The COVID-19 pandemic has altered customer behavior and how they shop, both online and in person. Expectations are now higher than ever before as they now have access to unlimited information options and technologies. Brands are struggling to adapt - 75% of consumers claimed that their experience of customer service has gone worse since the start of the pandemic.
If you've been taking the same approach to marketing for many years and you feel that now is the time to make a change, you might want to learn more about the benefits of inbound marketing.
- Inbound marketing generates three times more leads per dollar than traditional methods
- 54% of inbound users allocate between 25% and 49% of their marketing budget to inbound tactics
- 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI from their inbound marketing
So what exactly does inbound marketing involve, and what methods and tactics should you use to get the best results from this strategy?
What is inbound marketing?
The inbound methodology is about getting people to come to you by giving them something of genuine value. At the earliest stages of the customer journey, this is usually high-quality, relevant content that answers your customers' questions, addresses their pain points, or simply entertains, interests or educates them.
Once you've attracted people's interest, the next step is to engage them and continue to provide relevant insights, assets and solutions that nurture them along their buying journey. The final stage is to delight your buyers, which is all about keeping them happy and ensuring they feel supported, which will turn them into loyal customers and advocates for your brand.
Let's take a look at each of these phases in turn, and what you can do at different points along the customer journey to get positive results.
A crucial part of the attract stage of an inbound marketing strategy is devising an effective content strategy that'll drive awareness of your brand and attract potential buyers to you. If you're able to do this, you won't have to rely on the more interruptive approaches of outbound marketing and traditional advertising, which are proving increasingly unpopular.
At the heart of your strategy should be a carefully devised plan for content creation. There are some very good reasons why you should place a lot of emphasis on this aspect of your marketing plan.
- 68% of people spend time reading about brands that interest them
- 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content
- 60% of people feel inspired to seek out a product after reading about it
- 70% of people would prefer to learn about a company through articles than through an advert
'Content' is a broad term that encompasses a range of possible inbound marketing tactics and assets. Here are some approaches that have been shown to deliver results:
- Research and write blog posts that reflect your customers' top priorities, answer their questions and show your ability to meet their needs
- Publish guides or ebooks that showcase your knowledge and explore subjects in more depth than blog posts
- Produce high-quality, engaging video content that captures people's attention and encourages sharing
- Post content and updates on social media that start conversations with your audience and drive traffic to your website
Your content production efforts should be supported by an SEO strategy that boosts your search engine rankings and attracts more organic traffic to your site. If you're interested in the paid route, methods like pay-per-click advertising can deliver a quick boost in web visitor numbers.
As part of the inbound marketing process, you also need to think about how you're going to engage the leads you've earned and nurture them along their buying journey.
One way to do this is with email marketing, which has proven to deliver positive results on the lead nurturing front. If your website visitors have shared their email address in exchange for a high-value content offer - for example, a whitepaper or guide - you can start to communicate with them in a more direct and personalized way.
You can increase your chances of succeeding with email marketing by:
- Qualifying and segmenting leads
- Creating data-driven buyer personas
- Using marketing automation to boost efficiency and effectiveness
- Tailoring and personalizing messages for maximum impact
- Including calls to action to encourage next steps and conversion
The 'engage' stage of the customer journey is the ideal time to deliver more specific, focused content that zeroes in on the buyer's needs and how you can meet them. Assets like webinars, case studies and customer reviews can prove highly valuable in this phase.
Your engagement tactics should also encompass how your marketing and customer service teams deal with inbound communications. Your staff should always be ready to respond to calls or contact from prospects in a way that supports your wider marketing ethos and brand message.
One of the hallmarks of successful businesses is their ability to not only win potential customers, but keep their existing ones happy. After all, customer acquisition is five times more expensive than retention.
Therefore, the delight stage is vital if you want to achieve stable foundations on which to build long-term profitability and business growth.
So how do you ensure you have happy customers? Firstly, you need to know how they're feeling.
Running customer satisfaction surveys is a good way to gain this knowledge. The insights you acquire from surveys can help you identify your strengths and (more importantly) weaknesses, so you can see where changes are needed to better support your customers.
You could also look into the potential of relatively new technologies like chatbots, which can give people a quick and easy way to share their thoughts on the company and how it's performing. Chatbots can improve customer experience by giving people instant answers to simple questions, which also frees up your human staff to concentrate on more demanding, high-value tasks.
Social media can play a crucial role in the 'delight' stage too. Social listening is a good way to track customer sentiment and identify opportunities to strengthen your existing customer relationships. Furthermore, the immediate engagement provided by platforms like Twitter and Facebook is ideal for responsive, efficient customer service.
If you can harness the potential of the inbound strategy to not just attract and engage potential buyers, but turn them into delighted customers and passionate advocates for your brand, you're on the right track to sustainable success.
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