If you want to hand-feed a squirrel in your backyard, you can’t make any sudden movements or try to approach it.
Instead, you have to remain calm and let it come to you by attracting it with a peanut or piece of fruit (something of value).
Why are we telling you about squirrels in an article about marketing?
It’s because the story perfectly illustrates the principle behind an inbound marketing strategy.
If you attract new leads and potential customers by offering something of value (relevant content, lead magnets, etc.), they’ll come to your front door – saving you the trouble of seeking them out in the wild.
Inbound strategy differs from traditional outbound marketing, where you reach out to prospects through techniques like cold-calling, placing ads before videos, and marching door-to-door to sell your products and services.
While outbound marketing is also effective and has its place (like successful PPC campaigns), tactics like pop-up ads, email spam, and cold calls are considered disruptive and unwanted, causing them to have poor conversion rates.
Conversely, acquiring customers through inbound efforts costs an average of $14 less than traditional methods, and businesses that use inbound marketing strategies generate 126% more leads than those that don’t.
It’s clear that inbound marketing campaigns are effective, but how do you launch one?
That’s what we’re here to teach you today, so stay tuned to learn how to develop a winning inbound marketing strategy.
Understanding the Inbound Methodology
Just like the squirrel analogy, inbound marketing tactics revolve around attracting customers to your brand instead of the other way around.
You can think of your prospects as bashful squirrels running around the web.
If you disrupt their experience with an obtrusive pop-up ad or a YouTube ad that interrupts a video they’re watching, they’ll likely just run away.
To attract them to your website, you’ll need the equivalent of a sweet piece of fruit.
In the world of digital marketing, you provide value to your target audience with great content that educates, informs, entertains, and solves their pain points.
Valuable content like infographics, how-to videos, podcasts, whitepapers, and webinars will attract new customers to your website as the fruit did with the squirrel.
Once you’ve attracted prospects to your website, you can provide further content to guide them down your sales funnel with the ultimate goal of conversion.
As such, the inbound methodology is as follows:
Provide value to customers first, focus on converting later.
With landing and product pages designed to convert, the natural flow of your sales funnel will handle the conversion process for you.
Inbound marketing is so effective because it helps you build meaningful, long-lasting customer relationships.
How is that?
It’s because the quality content you release to attract customers will establish you as a thought leader in your field, meaning your customers will look to you whenever they need information.
This is a powerful status to hold, as it leads to increased brand awareness and customer loyalty.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing: How Are They Different?
Inbound and outbound methodologies are polar opposite approaches to marketing.
While they can both be effective, inbound marketing efforts are beginning to take over due to their immense popularity.
As stated before, some outbound tactics are considered highly disruptive by users, such as pop-up ads, unskippable video ads, and cold calls & emails.
In fact, nearly 40% of internet users have ad blockers installed, rendering many outbound techniques ineffective.
However, these unsavory techniques aren’t all that outbound marketing has to offer.
PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns are also considered outbound, and they can provide impressive results when done correctly.
That’s especially true for companies just getting started with an SEO (search engine optimization) campaign – which can take 6 – 12 months to start providing an ROI.
PPC ads, on the other hand, can start generating organic traffic, leads, and conversions from day one, which is a plus.
So while outbound marketing is less popular than inbound, it’s by no means dead – and still has its uses.
Here’s a breakdown of the primary differences between the two:
- Outbound tactics tend to require money for sales campaigns which may or may not pay off.
- Inbound techniques focus on building brand awareness to develop long-term customer relationships.
- Outbound marketing focuses more on converting new users immediately, while inbound gives the customer more time to make up their mind.
- Inbound marketing focuses on creating high-quality content, while outbound marketing revolves more around sales campaigns.
As you can see, inbound techniques are more involved in the buyer’s journey. Instead of trying to snag an immediate conversion, inbound tactics provide value at each stage of the journey by educating, entertaining, and ultimately converting the prospect.
The 4 Stages of an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Now that you know more about how inbound tactics differ from outbound, let’s learn more about what an inbound marketing strategy entails.
Inbound strategies break down into four stages – Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight.
Stage one is to attract prospects to your website through keyword research and quality content. Next, you need to convert these visitors into leads through newsletter sign-ups, CTAs (calls-to-action), and highly optimized landing pages.
