Inbound Marketing is fast becoming the industry standard when it comes to marketing on the Internet.
Inbound Marketing has a lower cost to implement and sustain while also having a higher return on investment especially when it comes to lead generation.
The core concept of Inbound Marketing is to attract the people who are interested in what you offer to you. To do this, you produce quality content that appeals and turn this interest into leads and customers.
Why does this apply to cleantech? Where's the relevance? Inbound Marketing is focused on refining processes to increase the efficiency of conversion and closing. Something sounds familiar doesn't it.
What does this process look like?
From the great people at HubSpot here is an awesome picture to summarise the methodology behind Inbound Marketing:
Some other iterations of this picture are shown as a funnel which you can also look for.
As this picture illustrates, Inbound Marketing works in a loop. You want your customers to always come back for more and you want them to tell others to do the same.
With the core idea of Inbound Marketing mentioned above, we should take a look at the ideas/themes that make this marketing strategy work.
Core Themes of Inbound Marketing
Create Quality Content and Distribute
Inbound Marketing starts with content creation. If you do not have good content on your pages and website, there is nothing to attract people or get them to stay.
You want to create content that is targeted towards your intended audience. After you're done creating, it's time to get sharing. Share all the good content you create on all the appropriate platforms.
Life Cycle Marketing
No one becomes your number one fan just like that. You have to lead most people through this process from stranger to fan.
Each step of the process has it's own tools and techniques to help people along to the next stage.
People like it when things seem to be made just for them. They love it when you answer their questions or solve their problems. It's really important to remember this because personalisation is one of the key aspects of Inbound Marketing.
The more content and the more response and feedback you receive from your target market, the easier it is for you to do this. All these things should tell you what your target market wants to know/want answered and in turn enable you to create better targeted content for specific groups of your audience.
People are everywhere and people use everything. In this modern age, you can find people on different domains and areas.
You have to reach out to people through the channel they are most comfortable with. Any of them. No one is going to find you if your target audience doesn't read where you publish.
Find out where your potential fans are, and go reach out to them. There is no better sincerity than that.
Put it all together
The last thing to remember is not really a thing. A lot of places refer to it as Integration. What that means is just put everything you just learnt together.
Everything fits together. Once you know where to publish content, what content to publish, it all becomes easier and easier with time.
For a quick summary of everything here, we also made a slideshare on the basics of Inbound Marketing.
Unless you are familiar with Inbound Marketing already, the chart is just something pretty to look at. The words make sense but at the same time you're not sure how they apply.
Well, that's probably why you're reading this. So let's get started on making sense of things.
To be honest, this step is pretty self-explanatory. Out there are all these strangers on the Internet. We want to attract visitors to our website from these strangers. However, we don't want all of these strangers to come visit.
What we want is to attract the right people. These right people are our ideal customers. We say ideal because we mean it. When you have your business, you should have in mind the exact people you want to sell to. You should have in mind their qualities as if you know them in person. Quality includes everything from goals, challenges, pain points, to just general demographic and personal information. This is your ideal customer. You want to attract people as close to that as possible because they will be the foundation of your business.
Once you've figured out who these people are, it's time to reach out to them. Here are some common tools that cover this process.
Blogging is a basic way of attracting the people you are looking for. Many people say it is the basis of Inbound Marketing.
Blogging is important to this whole process for many reasons. First, and in my opinion foremost, you are creating quality content by blogging (at least you should be. Don't be lazy.) With your blog posts, you should be answering a question they have and it should speak to them. The language you use should be comfortable for your audience and yourself.
Reaching out in this fashion gives you two advantages. Firstly, you are controlling who you are attracting with the content you produce. With the questions you answer, and guides you put out, you choose who you are targeting.
Secondly, this helps you learn more about what your ideal audience wants. If you put out a piece of content your audience doesn't like, they will tell you. If your content attracts the wrong sort of people, you will find out. This helps you create more specific content to ease the pains and answer the questions of your potential customers.
