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What is inbound marketing? How do you know that what you’re doing constitutes as inbound or outbound? Well, to make things easier for you, inbound marketing is the process of attracting visitors to a website or storefront as opposed to seeking out customers via advertisements and similar methods.

Have you ever read a compelling product story or watched a moving product video such that you “just had to” try it for yourself? Inbound marketing, all the way, my friend! Essentially, inbound marketing incorporates the notion that information and creative content can drive traffic and convert them into paying customers.

“Wait, you’re telling me that I can use content to make people pay? Whoa! What else do I need, right?” Well, easy there! While the notion here is to create exceptional content which will drive conversions, the key point to note is that it is not a single tactic, technique or campaign which will bring the results. In fact, it is a series of ongoing activities, which combined together, will bring long term revenue.

We’ve talked about shopping behavior in consumers will change over the coming years – from voice search and image search to chatbots and personalization. Notice how e-commerce transactions are shifting from a single device and platform to multiple devices and platforms. In such a scenario, it becomes imperative to use content to engage with prospective, current and past customers. Ideally, we’d want to increase visitors, conversions, average order value, and lifetime value via inbound marketing.

Remember when we spoke about the sales funnel? Well, a good approach to structure content is through the lens of the sales funnel (Attract, Convert, Close and Delight).

Inbound marketing in sales funnel

Why is inbound marketing difficult?

  • Since the same product might be available in multiple other stores, it is difficult to keep your audience engaged with exceptional content.
  • It is tough to come up with interesting stories for products and services which otherwise wouldn’t interest you.
  • You cannot see results overnight.
  • Generating relevant and fresh content is an ongoing time-consuming process.

The list can go on and on! Well, writing sure is hard! (Yes, coming from us!) It becomes harder when you need to write for the long term as well as provide value to customers.

So, how do we go about it?

SEO, blogging, emails, newsletters, etc – already started brainstorming ideas? Good for you! Although, it might be relevant to mention that every content decision you take must be driven by your audience! Your content should meet your audience’s needs and requirements.

Build a persona

In order to identify the problems your audience has, you need to know who your audience is, i.e., who reads your content and is driven enough to convert. You want answers to questions like:

Where do new buyers come from?

How often do they buy from you?

How much on average does a customer spend?

To answer the same, you need demographic and behavioral data. How old are your users? Are they men or women? Where do they live? What is their educational background? What is their field of work? How much do they make a year? How adept are they at adopting new technologies?

Of course, not everyone in your target audience is the same and neither does everyone buy from you for the same reason. Every person has a different motivation and reason to buy from you. Your job is to identify their reasons and then, segment them into different buyer personas.

Now that you have crafted a few buyer personas for your product, address each buyer persona through the entire sales process. Create material and content which will now speak directly to these people.

Attract

“Attract” is the topmost step in the sales funnel. It is when you create brand awareness and recognition. Now, you might ask, “how do I do it if people don’t know who am I?” No one is searching for you, of course! Well, people aren’t searching for you, but they are searching for a solution, right? That’s where you start!

SEO

Search engines do not process data the same way you and I do, which is why we need SEO. We want search engines to “understand” our data and deem it relevant to the search query.

While there are a bunch of ways to go about it, you might want to adopt basic techniques like optimizing Page Titles, meta description, header tags, image alt text, and rich snippets.

Alternate text for images inbound marketing
Alternate text for images
Meta description inbound marketing
Meta description

Blogging

Blogging is a fantastic way to increase traffic and footfall for e-commerce sites. The problem? It is a demanding job! Of course, you cannot write a blog post every day hoping it will answer your audience’s problems! Well, that’s why we suggest making a content calendar!

Brainstorm ideas and questions you’d like to answer and come up with a detailed content plan, which will give you enough room to create effective content.

Buffer has a fantastic blog on social media and online marketing. They share insightful and informative data while keeping you engaged.

