Marketing Methodology

What is Inbound Marketing?

"Inbound" is a term that's frequently used but not always clearly defined or explained. In a broad sense, an inbound marketing strategy is one that draws customers in using techniques like creating helpful content for a targeted audience, interacting with customers on social platforms, and optimizing websites for the search engines. This differs from traditional outbound marketing which reaches out to customers with methods such as untargeted traditional advertising methods, cold calling, and direct mail.

Top Benefits of Inbound Marketing

Here are some of the main advantages of inbound marketing:

Inbound marketers do niche and keyword research to not only identify their customers, but to also uncover the issues their customers care most about. TV commercials or print ads are typical examples of outbound marketing. This means that instead of you finding your target audience, they somehow find their way to you. Think of it as your company standing on a soapbox, waiting for your customers to pass by. While these types of ads are sometimes effective, your options for targeting and your opportunity to measure its effectiveness are limited.

Campaigns that focus on a targeted audience rather than for the masses are typically less expensive. You don't have to reach everyone, only your selected audience. Essentially, you’re not paying to put your ad in front of just anyone.

You can track analytics for all your major inbound goals such as web traffic, conversions, email open rates, social media engagement, and more. This is another reason inbound is cost-effective, as tracking data lets you fine tune your efforts and improve your results over time.

Many people quickly grow tired of traditional advertising. Some even use technology such as ad blockers to avoid them. Statista projects that use of ad blockers online will reach 30% in 2018, up from 15% in 2014. Inbound marketing is based on providing the right information to the right people and answering questions to feel less like an interruption.

Inbound marketing is often more effective than traditional advertising for building trust and credibility. When you create informative blog posts, social media posts, videos, or other content, you display your knowledge and expertise. Over time, this creation of authority can build your brand as a go to resource in the industry.

Businesses can enjoy solid ROI as well as an enhanced reputation with inbound marketing. At the same time, inbound isn't always a stand-alone strategy. There's still a place for outbound marketing, especially when combined with inbound techniques.

Creating Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

So, what are the steps to go about forming an effective inbound marketing strategy for your business?

Set Goals

It helps to be clear about your objectives for inbound marketing.
These may include:

Inbound tactics can be extremely effective for building a mailing list of potential clients or enticing people to reach out regarding your product or service. For example, you can entice people to complete an opt-in form on a webpage using a strong call to action (CTA) by offering a download or a discount. When asking for personal information from potential clients like an email or general contact information, it’s important to create easy to use forms and offer transparency in regards to your intended use, ie. will you be sending them promotional emails or sign them up for a newsletter?

While inbound techniques are more about providing information and cultivating relationships than directly selling, they can motivate customers to visit your sales or product pages. Streamlining your website or creating new landing pages may lead to more users making their way to the “check-out” page on your website. If your metric is set at a certain sales goal, there are a number of tactics that can lead you there. What is important is the ability to identify the successful tactics, and weed out the ineffective ones.

Inbound is especially good for spreading the word and controlling the narrative about your brand. You can do this by creating strong content, generating traffic to your web pages through paid ads and engaging with customers on social media. Growing brand awareness should be a continuous effort, as increased engagement, authenticity, and recognition are soon to follow.

For marketing campaigns to proceed smoothly, it has to be clear who will be doing what. Whether it's one person or a dedicated team, make sure everyone is clear about his or her

Knowing your audience is one of the most vital factors in determining your marketing efforts. As we already noted, precise targeting is one of the main advantages of inbound marketing. Yet to do this effectively, you must first have a clear idea of who you're targeting. There are a few essential points to clarify about your audience.

We’d recommend starting off by creating a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a fictional yet useful representation of your "typical" customer. You want to understand who your customers are, what problems they face, and what solutions are most appealing to them. You can gather this information by doing some demographic research. You might find, for example, that a beauty product you're marketing is most likely to appeal to suburban women between the ages of 35-55 who have an annual income of at least $50,000. You can gather more specific information by engaging with your customers and followers on social media, or holding in person peer groups. You might also conduct polls or ask questions on your blog. Bottom line is...talk to your customers to learn as much as you can!

