The Inbound Method: Why it Still Works

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In 2009 Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shaw release a book called Inbound Marketing. The premise of the book was that marketing, as we knew it, was changing. People no longer paid attention to the mass messaging that was being forced upon us each and every day. Their hypothesis was that instead of interrupting people with products and services they don’t want or need, we needed to learn to attract them throw education. Today inbound marketing has become much more than just a buzzword and is being embraced by major companies across the globe.

Inbound can be broken down into four phases; attract, convert, close, and delight. While the tactics around each of these phases differ from company and industry, the core concepts have not changed. It’s still about helping your prospects get the answers they need right when they need them. My goal for the remainder of this post is to explore the phases of inbound and share a few tips on how you can use them across any industry.

Attract

The first phase of inbound is all about attracting your audience to your message. Traditional marketing and advertising are all about interrupting people with commercials, ads, and direct mail with the hope that they will pause just enough to give you their attention. As you are well aware, we live in a world saturated with marketing messages. Most of them just become more noise that we ignore. While businesses know that marketing is important to reach new markets and potential buyers, leaning on outdated tactics ends up costing more and delivering fewer results.

Inbound is a user-centric approach to marketing. The attract phase is all about learning what your user’s pain points and problems are and framing your product as a solution to them. This means you have to take the time to define your personas and get to know them. This information will help you create a message that resonates with your audience.

But…. just creating a better message won’t attract people on its own. You also need to deliver that message through the appropriate channels. This is where successful inbound marketers separate themselves from the rest.

The internet has opened more channels for people to connect with family, friends, businesses, and people around the world. If you stop for a moment and just think of the vastness of this tool, it’s truly amazing. What’s even more impressive is the communities that have been built across the web. Very niche communities can be found on the internet that is very devoted to very specific topics, products, learning, sports, and more. It’s within these hyper-segmented groups where the power of inbound truly lies.

Convert

Attracting a lot of attention is nice, but if none of your traffic converts, you’re not going to grow. The second phase of inbound is all about establishing a connection. Conversion is much more than just a lead. It’s a person who is in search of a solution to a problem they are facing. By building in multiple conversion points across your campaign, you make the process of connection much easier and more organic.

Traditionally the way we thought of conversions was by building a landing page with a form to capture information. Then we would send them to a thank you page where we would suggest the next step in the process. While this still works, there are now many other ways we can create conversion points throughout of site and social channels.

Before adding a new conversion point, you need to ask yourself a deeper question. “Why would someone click on this?” Using empathy to understand the why before your strategy will lead to a more human experience for your prospects. In testing your ideas, try to understand what someone outside your organization may think and feel when coming across your conversion points.

From Facebook buttons to exit banners, there are dozens of ways to add conversion points to your marketing efforts. Every audience is different and will react in their own unique way, so take some time to test your conversion points to see what is working and what is not.

Close

This term is most closely linked to sales and can, at times, carry some negative connotations with it. As the lines between sales and marketing blur more and more, we will need to learn the power of closing the deal. But unlike traditional sales, inbound closing is focused on delivering the prospect a solution they themselves already want.

The hardest part in sales is convincing one partner to hand over their money to another. The reason transactions are hard is that ofter the person selling has to convince the buyer that they need the product or service. Inbound takes that process and flips it. By educating and serving your audience pre-sale, they themselves have already bought into the product by the time you get on a sales call.

Know I am not saying they won’t have any objections and that you’ll lose 100% of your leads, but I will say that the groundwork is already laid. People change when what they are doing is more painful than what they could do. This physiological process is very complex and unique to the individual. By creating great content that speaks to your prospect’s pain points, you can begin to help them uncover the root of their pain and offer up some alternatives in your products and solutions.

Delight

The final phase of inbound is all about your community. Whether they are a long-time customer or one-time user, delighting those who come in contact with you can yield tremendous benefits. If done right, your users will become one of your best marketing tools. 68% trust online opinions from other consumers, which is up 7% from 2007, and places online opinions as the third most trusted source of product information. [Nielsen]

A lot of companies do a great job at the first three phases of inbound. Great companies put their heart and soul into the delight phase. This is because you can’t put a price on a solid, happy, and excited-to-share base of users. The internet makes sharing easier and faster than ever. This can work both ways, so be careful.

Delight is about value-added. Sure, you loved their problem, but how do they feel about your company? If you think for a moment, you can come up with a number of products that solved your problems, but you didn’t like the business at all. For me, I’ll go back to the old way of doing things if the business does match my values and I know I’m not the only one.

Connect with your users on a personal level and share the “why” behind your business. Give them a voice and walk with them along their journey with your organization. The return, in the long run, will be well worth the time spent.

Inbound marketing is still relatively new. While many have heard and agreed with the concepts, few are executing them on a daily basis. The reason? I think the investment it takes upfront to learn about your audience and test whether or not what you are doing works is intimidating. It’s easier to spend money on traditional tactics and hope they work. With inbound, your marketing is tracked and tested. It brings more accountability to your marketing efforts and forces you to be disciplined. Change can be hard. But it can also be the greatest decision you’ve ever made.

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