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Inbound marketing means marketing in which the potential customer contacts the company themselves. In other words, someone has a problem that they’re trying to fix, they look for information and find you.

They feel that you might be able to solve their problem, so they reach out to you.

Inbound methodology can be seen as a kind of magnet that attracts customers. Outbound marketing can be seen as a kind of megaphone which is used to communicate to potential customers whether they wanted to hear the message or not. 

Difference between Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing

Cold calling is often seen as the opposite of inbound efforts. Those speaking for inbound often state that cold calling is no effective these days. However, inbound marketing and active selling, of which cold calling can be an important part of, do not rule out one another. 

It’s challenging to draw a line between inbound and outbound. The purpose of Inbound marketing is to draw customers closer to the company and its services, but the first contact always has to occur somewhere.

Let’s look at this through a few examples.

1. Is it inbound marketing if you use Facebook advertising and buy impressions?

In general, the answer is yes, but in this case, the potential customer has not ordered or moved towards your brand before you push your message to them. What is then the real difference to cold calling, for example?

2. Is it inbound marketing if you buy a placement from Google Ads and force your site to the top of the search results, even if another site would answer the needs of the potential customer better, at least according to Google’s algorithm?

Once again, the answer is usually yes, but what’s the difference between this and cold calling? You are pushing your own message to your target audience.

3. Is it inbound marketing if you are using power like -groups on LinkedIn or Instagram to get your message across to potential customers’ awareness?

Usually, this is also classified as inbound marketing, but in the same way, in this case, you are pushing your messages to potential customers.

The only rational distinction between the inbound and the outbound is whether your marketing is user-centric or focused on products or services. Are you trying to force-sell your products and services or are you trying to help potential customers even before they buy from you? The channel you use in contacting the potential customer may not matter that much, even though cold calling is often perceived as more uncomfortable and less service-centric than for example Facebook marketing.

The Five Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing

To get a deeper understanding of what inbound marketing is, let’s take a look at the building blocks of inbound marketing next.

1. Contacts

No matter what you do, it’s all about who you do it with. In inbound marketing, it’s important to keep in mind three main groups:

1. Partners in the industry

Networking and partnering up with relevant people in your field can help you gain access to new audiences. You can also help each other – you scratch their back and they return the favor.

2. (Potential) customers

Everyone who shows any interest in your business should be viewed as a potential customer. They can be people that asked you for an offer, you cold-called, or followers on social media.

This is essentially your target audience that you aim to sell your products to. Defining the path from prospects to leads to opportunities to sales is key to succeed. It’s wise to keep track of all your contacts with a modern customer relationship management (CRM) system.

3. Employees

Let’s not forget who are at the fore-front of your business: your employees. They both engage with your business, but they also engage with your potential customers.

Keeping them happy and engaged is vital. For this purpose, we recommend regularly measuring eNPS to track employee loyalty and satisfaction.

2. Buyer Personas

This stage is often neglected, but this should always be at the core of your business. Defining who are your ideal customers is lies front and centre of your business.

Defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) involves going over:

  • Industry
  • Number of employees
  • (HQ) location
  • Founded date
  • Total funding status
  • Valuation
  • IPO status
  • Decision maker in the company

Once you’ve defined your buyer personas, it’s much easier to direct your marketing to lure them into your sales funnel!

3. Buyer’s Journey

You’re probably very familiar with the typical sales funnel: awareness stage, consideration stage and decision stage.

Go over (in detail!) how your different buyer personas actually end up buying from you. This is a great exercise which whole purpose is to fine-tune your funnel and to eliminate any friction.

When you have a detailed view of your buyer journey, you can design your marketing messages with surgical accuracy to fit the need of that exact stage where your leads currently are.

4. Content

Content includes everything you produce and post about your company.

  • Website
  • Blog content
  • Social media posts
  • Newsletters
  • Email marketing
  • Guides
  • Chatbot conversations
  • Ads

Effective inbound marketing means that you provide prospective customers with relevant information. Essentially, you’re showing them that you understand their problem and that you have a solution that’ll fix it for them.

5. Goals

We all aim to make all website visitors into customers. But doing inbound marketing also includes many other factors.

Align your goals to your industry, track the key performance indicators regularly and improve your strategy accordingly.

Your goals can include:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Get more website visitors
  • Increase interaction, e.g. engage potential customers
  • Collect warm leads
  • Turn contacts into customers

How do you get started with inbound marketing?

In practice, inbound marketing is long-term, user-oriented development of marketing. A good starting point for inbound is usually pondering the challenges and problems that customers are facing.

  1. What are the most critical problems the customers have?
  2. What do they ask our salespersons?
  3. What are they googling?

The answers to these questions provide you with a list of topics you could discuss in inbound marketing. Generally, the data about search volumes provided by Google is a reliable base for inbound marketing because it makes it easy to avoid making generalizations based on individual cases.

Inbound Marketing Plan

When you have an idea of ​​what topics your customers are interested in, you should start building a concrete plan. At least the following things should be considered when making the plan:

1. Goals and budget

What kind of results do you want to achieve and how much resources can be used to reach the goals? Set clear goals for increasing sales, make a concrete budget and plan how it is allocated.