Some businesses may have multiple buyer personas. An airline, for example, is likely to have several types of customers such as business and leisure travelers. They will launch different campaigns for each type of customer.

When researching your audience, you'll want to learn where they spend their time online. Which social media platforms do they use most frequently? You can take an educated guess about this based on demographic research. While there are some general principles (for example, a majority of Pinterest users are women), you always have to test your results on various platforms. You can also gain this type of information by observing your competition.

Whether you need a budget to hire more help, purchase services or software, or hire an agency, it's often necessary to convince managers or your CEO that inbound marketing is a worthwhile investment. You can start by explaining some of the leading benefits of inbound marketing. However, senior management is focused on the bottom line. Here are some tips to consider:

Explain that inbound marketing tactics can help you obtain more leads and customers. Recite (accurate) numbers that support your claim. For example, the Content Marketing Institute reports that content marketing generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing while costing 62% less

For each goal, compile a projection on the results you expect to achieve. You might forecast how many additional website visitors you expect to get through SEO or how many leads you expect to acquire with email marketing.

Take a relatively conservative approach when forecasting. You should also make it clear that many inbound marketing tactics take time. It often takes at least 3 months before any progress is seen and it can be closer to 12 months for the full impact of a campaign to be felt.

Case studies are one of the best tools to argue your case. Find examples of companies in your industry that have seen impressive results from inbound marketing. It's also helpful if you can point to companies using the specific strategies you're pitching. For example, if you want to launch an influencer marketing campaign, look for case studies that back your claims

If you can show that your competitors are getting solid results from inbound marketing, this will be a strong incentive for senior managers to get on board. No one wants to be left behind.

Justifying your marketing plans and budget is an ongoing process. Once you get the green light to move forward, managers will expect regular reports on your progress.

A Look at Some of the Top
Inbound Marketing Tactics

Now it's time to delve into some of the actual tactics you can implement for your inbound marketing campaigns.

Content marketing is a central focus of inbound marketing. It includes or overlaps with every other inbound tactic. "Content" is anything you create to inform or entertain your audience. Originally, this generally meant written content such as blog posts and articles. It now increasingly includes video, images, infographics and other visual content. It can also include other platforms such as podcasts or webinars. Here are some examples of content you can create to engage your audience.

Your blog is one of the most powerful content marketing tools of all. As the Huffington Post reports, businesses that blog get 67% more leads than those that don't. Blogging really embodies all of the advantages of inbound marketing. It helps build your brand, give.

As visual content gets more popular (and the attention of your audience gets much shorter), video is now one of the best ways to engage. Research indicates that people retain more information by watching videos than by reading. According to Insivia, people retain 95% of what they watch in a video but only 10% of what they read in text format. Another benefit of videos is that they can be posted in so many places. Once you have a video, you can place it on your website, YouTube, Facebook, and any other social media sites you use. There are also many types of videos that can be tailored to a variety of purposes. Animation and whiteboard videos can explain products and concepts in an entertaining way. Videos in which you appear in front of the camera are good for engaging viewers. Live stream videos let viewers participate and talk to you in real time.

Podcasting is a quickly growing phenomenon. In fact, the number of people listening to podcasts has doubled in the last four years. Podcasting is useful for providing insights and interviewing experts in your industry. Podcasts are published as audio files that can be easily shared on your website and on social media.

SEO and content marketing are closely related. One of the benefits of posting content is to get it indexed by Google and other search engines. Google has made it harder to rank your site with SEO gimmicks such as generating lots of backlinks or keyword stuffing (filling content with many keywords). Instead, sites are now rewarded primarily for offering valuable content to searchers. Still, there are some SEO factors worth implementing.

Many aspects of your website such as title tags, user-friendly navigation, and page loading speed affect your ranking. If your site runs on WordPress, you can manage many of these elements from your dashboard and by using SEO plugins such as Yoast.

If you have a brick and mortar business or serve people in a specific area, you need to consider ranking locally. Listings in Google My Business and other directories is essential. It's also helpful to generate local reviews for your business.

Statista reports that 51% of internet traffic in 2018 is mobile. The balance is likely to shift even more in the direction of mobile in the near future. You must ensure your website is mobile-friendly, both for your customers and the search engines. Using responsive design ensures that users on all devices can access your content. You can perform your own tests or use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test.

