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In the effort to engage every customer, the inbound marketer must be both a thoughtful scientist, an imaginative artist, and a skillful planner.

What is the magic ingredient connecting each individual domain that these experts must master while using the inbound methodology? It’s content, of course!

What is the methodology of inbound marketing?

The inbound marketing methodology is a multi-step strategy to attract new prospects, get them to make a purchase, and encourage them to continue interacting with your business. Truth be told, inbound marketing doesn’t end with acquiring and retaining an individual customer. Inbound techniques aim to create and deploy useful content that existing customers will want to share with their peers, through social media or other channels. In this way, inbound execution is significantly different from other marketing tactics.

Incoming and outgoing methodology

Inbound marketing and outbound marketing perform complementary functions for many organizations.

Incoming vs outgoing infographic

Traditional outbound marketing Techniques, like advertising, can help businesses reach a potential buyer quickly and generate immediate awareness of the product or service. By promoting brand awareness, individuals can contact the company at the right time.

Incoming techniques, like SEO and secure premium content, seek to attract new prospects by providing them with useful resources and support. Then, the company feeds the future customer at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

This hand-in-hand framework seems to be verified by actual practice in the field. A recent marketing survey found that 33% of respondents said brand awareness and reach were the main goals of their paid advertising efforts. At the same time, total sales were the primary metric for assessing content success.

4 stages of inbound marketing and how to implement them

An inbound marketing strategy is an intentional, long-term effort focused on growing the customer base by bringing the buyer to you and developing each new relationship.

To keep up with each step of this deliberate process, marketers often divide the strategy into 4 distinct phases.

What are the 4 steps of the Inbound methodology?

The 4 stages that constitute inbound marketing are:

  1. Attract.
  2. Convert.
  3. To close.
  4. Pleasure.

Next, we’ll explore each of these steps in more detail.

1. Attract

At the attraction stage, marketers leverage content to entice people to visit the brand’s webpage. SEO tactics help drive highly intentional organic traffic to blog posts and landing pages over time. A successful social media presence can also help deliver useful content to a large audience.

2. Convert

Once people pay attention to it, they need a clear and prompted CTA. This is the part of the strategy where types of content such as webinars and downloadable resources are most useful. With free and engaging content, you can direct individuals to emails, effectively turning website visitors and social media subscribers into leads.

3. Close

Going from the conversion phase to concluding a deal with a new customer can be a bit trickier. During the closing phase, marketing efforts frequently shift to email promotion campaigns, often including links to additional content before gradually introducing more direct selling points. Handing over a qualified marketing lead to a sales representative can also be a productive tactic in some industries.

4. Delight

The final phase of the cycle lasts as long as the customer’s lifespan, and this stage aims to promote loyalty and advocacy among existing business relationships. Marketing doesn’t stop when the deal is signed. Ongoing engagement with the customer via email newsletters and other points of contact facilitates a partnership that is built to last. Ideally, this phase will also lead to future content shares and referrals.

What is the inbound marketing funnel?

The funnel is an important method for interpreting how marketing efforts can help ease the buyer’s journey.

The inbound marketing funnel maps the 4 stages we explored earlier – attract, convert, close, and delight – in a visual format. This concept will be immediately familiar to people who are familiar with the conventional sales funnel or related concepts, like the Brafton content marketing funnel.

What is the inbound marketing wheel?

The funnel is quickly and easily understood by a wide variety of sales and marketing professionals. However, this image may leave the wrong impression. Once a prospect leaves the funnel, the process is not complete.

As an alternative to the funnel, inbound marketing pioneer HubSpot uses a model they call the wheel.

Source: HubSpot

The flywheel makes it easy to diagram how each element of the incoming process propels the organization continuously. As existing customers are excited about your offers, they use these elements to further promote your business to people in your target audience that you didn’t even know existed before.

Both models have their advantages as long as companies recognize that inbound strategies do not end after the deal is closed.

How to take advantage of the inbound marketing methodology

To start taking advantage of inbound marketing, businesses need to choose a model to execute the strategy and integrate it into their existing marketing plans.

How do you use the Inbound methodology in marketing?

Using the inbound methodology requires companies to:

  • Automate processes wherever possible: Deploying these techniques at scale requires the use of digital marketing tools to streamline processes and workflows. These systems also help with complex tasks like sending large and segmented emails.
  • Collaborate internally between departments: To identify the characteristics of an ideal customer and determine the target audience, companies need to work across all departments, including sales and operations, to create buyer personas.

How content marketing fits

Creating a content plan for marketing can be done in-house or with agency support. Ideally, this plan will link the buyer’s journey to the different stages of an inbound plan for each buyer personality.

How can you implement each of the inbound marketing strategies?

You have to know where you are going to get there, right?

It’s important to start with an outcome in mind and develop a plan that effectively leads to the desired marketing outcome. For example, if the goal is to drive customer acquisition for a defined buyer personality, a concrete strategy might look like this:

  1. Perform a content audit to discover new and existing opportunities attractive visitors.
  2. Determine which assets would be most effective for conversion that traffic, and use a CTA and form to access the content.
  3. Work with the sales team to create an automated email management campaign or define how leads qualify before they are transferred to closing.
  4. Follow up on new customers via email or social media with new content to delightful them, leading these partners to defend the brand.

Importantly, companies can reuse, reuse, or slightly modify content for new audiences and to meet different stages of the inbound methodology. Everything does not have to be created from scratch!

Which businesses benefit the most from inbound marketing?

Given the complexity of inbound marketing, along with the focus on growth through retention and buyer advocacy, businesses with long sales cycles or long tenure of customers can benefit the most.

Value and Benefits of Inbound Methodology

Well-executed inbound strategies often produce better ROI and close rates than outbound efforts. This is because inbound marketing strategies focus on a specific target audience and effectively encourage the potential customer to engage with high value content. By doing this, companies can demonstrate brand integrity directly to people who are strongly aligned with the company’s value proposition.

There are many examples of effective marketing using the Inbound methodology. Here are some of our favorites.

B2B Excellence: CBRE Shares High Quality Research and Feedback

CBRE describes itself as a « world leader in real estate services ». Based on the quality of the research the company consistently publishes, it is easy to believe such a claim for expertise.

In addition to annual reports and in-depth research on hot topics such as COVID-19 and the road to reopening workplaces, the real estate giant regularly hosts a feature-length podcast titled « The Weekly Take. » On this show, experts explore topics like affordable housing. CBRE associate and bachelor candidate Matt James even appeared in a recent episode.

B2C distinction: Intuit Mint and accessible financial information

Intuit Mint is the go-to personal finance app along with a textbook study on how to nail the « Delight » stage of B2C inbound marketing.

Users of the app are obviously interested in improving their financial knowledge and understanding. The company supports its clients through a variety of different content formats, including blog posts on persistent issues and hot topics. This tweet about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has been liked over 1000 times. The post comes with a personalized image that offers a working definition of the new term while also connecting readers to a more in-depth article so they can learn more.

Funnel or flywheel, the choice is yours

Ultimately, inbound techniques can be effective tools to support an overall marketing strategy. The key is not to quibble over terminology. The most important step is to start with the goal of supporting your potential customers, no matter where they are in the sales cycle.

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