What is Inbound, and why is it needed?
Inbound Marketing is a complete marketing and sales strategy that works to attract relevant buyers in and earn their trust, rather than interrupting or going out to demand attention.
By being aware of who the most relevant audience is and tailoring content/ activity around their needs and challenges, Inbound campaigns work with today’s digital landscape, resulting in relevant visits, quality lead generation and long term ROI.
Nearly 60% of a purchase decision now occurs before sales teams become involved in the process - Marketing Automation Benchmark Report 2015
B2B buying has changed
Over the past decade, digital information has become increasingly accessible meaning modern buyers are always well informed. As a result, traditional sales and marketing techniques no longer resonate, and interruptive outbound marketing (such as cold calling, direct mail, paid ads) is increasingly tuned out. Now access the right audience, marketers must earn attention by helping, not pushing people toward the solutions they want.
Today’s buyer’s purchase on their own terms. They research solutions, and reach decisions before sales has even made contact. Inbound is designed to work with this new buying mindset, using pain-point focussed content to earn the attention of relevant buyers, attract them to your website, build trust and convert them to leads.
Why don’t traditional (outbound) methods work?
Adopters of Inbound (vs. outbound) see a dramatically higher overall return regardless of marketing budget, company type or size - State of Inbound 2015
Organisations using outbound strategies (cold calling, print ads, tradeshows, direct mail) increasingly find marketing and sales activity to be ineffective.
Common outbound issues include:
- No guarantee of quality leads due to poor targeting ability
- High cost, low yield strategies due to poor targeting ability
- Difficulty tracking ROI with no alignment of marketing and sales
- Marketing efforts are increasingly blocked (e.g. do not contact lists, ad and spam filters)
By nature, outbound is ineffective because it goes out, and interrupts. Outbound marketing’s aim is simply to get promotional content in front of an audience. But without knowing who is in that audience, understanding where they are in the buying cycle, or if they’re even interested, achieving a return is always a challenge and a waste of time and budget.
To counter this, Inbound bases all activity around only the most valuable prospects (buyer personas) and considers where they are in the buying cycle at every stage. This ensures campaigns attract only relevant prospects, and that the right content is place at the right time to nurture the progression from awareness to decision.
Understanding the Inbound Marketing Methodology and the Buyer’s Journey
71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search - The Changing Face of B2B Marketing
Any Inbound campaign must take into account the Buyer’s Journey, and the Inbound Methodology.
The Buyer’s Journey
Inbound alters its approach to suit customers dependent on their stage in the Buyer’s Journey. The Buyer’s Journey is a three-stage purchasing process your personas (prospects) go through when looking for a solution; Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
Without an understanding of the Buyer’s Journey, marketing collateral can still be interruptive. Only when you understand the purchasing stage a buyer is at can you know what content to create, the angle required, how to promote that content - and nurture buyers towards a decision.
At the awareness stage. Buyers are aware of their potential problem or pain point but do not yet know how to solve it.
At the consideration stage. Buyers have defined and named their pain point, and are researching ways to solve it.
At the decision stage. Buyers know the approach they need (your solution), and are looking for data or endorsements to make a final decision.
To maintain trust and retain prospects, every piece of content and activity must target one of these stages.
The Inbound Methodology
The Buyer’s Journey is not the end of Inbound however. It slots into a wider Inbound Methodology that offers value to prospects at all buyer stages - even post-purchase. This ensures quality traffic and leads at the top of the funnel, and secures long-term retention, trust, and greater customer lifetime value (LTV) at the end of it.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology is split into four stages:
Attract. In this stage you attract the right traffic (your buyer personas). These are the visitors most likely to become leads.
Convert. In this stage you nurture visitors to convert to leads by capturing their email with the right gated content.
Close. In this stage you nurture leads into prospects with the right 'decision' content at the right time.
Delight. At this stage you must continue to engage and provide value. This retains custom, reduces churn and leaves you with brand advocates.
Considering all Inbound components
Of course there’s more to Inbound than the Buyer’s Journey and Inbound Methodology. Closed-loop reporting, SEO, marketing automation - and aligned marketing and Inbound sales all form part of an effective strategy.
You can learn more about the return your business could achieve with our ROI calculator.