As a marketing agency, you’re always looking for innovative, sustainable ways to bring value to your clients and keep them coming back for more. Part of that equation is having an inbound marketing strategy. It’s an absolute must for any business looking to establish a solid brand presence, build credibility, and provide consistent value.
In the vast sea of marketing tactics, it’s easy to drift away or get caught up trying to do too much all at once. And it’s understandable–your clients expect tangible results at the end of the month and your agency wants to deliver exceptional services.
However, it isn’t all about ‘Sell, Sell, Sell!’ or overdoing it to the point where potential customers click ‘Stop Seeing This Ad’ every time your client’s marketing campaigns show up. And sure, we get it–aggressive advertising helps to bring in those sales and get your client’s brand in front of customers.
Operating in this way isn’t the only approach your agency should take and that’s where an inbound marketing strategy comes in. This softer yet powerful approach positions your client’s brand as an authority, provides information freely to those looking for it, and establishes an engaging relationship with potential customers.
In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about:
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is the process of attracting your client’s target audience and helping them along the customer journey through relevant, informative content. In doing so, an effective inbound marketing strategy creates real value, builds trust, and increases the likelihood of conversion later down the road.
What Makes Inbound Marketing Different?
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is all about attracting, engaging, and delighting potential customers.
Instead of outwardly pushing for customer attention or interrupting their experience, inbound marketing adopts a targeted, value-based approach that focuses on the buyer’s persona and their needs at exact points in the buyer’s journey.
In fact, it works to bring customers through your client’s door more organically and willingly.
Inbound marketing attracts customers and helps them find your client’s business themselves through:
Search engines (organically or through search advertising)
Why Is Inbound Marketing Important?
We’re sure you’ve been in a situation where the pressure was on to get your client’s brand out there and drive sales (just think of your last high-stake client advertising campaign).
While more sales-driven marketing campaigns are needed to meet ambitious targets, they shouldn’t be all your client relies on for results. After all, there must be an easier way to get leads without constantly being in ‘sales’ mode. That’s where inbound marketing swoops in to save the day.
Here’s how inbound marketing works.
1. Helps You To Understand Customer Pain Points
Inbound marketing is a multi-channel approach that pushes you to understand your client’s customers on a more granular, personal level. After all, creating value is a by-product of knowing what type of information customers are seeking and meeting their needs accordingly. And it’s no secret that the foundation of great marketing campaigns is a relevant, emotional tie-in.
By understanding customer pain points, you’re able to create content, designs, calls to action, and even website interfaces that highly appeal to your client’s target audience.
2. Brings Knocking Customers to Your Client’s Door
It may become exhausting, dull, and onerous to constantly pound the pavement for leads or advertise the same message over and over. Not only could it be creatively draining for your agency, but it also may not resonate with your client’s audience after long-term, repeated exposure.
An inbound marketing strategy freely provides useful information and lets customers come to your client. That way, your client will interact with prospects who have some level of interest and brand awareness off the bat.
3. Builds Trust, Positive Brand Reputation, and Authority
By constantly churning out high-value content, your client has the potential to become a leader and brand authority in their industry. Even if a prospect isn’t quite ready to convert, inbound marketing increases the possibility of brand recall and even word-of-mouth referrals.
A good inbound strategy delivers high-quality content for every stage of the buyer’s journey, which results in gaining customer trust and a solid brand reputation.
4. Creates Opportunities for Future Collaborative Ventures
When your client is making waves through an effective inbound marketing strategy, it’s not just (potential) customers who may notice. Churning out high-value content continuously may get the attention of industry peers, which also has a favorable effect. As a result, it opens up opportunities for collaborative ventures and increases marketing traction.
Having an endorsement or strategic partnership with another reputable brand has the power to strengthen brand authority, drive website traffic, increase social media followers, and much more when leveraged correctly.
5. Cost-Effective, Engaging, and Wide-Reaching
A solid inbound strategy is a gift that keeps on giving (and at little to no cost to your agency). While it’s a long-term solution that requires consistent investment, there’s relatively no cost (unless you’re outsourcing some parts of it). As a result, it’s cost-effective and engages your client’s audience over the long haul.
In addition, once your client’s high-value content gains some traction, there’s a positive ripple effect in all parts of the business (such as higher brand visibility, increased revenue, and even producing brand advocates).
As a result, your client’s brand becomes more established. And when those inbound marketing goals are being hit, it’s a win-win situation since your agency’s ROI is also demonstrated (woohoo!)
