Inbound Marketing helps you attract hot prospects to your digital content, convert them into leads, and nurture them to become customers and raving fans. Sounds easy right?

Well, our friends at HubSpot have made doing Inbound easier than ever with their incredible technology stack, methodology and training. But it does take time and experience to become an Inbound expert.

However, if you're after a short introduction into the basics of Inbound - you've come to the right place.

Step 1: Understand your personas

Understanding personas is a crucial component in successful Inbound Marketing programmes.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of a group of customers who have (among other things) similar goals, pain points and triggers. Developing persona profiles helps you internalise the ideal customer you're trying to attract. Personas help you relate to your prospects as real humans.

The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.).

Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10. If you’re new to personas, start small! You can always develop more personas if needed later.

Download our free buyer persona template to get started.

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Step 2: Map out their buyer journeys

Next, think about the headspace your personas enter at different stages in their research and buying process. There are 4 common stages most buyers go through regardless of whether they are consumers or B2B prospects:

Awareness:

This is the very early stages of research when your personas are experiencing 'pain'. They've become aware of a problem, but they might not be able to articulate the source or solution to that problem.

At this stage, Inbound Marketing content should be designed to help solve problems and seed ideas at a very high level - non branded, broad, helpful content. Attract people to your awareness stage content through social media, blogging and carefully selected paid media channels and when they get there, give them a reason to exchange an email address with you in return for your valuable content. Got an email address? You've got a lead. But don't try to sell to them just yet...

Consideration:

Now your personas have a bit more knowledge about their problems, they start actively searching for solutions. This is the 'compare and contrast' stage where you will be evaluated against other solution providers.

At this stage, your Inbound Marketing content should be focused on showcasing the benefits and features of your solution, done in a way that is relevant to your individual personas. Your job is to warm your leads up by nurturing them with relevant content that answers their questions about your product/service and company.

Decision:

Now you're leads are ready to make a purchase decision and you are in their final consideration set. Well done. Now your Inbound content needs to convince them, you're the best. This is where content like testimonials, staff profiles and free trials play a role.

If your leads have made it this far, they're hot - so you can now pass them over to your sales team to convert. And your sales team will love you because you've educated and nurtured your leads. And with the right automation platform in place (see below), you have a history of all the content they've engaged with to share with your sales team to spark a really great sales conversation!

Delight:

A stage so often neglected. Although marketing tends to end it's involvement with leads at the sale, this is no longer the case. If you support your sales and customer service teams and continue to provide helpful content to surprise and delight your customers throughout their lifecycle with you, they will become raving fans - and promoters. Word of mouth people!

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Step 3: Choose a good marketing automation platform

Rule No. 1: Never implement a marketing automation platform without a strategy for what you are trying to achieve.

For marketing automation to support lead generation and sales conversion activity then critically, both the Marketing and Sales teams should be invested in strategy development, platform selection and have shared goals in terms of what the programme is expected to deliver. We see time and time again the Marketing team delivering hard-earned, high quality leads, only to see them disappear into the void of the Sales department if the Sales team aren’t equal stakeholders in the program.

Shopping for a marketing automation platform is not an easy job with so many different technologies on the market. Fortunately, we've created a guide to help you navigate this process. Download our guide to Marketing Automation

Step 4: Create compelling content

Now you have your personas created, you understand their buyers' journeys and you have a platform in place to run your Inbound programme, it's time to get creative (at last)!

But what types of content formats work best? Well the answer is - it depends...it depends on your personas, the buyer journey stage they're at, the channel you're creating content for ...and the list goes on.

The trick is to brief your content into your creative team or agency well factoring in all of the above. Warning: don't throw all your budget away on one really expensive piece of content. Instead, look at smart ways to 'sweat' your content so you get more mileage from it. Plan a calendar for the year (by persona of course) so you can budget to cover all your key personas.

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Step 5: Distribute your content widely

Gone are the days where you could upload content, share a few social posts on your company Facebook page, and be guaranteed of some good traffic to your content.

Between Google, Facebook and all the other social networks, the job of getting people to your content has got a whole lot more complicated - and expensive. 

You cannot expect to attract new eyeballs to your content without paying for it. Organic still plays a really important - but long term - role. You simply must invest in paid media to be discovered, but there are many ways to approach it.

Again, the right digital paid media strategy for your content depends on your personas, where they're hanging out, what other content they're consuming - and your budget.

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Step 6: Watch, learn and refine

If you've got this far - well done. This is actually the most important bit.

When you're a busy marketer, it's very hard to find the time to look back and reflect on content you've produced. Even harder if you can't access performance data easily (but if you nailed Step 3 and have got HubSpot Marketing Hub on your side, this part is easy!).

Inbound Marketing as a strategy is a guiding philosophy. Your persona profiles are an educated guess about how you think your ideal customers will behave. The only true way to see if your strategy is right is to watch how people consume your content in the wild.

Inbound Marketing should be a learning experience for your business. As such, you should be refining your personas, your content offers, and your nurturing programmes based on the real-world behaviour of people who interact with your content.

Summary

We hope you found this simple guide to be a good starting point to learn the fundamentals of Inbound Marketing. We say this often, and it is so true. Inbound Marketing is both an art and a science, best served with support of a good Inbound agency. And we just happen to know of one who'd love to help you.

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