Stop trying to sell, sell, sell.
Start attracting customers to your brand naturally, like bees to flowers.
Conventional marketing methods continue to lose effectiveness with each passing day. That’s because even the best sales pitch in the world won’t attract a honeybee to a bare patch of dirt.
Now, more and more companies are turning to inbound marketing strategies to generate new leads, customers and revenue. This involves taking your dirt patch and growing tantalizing, irresistible flowers that those honeybees genuinely want to visit and utilize.
The concept of inbound marketing is based on attracting new clients or customers through relevant, educational and helpful interactions. The idea is to provide potential clients with something they need, and thereby gain their trust, rather than interrupting what they’re doing with cold sales pitches conveyed through commercials or traditional advertisements.
A good inbound marketing campaign is based on a deliberate, carefully planned strategy. When all the pieces of the puzzle are put in their correct places, a funnel is formed that attracts new leads and guides them through each phase of their journey from unknown contact to satisfied buyer.
The real beauty of inbound marketing is that it makes sales without a sales pitch. It leaves customers with the feeling that they’ve made a good decision on their own rather than feeling like they’ve been taken in by high pressure sales tactics.
Creating an effective, cohesive inbound marketing strategy isn’t so difficult if you can follow five basic steps.
5 Steps to Creating a Winning Inbound Marketing Strategy
1. Identify Your Audience
The first and most important part of creating an effective strategy is to identify your target audience and gather as many details about them as you can. Every last detail of your campaign should be based on what you know about your audience.
As you develop a picture of who your audience will be, you want to avoid generalizations and be as specific as possible.
For example, if you’re selling coats for men, you need to go beyond the idea of “men looking for a new coat.” You want to think more along the lines of, “men over 35, living in areas where there’s consistent snowfall every year, looking for coats with hoods that are highly water resistant and that will keep them warm during extended periods of outdoor work.”
You’ll need to think about what type of content is going to provide the most value to this audience.
Will simple blog posts be enough?
Would an e-book be a big attraction for them?
Would it be easier to show them what they need through videos rather than text and pictures?
As you’re considering what kinds of content you’re going to create, your decision should be driven by two main factors:
What are the problems and pain points that you can help your audience with? Going back to our men looking for coats example, members of this audience might be interested in information on any of the topics below:
- Snow and ice removal tips
- Coat care instructions
- Winterization techniques for home and auto
- Winter coat comparisons
- Tips for keeping warm when working outdoors in winter
Which content channels are best suited to your production capabilities? You’ll need to decide what types of content you can produce, or outsource, effectively.
For example, if you don’t have much charisma, it might not be the best idea to try to produce video content. On the other hand, if you speak better than you write, video or audio content might be the right way to go. You can also consider outsourcing content production to an agency to bridge any gaps.
2. Develop an On-site Content Marketing Strategy
Your website is going to form the foundation of your inbound marketing efforts. The end goal of all the content you produce will be to guide your audience back to your website, or more specifically, back to predetermined pages on your website where you can work on converting them into new customers.
There are four major factors you should consider when building and developing your website:
Easy site navigation. Your site should be intuitive and easy to navigate. It should be extremely easy for viewers to find what they’re looking for. If they feel like they have to hunt for information, they’ll get frustrated and leave.
Real and educational material. Direct sales pitches have their place, but the majority of the content on your site should be somehow educational in nature and provide real value to your visitors. Real information is what attracts visitors, not a sales pitch.
Regularly updated content. Your site shouldn’t be static. There should be regular content updates that give people a reason to come back. Blogs are a great way to produce and organize regular updates.
Content for all stages of the buyer’s journey. As potential customers move from one stage to another along the buyer journey, the information that will most appeal to them changes.
For example, someone who’s just started looking for a new coat will be more interested in the features of the garment and how it compares to competitors.
On the other hand, someone who’s decided to actually buy a certain coat might be more interested in price comparisons and where they can purchase what they want.
Make sure you’re producing content that fits these different needs.
Remember, in the end, all roads lead back to your website. When your audience comes knocking, you need to make sure they get a warm welcome.
