What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing Tactics

Inbound Marketing, including buyer’s path to purchase, is a unique and very useful subset of Digital Marketing. It is becoming the primary way that businesses build their marketing systems today. Inbound Marketing is the act of pulling or attracting customers to you instead of pushing out messages to try and force customers to you. Attraction is the key to Inbound Marketing. You want to send out messages or provide content that attracts the customer toward you.

Marketing Buyer Personas

The first step in attracting customers is to really get to know your customers and their unique personalities. You do this by creating buyer personas of your customers. The Marketing Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) company HubSpot says that “personas are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers”.

The main reason that you create buyer personas is so that you can write marketing material & copy that appeals to them and gets them to perform certain actions, such as downloading a free ebook or supplying their personal information on a website form.

When creating your buyer persona, you will want to include customer demographics, goals, behavior patterns and motivations. The more information that you use to create your buyer persona the better.

You should create multiple personas, both negative and positive, for your business marketing. It’s a great idea to create 2 positive and 1 negative persona to get started in developing your Inbound Marketing strategy?

As an example, think of the customer that subscribes to software; they might subscribe to a version of the software that has less features for a reduced rate but they are still a very valuable part of a company’s business revenue. Or maybe they would like to subscribe on a monthly, instead of on a yearly basis. The guy that subscribes to the most expensive version would be positive persona number 1; while the guy with the less expensive version is positive persona number 2. Most SAAS software companies employ these methods.

In developing your marketing buyer personas, think of one of your customers that is an absolute pleasure to work with. They buy all of your products or services. They go on and on about how much they love you. They rarely give you grief unless they legitimately run into an issue with your product or service. Positive persona customers are the best of the best customers. They are the model customers that you want buying from you.

Now think of your worst customer. You create negative personas so that you can avoid messaging these types of customers to keep your business running much smoother. You want to avoid messaging to this group. They only slow down your business by causing trouble. They are the 20% that cause 80% of your problems, and they’re never satisfied. You will normally only employ negative personas to avoid writing copy that might attract them to your business.

The best way to create personas is to survey your customers and gather information about their demographics and psychographics. This information will give you a wealth of information. You can use this information to create messages that resonate specifically with that particular persona.

Take your time developing your personas. You want to get it right the first time. It’s the foundation of your communications with your customers. You might involve all of your staff from various departments to help create the negative and positive personas in a couple of meetings. Get it right.

Buyer Personas and their Path to Purchase

Once you’ve created your positive personas, then you want to chart the personas path to purchase. Your customers might go through a particular path to become a customer of yours. It’s best to formalize this path to purchase in your plan. The steps that your customer takes in a formal path to purchase include these stages:

  • Awareness Stage: they realize they have a problem and want to learn more about it
  • Consideration Stage: they’ve researched the problem, and now they will research solutions, including whom they would prefer to work with to solve the problem.
  • Decision Stage: they decide on who can help them with their problem and solution
Inbound Marketing buyer path to purchase stage descriptions that include awareness, consideration and decision stages
Inbound Marketing buyer path to purchase stage descriptions that include awareness, consideration and decision stages

Your customers begin by realizing that they have a problem in their world. They are quickly becoming aware of their problem. They are in the Awareness Stage of their buyer’s path to purchase.

Think about when you have a problem but don’t know how to solve it? It’s the very same thing. Your customer realizes they have a problem, and they want it fixed.

In this modern era, the customer will generally start their search online. Most folk’s home page on their browser is Google or Bing or some search engine. When your customer is beginning their quest to find a solution to their problem, they generally start with a search engine.

Again, the first step in the path to purchase begins with awareness. Again, the customer realizes they have a problem.

For example, if they just got arrested for DUI, then chances are they will Google something like “DUI laws”. They want to know the good and the bad. They want to satisfy their urge to gain as much information on the subject.

They will learn as much about “DUI” as they can. They will begin to read about laws in their state and how it applies to them. They will become better educated in what they need to do to keep themselves out of hot water. They might become experts up to a point.

