If you haven’t read Marcus Sheridan’s ‘They Ask, You Answer’ yet, you’re missing a trick. Sheridan’s 2017 book retells how he completely revived his fibreglass pool business that was struggling following the 2008 housing collapse, and features case studies of other businesses that have done the same by applying the same methodology. That methodology is called inbound marketing.
What Is Inbound Marketing? An Overview
Creation of the methodology is widely accredited to Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, a marketing, sales and service platform. It’s unlike traditional marketing methodologies, in that it is focused on empowering the consumer, giving them something of value in exchange for choosing your business. Inbound is a methodology focused on solving problems that consumers face, offering solutions, and creating content and experiences that offer value to potential customers. It’s about attracting customers by offering them something in return for interacting with you; engaging them by providing resources and solutions; and delighting your customers by becoming a thought leader in your industry, someone they know they can trust.
In this blog, we’ll be discussing the main basic principles of inbound marketing, how you can apply them to your company, and how it can ultimately revive your marketing strategy.
The Main Principles of Inbound Marketing
You are probably already familiar with the traditional sales funnel that is used in marketing. It can vary from one marketing team to another, sometimes ranging from lead acquisition to returning customer; or it can be from the customer’s perspective, ranging from awareness to purchase.
The inbound methodology is a bit different. As a person moves through the journey of awareness, consideration and decision-making, your marketing and sales strategies need to attract, engage and eventually delight them. By doing this, strangers will become prospects; prospects will become customers; and customers will become your business’s promoters. HubSpot illustrates this as a flywheel, as opposed to a funnel:
When applied correctly, the inbound methodology is a flywheel because it is repeatable. At the centre of this wheel is growth. If what you can offer can attract strangers, and you can engage and delight them until they become promoters of your product or company, attracting more strangers and prospects, for the cycle to repeat again, then you have a winning formula for growth.
How You Can Apply It To Your SME
Let’s go back to Marcus Sheridan’s book ‘They Ask, You Answer’. Sheridan essentially boiled down the inbound methodology to those four words, and stuck to this religiously. He started his inbound journey by writing down every question he had ever been asked by a prospect, no matter how obvious it was. He then set out to answer each of these questions by creating content. His first article, answering the question “how much is my fibreglass swimming pool really going to cost?” was number one on search engine results within 24 hours for every cost-related fiberglass pool search phrase. Using analytics, he can accredit at least 1.7 million US dollars to this single article.
So how should you begin? Marcus’ method is a great place to start. Direct your attention away from traditional outbound methods such as, for example, magazine advertisements, which may or may not be seen by people looking for a product or service like yours. Instead, write down all the questions you get from customers. You can then arrange this into a content plan. You can tailor this as you go, finding a frequency and time to post your content that works for you. Use a platform, such as HubSpot, that tracks your metrics so you can evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
Ensure that you’re creating content tailored to each segment of the inbound methodology flywheel. This will attract customers at every stage of the buyer journey. You can whiteboard or make a spreadsheet of the different questions you get and arrange them into columns according to what stage in the buyer journey they apply to. For example, “How To Protect Your Home From Burglary” might be put into the attract column, as people searching for ways to protect their property are aware of a problem they have, but they haven’t discovered a solution yet. “Top 10 Best Home Security Systems of 2021” would fit into the engage segment, as prospects who search for content like this will be aware that they might need a home security system, and are considering their options before they make a decision. By categorising your content in this way, you can ensure that you are keeping the flywheel turning, always generating new prospects.
When you’re comfortable with what questions you’re going to answer, think about what format would be best applied to each piece of content. For example, how-to videos and tip sheets are best for the attract stage of the flywheel. For the engage segment, case studies, emails and product comparison guides are a great way to nurture your prospects into customers. Free consultations, trials, retargeting and knowledge bases will delight those customers, turning them into enthusiastic promoters of your business.
How Inbound Can Transform Your SME
Inbound marketing has boomed in success since its inception. Since its founding in 2006, HubSpot has amassed over 883 million US dollars in revenue as of 2020 (up 31% since 2019). HubSpot has a case studies section of their website, where you can see hard data on how inbound has transformed marketing and sales for other businesses. One such case study details how, since 2017, CEP business Foleon has tripled its website traffic, doubled its customers, and streamlined its sales and marketing processes with the inbound methodology.
Inbound is all about capturing the attention of people who want their problems solved by your product or service. It’s about providing a solution to consumers, and offering it to them in the right way, at the right time. It’s about completely tailoring your marketing strategy to what your customers want, think and feel.
Inbound marketing empowers the consumer because it gives value in exchange for their involvement with your business. Ultimately, by providing you with better-qualified customers, who you’ve successfully attracted, engaged and delighted with your content, so that they become your biggest promoters, it will empower your business.
If you want to learn more about the inbound marketing methodology, why not check out our Inbound Marketing Glossary? It provides easily digestible definitions for related terminology, so you can brush up on your knowledge of all things inbound.
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