After that, it’s time to seal the deal by converting those leads into customers through CRM tools, product pages, and BOFU (bottom-of-the-funnel) content.
The work’s not done there, though.
Besides generating sales, your goal is to maintain a healthy, long-term relationship with the customer.
That’s where the Delight stage comes into the picture.
You want to elicit brand loyalty by delighting the customer with smart content, feedback surveys, and social monitoring techniques.
Each stage of your inbound marketing strategy is extremely important, so let’s take a closer look at each one.
The Attract Stage
This stage is where you have your hands outstretched with a piece of fruit in hopes of attracting a squirrel to come to eat it.
Instead of fruit, you provide value by creating high-quality, engaging content tailored to your target audience.
How do you do that?
It starts with conducting thorough keyword research to understand what type of content your audience is craving.
Keyword research is a staple of SEO, which goes hand-in-hand with inbound marketing.
Essentially, you need to uncover popular search terms for your target audience and then create valuable content based on them.
A keyword, query, or search term all refer to phrases users enter into search engines like Google to satisfy a need.
They could be looking for information, trying to navigate to a particular website or page, or they may be researching their next purchase.
As an example, a user may search for a keyword like ‘buy hedge trimmers online’ to see what’s available and to compare prices online. The results that appear on search engines will be optimized for that keyword (not only based around it but containing it in key spots throughout the content).
The results with the strongest SEO profiles will rank the highest, which usually means they have strong backlink profiles and publish high-quality, trustworthy content.
That’s a broad overview of how SEO works, and it plays a significant role in the Attract phase of an inbound marketing strategy.
How do you conduct keyword research?
So if you want to start attracting the right crowd to your content, you need to create content for the right keywords.
To streamline the research process, you can use our free keyword planner tool from The HOTH.
How does it work?
Enter a basic keyword related to your niche, and the tool will generate a list of real-world keywords that users search for every day.
When analyzing the results, there are a few key metrics you need to look out for, including:
- Search volume. This metric measures how many users are actively searching for the keyword. The higher the volume, the more interest there is in a keyword.
- Keyword difficulty score (KD). The difficulty score represents how hard it will be to rank for a particular keyword, represented on a scale of 1 – 100. In general, you should target keywords with lower KD scores, but that’s not always the case.
- CPC. This metric measures the average cost-per-click a keyword has for PPC campaigns. Even if you aren’t using PPC, checking the CPC is a good way to measure the competitiveness of a keyword.
- Trend. The trend of a keyword represents its popularity over time as represented by a line graph. If the line is pointing up, the keyword is gaining popularity. If it’s pointing down, it’s losing popularity.
Ideally, you want to find keywords in your niche that have high search volume, relatively low KD (35 – 50), and an upward trend.
It’s crucial to note that KD’s score isn’t always accurate, so you should also check its CPC to see if it’s a competitive keyword in the PPC space.
Understanding search intent
Uncovering keywords with desirable metrics is only half the equation. Besides that, you also need to determine the search intent behind each keyword.
If you misinterpret a keyword’s intent, you could waste valuable time and resources creating the wrong type of content for it.
Search intent simply refers to what a user was hoping to find whenever they searched for the keyword.
It turns out that nearly every search query falls within four categories of search intent, and the keyword itself usually provides plenty of clues.
Here are the four search intent categories.
These queries have one goal in mind, to find information. It could be that they need to answer a question, or they could be looking for local businesses & services.
Informational keywords tend to contain the words ‘how,’ ‘who,’ ‘when,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where,’ Examples include ‘how to shoot a video’ and ‘Who invented the airplane?’
Navigational keywords are when users conduct an internet search to find a specific web page or website.
They aren’t looking to answer a question or make a purchase; they simply want to find a certain site, login page, or contact page.
Examples include ‘LinkedIn login page’ and ‘The HOTH contact information.’
Search intent is considered commercial whenever a user knows that they’re looking to make a purchase but wants to find more information.
These users are looking for content that will convince them that a particular product or service is better than the rest.
Commercial keyword examples include ‘best email marketing platforms’ and ‘affordable gardening tools.’
Lastly, a keyword has transactional intent whenever the user has made up their mind and is ready to make a purchase.