Once they’ve looked up information about the problem and they’ve become more aware of what they face, they move on to figure out how to solve the problem. They move into the Consideration Stage of the Buyer’s Path to Purchase.

In the Consideration Stage of the buyer’s path to purchase, they are narrowing the search and might begin by searching for information on how to fix the problem by searching for “DUI Attorney” and maybe include their home town to localize their search. This is very common. If they live in California and get arrested driving while intoxicated in Las Vegas, they will have to “unlocalize” it by typing something like “DUI Attorney Las Vegas”. They are considering Attorneys in the market they were arrested in.

Once they narrow the search to a handful of Attorneys, they begin to make calls and meet face to face with the Attorneys who they believe might be able to handle their unique problem. The customer is deep in the Consideration Stage of whom to choose.

The Consideration Stage is where you have the most opportunity to persuade the customer into choosing you to solve their problem with your unique products or services. This is where you want to serve up as much information about what distinguishes you from your competitors that you possibly can.

The customer begins to finalize their buyer data after meeting with or speaking to the Attorneys and they come to a conclusion of who can best help them with their problem. They make a decision, and they decide to work with the Attorney that suits them the best. They’re moving into the Decision Stage.

Once the customer is in the Decision Stage and is satisfied that they want to work with the Attorney, the Attorney should begin to automatically send a welcome letter and other onboarding materials to make the customer feel that they’ve made the right decision. This is a very important process that most businesses neglect. The customer could actually jump ship if they’re not made to feel welcome. Buyer’s remorse might set in and take your client away from you.

But after the Decision Stage, you can add one more stage if you like referrals. You can add the Repeat, or Referral or Ongoing Customer Stage to your path to purchase. This is the stage where you gather as many referrals from your customer, so that you have another warm lead to work with immediately or soon thereafter.

In this stage, your customer already likes you, and they would buy from you again. They would be very happy to help you by sending their friends and family to you as well. You want to include the Referral Stage in your overall planning.

Inbound Marketing System Further Explained

Most businesses try lead generation channels, such as television, radio, billboards, pay-per-click, social media advertising, and many more first. They might spend a considerable amount of money on these lead generation channels only to find they aren’t getting the results they thought they would get.

The main reason why so many businesses fail with their lead generation efforts is that they’re not fully taking advantage of an Inbound Marketing System and they’re also not using Marketing Funnels within the Inbound Marketing System. Creating an Inbound Marketing System, that utilizes Marketing Funnels, is the key to effectively magnifying their lead generation efforts.

An Inbound Marketing System should be built with all the individual marketing components necessary to communicate with the customer throughout the buyer’s path to purchase. Your Inbound Marketing System should always include these components to nurture your customers at every stage of the buyer’s path to purchase. The individual marketing components necessary for a complete Inbound Marketing System include:

  • Your Website: a place to provide a blog, call-to-action forms, bots and much more
  • Email Marketing: the queen of your system that nurtures and automates many processes
  • Social Marketing: a place to reach your audience so that you can move them into your system
  • Content Marketing: headlines & copy for your email, social, lead generation and website
  • Lead Generation: a plethora of places to generate leads and move them into your system
  • Funnels: it’s the glue that ties your website, your email and your social media together

After talking with so many businesses over the most recent 5 years of my career, I realize that not having a formal Inbound Marketing System, that also include Marketing Funnels, is the single biggest reason most businesses fail with online and traditional marketing. You can throw a ton of money at Lead Generation and not have the success that you would have if you included an Inbound Marketing System first; along with the proper Marketing Funnels.

When I first start to work with a new client, I immediately tell them to stop advertising. Stop wasting money on lead generation until the Inbound Marketing System is built. If they’re a regular lead generation advertiser, you could think in terms of flighting.

In a course by Study.com, they mention that “flighting is a process where advertisers schedule messages to run during optimal periods of time, followed by planned periods of inactivity. Well, the period of “inactivity” is during the building process and the” optimal” period of time is after you build out your Inbound Marketing System. That’s not exactly how flighting works FYI.