Email marketing embodies some of the most notable strengths of inbound marketing. Salesforce estimates that the ROI for email marketing is $38 for every dollar spent. An email list gives you a way to contact subscribers according to your own schedule. Your list is something over which you have complete control, independent of SEO or the algorithms of Google or Facebook. It's also one of the best ways to develop trust and loyalty. Of course, the best way to use email marketing is in conjunction with other inbound methods. Your messages can link to your website, offers, social media pages, and any relevant content you want people to see.

  • To get people to subscribe to your list you need to provide a strong incentive. A lead magnet such as a report, e-book, or coupon gives people a reason to provide their email address. Make sure your offer is highly targeted to your audience and provides real value. Your objective is to develop a relationship with your new subscriber. You can't do this if your lead magnet is just a gimmick to grab their email address.
  • Create a newsletter. The newsletter format is a good way to provide value and use your list to build your brand's authority. It's fairly simple to create a professional newsletter with today's tools. Use a template that reflects your company's style and include your logo. Send it out on a schedule that works for you whether it's weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Always include a clear call-to-action (CTA) in your emails. Whether you want to send subscribers to your latest blog post, a product page, or announce an upcoming promotion it's essential to suggest an action. Make sure your links are highly visible. An eye-catching button for your CTA is more noticeable than an ordinary text link.

Social Media

Social media has become an integral part of inbound marketing. With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, people are spending more and more time on social sites. There are several ways to use social media to benefit your business.

You can publish (or link to) authoritative content to your pages. LinkedIn lets you publish articles that can get indexed by Google. Instagram and Pinterest are great for sharing visual content. YouTube, which is also a social media site, is the premier video sharing site

Customers increasingly expect businesses to offer support via social media. As Adweek notes, people who receive responses to questions on social media are more likely to make purchases and spend more than they otherwise would. Social media is also useful to answer questions about products customers have already bought.

Social media gives you a way to connect with customers, show your appreciation, and answer their questions. While this can be done via other channels, many people today prefer interacting on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. You can build engagement by posting polls and creating contests. Facebook and Instagram are particularly suited for contests. For example, many companies run contests where subscribers send in photos or videos featuring their products.

Research social media demographics to find out where your audience is. Pew Research notes that most Americans use Facebook and YouTube while younger users also favor Snapchat and Instagram. However, you also have to track your results and find out which platforms provide the best results.

Advertising is generally associated with traditional outbound marketing and in many cases, it indeed falls into this category. TV commercials, radio ads, print ads, direct mail, for example, are all outbound. Online advertising tactics such as banner ads are similarly outbound because they are untargeted. However, there are also inbound advertising platforms that qualify as inbound because of how they target customers based on specific topics and keywords.

Google AdWords, Facebook, and other pay-per-click (PPC) platforms target consumers in a manner similar to organic content. People see these ads based on web searches or on social sites based on their demographics and interests. Finally, retargeted ads are shown to website visitors who have already expressed an interest in a topic or product.

Whether you consider such targeted advertising as inbound or outbound is ultimately a matter of definition. However, the fact remains that targeted paid advertising can help you accelerate your inbound marketing. Whereas tactics such as social media, email, and content marketing take time to build up, paid advertising is a way to get traffic quickly

Social media listening and monitoring help you create a more effective and targeted inbound strategy. These two terms are similar but not exactly the same. Social monitoring involves watching (or monitoring) social media for mentions of your brand. When you find these, you can respond as needed. Social listening is broader in scope and includes any topic relevant to your business. In this context, "social" goes beyond social media and includes anything on the web (news stories, discussion forums, websites, etc.). Here are some ways that you can use both to enhance your inbound marketing campaigns:

Social monitoring is essential for managing your reputation nowadays. You'll want to watch comments and reviews for your business so you can respond appropriately. Be sure to monitor any sites where customers are likely to leave reviews such as Yelp, Google, Facebook, and Yellow Pages. Don't overlook industry-specific review sites such as Angie's List, Glassdoor, Manta, and others. Responding to reviews needs to be handled with delicacy. Thank people who praise you. When someone has a complaint or problem do everything you can to solve it. Avoid getting into debates or arguments as this reflects poorly on you. For complex issues, invite the reviewer to contact you offline

Social listening is a good way to keep up with your competitors. Follow them on social media, read their blogs, set alerts for brand mentions. You can learn from their mistakes as well as get inspiration from their victories.

