What is Inbound Marketing and How Does it Work?

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 7 minutes

If you’ve heard about inbound marketing, you likely caught wind that it is a great way to attract leads, convert them into customers, and even find buyers you would otherwise miss out on. Inbound marketing is not new, but because when most people think of traditional digital marketing and SEO / PPC comes to mind, inbound gets no airplay in the conscious business mindset.

Thanks to marketing automation software like HubSpot, the inbound marketing methodology is building momentum and crushing business growth. The problem is that when businesses learn about inbound they want it, but they simply don’t understand what it does or what it’s process looks like.

This article is meant to help businesses keen on hitting their high-revenue targets understand WHAT inbound is and HOW it can help their business grow. This article will start by defining what inbound marketing, the buyer’s journey and a buyer’s persona is. It will ten explain how these three work together to help businesses achieve growth. Then we will examine the onboarding process of a new inbound client, and what they can expect in the months to come.

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What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing strays from the tired old outbound method by marketing to target buyers with the right messaging, at the right time, while facilitating a two-way stream for communication. It operates on these four stages:

Attract – Lure strangers and convert them into visitors through blogs using an organic SEO strategy that covers valuable information target customers care about. Social publishing and paid methods can also be used to attract top-of-funnel interest.

Convert – Turn visitors into leads through the use of forms, CTAs and landing pages with additional information that can move leads deeper down the funnel.

Close – Transform leads into customers. Enroll leads into workflows with CRM and email that nurtures them with more detailed information that motivates them to make a purchase.

Promote – Turn your customers into promoters with content and incentives that urge them to spread the good word on your business and its products. Delighting customers impacts your bottom line. Staying in touch with them is vital to your growth.

buyers journey for inbound

What is the Inbound Buyer’s Journey?

The buyer’s journey is a process customers go through to become educated on products and services while learning how the item will improve their life. It is a three-stage process that includes:

Awareness Stage – They buyer realizes they have a problem. Example:  Jerry, a 35 year-old tennis player, has ongoing elbow pain.

Consideration Stage – The buyer pinpoints their problem and engages in research to find the best solution. Example:  Jerry researches various ways to address his elbow pain. He reads about finding a specialist doctor, aquatic therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture and elbow braces.

Decision Stage – The buyer makes a purchasing decision. Example:  Because the elbow brace is the least expensive and easiest option, Jerry decides to buy one from a company that sent him a guide on tennis-related injuries.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictitious representation of an actual buyer; your ideal customer based on market research and actual data about your existing clients. Thorough buyer personas include customer demographics, motivations, goals, behavior patterns and even personal information like hobbies and family status.

inbound marketing process

Inbound, Buyer’s Journey and Buyer Persona Coming Together

A comprehensive buyer persona will allow marketers determine where to focus their time and strategic efforts thus allowing the ability to attract the most high-value visitors, leads and customers. Once the best inbound marketing agencies have done market research, they turn to an organization’s sales team to get additional data pertinent to creating a buyer persona while understanding the typical journey that buyer goes through within said industry.

Once the persona and buyer’s journey is mapped out the inbound workflow is strategically engineered to attract all the right visitors, leads and customers using precise messaging and content to resonate at the right stage of their journey. Marketing automation software allows segmented emails lists of various buyer types to receive the right emails and downloadable content that will help them make a purchasing decision. It takes a skilled team of marketing experts to manage the automation piece, develop the right content, and lay creative design that keeps leads focused to the brand and its solution to their problem.

what is inbound marketing

Onboarding an Inbound Marketing Client

Every digital marketing agency has its own process, but the ones who are known for producing the best work that creates revenue are the ones who don’t try to speed up the onboarding process.

The onboarding process is the most important piece to a new engagement. It allows marketing agencies and their clients to align on goals, understand the market and the client’s unique place in it, and to get a deep understanding of their customers and ideal clients.

There is also a technical process that can be quick and simple, or require some additional strategy. For example, the HubSpot CRM can integrate with a number of email marketing platforms like Mailchimp, and ecommerce platforms like Shopify. However, if an organization had some custom coding and dev work on their backend, integration may take slightly longer.

The technical onboarding piece includes these steps:

  • Set HubSpot portal access to the marketing agency’s team and client
  • Tracking setup
  • Link social media accounts
  • Integrate existing CRM (if applicable)
  • Data and content migration

While the technical pieces are put together, the marketing agency’s inbound, SEO and content teams perform these tasks:

  • Market research
  • Set call with client to create buyer persona(s)
  • PPC / SEO keyword research
  • Social media audit
  • Content audit
  • Google Analytics deep dive

The onboarding process can take up to 4 weeks to complete. If it falls into the scope, many agencies will run quick eblasts as soon as the technical pieces are put together. These are “quick win” email campaigns that target buyer lists with copy and a CTA leading to a purchasing page or form submit.

inbound professionals

What to Expect When You are Anticipating Results from Inbound

Quick answer: you might get sales in the first week, or after the first month. It all comes down to reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right messaging.

You want your marketing agency to smash the funnel, that’s a given. But just as there is a process consumers go through when making a purchasing decision, so too is there a process for working a successful inbound campaign.

Inbound marketing strategies only work when you give them every opportunity to be successful. You need to trust your marketing agency. MIT conducted a marketing study on HubSpot customers and found that 92 percent of them saw an increase in web traffic and leads as a direct result of the inbound process. 49.2 percent reported an increase in sales. Inbound marketing works. You just need to give it time to work with its garnered leads.

You will get the best results when you follow expert advice. If you had to have your appendix removed in surgery, would you tell your physician how to operate? Inbound marketing should be no different.

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Allow the Inbound Process to Work

Don’t expect inbound to generate thousands of leads in the first month. There are no miracles or magic switches; your marketing agency needs freedom to work the process and collect data along the way to make necessary optimizations for performance improvement. You are not purchasing a 30-second ad during prime time television; you and your marketing team are engineering a system that will take some time.

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Get Excited Over the HubSpot Data!

In the first full month of an active inbound campaign, you should see an increase in blog views, page views, email open rates, website traffic and conversion rates. Even if the increase is small, this is very positive because that number will continue to rise. While some clients get a revenue return on their inbound investment in 3 or 6 months, it can take up to 12 months for others to see the groundwork pay off. It all depends on how strong the email lists are out the gate, the industry, the client, and other variables.

The worst thing you can do is ghost your agency after 3 or 4 months because you aren’t satisfied with the results. If you do this you will never have a solid marketing device. So long as monthly reporting shows growth, you can feel confident to stick with it and let it grow along with your business.

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