Transactional keywords tend to contain the words ‘buy,’ ‘quotes,’ and ‘purchase.’
These are the keywords to target for your landing & product pages designed to convert. Whenever a user is at the transactional phase, they’re at the bottom of your sales funnel and are ready to become a paying customer.
Creating content for your keywords
Once you’re done with keyword research, it’s time to create content for them.
Since we’re still in the Attract phase of your inbound marketing strategy, you should focus on creating content to satisfy informational queries first.
That means creating content that answers common user questions, explains concepts related to your niche, and solves user pain points.
Popular types of content to create for the Attract phase include:
- Educational blog posts that teach readers more about your industry/niche focus
- How-to videos that teach your audience new skills
- Infographics that contain interesting and relevant statistics
- Podcasts that discuss ways to solve user problems
- eBooks and whitepapers that contain valuable information in exchange for email addresses
These are all types of content that will draw audience members to your website, gaining plenty of exposure to your brand as a result.
Satisfying informational queries for your target audience is one of the best ways to build customer loyalty and form long-lasting relationships with customers.
Informational content will generate organic traffic that you can then convert with CTAs, landing pages, sign-up forms, and other methods.
Speaking of converting prospects, let’s move on to the conversion stage of your inbound marketing strategy.
The Convert Stage
Once the content you developed for the Attract stage starts generating organic visitors for you, it’s time to start converting them.
After all, if you don’t convert your visitors into prospects, you won’t stand a chance of increasing your revenue and expanding your business.
Therefore, you need to take measures to ensure you convert as many of your visitors into leads as you possibly can.
How do you do that?
The best way is to employ lead magnets, calls-to-action, and optimized landing pages.
These tactics will help you generate leads from the valuable content you create for your audience, furthering prospects down your sales funnel.
After all, the ultimate goal of your content creation efforts (and inbound marketing in general) is to acquire new paying customers, and lead generation plays a big part in that.
If you don’t include things like CTAs and newsletter sign-ups in your content, you may rank well on search engine results pages and achieve influencer status – but you’ll have a hard time generating any revenue from your efforts.
Thus, the importance of the Convert stage cannot be understated.
Including lead magnets in your content marketing
Lead magnets are powerful marketing tools designed to acquire contact information from vetted prospects.
Also called a squeeze page, a lead magnet is a valuable piece of content or resource offered for free in exchange for a user’s email address.
It’s an effective tool if what you’re offering is truly valuable.
What are some examples of lead magnets?
Some common lead magnets include:
- Exclusive eBooks. An eBook can be a perfect lead magnet as long as it truly provides value to your target audience.
- Quizzes. An equally creative & effective lead magnet is to develop a quiz testing your target audience’s knowledge on a particular subject. Quizzes are fun to complete, especially if your audience prides themselves on knowing a lot about your niche.
- A free tool. Another idea is to offer users the ability to use one of your tools in exchange for their contact information. Common tools to use as lead magnets include graphic design tools, calculators (like personal finance calculators), and digital marketing tools.
- Access to a resource library. Some companies offer users access to resource libraries in exchange for their email addresses. These range from video libraries to templates, worksheets, podcast episodes, and more.
These are all great ways to start generating leads.
You need to remember to link to your lead magnets in your content pieces.
An informative blog post is great for drumming up traffic, but why not include a CTA and a link to your free eBook to generate some leads from it?
Include CTAs (calls-to-action) in every piece of content
If you want to boost your conversion rates, you need to master the art of the call to action.
It’s a brief yet concise line of text that lets your audience know what you want them to do next.
It could be that you want them to click on a link to a lead magnet, or it could be to make an actual purchase of one of your products or services.
Essentially, you can and should use a CTA whenever there’s a specific action you want your users to complete.
While it may seem obvious to you that you want a user to click on your lead magnet or product page, you should never assume.
Instead, tell your audience in plain English what you want them to do.
Here are some common examples of CTAs that you should be using on your website:
- Lead generation CTAs. These calls to action direct audience members to your lead magnets. They should be eye-grabbing and let your users know what to expect when clicking on the link.
- Read more CTAs. Do you include previews of your latest blog posts on your homepage? If not, you should start including brief snippets of each post, followed by a ‘read more’ CTA button that directs to the full post.