Buffer blog inbound marketing
Buffer’s Blog

Gifts

We spoke about how companies leverage holiday marketing techniques to boost sales. As we know, people are all driven by emotions. They receive and react to emotions differently. Some might choose to buy gifts for their loved ones in order to show affection while some others might choose to treat their loved ones to a lavish dinner. Nevertheless, both the kind act on emotions.

So, why not use this as an opportunity to increase sales? Say you sell wooden handcrafted products online. Why not promote “Gift your mom wooden home decor, this mothers’ day”? Not only would this excite your existing customers but also make you visible to everyone searching for “mothers’ day gifts”.

Social media

Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat – they rule our lives. (We’d be surprised if you tell us you don’t use either!) According to Brandwatch, there are 3.397 billion active users on social media as of January 2019. Can you imagine the reach and potential?

Before you decide to get your social media game on, it is advisable to devise your goal, tone, and approach for each of the social media platforms. For instance, do you plan to share information about your industry or do you plan to motivate people in your industry? Whether you want to be conversational, humorous or informative, try to be consistent throughout the channel.

Zomato shows a wonderful example of how humor when used right on social media, can attract users.

Zomato using humor on social media
Zomato using humor on social media

Concierge MVP

Used for new product ideas, concierge MVP (minimal viable product) works on the concept of replacing recommendation and chatbots with humans. What better way than directly walking up to someone and asking them if they would buy your product or not, right?

If you’re launching a new product or think if a particular segment of the audience will be interested in your product, it is a good option to test the water before taking the decision.

Airbnb adopted a concierge MVP approach to validate their hypothesis. Once they had a handful of customers, they interacted closely with them to understand what potential customers would want.

Airbnb inbound marketing
Image Source: Techcrunch

Convert

Now that people know about you, they’ve started to include your solution into their “consideration set”. However, it is still your job to convince them to buy from you.

Factors such as your brand value, trust factor, product utility, durability, etc impact the user’s decision in this stage. While you can only build a brand and trust over time, you can take a more proactive approach in resolving the user’s queries. For instance, if she is worried about the authenticity of your brand, you can assure her how authentic you are and also show her previous customer reviews and ratings. If she is apprehensive about the price of the product, a first-time purchase coupon should be enough to nudge her to check out.

Welcome offers

Sometimes, you just need to nudge the user a little bit for her to complete the purchase. Welcome offers do just that! When you offer a small discount or a coupon to a first time user, it does the job of convincing the user to proceed through the next step in the sales funnel.

Product Queries

Have you noticed how Amazon includes “Product FAQs” along with the product description? It is because, with the advent of technology, buyers are becoming more and more aware and want to make an informed buying decision. Hence, they want their questions and concerns answered before they actually make a purchase.

It is a wise idea to include product queries and FAQs in the product page, whenever feasible.

Amazon Product Comparison on Product Page
Amazon Product Comparison on Product Page

Buyer’s Guide

Say, you are planning a vacation to a beach and are looking for beach dresses. However, you are not sure what will suit an “hourglass body” or a “pear shaped body”. Irrespective, you browse to the online store and navigate to “Dresses”. Now suppose if someone addresses all your concerns here, wouldn’t you be ecstatic? Precisely!

Acquiring and converting users isn’t always limited to the range of products in your catalog. Anticipating the user’s concerns and addressing them will bring long term results for you.

Bonus Tip: Include “How to” articles and videos when needed!

Dorothy Perkins illustrates just this! From body shapes to season wear, they help you choose not only the most trending products but also the ones suited for you.

Shopping Guide - Dorothy Perkins
Shopping Guide – Dorothy Perkins

Chatbots

Yes, nothing can replace human intervention. But there are times when chatbots can do it for you. For instance, someone who visits your website or your online store for the first time might not feel the site is intuitive for her to navigate. What would you do in such a case? You certainly do not want the visitor to bounce off because your site wasn’t “intuitive enough”! Neither can you sit online 24*7 trying to explain how to navigate across your site!