The Inbound Marketing Methodology
To create an effective strategy, you should adopt the inbound marketing methodology below.
Each stage meets prospects where they’re at and provides the information (or prompts) that are most applicable at that point in time.
Different Stages of Inbound Marketing
Here’s what you about each stage of the inbound marketing methodology.
During this phase, prospects may or may not know about your client’s brand. To grab their attention, create content that speaks directly to this target audience and entices them to learn or engage more.
Fostering trust and establishing brand authority are especially important here, as it sets the stage for whether this prospect converts later on. During the ‘Attract’ phase, be sure to utilize informative marketing collateral such as:
Long-form blogs that address specific user concerns
Videos that educate and entertain
Informative social media posts
Relevant keywords in all applicable places (e.g., headlines, video titles, social media captions, within the body of blog content)
Agency Tip: Be sure to track content marketing KPIs at regular intervals to understand what resonates with your client’s audience the most.
After you’ve gotten the attention of your client’s website and social media visitors, the next stage is actually converting them into leads. And it’s an intuitive step–after all, you don’t want to put all that effort into getting their attention for no reason.
At this stage, make it as easy as possible for a prospect to submit their contact information, request more details, or touch base with your client (e.g., through a social media messaging platform).
To move prospects further down the sales funnel and get that highly-coveted contact information, be sure to incorporate the following:
Calls to Action (such as a ‘Call Now’ button)
Contact forms (e.g., social media lead generation forms, ‘Contact Us’ website forms)
High-value, downloadable resources (e.g., e-books, templates, checklists) in exchange for contact details
Agency Tip: Have a highly visible NAP profile (Name, Address, and Phone Number) and e-mail address on each page of your client’s website. That way, prospects can easily reach out at any point during their website visit.
You’ve put in the work to get contact information–now what? It’s time to turn those leads into customers. At the ‘Close’ stage of the inbound marketing methodology, focus on engaging with leads and getting them as close as possible to conversion.
To increase the likelihood that it happens, be sure to incorporate:
An e-mail marketing strategy that encourages conversion (e.g., drip campaigns that remind prospects of an incomplete action, such as completing an online purchase)
A robust CRM platform that streamlines lead nurturing and follow-ups
Lead scoring to assess and target the most serious leads in the pipeline
By identifying the most serious leads, keeping an eye on conversion metrics, and streamlining this entire process, you’ll be on your way to inbound marketing success.
Agency Tip: Automate marketing processes where possible, as this will help your agency to save valuable time, scale more efficiently, and have sufficient touchpoints with your client’s most serious leads.
Even after those leads are converted to customers, your client’s inbound marketing strategy shouldn’t stop there.
At the ‘Delight’ phase, there’s an opportunity to engage with past customers, ensure their continued satisfaction (if repeat conversions are applicable), and create brand loyalists that are happy to advocate for your client’s business. Maximize the potential of this stage by:
Sending customer satisfaction surveys
Offering exclusive deals, discounts, or first preferences for past customers
Having an ample bank of applicable resources (e.g., customer support pages, manuals, help chats)
Customer appreciation content on your client’s social media pages and website
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By adopting a strategic approach for each stage of the inbound marketing methodology, you’ll position your client’s brand front of the right people at the right time.
Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing–What’s The Difference?
While inbound and outbound marketing strategies are both needed for your client’s success, they both serve different functions and adopt distinct approaches.
Inbound Marketing: A ‘Pull’ Approach
Let’s take an example. Say you’ve got a retail client that specializes in making orthopedic running shoes.
Their brand is often discovered through their YouTube video series on the benefits and features of their unique product offering. The organic reach of their video content combined with a strong social media brand presence, a solid content strategy with blog posts and e-book guides on choosing the right type of shoe, a few funny and relatable memes, and a fully optimized website, they’ve created a seamless way for prospects to learn more or make a purchase.
In fact, your client often receives rave reviews for highlighting the pain points and common challenges associated with generically shaped shoes. Not only does it position their brand as a viable solution, but it also resonates with the experience of their target audience.
That’s the power of inbound marketing. It takes a customer-centric approach and provides value through:
Long-form blog posts
Informative videos (e.g., an educational YouTube series about a particular issue)
Live chats or chatbots for customer support
Downloadable guides (e.g., e-books on a specific subject matter)
Social media (e.g., informative graphics, videos, live streams, and reels)
E-mail marketing (e.g., drip campaigns for every step of the customer journey)
And an effective inbound marketing strategy should also:
Show your client’s willingness to share valuable insight
Adopt an empathetic, listening, and information-sharing approach
Provide viable, relevant solutions to common pain points
Have easily accessible calls to action on your client’s social media channels and website
Inbound marketing puts the power into the hands of a prospect and allows them to decide how a brand relationship evolves.
