Inbound Marketing: A Beginners’ Guide
Inbound marketing is taking over from traditional marketing at a remarkable rate – but wait… what is it exactly?
If everyone else is talking about inbound while you’re left scratching your head, let me introduce you to the basics you need to get started with inbound marketing.
It’s actually a little lazy on my part, because people often come to me asking about so many basic aspects of inbound, and before now, I haven’t had a handy resource that I can easily just refer them to – well, that’s about to change!
This in-depth blog will give you a good, basic run-down of everything you need to know about inbound marketing, so that you can decide whether or not it’ll help you achieve some brilliant results of your own.
Ready? Hope you’re sitting comfortably.
Inbound marketing definition
Inbound is still considered a relatively new method of marketing, and was originally born out of the need to meet the changing behaviours and demands of the customer.
What makes inbound different is that it essentially changes the way you communicate with potential customers. But how?
Well, while the outbound marketing techniques of old focused on delivering sales-driven marketing messages that tended to push customers away, inbound pulls them in with engaging and helpful content that actually answers their questions.
The idea behind this, is that by focusing on the many challenges your customers face at each and every stage of their buying journey – and solving them – you can create helpful, informative and valuable content that they will love.
So, your visitors keep coming back for more, and eventually turn into customers that are delighted at every stage of their buying journey.
Let’s take a closer look at the process involved in inbound:
What does the inbound marketing process look like?
Like nothing you’ve seen before. Essentially, inbound marketing takes your sales process (which you already know works) and adapts it for an online audience.
Inbound marketing’s methodology consists of four main stages. It essentially:
- Attracts the right kind of visitors to your website
- Converts those website visitors to leads
- Closes more of your leads into customers
- Delights customers into becoming brand advocates
What makes it work?
Another question many people have is: ‘Why does it work so well?’ The infographic below gives you a much better idea of exactly why inbound marketing is so successful:
That, in a nutshell, is why inbound marketing is taking over from traditional marketing at break-neck speed, ladies and gentlemen.
Inbound marketing books
Curious to know more about what inbound marketing could do for you? Well, it may seem a bit old-fashioned to some, but one of the best ways of learning is to sit down with a good inbound marketing book.
And there are plenty of them out there, regardless of your price range or preferred reading format.
What will an inbound marketing book teach you?
An inbound marketing book should be your go-to resource when it comes to all things inbound, and should at least give you a solid foundation of knowledge you can look back on.
Ideally, a starter inbound marketing book should include the importance of buyer personas, the basics of content marketing, how to properly optimise a landing page, and much more besides.
Which should you read?
Glad you asked. I’ve put together my top five inbound marketing books in one handy blog post, so that you can access some of the best inbound resources available to you, right now.
The above blog post gives you a full run-down on each, but if you’re just looking for a list of titles, my top five inbound marketing books are:
- Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy by Marcus Sheridan
- 6 Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel
- Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media and Blogs written by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah
- Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing written by Lee Odden
- The Marketing Agency Blueprint by Paul Roetzer
Busy lifestyle? If you have a Kindle or eReader, you can easily download one of these books and read up on inbound marketing whenever you’ve got a spare minute – trust me, it’s totally worth it.
And any quality inbound marketing book will tell you just how important my next point is…
Inbound marketing strategies
If you’re planning to get into the world of inbound marketing, it’s absolutely vital that you have an effective strategy in-place. Otherwise, you simply won’t achieve the results you desire, and all that effort could potentially be wasted.
An inbound marketing strategy involves forward planning and solid foundations, so you can keep delivering quality, valuable content and measuring the results – adjust if necessary.
The essential components of a good inbound strategy
A successful inbound marketing strategy should include the following steps:
- Creating buyer personas by identifying your audience, and where they spend their time online
- Adding to your personas by identifying their main challenges, questions and pain points
- Creating a content calendar to determine what you’re going to be writing about and when
- Planning how you’re going to share and promote the content you’ve worked hard on
- Using tools that analyse your results to find out what’s working and what isn’t. Adjust accordingly.
According to Hubspot, you can even build an effective inbound marketing strategy in just 24 hours!
One of the most important pieces of advice when coming up with a good inbound marketing strategy (in the words of the great Marcus Sheridan himself) is this: be remarkable.
After all, if all you’re creating is middle-of-the-road content that will easily just fade into the background, you’re going to see very limited results. If you can find a way to stand out or go that extra mile – even if it takes you an extra couple of hours’ research – go for it.
Don’t know what a good inbound marketing strategy should look like? Worried about going it alone? In that case, you might need an inbound marketing agency, which brings me to my next point.
Inbound marketing agencies
An experienced, professional inbound marketing agency will be your guiding light when it comes to getting a solid strategy in-place, and making sure you’re on the right track.
But, as more and more businesses are waking up to the incredible power of inbound marketing, more and more inbound marketing agencies are born – which can make things a bit confusing when it comes to choosing one.
What’s the best inbound marketing agency for your business?
This is something I get asked about a lot here at Stargazer. People coming to me asking which inbound marketing agencies really stand out for the being the best at what they do, and which of those agencies would be best suited to their own business.
Both of those are good questions to ask.
When you begin to look a little deeper, you’ll find there are various inbound marketing agencies out there each specialising in their own niches, whereas others maybe provide a range of affordable services that are most suited to beginners just trying to get their foot in the door.
