In the last month or so, everyone I have spoken to, and everywhere I’ve been seems to be focused on just one thing - inbound marketing. What is it, this thing that has possessed everybody recently? Is it really that important when you run your own business? Sounds like a pretty big thing; can I do it myself, or do I need a marketing agency? Inbound marketing attracts prospective customers in a more sophisticated way, a more educated way than outbound marketing, which attacks, rather than attracts, clients with cold calling, spamming and pop up adverts. Inbound marketing is all about luring in visitors with quality content.
The first step in attracting (remember, not attacking) potential clients is to be discoverable. While SEO, one aspect of inbound marketing, takes a while to move your website further to the top of web search results (and often a big chunk of your budget), it is easy to start writing a blog and contributing to subject/product/industry related forums or comparison sites. Presenting yourself to potential clients as an expert at what you do and sharing your knowledge will undoubtedly cause more people to value your business and consider it trustworthy. Do not forget to publish everything on social media; ‘no social media, no existence’ is a notion that accurately describes the contemporary business environment.
This is probably the most important stage of your inbound marketing activities: connecting with prospect clients. In this stage, ‘inbound’ means CTAs (call-to-action), landing pages and contact forms. Call-to-actions, whether presented on a leaflet, brochure, letter, newsletter or your website, must be visible, clear and straightforward, for instance “Book Now”, “Call us on…” “Find out more” and so on. They also must ideally appear more than once, as clients want to be easily directed, they don’t want to have to search for what they need. Landing pages, on the other hand, are the pages/internal pages towards which all of your marketing activities will be driving traffic. All of your sales depend on this single step – make it too vague, or not intuitive, and they’re gone. Spend some time on this and utilise available expertise, and the orders will fly in.
Once you have turned the lead into a sale, great, well done! However, if you are still working on the client, trying to close the sale, you must keep them engaged. Simply, this means you need to keep your name fresh in your clients’ mind. This is most easily achieved through emails (such as newsletters and offers), but to do this efficiently you need a CRM (customer relations management) system in place. A CRM database will allow you to segregate your clients/leads depending on what message you want to send them, and will help you avoid sending irrelevant content that could result in clients hitting the ‘unsubscribe’ button.
The final stage is where you need to look after your existing customers. By using tools such as surveys, remarketing, personalised content and social monitoring (keeping an eye on any visible online customer feedback) you can keep up to date with what clients like and dislike and what they might need (up-selling opportunities!) to help them achieve their business goals. At this stage, a happy, well looked after customer will function as an advocate for your products; what more could you possibly wish for? A loyal customer is the best form of marketing, through referrals and word of mouth.
You might have initially been frightened by the term inbound marketing, but now you probably feel much more at ease, as it all must seem very familiar - or am I wrong? To begin your own inbound marketing campaign you do not need to be an experienced marketer; what I have described above are the basic steps that all business owners do as standard – social media, newsletters and after-sales communication. Whatever you do, however, bear in mind that inbound marketing is customer centred, and 21st century customers like to be attracted in an educated and sophisticated manner, they definitely do not like to feel attacked.