2. How do customers get interested in your services? What kind of content and search terms could be used to attract customers?

You could go through and prioritize all the different search terms with the help of SEO keyword research. It is particularly important to define search terms that have the greatest potential for business but with minimal competition.

3. What topics are so important to the customers that they are willing to leave their contact information to get more information on the topic?

Define different lead magnets for different stages of the purchasing process. For example, if you are contacting sales managers, the topic may be for instance an online course focused on sales. 

4. How do we convince the customers that our solution really works in their situation?

Although the customer’s contact information has been obtained and she is interested in your service, she may not yet be sure that you are the best possible supplier. 

Although other inbound marketing activities would be done well but the end of the funnel is not carefully thought out, customers will only be warmed up for your competitors. Typically, impartial references, customer experiences, comparisons, and other similar content forms are the best ways to convince customers.

You can start using Trustmary for free and collect reviews and testimonials for your business.

5. How do we distribute the produced content?

Even if good content and lead material were produced, results would not be obtained if the content could not be found by potential customers. At this phase, one should consider utilizing different channels both organically and through paid advertising. Possible channels include Facebook, Instagram, Search Engine Optimization, Google Ads, LinkedIn, and so on.

6. Schedule and division of responsibilities

Who does what and when? Nothing reasonable is usually done without a clear timetable and responsible people. Thus, scheduling can be even the most critical part of the entire design process.

7. Monitoring results

Measure the results at regular intervals. For example, have a meeting with the marketing and sales departments on the first Monday of each month. In that meeting, discuss the results from the previous month and plan the development tasks for the following.

Examples of Inbound Marketing

There are countless examples of good inbound marketing.

However, as a concrete example, it’s probably the easiest way to use our own inbound marketing as an example. On our website, one can find guides, and other conversion points such as a possibility to join a mailing list, booking a time for demo, and a possibility to ask for a contact. We use especially Facebook and Instagram, but also LinkedIn, Google Ads and search engine optimization to drive traffic to these conversion points.

We guide the visitors of our social media pages to our website and try to turn them into leads, after which we warm the leads with the help of customer testimonials and other content. The most potential leads are immediately being contacted directly by the salesperson. However, the sales contact the lead latest when it is seen to be warm enough.

Many people think that inbound marketing combines fine and complex funnels, but in practice, most of our traffic is driven directly to the guides and the sales school. Our guides and online courses are designed so well that we can get contact information of potential customers at low costs. We get those people in the circle of our marketing and can continue the process with marketing techniques and sales tools.

Of course, the targeting and optimization of advertising have their own tricks, which are not the subject of this article, but the process as a whole is quite simple: producing relevant content, directing people to interesting lead magnets, convincing the customers with testimonials in different forms, and closing the deal. 

Use Social Proof in Inbound Marketing to Get Results

The secret weapon for acquisition and to converting people closer and closer to buying is to use social proof from people whose problem you’ve already solved. In short, social proof is very (if not the most) valuable content that will both increase trust potential buyers and increase SEO rankings.

Types of Social Proof to Try

  1. Video testimonials
  2. Testimonials
  3. Reviews
  4. Chatbots with social proof
  5. Star ratings

Place testimonials and reviews as close to your CTAs as possible to get the best results. This is easy to do with testimonial and review widgets.

Why?

Simply because when the benefits come from happy customers instead of your marketing copy, it’s more convincing. We all want to hear what our friends, colleagues and acquaintances think about a product or a service rather than read copy text written by the company.

We’ve already noticed that simply by placing a video testimonial to your checkout page can result in a 32% increase in conversions. In laymen terms: 32% more paying customers! Similar results can also be noticed in all other stages of the sales funnel.

If you don’t have video testimonials yet, don’t worry. You might get more business also by using traditional text reviews on your checkout page.

Resources on Inbound Marketing

In my opinion, the best way to learn is to try out things in practice. To get inspiration, you should follow how others sell their products and services and apply these practices in your inbound marketing.

HubSpot has its own inbound marketing course that you can certainly benefit from. However, it’s good to keep in mind that it is difficult to learn the essential things from the courses without practicing.

If you are attending training and courses, try the things in practice as well. When we provide our customers with training, we also discuss the basics of inbound marketing, but we do not yet have comprehensive training material on the topic.

Inbound marketing is effectively implemented digital marketing, which means that all training considering digital marketing can be useful. Keep in mind the rise of artificial intelligent technology that can help you automate your inbound marketing!

Here are a few examples of training materials which could be useful:

In Summary

There are many different ways to do inbound marketing. In a way, inbound can be synonymous with effective digital marketing. Inbound marketing doesn’t exclude active sales, but inbound and cold calling can actually support each other.

The most important function of inbound marketing is increasing sales. The easiest way to do that is to add reviews to your marketing. They’ll help you build and strengthen your brand.

And in many cases, inbound offers a rather good range of tools to increase sales. However, it is not suitable for all cases, so it is not worth seeing it as a magic trick.

Last but not least, when thinking about inbound marketing, you always have to think about the whole process and at least try to measure it. Leads and visibility are worthless if they do not turn to deals. Therefore, keep your goals in your mind when planning inbound.