Of course, there are still others that cater to the needs of large enterprises who need a lot of content and basically need it yesterday – what I’m trying to say here is; there’s something for just about every level of business.
To make things a bit easier for you, I’ve compared 8 of the best inbound marketing agencies and given you a quick run-down of each.
How to choose the right inbound marketing agency
A good inbound marketing agency should be there to communicate and help you every step of the way, as well as working with you to create helpful, quality content that your customers find valuable.
Still not sure which inbound marketing agency to choose? Well, to help you narrow it down right off the bat, here are some things you should be looking for when it comes to choosing an inbound marketing agency:
- Inbound marketing certification (more about that below)
- A transparent pricing structure
- A solid strategy tailored to your business’s challenges and goals
- Good communication – they should listen, not just talk
- Compelling case studies showcasing their previous successes
- Willing to work with you and your existing team
- Emphasise the importance of measured results
If you can find an inbound marketing company that does all of the above, and fits with your business’s existing culture, you’re onto a winner!
For more in-depth advice on whether an agency is the right fit for your business, check out my ebook on that very subject.
Inbound marketing certification
Without a doubt, the most well-known inbound certification out there at the moment is via HubSpot. Their inbound marketing certification is open to everyone, and ensures that you know every aspect of inbound marketing inside-out.
It’s completely free, and if you’re feeling confident, you can even try it yourself! I recommend going through the 12 training classes at Hubspot Academy first, though – it’s a great way of gaining a solid inbound marketing education that you’ll be able to apply to your content for years to come.
Well worth the money you haven’t paid, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
However, if you decide to go down a different route, there are other inbound marketing courses out there. They include:
- Lynda.com – This site features a few courses on the basics of content marketing and online marketing
- Digital Vidya – An inbound marketing certification course (certified by the government of India)
- Master Inbound – Self-described as the “ultimate course” for inbound marketing
In addition to these, you’ll also be able to find various training workshops and events running throughout the UK.
Inbound marketing software
Inbound marketing software is the glue that brings it all together, and helps you to get the best possible results from inbound marketing.
When you look at the companies that have enjoyed the most success with inbound, I can guarantee you that most of them were using some of the software above.
How much does it cost?
It’s not exactly cheap – Hubspot’s own all-in-one platform starts at £1,800 per year. However, software like this can offer invaluable tools and resources, including analytics and lead management capabilities, as well as the added option to integrate with other valuable tools.
Saying that, there are so many different inbound marketing software platforms out there to choose from.
Which is the best?
I’ve picked the five most popular that I personally feel are the most suited to inbound marketing, and compared their various prices and features (basically all you need to run a successful inbound marketing campaign) in this blog post.
My top five are:
It’s wise to bear in mind that just because one type of software fits someone else perfectly, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the best choice for your business.
Before making your final decision, I recommend doing your own research and deciding which features are most important to you, before settling on a software platform that’s the right fit.
Inbound marketing ROI
Remember, when it comes to calculating the cost of inbound marketing software, it’s important to work out the value (or return on investment) you’re going to get back before making your final decision.
To help calculate the potential ROI of your inbound marketing efforts, Hubspot have put together this handy calculator that’s done all the hard work for you.
How to calculate your ROI
Once you get started, it’s important to track your ROI and know which figures to focus on. There is a fairly simple way of calculating the ROI from your inbound marketing efforts, and I’m going to show you it below:
- Add up all of your costs from sales and marketing for a given time period (say, six months), including salaries and expenses.
- Divide that figure by the number of new customers you’ve acquired over that specific time period.
- Figure out your customers’ lifetime value by working out their average annual spend on your products/services.
- Now, subtract your customer acquisition costs from the lifetime value, then divide that number by the lifetime value again – this is your ROI.
- To calculate your annual gains, simply divide your customer acquisition costs by the annual value, instead.
This should hopefully give you some solid figures that you can use to determine whether your current inbound marketing strategy is paying off, or whether it needs adjusted. HubSpot also have a handy guide to help you track your content ROI.
When NOT to use inbound marketing
Don’t get me wrong – not EVERYONE can benefit from inbound marketing. It may not be the best fit for your business if any of the following apply:
- Your annual turnover is too low (below around £50,000)
- Your customers don’t need to do much research before making a purchase
- You’re not ready to invest in the inbound marketing methodology
- You’re too busy to contribute to creating regular content (coming up with ideas etc.)
- You expect to see instant results
For a more detailed explanation of the above points, read my blog entitled ‘5 Reasons Inbound Marketing is NOT a Good Fit For Your Business.
Inbound marketing is here to stay, but what does it actually mean? Glad you asked. It’s a whole methodology that has evolved to meet the changing needs of your customers, and works by bringing customers to you with helpful, quality content, rather than you chasing them.
You can learn all about inbound marketing by reading up with a good inbound marketing book, including various inbound marketing strategies you can try out yourself. If you decide to draft in outside help, an experienced inbound marketing agency will show you the way – just pick one that has inbound marketing certification.
Investing in inbound marketing software will ensure everything falls smoothly into place, with measurable results, valuable tools and analytics that allow you to get the most out of www.
And finally, use one of the methods above to calculate your inbound marketing ROI so you can have solid figures to fall back on.
So, are you ready to get started with inbound marketing yet?