3. Invest in SEO
Search engine optimization will help drive steady traffic to your site over time.
In fact, many sites that use inbound marketing techniques say they get most of their traffic (and revenue) from older content pieces that have ranked well in search engine results.
You’ll generally see spikes in traffic on new content when it’s first released, but this traffic usually vanishes just as suddenly as it appeared. Think of SEO as the tortoise and new content as the hare. The tortoise moves slow but steady, bringing you results long after the hare has run out of breath.
In addition, when your content appears higher in search results, it presents an image of authority to readers. This translates into a higher level of trust before they even reach your site.
And implementing basic SEO concepts doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated. Start with keyword research—the process of finding out what your potential customers are searching for online—and then take things one step at a time from there.
Identifying your audience is the best place to start with keyword research for SEO, and you already know how to do that! As you’re narrowing down your target audience (as discussed in the first step) you should naturally find topics and keywords that will be highly relevant for attracting that audience.
You can easily use online tools, like the Google AdWords keyword planner, to find tons of keywords that get plenty of search traffic and are worth targeting.
Once you’ve got a basic list of keywords, you can use those to help you decide on the topics you’ll use to create content (as we discussed in the second step). Take those keywords and work them into your blog posts, videos and other other content you think is valuable for your audience—just be sure to do this without sacrificing your focus on quality content.
Then be sure to follow up and keep track of how your content performs with a rank tracking tool like SerpBook.
4. Make a Plan for Social Media
Social media is the modern version of word-of-mouth advertising, and we all know what they say about word of mouth.
As you’re identifying your target audience, you should determine which social media channels your audience is most likely using.
If you’re targeting an older demographic, Facebook might be their platform of choice. If you’re targeting executives and professionals, LinkedIn is going to be your best bet. The younger generations might be easier to reach on Instagram. It’s important to research which platform(s) will give you the best reach.
Limit your major social media marketing efforts to two or three platforms. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. It’s much better to work on one network and do it well than present a poor presence on five or six.
Also, while it’s important for you to put out your own content on social media, you should make sure it’s easy for others to share your content too. Content titles should be both descriptive and enticing, and images should be appealing enough that people want to share them on their social profiles.
Sharing buttons should be placed prominently on your site. Your visitors should be able to share your content with an absolute minimum of effort. Your audience will get your content in front of more eyes than you could ever possibly do yourself.
Most importantly, tell them to share your content. You’d be surprised what a difference it makes to add a simple line to the end of your articles or videos that says something like, “If you like this content, please share it with your friends/colleagues!”
5. Build an Email List
Email is still the most effective form of digital marketing. Conversion rates are higher with email than any other marketing channel. Generating a long list of email subscribers should be a top priority.
Most sales aren’t going to occur the first time someone visits your site. You can, however, convert a non-buyer into an email subscriber and win the chance to continue marketing to them—even if they don’t return to your site.
Don’t be shy when it comes to asking people for their email address. You should have a sign-up box placed prominently on almost every page of your site. You can also ask for sign-ups through social media channels. Make use of full page “takeover” ads, popups, links within your content and anything else you can think of. If you can convince someone to subscribe to your email list, you’re that much closer to convincing them to buy your product or service.
The bottom line is that people on your email list are going to be the easiest to convert into new sales and more revenue. You should do everything you can to keep that list growing.
Putting It All Together
Remember, the heart of your inbound marketing strategy is going to be your content. It’s crucial that every last piece of content you produce speaks directly to your target audience.
All of your content should be designed to direct your audience to where you want them. Sometimes this requires subtlety, other times you’ll need to speak in clear and direct language. Either way, make sure you’re telling your audience what they should be doing each step of the way. This how you create the “inbound” in inbound marketing.
Most of all, make sure your inbound marketing efforts are consistent and persistent. Your content should be easily recognizable as having come from you. It should be produced with the intention of adding to your brand recognition, your authority in your industry, and the trust between your brand and your audience.
If you’re consistently producing content that delivers true value to your audience, and if you remain persistent about doing so on a regular basis, good results are practically guaranteed.