Inbound marketing takes traditional outbound methodology and spins it on its head. Where in the past the preferred and pretty much only way to reach customers was by bombarding them with adverts, cold calls and mail (plus many more types of interruptive media), inbound marketing attempts to get your customers to come to you.
Inbound attracts and converts by using relevant, useful content and tools that are genuinely helpful to potential customers, who are looking for a solution to a problem. If you can help them to solve their problem with the right information and products/services, you have a great chance of turning them into a happy customer.
Essentially, outbound is marketing with a megaphone, while inbound is marketing with a magnet.
The decline of outbound
Outbound marketing still has its place and you’ll still see plenty of adverts, print ads and billboards to illustrate this. It can get brands noticed to some extent and media such as print ads and billboards benefit from being immediate, whereas inbound marketing can often take a few months before it starts to become fruitful.
While outbound marketing is on the decline, inbound is definitely on the up, as the Google Trends graph below demonstrates:
Source: Google Trends
Outbound marketing is no longer as effective because it doesn’t cater to the modern consumer, who wants personalised information and guidance to help them with their specific needs, and who is vigilant of adverts. In fact 86% of people today skip television ads and 44% of direct mail is never opened.
So why else should we embrace inbound? Let’s take a look at some inbound marketing benefits that are well worth considering.
Inbound can increase your ROI
Let’s cut straight to it, inbound marketing often offers a higher ROI than outbound marketing. This is a pretty clear-cut benefit.
This is partly due to the lower cost of inbound marketing (which we’ll get to soon), but it’s also because customers find you with inbound. This means the people arriving on your website are generally more qualified, and this can significantly improve your sales closing rate – which is the priority for 69% of marketers, according to HubSpot’s 2018 State of Inbound report.
According to the same source 53% of marketers say inbound gives them a higher ROI. Only 16% think outbound provides them with a higher ROI, and 30% of marketers say outbound is the most overrated marketing tactic.
Inbound is cost-effective
Because inbound is an online strategy, it frequently costs less to implement than outbound (whose strategies include TV and radio ads, print ads, telemarketing, trade shows and other costly endeavours).
It is also a more efficient way to generate (better) leads. In fact, according to HubSpot, inbound marketing leads cost 62% less than outbound leads. HubSpot’s State of Inbound report also states that businesses using mainly inbound marketing save more than $14(£10) for every new customer acquired.
The inbound methodology targets the different stages of a buyer’s journey
The stages of a buyer’s journey are:
- Awareness – A prospect has a problem and is doing research to understand it
- Consideration – They understand their problem and are researching ways to solve it
- Decision – They know what the solution to their problem is and they are compiling and whittling down a list of vendors/providers
Effective inbound marketing strategies target people from the first to the final phase of inbound marketing, with suitable content and tools that move them along the sales funnel to the next stage of their journey. And this is done is with the inbound marketing methodology.
The four phases of the inbound methodology are Attract, Convert, Close and Delight.
You can attract qualified prospects who are likely to become leads by providing them with helpful, relevant content that helps them solve their problem.
Truly useful content is again the best plan, to get visitors to engage with your website and become leads.
With yet more great, relevant content and customer service you can close, by helping leads solve their problem.
Offer as much help, useful information and guidance as possible throughout a buyer’s journey to delight your customer, and you will retain their business and create a brand promoter.
Each phase has associated inbound marketing tactics to target buyers at various stages of their journey, from blogging to referral programmes, to deliver qualified leads and turn them into delighted return customers.
Inbound works for companies of all sizes & stages
Whether you run a sprawling corporation that’s been around for 50 years or a garage-based startup, inbound can work for you. If you manage a small business you might struggle to pay for costly outbound marketing such as TV ads or billboards, but you can create an inbound marketing campaign using your available funds.
With a relatively small budget you can create content that’s helpful for your ideal customer throughout their buyer’s journey. It doesn’t have to be epic, award-winning content – just create something that will be genuinely useful to your audience. The supporting elements of inbound marketing, such as promoting your content and creating email sequences, can be done by your team as resources allow, or of course you could outsource this work to an agency at a retainer that fits your marketing budget.
Inbound offers real value to customers
The fact is that consumers behave differently in this internet age than they did before it. Buyers are researchers, looking for specific solutions to problems, or ways to satisfy their needs. They have a plethora of information at their fingertips and they don’t need a salesperson to tell them what they should be spending their money on.
And the internet is a two-way street. If you want a user to engage with your company and become a customer, you need to offer them something in return. You need to provide value, meaning all the information and guidance they could need to find a way to solve their problems.
This is where inbound storms ahead of outbound marketing. It actually helps consumers to solve their problems and creates a two-way relationship. This is a great way to gain credibility as a brand, and to build trust with prospective and existing customers.
In fact the Delight stage of the inbound methodology is based on going above and beyond for a customer – providing them with great content, answering their questions, and generally doing all you can to help them – to leave them delighted.
Inbound attracts qualified leads
If the content you create aligns with your buyers’ journeys, they are more likely to engage with you. And those who do engage and share their information with you – for example by filling out a form – become leads.