I first warn them that the building process of the Inbound Marketing System, including all the components and content can take a few months to complete, but it’s worth the wait.

If you understand how reach and frequency and other marketing concepts work, you would simply be moving or postponing the reach and frequency accumulation using lead generation for later on when your Inbound Marketing System is properly built.

As an example, if you have $100,000 for lead generation over the next 12 months, then you could choose to move and compress the budget into a tighter window of say only 9 or 10 months.

You will still be building the same reach and frequency, but in a much shorter span, but when you receive a lead, you can bet that they will be better nurtured with your new Inbound Marketing System. Once built, the Inbound Marketing System will reap the vast benefits of your complete system. And it’s funny you would probably still get folks saying they saw you on television even if you’ve been off for a couple of months. That is a common phenomenon.

Funnels are extremely important but often neglected by most businesses

Funnels are the glue that holds your email marketing, your social media and your website together into a complete Inbound Marketing System.

A funnel generally includes a lead magnet or something that has perceived value for the client. It also includes social media, landing pages, and email marketing automation.

NOTE: there are very sophisticated funnels for marketing that we won’t go over here in this article. The concept of funnels and funneling is amazing and can be very profitable for your business.

A simple funnel with opt in squeeze page, thank page and content page along with an autoresponder email campaign
A simple funnel with opt in squeeze page, thank page and content page along with an autoresponder email campaign

A Simple Funnel and How It Works

So, how does a funnel work? A simple funnel will take a lead magnet and offer it as enticement for your persona on social media in a post. The lead magnet will be something of value to your buyer persona; such as an ebook or something more of value that will help them with their problem.

You develop copy in the post that entices your positive persona to want or desire the lead magnet because it offers a solution to their needs while they are in their path to purchase. If they recently received a DUI, then you might offer a lead magnet ebook on what DUI is and how it applies in Nevada. Or a lead magnet of why you’re the best solution to their problem further in the path.

So, your title might be something like “Just recently receive a DUI in Nevada?” and then the subtitle might be “Well here’s the solution…” and then provide a link on the post that takes the buyer persona directly to a Landing Page that asks first for the customer’s email address.

This first Landing Page is generally called the Opt In page because you’re asking the customer to opt in and give you their email address. Asking for the email address is critical to continuing in the process of nurturing and educating your potential new customer. You can’t avoid this step at all. You want their email address.

Once they put their email address on the form, the customer will click the Opt In button to receive the lead magnet.

Immediately, right after they click the Opt In button, they will automatically be taken directly to a Thank You landing page with thank you copy. Also, at the same time of clicking the Opt In button, using your email marketing, you will send them a link that will allow them to download the eBook. You’re also at the same time creating an email autoresponder campaign that will continue to nurture them for several days, if not several months, with more marketing information. This is automation that keeps you from having to do it manually every time someone downloads a lead magnet.

This simple funnel has gone from enticement, to fulfillment, to nurturing within a matter of seconds. Again, there are much more sophisticated funnels but this one should be the first Marketing Funnel built for your Inbound Marketing System.

Once you received an email address from a prospective customer, you now have their permission to continue to send worthwhile nurturing information until they unsubscribe from your system. You can continue to nurture them until they make a decision to become a customer. An email address is an owned asset.

Even further after that, when they become a customer, you can tag them as “Customer” in your system and start nurturing them to send you referrals and also to make sure they’re happy as customers by using surveys. You can use your Inbound Marketing System to keep them happy.

Inbound Marketing Should Be the Next Logical Step to Add to Your Marketing System

So, now you have a better idea of what an Inbound Marketing System is and how it might be useful. There’s actually a lot more to go over but this gives you a good foundation of Inbound Marketing Systems. We’re leaving out how much you will get to know your customers.

Get out and build your Inbound Marketing System before you spend another dime on marketing and advertising. Once you have it built, you can continue to add content to the system. Your Return On Investment will start paying off the more content you add. You will have something that is valuable for your business for years to come and it’s very effective. More effective than just lead generation by itself.

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