Wooo we get to Search Engine Optimisation. The general rule of thumb for people when they want to buy something is they go to their favourite search engine and they type in what they want. What you want, is to appear at the top for relevant searches to you.
How do we do this? For a more in-depth explanation on SEO you can take a look at a previous blog post here. The short hand version basically says create good content (sensing a theme), use the right key words, optimise your website and its pages, and build links from related websites to yours.
Another simple one. Basically, this is just saying your website should look nice and it should run well.
It doesn't matter what you do, if your website is bad, no one will read or stay on it. This can be because of loading times, the website layout, or just how the website looks.
One of your first priorities is to makes sure your website is optimised and pleasing to look at. If it isn't, get that fixed as soon as possible. You can either do this from scratch by finding a new website developer or you can build a website from a host.
You have all of your great content and value. So what do you do with it? Share it with the world of course. What's the best way to share things these days? Social media!
It doesn't just stop there. You should be using this to do two things. One, use this to engage with people. Customers like it when it feels like they're talking to a person and not just some entity out there in the cosmos. Two, figure out where all your future customers hang out. Different demographics use different social media.
So, figure out where your customers are and how they liked to be sold to.
So now you're getting people coming to your website or checking out the content you have made. What's the next step? Your Inbound Marketing chart says convert these visitors into leads. Next question? What in the world does this mean? Aren't they customers now? Nope.
Well, the honest truth is you can get lucky. There will be people who will just say sure let's sign up for this. Most of the time though, it's not so smooth. What you need is more information. In this case, you want contact information.
Contact information, even just email addresses, is incredibly important to your online marketing. It gives you a direct line to the person and therefore is something to be treated with respect. Never abuse contact information since it is given in trust.
The next question should be along the lines of how to get this precious contact information. Going with the Inbound Marketing theme, the answer is... content! What a surprise! In return for contact information, you provide good content such as eBooks, whitepapers, courses or even trials. All of these things you provide should be useful and interesting to your ideal customers.
Now what are some tools that help us with this exchange process? Let's start with:
Your basic information gatherer. This is the basic, here fill this out, give us your information, and we'll give you this thing here. You want your forms to be simple and easy to fill out. Don't make things complicated or gimmicky because otherwise you're making people work too hard for something that should be quick and easy.
A call-to-action is a button or link to encourage people to sign up (call them to action) to your eBook, webinar or course etc. Generally, calls-to-action are snappy and eye catching.
Calls-to-Action are a great way of getting people to sign up for and get their contact information. There are three reasons you might not be getting interest with these. One is, you aren't using enough of them. The second reason might be because your calls-to-action just really aren't that exciting. The final reason is they're just awkwardly placed or paced. Spamming a bunch in a small area takes away form each one.
So remember. Snappy and eye catching is what you're aiming for and you're allowed to be liberal with it.
A landing page is a web page where you send people to sign up. All your calls-to-action and other sign up links should lead to these landing pages. You will usually have a form of some kind on this page for you to gather contact information.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind for creating landing pages. One is to keep them simple. A landing page with too much stuff on them just distracts the person. Secondly, since it is simple, they are easy to personalise. Use a new landing page for each new thing you are pushing. Finally, keep it relevant. Don't try to push anything else on a landing page. Just keep it on topic and short.
You need to keep a track of all the contact information you are pulling in. Even more importantly for the future, you need to keep a track of the information around it. Keep a track of what interaction you have had. This can include emails, landing pages, or social media etc.
You want this information to help you optimise the process of converting. Figure out what works best for you and your target audience. The better you know how each individual factor works out for you or how different styles work, the easier it is for you to convert in the future.
Time to make some money. This is the stage where you are turning you leads into paying customers. Sounds great right?
How you will close will change according to what industry you are in. The most important thing to remember is they have given you their contact information already, so they already have a measure of trust in you. How you close is up to you.
What we can provide in a guide, is just some tools to help the process along.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) means you need to keep a track of all your lead information and interaction. Wait, isn't this just what the previous contact section was about?
