Guest post by Mario Medina.
You’re no doubt familiar with the concept of inbound marketing, but did you know that it’s (arguably) more effective and economical than traditional marketing methods? If your organization is still relying primarily on disruptive marketing methods (like pop-up ads, cold calling, and spammy mass emails) it’s time to look at boosting your efforts with inbound marketing methods.
But how do you get started with inbound marketing? This beginner’s guide will help you navigate the transition to inbound methods and will highlight the benefits you can expect by doing so.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is about drawing people in by sharing useful, relevant information that is helpful to them. Interesting, high-quality content will attract leads and (hopefully) help turn them into delighted customers and advocates.
The traditional way of doing things, otherwise known as outbound marketing, is often considered “disruptive” — think about getting unexpected cold calls, spammy mass emails or pop-ups that you swat away. Not very appealing, right?
With inbound marketing, your target audience essentially comes to you. By creating compelling content like blogs, videos, ultimate guides, or even social media posts, you attract potential customers!
How Can Inbound Marketing Help Grow my Business?
An overwhelming majority of buyers say they use the Internet and search engines to perform research before making a purchase (89% of B2B buyers). Without content, your brand can’t be discovered. In fact, brands with the most informative and relevant content will see a higher number of website visitors (and a higher potential to turn those visitors into customers).
Plus, with inbound marketing, you’re only creating content that appeals to your buyer personas. That means you’re not throwing away your budget by attracting unqualified leads.
Most importantly, with inbound marketing you’re providing value to your customers and prospects with your content. Providing helpful information can then help to build brand loyalty and brand authority—making you the trusted experts in your field!
How Do I Get Started with Inbound Marketing?
These steps can help you get started with inbound marketing.
Step 1: Set SMART Goals
The first step to creating an effective inbound marketing plan is to set goals. Most importantly, your goals should be SMART (you’ve probably seen this before).
What does a SMART goal look like? Here are examples: “I want to increase my website’s traffic by 25% in the next 90 days, generate 20 more leads in the next month, and close five new sales.”
Step 2: Create Buyer Personas
Before determining what kind of content you’ll need to reach those goals, you need to create your buyer personas. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your target customer based on real data and some educated guesses.
Buyer personas help you to think of your customers as real people, so that you can understand the content they want, their goals and behaviors, their buying motivations and behaviors, and where to find them online.
To start creating your buyer personas, you’ll need to find out some information about your existing customers. Start by surveying your current customers. Even after your research, you will probably need to do a bit of speculating.
Step 3: Understand the Buyer’s Journey
Inbound marketing isn’t just about presenting the right content to the right person; it’s also about offering it at the right time. Buyers go through different stages of the “Buyer’s Journey” before making a purchase decision:
- In the Awareness Stage of the Buyer’s Journey, the buyer is experiencing a problem or opportunity but hasn’t clearly defined their need.
- In the Consideration Stage, the buyer has clearly identified what they need. In this stage, the buyer researches all available solutions to their problem.
- In the Decision Stage, the buyer has decided on a solution and is narrowing down vendors and products in preparation to make their purchase.
Moving leads through the stages to the sale is all about nurturing them. Nurturing means using the right content at the right time to build a long-term relationship with them.
Step 4: Create Your Content
Different people (or the same people at different stages) will respond to different types of content, so it’s a good idea to produce a variety of content that speaks to buyers in all three stages. Here are a few examples of what types of content you should produce for each stage of the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness Stage: Blog posts, e-books, white papers and infographics.
- Consideration Stage: Gated content (where visitors give their contact information in exchange for access to your content), such as e-books, ultimate guides and more.
- Decision Stage: Free samples/trials and vendor comparisons.
So, how do you get your content in front of the right people? First, make sure it’s optimized for search. Making smart search engine optimization (SEO) choices can help more visitors find your site. You should also promote your content on your social media channels and through email marketing.
Step 5: Monitor and Evaluate Your Results
As the final step (and one which feeds back into creating more effective content), analyze your efforts, using the proper marketing analytics tools. What’s converting leads? What’s not? Which buyer personas need more attention? Can you add buyer personas? How can you improve your SEO and keyword rankings?
Inbound marketing is an ongoing process. Even after you’ve converted leads to customers, you should keep answering their questions, providing information that helps them reach their goals, solve their problems, and become advocates for your brand.
Many marketers choose to start inbound marketing on their own, but to find success, you need your whole team on your side. That’s because a solid inbound marketing plan requires such a wide range of skills, expertise and tools. Partnering with an agency or expert consultants puts all of those skills at your fingertips.To learn more about getting started with inbound marketing and content creation, check out the Inbound Marketing Comic Book.
Mario Medina, Creative Director and Co-Founder at madison/miles media, is a communications veteran with expertise in content and brand strategy, product development, and content production and management. He has successfully managed content portfolios for companies such as Dallas Market Center, Dell, Thomson Reuters, and has won more than four dozen awards for his team’s projects.
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