The Inbound Methodology - Everything You Need to Know

  Inbound Marketing | Inbound Sales
Ashlee Rolkowski
Ashlee Rolkowski

03.26.2021 | 6 min read

What Is the Inbound Marketing Methodology?

Growing up, my mom would always tell me, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Much like honey, inbound marketing works to attract new customers to your brand instead of hitting them over the head with traditional outbound marketing tactics and hoping for a response.

Don't get me wrong, traditional marketing methods still have their place (everyone needs to be hit over the head sometimes right?) but in the age of digital marketing, consumers crave a more inviting approach. Prospects want an experience that feels personalized. They want to know and trust a brand before they make a purchase decision. In short, they want to be wooed.

The Stages of Inbound: Attract, Engage, Delight

The inbound methodology looks at the process of turning prospects into customers as falling into three phases: attract, engage, and delight.  

Attract

This is where you make a first impression on your target audience. Your focus in this phase should be to build trust and provide value with relevant content.

Common Attract Phase Tactics:

Blogging 

Publishing regular blogs is often the cornerstone of an inbound marketing strategy, and for good reason. Blogs are very approachable and are an easy way to regularly offer helpful content to your target audience, without requiring any "commitment" from them. This allows them to build trust and warm up to you before they ever interact with a member of your sales team. As a bonus, providing this content up front also produces a more educated lead, so the sales team can hit the ground running.

Search Engine Optimized Content

Before prospects can get to know you, they have to find you. And to find you in the digital space, you need to have a search engine optimization strategy for your content. While it can take a long time to build traction in this area, an SEO strategy is critical to building consistent long-term lead generation for your brand.

Paid Ads

If no one has heard of you, paid ads are a great way to get your brand seen by more people and open up the opportunity for engagement. There are a lot of paid ad platforms out there, and you should choose one based on your target audience, their industry and the kind of product you offer. 

Content Offers

Once you've built enough trust with "ungated" content (content that doesn't require anything from the prospect), the prospect is likely to be willing to trade their contact information in return for a piece of high-quality content that answers some of the burning questions they've had. This is a key piece of your marketing efforts because it opens the door to further opportunities to provide value and, hopefully, drive them towards a sale. Content offers can include things like ebooks, webinars, white papers, checklists and any other valuable content that a lead would trade their email to receive.

Social Media Publishing

Different social media platforms lend themselves to different kinds of content, but all of them can provide a more organic space for prospects to get to know your brand.

think outside the inbox

Engage

At this stage, you engage qualified leads that are interested in becoming customers. The focus here is on making the purchasing process easy by removing as many obstacles in the buyer's journey as possible.

Common Engage Phase Tactics:

Website

Your website plays a big role in all the stages of the inbound methodology, but where it really shines is in the engage stage. All of your main web pages should serve to differentiate your product or service from the competition and overcome the objections your prospect may have to purchasing from you. Your website is where prospects will begin to explore your offerings and determine if they can solve their problem. 

Email marketing

Email is still one of the most direct ways to deliver content to your audience. Lead nurturing email series that follow content offers, automated sales sequences and segmented emails to your existing database are all great ways to stay in front of your prospects. 

Sales Calls

In the inbound methodology, salespeople should strive to offer real value to prospects. Sometimes, that means offering some free advice or an asset that will help their business, regardless of whether or not they become a customer. 

Inbound is about bringing value to people — that shouldn't be ignored during the sales process. A lead should feel better for having met with you. - Amanda Sleger, Business Development Manager

Delight

In this stage, your focus is on continuing to go above and beyond to delight your customers, because happy customers are likely to become promoters of your product. 

Common Delight Phase Tactics:

Customer-focused content

Content in the delight stage is often overlooked, but has the power to be incredibly effective. From how-to training videos to holiday cards to articles that expound on the "why" behind strategic recommendations, content in the delight stage creates a scalable and repeatable way to add value to a customer's experience.  

NPS Surveys

Asking for feedback not only allows your team to improve processes and communication, it also shows a level of humility that can be incredibly refreshing for clients. Once you receive a score and comment from a client, be sure to follow up, whether the feedback was positive or negative. 

Be Helpful

The more your company focuses on being a helper and a guide, the more likely you are to succeed in a world where buyers have all the power. Inbound methodology is all about acknowledging that we cannot control buyers — instead, we must provide value so that they want to follow us and buy from our brand.

The Flywheel

HubSpot, who popularized the inbound methodology, likes to illustrate these phases as a flywheel instead of a traditional funnel. That's because a good inbound marketing strategy is cyclical. Someone is attracted to your brand, then they engage with it and (hopefully) have a delightful experience. So delightful that they start helping attract more customers who also engage with your brand, become delighted and, well, you get it. 

Every customer-facing team should know how to play their part in attracting, engaging and delighting potential customers. Your employees need to feel like they've got an important role to play in this process (and they do!); so providing proper training on how to attract, engage, and delight is key.

Implementing the Inbound Methodology

Content Marketing

Since inbound marketing is focused on attracting your prospects rather than interrupting their day-to-day, content creation plays a critical role in an inbound marketing strategy. 

Content includes everything from the blogs you publish and the social media posts you make to your ebooks and webinars. 

It's important that you build a content marketing strategy that speak directly to your ideal customer and their pain points. And to do that, you need to know who your customer is and the journey they take to purchasing your product.

(If you don't have a clear picture about who your customer is, the problem they have, and how your solution can address that problem, you might consider starting with your brand's core messaging.)

Who is Your Customer?

While many marketers still use buyer personas to define who your customer is, we've found that the StoryBrand framework provides a concise profile of your customer and can be completed in a short amount of time. 

Regardless of the method you use, you need to be able to answer the following three questions: 

  • What problem do you solve?
  • How do you make life better for your customer?
  • Why should they buy from you and no one else?

Once you have the answers, you should pass all your content and strategy through that filter. That will ensure that you're creating the most effective content you can. 

What Does Their Journey to Purchasing Look Like?

Once you define your customer, their problem and how your solution helps, it will then be possible to define what the buyer's journey looks like, and how your sales and marketing techniques fit into each stage. 

The buyer's journey is made up of three stages: awareness, consideration and decision. 

Buyers_Journey_with_Explanatory_Text-1Image courtesy of HubSpot

 

As you create your content, look for areas where you might have gaps. Your CTAs and content should be customized for each stage of the buyer's journey because prospects will have different questions as they progress through their journey.  

Make Inbound Scalable with Marketing Automation

Nurturing your leads towards a sale is a big part of gaining more traction for your product or service. Marketing automation helps streamline follow-up processes so you can easily scale all your inbound efforts. Here are a few of the high-impact areas you should focus on first:

  • Follow-ups to content offers: Enroll contacts that download a content offer in an automated email series that drives them towards a sale. 
  • Automatically segment high-intent leads so your sales team knows which ones to focus on first. 
  • Automatically prompt bottom-of-the-funnel leads to schedule a call with your sales team.

Where to Start with Inbound Marketing

So where do you start? Often times the easiest place to start implementing your inbound marketing strategy is with content. Ask your sales team what questions they get from prospects and write some articles around that. They might not be perfectly optimized, but they're a great way to get your foot in the door while creating something valuable for prospects at the same time. 

On the other hand, if you're ready to implement a full strategy, you might want to talk to our (super fun) team of inbound marketers. Not only will you want to get a beer with them (I do) they can help build a strategy you're excited about and that actually works. Just tap these words right here to schedule a call. 

Want to know more about what an inbound marketing service looks like? Read more about it here.