The Inbound Methodology (Since Interrupting Doesn't Work Anymore).
Back in 1998, I was living on the third floor of an all-girls residence at my University. Our entire floor would anxiously await the most-popular spot in cable TV - Thursday night with a new episode of Friends. We would pile into each other’s rooms to take in the main event accompanied by millions of other viewers across North America.
In 2004, 52.5 million viewers tuned in to the Friends finale. That's 52.5 million people that sat and watched not only Friends, but the TV commercials between scenes.
Imagine… 52.5 million people sitting through outbound, interruption, marketing.
Fast forward to today, the average viewer has 1 - 2 other screens open and activated while viewing mainstream TV. This means that commercial interruptions simply provide the viewer an opportunity to scroll Facebook, Instagram or research their next purchase decision. Interruption marketing (selling) simply doesn't work anymore.
You audience receives far too many pitches in the run of their day and they’ve trained themselves to filter out interruption marketing!
ENTER THE INBOUND METHODOLOGY
When I first discovered the Inbound Methodology, I immediately registered to be certified by HubSpot. I had been using inbound strategies and tactics for years but had never stepped back and considered the entire process/journey as a whole. In fact, most organizations use inbound marketing in one form or another without really understanding how blogging, video, social media and other content should work TOGETHER as a cohesive system.
Inbound marketing is the process of creating and distributing valuable content to your target audience in a way that builds an engaging, long-term relationship with them. At the very minimum, your content must be useful to the user. At best, it evokes emotion and builds connection with them - after all, humans are wired to seek connection.
The content created is usually then distributed through social media channels and search engines where it waits in anticipation of the moment that your target customer needs it most. Content delivered via inbound marketing should directly address your buyers problems, challenges and questions without necessarily trying to sell them a solution.
Let’s take my recent experience in purchasing an artificial tree for the first time.
I’ve had real Christmas trees for the majority of my life. I love the smell, experience and tradition of having a real tree in my home for the holidays. It's around this time of year that I usually turn my furnace on for the first time to fight the changing temperature outside. Coincidentally, it also happen to be the time when I begin to suffer from intense eczema - every single year. My skin becomes inflamed and I spend December very uncomfortable. I’ve always attributed this discomfort to the fact that my furnace was on and the air was dry…. until last year.
Turns out that I’m allergic to trees! It also turns out that this allergy is pretty common and many other people are as well!
I’ve spent years searching online for eczema relief. I’ve read hundreds of blog posts. I’ve even slathered my arms in olive oil and wrapped them in saran wrap at the suggestion of one savvy blogger.
At no point did I ever read the suggestion that having a tree allergy could be the root of my problem.
As soon as I discovered my allergy, I went out and invested in an artificial tree.
When you’re deploying an inbound marketing strategy, you must consider WHY people are buying your product! In the case of tree allergies, there is a lot of information online for people who already know they have a tree allergy. There isn’t much to help people get from point a (I have eczema) to point b (real trees are causing my eczema).
If I were selling artificial Christmas trees, I would ensure that my content strategy included resources to help people identity the root of illness and discomfort in the month of December including many possible causes, one of which would be allergies. This would not be my ONLY content strategy - but it would get significant attention on my content creation roster.
WHAT IS THE INBOUND METHODOLOGY
Hubspot’s Inbound Methodology identifies 4 stages of the Buyer’s Journey. As an inbound marketer, it is your job to guide leads through the 4 stages of the Buyer’s Journey from attract to delight. Understanding these four phases of a buyer’s journey are essential to creating content that actually solves your buyer’s problem.
The Attract Phase
The first stage of the buyer’s journey is the attract phase. This is the phase where your buyer realizes that they have a need/problem but are not necessarily seeking a solution yet. Content in this phase of the journey generally includes blog posts, videos, social media and keywords/SEO.
Adidas is killing it with their blog Gameplan A, which contains articles of inspiration and interest for their buyer personas and such titles as "How Being A Mom Helps Me Stay Fit."
The Convert Phase
The convert stage of the buyer’s journey is where your visitors turn into leads - usually this is signified by their willingness to give you their contact information. The key to the convert stage is an equal exchange of value between both parties so you will need to offer your visitor something that serves them in the exchange for their contact. Value offers often come in the form of free downloads, guides, webinars, etc. and are also called “freebies.”
In order to capture these leads, the convert phase requires a call-to-action (CTA) or a landing page.
We love this example of a great landing page from Impact Branding & Design offering a free resource on how to generate more leads from your blog.
The Close Phase
The close phase of inbound methodology is where you turn those leads into customers! Generally, this is achieved through emails, sales pages, pricing information, technical specifications, etc.
Our friends at Dovico use a pricing page to deliver the close phase of their buyer’s journey.
The Delight Phase
Inbound marketing requires that the customer experience doesn’t end after purchase. During the delight phase, savvy inbound marketers turn customers into promoters by continuing to deliver them value. This can be done through events (think customer appreciation parties); webinars; or resources that the customer can use to enhance their lives.
It’s a few years old but a great example of delight: Our friends at Martell Custom Homes designed this video series to answer common questions received from past clients about their homes.
The Inbound Methodology serves as a process/framework for building relationships with your audience. That said, the success of your efforts is highly dependent on the quality of the content that you create and share with the world. As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Purpose-driven content marketing, delivered via the inbound methodology is what we believe and live.
If you’re ready to get started with purpose-driven marketing to fuel your inbound strategy, you can download our free starter guide below. (Oh, and if you didn’t catch that, this is where we move you from the ATTRACT phase to the CONVERT phase.) See what we did there??