Digital Marketing

The Four Stages of Inbound Marketing

February 2018
Melissa Sorini

If the Digital Age had an anthem like “Video Killed the Radio Star” the lyrics would sing the praises of inbound marketing and lament the decline of traditional forms of outbound marketing like purchasing advertising space, buying email lists and digging around for leads.

Inbound has left an indelible mark on the online landscape since 2006, and more and more businesses are leaving those old marketing methods to gather dust on the shelf, the same way we did with those old VHS copies of classic 80s movies. Join us as we define inbound and bid a fond adieu to outbound.

What is inbound marketing?

What exactly is inbound marketing? Simply put, inbound is all about creating quality content that encourages people to engage with your company and become aware of its products or services. That makes it sound manipulative in some ways, but it really is all about finding out what interests your customers and coming up with material that resonates with them in some way. Crafting content that aligns with their interests will bring potential customers to you, ensuring that you can convert, close and delight over time.

The four stages of inbound marketing

There are four basic actions that make up the inbound marketing model:

1. Attract

This one seems simple, right? You want to attract lots of people to your website. While partially true, it comes with a caveat: inbound has its emphasis on attracting the “right” type of traffic to your site, the people who are most likely to become leads first and satisfied customers second. The way to nail this strategy is to be very clear about your ideal customer, which is also known as a buyer persona. Once you know who they are the trick is to start attracting them to you with things like blogging, SEO, social media and quality website content.

2. Convert

Getting eyeballs to your website can be the hardest part of this process, and the next step is to convert those visitors to leads by collecting their contact information. This information is like gold bullion to marketers, and in order to make the trade you generally need to offer people something in return. This can take the form of free content like e-books or white papers, but whatever it is must have value to your buyer persona. Forms, call-to-action and landing pages will be some of your most important tools when it comes to converting visitors.

3. Close

Once you have attracted the right type of visitors and converted them to leads the next step is to transform them into customers. You need to close the deal, like Michael Douglas in that dusty old VHS copy of “Wall Street”. Kind of. Closing in inbound marketing is somewhat different, and involves a number of tools like customer relationship management (CRM) systems, closed loop reporting, marketing automation and email. They sound fancy but it all boils down to building trust with your prospect and helping them become ready to buy.

4. Delight

The delight stage is where inbound really comes into its own, revealing why it has had such a transformational impact on marketing in the digital age. Inbound is all about the customer, and is always striving to find novel ways to amuse, inform, entertain and delight them. Remarkable content engages your customers, and done well it can also turn clients into your best advocates as they voluntarily share your content with their social networks. This stage utilises a number of tools, including surveys, smart calls-to-action, smart text and social monitoring.

Why are businesses embracing this model?

Inbound marketing has changed the way businesses communicate with their customers, and has been wholeheartedly embraced in the last decade. Quality, targeted content is a proven way to attract the right customers and is highly responsive when it comes to answering their questions and needs because it enables a high degree of personalisation. Being a multi-channel medium, it enables conversations to take place exactly where your customers are and integration means that content creation, publishing and analytics tools work seamlessly together in pursuit of the same goal.

Inbound marketing is very much here to stay and is a proven methodology for the digital age. Put simply, it’s the best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters, and no serious business can afford to ignore it. That would be the marketing equivalent of slowly rewinding those dusty old VHS tapes while everyone around you is streaming movies on Netflix.

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