and have the potential to become leads and from there customers and promoters. You need to know your buyer personas at this step.
You’ve invited someone over to your website and they have become your visitors. That’s nice, but they are still far from actually buying something from you.
Now comes the convert stage, or as I like to call it “the courting stage”. In this step, your goal is to convert visitors into leads and you do that by courting them. Think of a visitor as a lady and you as a gentleman. The gentleman needs to open a conversation when and in the form that best suits the lady.
In this step, the inbound marketer needs to start the conversation with the visitors and provide content that is relevant and timely to them in order to turn visitors into leads.
Having leads is nice. It means that you have found someone who is interested t hear and talk about your product or service. But that doesn’t pay the bills. You still need to convert leads into customers.
Let’s use a clothing store as an example. A visitor entering your clothing store starts rummaging through different pieces of clothes that you have. You ask them if they are looking for anything specific and they tell you that they are looking for a new pair of pants. After some more questioning, they also tell you what kind of pants they need (for example straight let jeans) and perhaps even why they need it (they’ve gained or lost weight). You then take out a few pairs for them to pick and try out in the cabin.
When they are finally finished trying out pants, they come back to you, tell you which pair they’ve chosen, take out their credit card to make the transaction and leave satisfied, having found a solution to their problem. You have just closed the deal and converted someone from a lead to a customer.
This is where outbound marketing would call it quits and open a celebratory champagne. Not inbound marketing though. Because in inbound marketing, there is one more step that you want customers to make. Evolve into promoters. Don’t stop engaging with your customers once they bought from you. Instead, continue to delight them using content marketing and social media and they will tell their friends about you and turn into your promoters.
The Internet, social media and mobile have all changed the way we make purchasing decisions. People have much more information avaialble to help them make a choice and they have it just a few clicks away. As such, buyer behaviour has changed and outbound marketing can’t answer that. Only inbound marketing can.
What is inbound marketing to you? Let me know in the comments below and please share this post if you found it useful.