There’s plenty of talk about inbound marketing, and many examples of ‘The Only’ truly effective way of making sure an inbound marketing strategy is successful. But the truth is that there are many different ways in which a marketing strategy can be developed, and plenty of metrics that can be used to determine its effectiveness.
But ultimately there’s one bottom line which needs to be used when judging the true value of an online marketing strategy – its return.
If the ROI is sound then the strategy works. It might be improved upon, but as a basis for improvement it’s sound. The thing is though that making sure a solid ROI is possible does rely on a core structure around which various permutations and alternative interpretations can be harnessed.
Breaking this down into the simplest format possible I call it the Five Point Plan For Effective Inbound Marketing, and whether you use it to create your first strategy, or you use it as a way of analysing the different stages of your existing strategy, I hope that you will agree that these five stages form the foundation for every single effective online marketing strategy which does generate a worthwhile return.
I can break my five point plan down into an incredibly simplistic form, and whilst it won’t make much sense now, I hope that by the end of this article you’ll be able to see just how this applies to your business’s campaign.
So, in a grotesquely simple format my five point plan for effective inbound marketing success is…
“Get ‘Em, Know ‘Em, Meet ‘Em, Greet ‘Em, ‘Keep ‘Em.”
Now, let’s expand upon those five stages and understand not only what’s included in each stage, but how they work together, and why they need to work in that exact order.
Step 1: Get ‘Em
Clearly one of the most fundamental of the fundamental steps is to create high quality content which will attract the interest of prospective clients and customers. But don’t automatically assume that this means creating a hefty website packed full of content.
For some businesses having a mighty website with a regularly updated blog, tonnes of articles, guides, help sections and so forth might well be a viable strategy, but for some there will be a problem. For some businesses having a great deal of content on the website doesn’t make much sense, and there really shouldn’t ever be any content on the site which is there just to ‘fill it up’. Websites don’t need bubblewrap content.
In some cases businesses are better off creating high quality content through other forms, perhaps through creating engaging videos, or even through resource or information repositories such as Hub Pages or Squidoo.
Certainly having something which will attract the interest of a passersby, much in the same way as a shop window catches the attention and interest of people walking by, is essential, but do make sure that you think carefully about what to display, and which window you’re going to use to maximum effect.
Step 2: Know ‘Em
After you have created great content to attract visitors you have two choices: either hope that your visitors will be so impressed with your content that they will go on to make an immediate purchase or order, or actively establish a direct contention which allows you to get to know your visitors.
One way in which you might approach this is to have a fantastic article which really grabs people’s attention, and offers them a great deal of useful information and advice. Then you invite them to enter their name and email address in a box so that they can receive the Part 2 which goes into more detail and covers even more topics they are likely to have an interest in.
Or you may provide a really great business video which touches on a number of points, after which you offer them the opportunity to enter their email address so that they can receive a free PDF ebook which covers all of the points raised in the video in much more depth.
You get the idea. Basically you are endeavouring to make sure that once you have attracted the attention of your visitors you need to make sure you get to know who they are, at least by name and email address. Establishing that connection is vital if you are to maximise the return on your investment of either money or time putting your inbound marketing strategy into practice.
Step 3: Meet ‘Em
There’s obviously little point collecting all those names and email addresses if you’re not going to do anything with them, BUT! And it’s a big but, you absolutely cannot then abuse the trust of your visitors by bombarding them with sales requests, special offers, time limited deals, deadlines and desperate attempts to elicit a sale.
One thing which will almost certainly see people hitting the ‘unsubscribe’ button in your emails is if they feel they are under any kind of pressure to buy anything from you.
So this third stage is when you are meeting your visitors. Not trying to extract money from them, nor even encouraging them to think about a sale, but just to meet them and ‘get to know them’.
Think of it a little as though you were shopping for a new coat. If you entered the shop and a salesman immediately sidled up to you, offered you a choice of two coats and asked you which one you were going to buy you’d probably walk out.
Instead as a customer you want to feel valued, and you want to feel you can trust the retailer. That trust comes from a feeling that the retailer genuinely understands you and your needs, and has enough knowledge and expertise to help you discover the latest trends, the most popular styles, the features which will best flatter your figure and so on.
So by making the effort not to elicit a sale at this stage you’re actually far more likely to end up eliciting a sale. At this third stage the harder you try to get a sale, the less likely you are to succeed. It’s a weird reverse psychology, but it’s entirely true.
At this stage you need to be providing your visitors with helpful information on understanding the market, how to compare different options or packages, the benefits offered by certain products or features, and other helpful information which is both genuinely useful and entirely unthreatening in terms of trying to push a sale.
Step 4: Greet ‘Em
What’s the difference between meeting and greeting you might ask? Well, at the risk of delving into semantics I would suggest that when you meet someone you take a step forward towards them, and when you greet them they are taking a step forwards towards you.
So in the third stage you are taking a positive step towards them, placing yourself in their territory, trying to help, advise and support them and their needs. In the fourth stage you step back into your territory, hopefully bringing them with you. This is when you convert them from a lead to a sale.
This stage could easily be subdivided into several smaller stages, but effectively you will be trying to transfer the focus from discussing the client’s needs, concerns or wishes, and then offering them the ideal product or service to meet those needs.
Step 5: Keep ‘Em
It is surprising just how often businesses put in a great deal of effort to acquire new customers only to then ignore them once they have elicited a sale. It is considerably harder to win over a new customer than it is to gain a further purchase or order from a previous or existing customer.
It’s important to make sure that all of the effort you went to in winning over your customer in the first place isn’t then seen as nothing more than sales talk.
If, after the sale is complete, you make the effort to keep in touch with the customer, offering help, advice or support with further issues, there is a good chance that you will gain subsequent sales. On the other hand there is also a real danger that if you overdo this you’ll be seen as pushy and put them off.
Once you have been through the first four stages of this five stage plan you will have a great deal of information which is of considerable value to you as a business. You have the customer’s name, email address and other details, and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of their current needs, concerns, wishes and level of understanding. This is information which can be used to provide them with a personalised and genuinely valuable service in future, so don’t make the mistake of stopping once stage four has been successfully completed.
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