By creating content for your ideal customer using buyer personas, (which address specific problems and answer relevant consumer questions), you know the kind of person it will attract. This means you are in a better position to turn those prospects into customers.
During this process of attracting and qualifying leads, it’s also sensible to look at a tactic called progressive profiling. This is where you can capture additional information from users who have already filled out a form on your site, by having new forms appear with different fields. This helps you build up a good picture of users without them having to fill out a large form or answer lots of questions at once. You gain valuable information without annoying users or jeopardising the trust you are building.
The graphic below shows how you can capture new information with progressive forms. Logged data can be auto-filled so users are only asked for a small amount of additional information each time:
Lead scoring is another real benefit of inbound marketing, which helps ensure the leads your sales representatives follow up are more qualified when they reach out to them. Lead scoring allows you to assign a score (points) to leads in your database, based on the information they’ve given and how they have interacted with your website. This is a great way for service and sales teams to prioritise leads and not waste time on users who are unlikely to close.
Inbound saves time
There aren’t enough hours in the day for many of us, so a benefit that marketing teams should value is that inbound marketing can save you time! Marketing automation tools (software that can automate repetitive tasks) enable your team to ditch the dull admin jobs and focus on nurturing leads, closing sales and creating more great content to attract yet more visitors.
However you still need to be cautious when automating your marketing, and be considerate of where users are in their buyer’s journey and how they have interacted with your website so far. You don’t want to pester them and lose them altogether.
Here’s an example of what a successful automated workflow could look like:
- Produce a content offer, landing page and calls-to-action that matches a specific problem facing your potential customers
- Plan and produce blog posts that answer questions your potential customers might use as queries in search engines
- Promote the blogs and content offers via social media and outreach
- Produce automated email sequences to nurture leads to the next stage of the buyer’s journey
- Define and create workflow for internal notifications that let your sales professionals know when a prospect is ready to be contacted
Such a workflow can be completely automated up to the point your sales team get involved, meaning a minimum of man hours, yet a much improved chance of closing.
Inbound allows integrated campaigns
Inbound marketing allows you to run integrated campaigns, using numerous tactics across various channels. Inbound marketers have a wide choice of channels to choose from: blogging, social media, SEO, PPC and so on – and this is a good thing. But if you are using these channels independently of each other you are missing a trick.
By integrating separate marketing disciplines you can ensure potential consumers have a consistent message across multiple channels. For example, the same copy and imagery across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc .
If you’ve written an ebook then publish a section as a blog post with a call to action to download the ebook (with automated follow-up emails as mentioned above). You could also put the blog post on social media, make sure it’s properly optimised for search engines and even support with a PPC campaign. Ideally, you also want all these tactics tied in and measured using one unified CRM platform (here’s a little guidance on finding the best CRM for your business).
There are countless options, the main thing is to align your strategies and integrate your inbound marketing channels. The right combination can be a very effective way to engage your audience, and to provide a valuable user experience. Plus you can easily review the success of each marketing channel (see below).
Inbound marketing is measurable
A real benefit of inbound – especially compared to outbound marketing – is that it is very measurable. While not perfect, you can often see where your revenue is coming from, which content is performing well, which landing pages are getting conversions, which emails are getting opened, and via your CRM you have a record of all communications between your team and your customers. Seeing where customers have come from, how they interact with your site and your team gives you a fantastic overview of your marketing efforts.
Inbound platforms such as HubSpot allow you to create milestones based on what’s most important to you. This could be the total revenue you’re trying to achieve, a percentage increase in website traffic or a certain number of new leads. Milestones and goals are a fundamental way to monitor the success of your work, and to alert you if improvements are necessary.
Inbound makes lead nurturing a team effort
One way that inbound ensures a lead gets the best possible service is by giving campaign visibility to your whole team. The way a potential customer engages with your content and website is clearly recorded in your CRM, and this means that whoever picks up the lead in your team has a great overview of where the visitor is in their buyer’s journey, what content they have engaged with and what communications they’ve had so far. This means that if a contact is out of the office it makes little difference, and the prospect gets a consistently high level of service. And furthermore, the same information is available to your marketing and sales teams, allowing for a smooth transition along the sales funnel.
Could inbound marketing benefit your business?
The benefits of inbound marketing can be pretty substantial. As an inbound marketing agency we’ve seen the benefits mentioned in this article bear fruit countless times. And while we shouldn’t dismiss outbound marketing completely, a focus on inbound marketing should help you achieve your medium and long-term goals.
Let’s quickly recap to help you decide whether inbound could benefit your business:
- Outbound is on the decline and inbound is on the up (for good reason)
- Inbound can increase ROI
- It’s often more cost-effective than outbound
- You can target each stage of the buyer’s journey and engage them using the inbound methodology
- It offers real value to customers, who are more likely to return and promote you
- It attracts qualified leads, making the sales process easier (and again, cheaper!)
- Inbound saves you time and therefore money
- Integrated campaigns are effective and easy to manage
- With inbound, nurturing leads becomes a team effort
If you’d like to see some of these benefits in action, take a look at our article on inbound marketing examples and find some inspiration for your projects.