Inbound marketing is the art of attracting potential customers, engaging with them and converting them into leads. It's a structured process which involves careful planning and a long term view.
The implementation of that plan involves the use of a number of marketing tools and techniques, and content marketing is the one you need most to get it to work.
What Do Customers Want?
It all starts with painting a picture of your ideal customers, or buyer personas; understanding who they are, what they do and how they behave. But why is that so important? It's so that you can anticipate the journey they will take from being aware that they have a problem to deciding to buy from you. And if you can anticipate the steps they will take, you can provide the sort of information they need at each stage.
Where Does It Start?
If we're looking at the stages of your buyers' journeys, it starts with awareness. So how do you attract attention online? Well, there are a number of digital marketing tools to choose from: you can pay for advertising, and we've run some very successful Google AdWords and Facebook Ad campaigns. Or you can be found in the organic search results or through social media. How do you do that, I hear you ask? With content, of course! Content that resonates with people who are looking for answers. Helpful, informative blog posts, web pages, advice, tips - something that will catch their attention and make them say," yes, that's exactly what I was looking for!"
So you've got their attention and they have clicked a link in Google or Twitter and landed on your site. They enjoy what they see. Don't let them wander off and sample your competitors' content; grab them and hold them tight (not literally, please!) And how are you going to do that? Yes, you've got it, with more content. Make it clear what you want them to do next whether that is downloading some detailed information, watching a video or signing up for a demo.
Keep In Touch
If your website visitors are at the early stages of their decision making (or what marketers call "the top of the funnel") they are unlikely to press the Buy Now or Get A Quote button on their first visit. They'll find out as much as they can, go away, look around, think for a while. And once they've done their research they'll need to compare prices, investigate delivery information or find out how it works. Now, if the content they found on their first visit to your website was really helpful, you'd think they'd come straight back again... and they might. But human beings are forgetful creatures, so they might not remember where they found that fantastically helpful information.
But, on the other hand, if you happen to send them an email around the time that they start investigating, they might just click on a link and find exactly the information they need.
How Does It Fit Together?
Your inbound marketing process gives you the framework which you can fill up with your great content. Think of inbound marketing as a beautifully designed, performance car, and content as the fuel that makes it go. The more fuel and the better quality the fuel, the faster and further it's going to go. Without information, blog posts, videos, podcasts, how-to guides, checklists, demos, emails and the like, it's only an empty shell. Your content has the potential to attract exactly the sort of people you want as customers and keep them engaged until they are ready to buy what you are selling. Chris Marr spells it out in his article How Does Content Marketing Lead To Sales?
At the start I said that Inbound Marketing involves careful planning and a long term view. Your Inbound Marketing strategy puts the process in place and from there you can develop a content plan to suit each of your buyer personas. The planning is important; if you just start creating blog posts at random, you might strike lucky but if you plan it properly you stand a much better chance of attracting the right type of person and turning them into a long term customer. And ultimately, that's what it's all about.