- Social sharing CTAs. Whenever users share your content on social media platforms, it improves your brand awareness and increases your chances of acquiring backlinks. Social sharing CTAs encourage users to ‘share our content on social media’ followed by social share buttons (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
- Sales CTAs. These CTAs aim to seal the deal by directing users to product pages or to contact forms to reach your sales team.
There are more types of CTAs than that, but these are the most important for inbound marketing strategies.
Optimize your landing pages
Last but not least, you need to optimize your landing pages for conversions. A landing page is a web page that you direct users to in order to take one specific action.
It could be to sign up for your newsletter, or it could be to purchase a product or set up a sales consultation.
Landing pages are so important because their effectiveness directly affects your bottom line.
You can have the greatest, most valuable content in the world – but if your landing & product pages aren’t able to convert users into customers – it’s all for nothing.
How do you optimize your landing pages?
First, you need to consider your buyer personas and customer journey. In other words, you need to know what makes your target audience tick so you can speak their language.
Just like your content, your landing pages need to solve user pain points and provide value to your audience through their copy.
If you’re promoting a product, list all the ways it will transform your customers’ lives for the better.
Also, consider any reasons why one of your users may be reluctant to convert and address them in your copy.
SEO is also crucial for landing pages, so don’t forget to conduct keyword research for them and to follow SEO best practices.
That means including your target keyword in the following places:
- Your title tag and meta description
- Within the first 100 words of the content
- Your heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- The page URL
- Image alt text
The cherry on top is to include a clear & convincing CTA to encourage your users to convert.
The Close Stage
At this stage in your inbound marketing strategy, you have a list of qualified leads and potential customers.
You’ve already begun to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with your leads, as evidenced by your high-quality content and the fact that they willingly gave you their contact information.
Now is the time to nurture those leads into paying customers.
How long the nurturing process lasts greatly depends on your industry, and some have longer sales cycles than others.
For instance, B2B (business-to-business) marketing has notoriously long sales cycles that require extensive email nurturing campaigns. That’s because B2B companies deal with businesses instead of consumers, and they have to get the green light from all departments.
Marketers must continue to provide content to their B2B prospects to convince key decision-makers that their products are the best.
Other sales cycles are much quicker, such as eCommerce transactions – which tend to happen as soon as a prospect clicks on one of your product pages.
Here are some tactics you can use during the Close stage of your inbound marketing strategy.
Email nurturing campaigns
What are you going to do with all those emails your lead magnet generated for you?
Slowly nurture them into becoming paying customers, of course!
You do this by employing a lead nurturing campaign, where you periodically send emails to prospects in an attempt to get them to convert.
You can provide social proof via flawless customer reviews, video demos, and other forms of content. However, make sure you keep each email to one subject and keep things brief.
It’s also a good idea to use customer relationship management software to keep track of your sales pipeline.
The program will contain all your leads, including all your points of contact with them – which is extremely useful.
With a CRM tool, you’ll be able to more effectively nurture your leads into paying customers.
The Delight Stage
The final stage of your inbound marketing strategy is known as the Delight stage.
At this point, you’ve already attracted traffic, converted them into leads, and landed sales, but you’re still not done.
After all, inbound marketing is about developing long-lasting, positive relationships with your customers.
Thus, the delight stage is all about customer retention & loyalty.
Customer engagement and feedback surveys are powerful tools you can use to delight your customers.
They show that you care about your customer’s experience and that you’re always striving to improve.
Social listening is another core aspect of the delight stage.
It’s where you pay close attention to your social media profiles to read & respond to feedback and reviews from your audience.
Engaging with your customers in this way shows that you care about them, and they’ll know that you’re there to listen whenever they have questions or concerns – which is great for building loyalty.
Final Thoughts: Developing an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing techniques are incredibly effective for building brand awareness, encouraging customer loyalty, and increasing your revenue.
By providing valuable content that your audience craves, you effectively eliminate the middleman of seeking qualified prospects – as they’ll come straight to you.
Do you need help developing a successful inbound marketing strategy for your business?
Then you need to check out our managed SEO packages from The HOTH. Our content creation experts will find all sorts of creative ways to draw audience members to your website, so don’t wait to get in touch today.