Hi, I'm Josh from Noisy Little Monkey and I'm here to help answer the question ‘What is inbound marketing?’ Now before we can delve into the nitty gritty of inbound, we first need to understand the relationship between inbound and its older brother, outbound.
What is outbound marketing?
Outbound marketing – sometimes referred to as legacy marketing in the world of inbound – is all about space, time and disruption. So just getting in front of people regardless of need or interest: stuff like print ads, TV spots and cold calling are all typical outbound techniques. They’re all geared towards just interrupting prospective buyers and just broadcasting at them, even if they’re not ready or interested in a product or service.
To help illustrate this, imagine receiving a phone call from your doctor, out of the blue. Without asking how you’re currently feeling and with limited knowledge of who you are, the doctor starts to spout about how this time of year, loads of people have the flu, so you should skip the queue for appointments and jabs by signing up for some private healthcare.
Now this is a bit rubbish. The problem with the doctor’s outbound sales and marketing approach is threefold: the doctor hasn’t asked if I'm already ill, if I can actually afford private healthcare, or even if I live in the catchment for the clinic. I might take the time to consider the doctor’s offer if my interest is piqued but, in all likelihood, I’ll probably pass because the offer isn’t contextually relevant to me or my situation. An inbound approach would’ve probably fared a lot better.
What is inbound marketing?
The three main differences between inbound and outbound is power, context and knowledge. With traditional marketing, sales teams and marketers held all the power. They moved the deals forward, they pushed and promoted, regardless of need or context and they were the ones with the knowledge and the product or solution.
With inbound, the script is flipped. Buyers have the power this time. They choose when to purchase, the context and relevance is key to their first conversion and those initial conversations and it’s the prospects who are actively researching and educating them on their issues and solutions: they are the ones that take the first step.
When it comes to inbound, instead of interrupting people and grabbing attention, we’re fighting for visibility when the buyer is ready to take that first step and begin that bit of online research or maybe even offline research. Tactics like marketing automation, social media marketing, PPC and SEO are all tactics that we use to appear in front of our buyers during those key moments.
What is a buyer persona?
To understand those buyers and what those moments are, we use these: this is a buyer persona. It’s a semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer based on some real data and some educated speculation about demographics, motivations and their goals.
In it, we have demographic info like job role, authority and work life so we’ll know how old they are, what their purchase authority is and also what kind of distractions they have in their day-to-day work life. We’ll also have some softer identifiers like demeanour and communication preference.
We also have more info related to Mary’s profession like goals, challenges and tactics for success. From here, once we’ve built out and fleshed out these personas, we can figure out what each persona’s buyer’s journey is.
What is a buyer's journey?
When we talk about a buyer’s journey, we’re typically talking about this: this is the flywheel, also called the ‘donut’, the ‘dartboard’, the ‘bagel’ or the ‘turntable’. The flywheel helps us illustrate the steps and awareness stages a persona moves through when thinking about – or learning about – an issue or solution. The four stages of the buyer’s journey are as follows:
Awareness, where a prospect is experiencing symptoms or a problem or an issue, but actually hasn’t taken the time to figure out or name the issue or its root cause yet;
The consideration stage where a prospect might have diagnosed that issue, put a name to their symptoms and is considering potential fixes;
In the close stage and the decision stage, a prospect has picked their approach is comparing some vendors prices and reviews, so trust indicators and case studies will be really important at this stage in the journey;
In the delight stage and loyalty stage, this is where a customer has maybe purchased and we’re aiming to turn them from a client or a prospect into a promoter or an evangelist, so this is about just offering good customer service.
Now each step of the buyer’s journey needs to leverage different tools and tactics in order to help educate those personas and nurture them from a stranger into a prospect, even if they’re not ready to become a customer yet, and a customer’s buyer’s journey can begin at any stage, so having a marketing strategy that covers all the bases from awareness, consideration and decision is a must.
To explain how an inbound journey would work, let’s go back to our flu scenario. I’ve been having some aches, headaches and sore throats for a few weeks now and it’s been getting progressively worse. My first step is probably here; I might type in my symptoms, so I'm going to type in 'cough, sore throat, fever and headache', because I don’t actually know what’s wrong with me yet.
The first link I click on my search is most likely going to be the NHS; it’s going to help me diagnose what’s wrong with me based on a few of those symptoms and based on what they’ve got here, it sounds like I’ve probably got the flu or the startings of it.
Now in terms of remedying my symptoms, that same article has offered me some suggestions in terms of potential treatments, so I’ve gone from the awareness stage to the consideration stage. From here, I can make the decision to fix the problem by going to my local GP or signing up for some private healthcare or I can just decide to treat myself but, most likely, at this stage, I'm probably not ready to make a decision yet as I need a lot more information, so I might download a guide to educate myself a bit more and understand how to treat the individual elements of my problem.
Now, if we’re going to apply this same inbound journey to Mary, it will probably look a little bit like this: we’re going to start in the same place so Mary types in the symptoms of her issue and, in Mary’s case, she’s got an unbearably sluggish site and doesn’t know what’s wrong, so she’s going to ask a conversational question like this: why is my site slow?
Going back to the flywheel, we’ve mapped our conversion path to Mary’s buyer’s journey. We’ve captured her interest and intent with some search engine results pages, with Ste’s article - that piece of content has educated her on her issue.
We’ve then nudged her towards some even more useful info with a call to action and we’ve gauged her intent and captured some of those details with a landing page after the CTA and from there we will continue to qualify and nurture Mary with some clever automation offering her some more useful guides and info.
Throughout that journey, she’ll be offered multiple opportunities to take the next step, to contact an expert or, if she’s qualified herself enough and shown enough intent during that journey, a BD rep will get in touch and reach out and offer to chat in a consultative manner.
So that’s inbound marketing in a nutshell. If you want to learn more about inbound, head over to the Noisy Little Monkey blog and resources pages and if you’d like to learn how to develop your own buyer personas, you can download our guide by filling out the form at the end of this video.