A sales funnel is a tool that utilizes several types of marketing. It often blends email, social media, content marketing and even advertising (sales funnels can include outbound as well as inbound techniques). An effective sales funnel guides your customer through the traditional buyer's journey. This is made up of three main stages: awareness, consideration, and purchase. Let's see how your inbound marketing strategy can work for each of these stages:

Your prospect sees a blog post, video, ad, or something else you've created. This is information related to a certain need, interest, or problem he or she is facing. Making targeted prospects aware of your business, product or service is the essence of inbound marketing. Someone enters your sales funnel if they take an action such as filling out an opt-in form, ordering a free sample, or contacting you for more information.

During this phase, prospects are considering different options to fill their need or solve their problem. This is the time to provide them with more in-depth information. Downloadable information products such as e-books or white papers are useful for this purpose. So are webinars and other online training.

At this point, prospects are ready to buy. Case studies, FAQs, and reports that break down the features and benefits of specific options are useful at this point.

In practice, the three stages overlap. You should also realize that the same types of content (e.g. blog posts, videos, reports) can be used at each stage. What differs is the type of information you include. More general information is appropriate at the awareness phase, creating more detail as customers progress through the buyer’s journey. This isn’t an exact science, however it is a useful model that helps you supply the right kind of content to prospects at the right time.

Measure Your Results

If you want your inbound marketing efforts to yield success, you must track your results (after you have already determined your goals, as stated earlier). Analytics is a crucial aspect of content, email, and social media marketing. Fortunately, there are many effective tools for tracking your inbound campaigns.

Google Analytics is a powerful free tool that lets you track useful website metrics. Social media sites all have built-in analytics. Facebook Insights lets you track not only your own stats but those of any Facebook page which is great for monitoring the competition.

Certain metrics look impressive at first glance but don't necessarily translate into tangible results. That's why clicks, impressions, and social media likes or shares are sometimes called vanity metrics. This doesn't mean these numbers have no value. They are easy to track and can help you gauge interest in your content. However, you should recognize the limitations of vanity metrics and understand that your managers are more concerned with sales qualified leads (SQL), cost-per-lead (CPL), and customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Some analytics tools let you "spy" on your competitors. As noted, Facebook Insights lets you do this with Facebook pages. You can also find your competitors' SEO (e.g. top keywords), website traffic, backlinks, and paid campaigns.

Continue to Evolve Your
Inbound Marketing Strategy

Inbound marketing is constantly changing. Your marketing strategy needs to be informed by technological advances, Google's latest algorithms, feedback from your customers, your own metrics, the competition, and industry trends. Here are some final points to keep in mind as you continue to refine and evolve your inbound marketing strategy:

    1. Don't get overly attached to a certain platform or tactic. What works today might not work next month and vice versa. It's worthwhile to periodically revisit older approaches and test new ones.
    2. Consistency is one of the most important factors for all types of inbound marketing. Stick to your schedule for posting content, sending emails, and any other methods you employ. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to build authority and a loyal following.
    3. Inbound techniques work best when combined. Just about every inbound tactic we've covered works best as part of a holistic strategy. Strong content helps you rank better in the search engines. More traffic to your blog and social media sites helps you grow your email list.
    4. Inbound marketing takes time and results are cumulative. As you publish more content, your website will start to rank better. More engagement on social media means more followers and shares. A growing email list helps you generate more leads and sales. One way to jumpstart your results is to combine inbound and outbound techniques. You might, for example, send traffic to your digital properties with offline advertising. Paid digital campaigns can also help you see faster results.

Implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy sounds like a tall order. But don’t worry, you don’t have to tackle it alone. RedShift provides customized inbound marketing services to help you communicate the uniqueness of your brand and find more leads and customers. To learn more about our services contact us.

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