Inbound marketing is a new spin on the traditional lead capturing process. Rather than working hard to reach out to cold and potentially unqualified leads, inbound marketing is the process of getting your message out to warm, receptive leads who are actively searching for what you’re selling.
Through the old process of outbound marketing, you had to attempt to “warm up” new, fresh leads through cold calling, trade shows, print ads and so forth. That old adage of having to repeat your message some seven times or more before customers acted on it, was the number one commandment of old-fashioned outbound marketing. It was time consuming, expensive and difficult. Warming up cold leads took thick skin and patience of steel.
With inbound marketing, however, the process is much more streamlined, generates a greater return on investment, and can pack your sales funnel full of promising leads. Here’s how to do it right.
The 3 Prongs of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing combines a three-pronged battle plan:
- Blogging (and/or Webinars)
- Social Media
- Content Marketing
Naturally, search engine optimization and social interaction are heavy with inbound marketing. You’re probably already involved in many facets of this lead generation technique without even knowing it – which is good, because the digital and mobile age demands it. Inbound marketing is also an effective recession-buster, as it lets you reach more promising customers with a lower cost and less effort than more traditional methods.
Social Media Inbound Marketing Example: Recombo offers a free download for all its fans who “Like” its Facebook page
1. Create Fresh, Evergreen Blog Content
The first, and perhaps the most important tool in your inbound marketing arsenal should be your frequently updated blog. Not only do search engines love fresh content, but an updated blog is an excellent launch pad for your other inbound marketing strategies – including microsites, free giveaways, webinars, link bait and social networking. Using a combination of these promotional tools will help put your offer and your message in front of interested customers who will come to you – rather than you being forced to chase them down.
Blogging works best when you seek to connect with – and educate your customers. This doesn’t mean you should put on your geekspeak cap and start rattling off all kinds of industry jargon. It means getting down to their level, answering their questions and solving their problems.
Having a blog gives you a unique perspective and platform through which you can tackle the real issues. It means doing the research, going the extra mile and being really clear about how you (the expert) would approach the problem. When you think about it, your business exists for exactly this reason – whether you realize it or not. Just be sure that with every post you write, you’re not only teaching – you’re asking for the user to take action on what they’ve learned.
FitDeck combines a call to action at the end of all of its articles for better lead conversion
Using Your Blog for Inbound Marketing Lead Generation
When using your blog for inbound marketing lead generation, it’s important to remember that these visitors could be at any stage of the lead generation process. They could be first-time visitors, blog subscribers or existing customers. That’s why you need to make sure your blog is tailored to reach out to each of these groups.
It’s a delicate balancing act between overloading first-time readers with product listings and rehashing the same information with existing product owners. To make sure your offer applies to both, you’ll want to make sure that blog readers can learn more about you and your company (through your flagship content pieces) as well as download a free preview or trial through your lead generation process.
Showcasing both on your blog as well as making the best possible use of landing pages will let you target your offer to precisely the type of customer you want to reach with the type of product that’s best for them.
2. Use Social Media as your Creative Escape for Inbound Marketing Lead Generation
These days the typical sales funnel doesn’t end with the sale. You’re using social media to get a virtual “foot in the door” and a slice of your customer’s time. Use your social media connections to build relationships with your customers beyond the sale.
Much of what you’ll do in the beginning with inbound marketing and social media is help build up brand awareness as shown by this HootSuite social marketing funnel:
With inbound marketing and social media, you’re not just measuring @mentions, retweets, wall posts and likes, you also have to measure how many of those social media mentions visited your landing pages and of those, how many took an action beyond the landing page. This way, you’re not only getting the social media metrics, but you’re also delving deeper to determine how relevant and interesting your content is to your social media audience.
This kind of measurement in turn can help you uncover potential holes in your lead generation process and determine where you might be losing customers – whether it’s an offer mismatch, lack of engaging content, confusing shopping cart or other conversion-busters.
From Customer Horror Story to Customer Evangelist
We’ve all read those horror stories – customer service nightmares and poor performance issues that make us think twice about doing business with someone. But these “bad apples” can turn into shining examples of brand evangelists if you handle the situation right. According to a 2010 survey by Harris Interactive, 71% of users claim that reviews from family and friends exert a great deal of influence of whether or not they ultimately buy.
With social connections increasing exponentially, you can bet that customers – both the satisfied and unsatisfied ones – are watching, reading and reacting. You can become the next @ComcastCares or you might have to do a complete public turn-around of your brand image – but you need to make it happen to survive in the social age.
TurboTax’s “Friends Like You” campaign shows dynamic reviews from across the social web
Using Social Tools to Create Connections
One of the more famous ways that a company has used inbound marketing was through the famous Will It Blend series promoting Blendtec blenders. According to its founder, Tom Dickson,
“the campaign took off almost instantly. We have definitely felt an impact in sales. Will it Blend has had an amazing impact to our commercial and our retail products.”
And while you don’t have to take your promotions to such an extreme, there are plenty of ways to bridge the gap between website visitors, social connections and subscribers. By giving away free content, hosting a webinar and creating an enticing offer, you open up multiple channels for your best customers to reach out to you.
And while big brands likely have considerable staff dedicated to monitoring, measuring and interacting with their fellow socialites online, smaller businesses may not have that luxury. You’ll have to work harder to convince people to follow you, and sometimes that can mean thinking outside the box. Here are a few things that larger brands have done to inspire you.
Ben & Jerry’s Fair Tweets puts unused Twitter characters to good use spreading the word about Free Trade
3. Use Content Marketing for Inbound Marketing Lead Generation
Great content will always be king – and your cornerstone content, your flagship products and writing that showcase your expertise should be at the core of your inbound marketing and lead gen efforts. This is the time to step up and make your content personable.
Hubspot has successfully used white papers to generate leads for several years now.
You can’t wrangle people to fit into an old, outdated sales funnel. Instead, use your content marketing efforts to leverage your best writing into avenues that fit what people are looking for and how they want to receive it – including:
- Podcasts and Webinars
- White Papers
Start Today for Best Results
In this day and age, it’s easier than ever to tune out from sales pitches, block online ads, DVR or TiVo your favorite shows and fast forward through commercials and all other advertising distractions. Inbound marketing not only simplifies lead generation efforts but connects you to your ideal customers in a way that’s convenient, effective and easy to implement.
Considering some of the shocking statistics on social media, it’s also clear that this improved marketing method isn’t going away any time soon. Apps, web services and tools are improving all the time, making it easier than ever for us to connect with the perfect audience. By starting now rather than later, you’ll be able to introduce your different subscribers and followers to your offer while creating a receptive, warm and eager customer following that’s both rewarding and exciting.
About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversions with custom blog theme design, SEO copywriting and helpful tools. Get your free conversion checklist and web copy hotsheet today by visiting iElectrify.com