That’s correct – chatbots. Integrating a chatbot to your site solves these problems for you. You can always show a quick navigation guide, “how to use” videos and articles or simply strike a conversation based on the visitor activity.

CTAs

We’ve always emphasized, “test, test, and test!”. Call to actions (CTAs) are received and interpreted differently by everyone. While a particular CTA could be catchy enough, some others could very well be ignored! The sad part – you won’t know it unless you test it!

Testing the content is one of the low investment techniques, which you can adapt to study user behavior on your site.

Close

Congratulations, you managed to attract your target audience and convince them to buy from you. “I hope there are no more barriers now!” Well, don’t hope, ensure it! Whether users face an issue with the checkout process or leave products lying around in their carts, they can fall off before transitioning through all the stages of the sales funnel.

Smooth checkout and free shipping

Isn’t it heartbreaking when everything goes smoothly up to the product selection stage and breaks right at the payment stage? It is one of the reasons why payment gateways like PayPal, etc have incorporated the concept of “chargebacks” and “dispute resolution”. But as they say, “prevention is better than cure”.

It is wise to test your checkout process thoroughly for production glitches and bugs.

Another reason why users drop off at this stage is the “shipping cost”. Either you weren’t entirely transparent about it or the user didn’t expect it. Either way, it will hurt you. To avoid the drop off here, you can consider free shipping for orders above a certain value or even directly state out the shipping charges on the product page itself.

Site search

Site search has an important role in conversions. Everyone who comes to your site is either a browser or a searcher, i.e., she either knows what she wants or she is just exploring. There are numerous ways in which you can attract explorers (see personalization). However, you need to be a little more careful with searchers.

Searchers are the users who come to your store with a goal in mind. Once they find what they want and assuming all other logistic requirements are met, they are more likely to check out. On the other hand, if they don’t find what they want or if they encounter issues in the process, they are more likely to bounce off as well. Since there is a higher chance that they’ll buy from you, you do want to keep these users happy!

Work on your site’s search engine: how the information is retrieved, processed and shown to the users. You can also check out the various search queries and conditions to test for quality control.

Notice how Next handles search queries. Not only are they equipped to handle extreme search queries but also display search results formed in a “sub-category”, which makes the users go “Yes, they understand me!”

Site Search - Next
Site Search – Next

Delight

A transaction isn’t enough now, is it? You did a good job acquiring and converting your target audience but you’d also want them to come back to buy from you, wouldn’t you? We’re here to make an impact, so let’s also focus on building relationships!

You want to nurture the bond you’ve just formed with your customers.

Follow up emails

E-mail marketing is one of the highest ROI generating tools. Once a visitor becomes a customer, focus on selling your “experience”. This is what will bring them back and help you spread the word. From referrals to product reviews and product recommendations, you can formulate and test different kinds of follow up emails.

Birthday and special occasions

We know how successful loyalty programs are. A user who becomes a “loyal customer” enjoys several member benefits such as coupons and discounts while you enjoy “customer retention”. A win-win for all. Well, how about the users who didn’t register to become your loyal customer? You don’t want to leave them hanging, do you?

Hence, birthdays and special occasions! Who doesn’t like receiving a present on their birthday or a special offer just for their birthday? Well, most of us do! What about special occasions? Valentine’s day? New Year’s? You have all these opportunities to reach out to customers and offer something delightful to win the hearts of your customers!

Check out this example by Bath and Body Works. Notice how they use visual content and brilliant copywriting techniques to attract a visitor.

Gifts for special occasion - Bath and Body Works
Gifts for a special occasion – Bath and Body Works

Conclusion

As we emphasize, customers, nowadays are becoming more and more aware. They put in a considerable amount of research and thought before buying anything. They also talk to one another and ensure their purchase is worth every penny. As a result, customers expect more and it is our job to give them the unexpected. While it is difficult to notice immediate effects of good content, it does pay off in the long run!

What are some of the brilliant inbound marketing techniques you’ve come across? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below or write to us at [email protected].

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