Not exactly. We need to take this one step further. What we focus on here are things like where are they in the sales process, what are their preferred forms of contact, when are the best contact times, are the still warm, has the lead gone cold etc.
Generally, this is tracked through some type of software.
We want this information and to keep it well organised so it's easier to reach out and engage with people with each stage of the process along the right channels at the right time.
Ew, email marketing. Bet that's what you thought. What you're thinking of is probably email spam. Email marketing is very common now, or even just emails in general.
What we mean by email is you need to email followup. This is for those leads who sign up but aren't ready to commit. To help them out, you provide them with more value and focused content that they will enjoy (see, all that info gathering is useful).
Never abuse email though. The biggest turn off is if you spam people with emails. Try to do at most maybe one every two or three days. One a day is alright if the content is really just that good. More than that and it just looks needy.
A fancy way of saying use all the info you have on your leads. What you're trying to achieve is that anyone and any leads who click onto your website and products get sent or see targeted information.
You want to give everyone a personalised experience according to what they are interested in. Even more than that, you would really prefer this process to be automatic. This is important because it keeps the attention of the people and gives them a good experience. You want automation because the more people and leads to capture, the harder it is to do manually.
This is definitely a 'tool'. As a final reminder, this is just a fancy way to focus specific content and offers to people who are interested in it by using the information of what they look and are signed up to.
Case Studies & Social Proof
This is more of a useful tactic than tools.
Social proof is basically just positive past clients saying yes you are good. Simple.
Case studies are nice because you're showing your leads how things work in action. It allows you to share results along with good and bad decision with clients. The best part about case studies is it helps people understand and connect to your company as people.
Ignoring all that, the only takeaway you need is that these are easy ways to show people, hey look our stuff works. You should buy it.
So through this stupidly long blog post, or this point guide, into Inbound Marketing, we focus on always providing great content to people at every stage of the process to make things as enjoyable as possible. Just because people have spent money doesn't mean you stop caring. You want to sustain this process so your customers stay with you for life.
Once people have spent money on you, the more likely they are again if their experience was good. What's more, if you delight them, they can even become free advertising for you. Who doesn't love that?
Everyone knows what it's like when your friends come to you and go "Are you excited for x company to release y product? It's going to be so awesome let me tell you all about it!" or "I just bought this thing the other day. It's so great. It has all these features. There's a sale. You should buy one too!"
You want your customers to spread the word and enlarge your fan base through word of mouth. The best way to do this is to continue providing great content and all that jazz to your customers even after they have spent money. There is no lose in this situation.
So how do we keep this trend going? Instead of the bold titles above, we're just going to list them here since they are relatively short explanations. You know what lets go crazy with a bullet point list:
- Surveys - Great way to get started with getting to know your customers better and making sure you're providing the service they want. This includes all the feedback you get through different sources such as reviews etc. This is an easy way to learn what can be improved on.
- Social Monitoring - By this point, you should know where your customers are and where they gather. What you need to do is pay attention to the trends and popular ideas that are going through these circles. What do they like, dislike, have problems with, comments, or even just question? This helps you to create more content and products to address these issues.
- Smart Personalisation - So your customers have spent money. What else can you offer that they will enjoy? What kind of person do they seem to be? How far through the process are they? All these question should help you create more personalised call-to-actions, content, products and features for your customers. Keep your customers engaged with this focused content.
So, here we are! Congratulations on reading through this long post and thank you for staying with us for so long.
By this point, you should have learnt what Inbound Marketing is, why it can be useful for you, and above all how it works. Since this is really just a basic guide as to the whole process there are obviously more things that can be learned through more focused guides into each specific step, factor or tool.
Most importantly, we just really want you guys to remember one basic thing. Create great content to attract the right people to you. That's all. Once you have mastered this, everything else will fall into place quite easily.
For those of you who want more information we have a free eBook for all of you out there. Grab it now to get 25 tips on how your website can help you drive your sustainable business.