Outbound Marketing: A ‘Push’ Approach
This same client may also have a more aggressive marketing approach in tandem with their inbound marketing strategy. To bolster online purchases and meet sales quotas, they may opt for offline marketing (such as a billboard that’s located close to their physical store).
Much of their outbound messaging includes ‘Purchase Your Orthopedic Running Shoes Today!’ coupled with compelling images of past customers. In general, outbound marketing:
Drives brand awareness and visibility
Uses a primarily sales-driven approach (in hopes of getting conversions)
Involves directly approaching potential customers
Targets a wide, unsegmented audience
To accomplish these outbound marketing goals, some common methods include:
In-person events (e.g., seminars, trade shows)
More traditional forms of advertising (e.g., billboards, banners, TV commercials, radio ads)
Digital display advertising
In summary, inbound and outbound marketing strategies have different functions. But at the end of the day, they should work together to ensure your client’s success. Here’s a quick summary to distinguish between the two.
Adopts a ‘pull’ approach by drawing in viewers, providing high-value content, and driving traffic
Adopts a proactive ‘push’ approach by directly reaching out to prospects with the intent of getting conversions
Focused on digitally-based mediums
Includes digital display advertising and traditional forms of marketing
Targets specific buyer personas and disseminates content for all stages of the buyer’s journey
Sends messaging out to mass audiences to drive brand awareness and conversion
Non-intrusive: doesn’t interrupt a prospect’s digital experience
Interrupts a client during a digital and/or in-person experience
How Is Inbound Marketing Different From Content Marketing?
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re quite distinct. Wondering what’s the difference? Here’s a breakdown:
An inbound marketing strategy is a multi-channel approach that focuses on delivering high-value content through SEO, social media, PPC advertising, and of course, excellent content marketing (such as relevant blogs, videos, and e-books for example).
Content marketing, on the other hand, is one form of inbound marketing. On a granular level, this arm of inbound marketing focuses on the actual content substance, what’s relevant to your client’s target audience, and the best way(s) to disseminate that content.
Think of inbound marketing as the overall umbrella that houses content marketing (in addition to other forms of inbound strategies).
How to Create an Effective Inbound Marketing Strategy
Now that you understand how inbound marketing works, it’s time to create an amazing and sustainable strategy for your client. Here are a few important steps to follow.
1. Understand Your Client’s Target Audience
First things first–who are you marketing to? Before you mash the gas on an inbound marketing strategy and disseminate content all over the place, define buyer personas and build the ideal client profile. We can’t emphasize it enough!
Take the time to understand who’s most likely to search for your client’s industry expertise or product offering, and craft content to meet those needs. A comprehensive buyer persona includes:
Demographic details (e.g., age, occupation, gender, marital status)
Interests and behaviors
Current pain points and emotional state
Goals and aspirations
Include as many details as possible, and create multiple buyer personas if needed. That way, you’ll be more equipped to create a healthy bank of content and provide real, relevant value on a continual basis.
Agency Tip: If your client has a sales team, get feedback on what customers on the ground are typically looking for or asking about. This will help to refine your client’s buyer personas, based on real-life, highly applicable insight.
2. Use Customer Journey Mapping
An often overlooked step is the importance of customer journey mapping. Ask your client the following questions to determine what happens at each stage of the buyer’s journey:
How do prospects typically find out about your brand?
Which sources bring in the most traffic?
What types of questions do prospects typically ask?
What are the most popular ways of engaging with your brand?
How is your brand similar and different from competitors?
What does conversion look like for each inbound marketing tactic?
What would be considered micro conversions (i.e. smaller indicators of possible campaign success)?
Which traffic sources bring in the highest conversion rates?
What types of additional actions do satisfied customers take (if any, such as leaving a social media review or testimonial)?
How does your brand foster and reward loyalty?
By understanding what customers experience at each touchpoint with your client’s brand, you’ll be in a better position to create relevant messaging and utilize the most applicable platforms.
3. Conduct Market Research
Customer needs may evolve over time and you’ll want to keep your ear to the ground in case of any developments.
As part of your client’s inbound marketing strategy, incorporate research-based tactics such as:
Customer feedback forms and follow-ups
Asking for direct feedback while engaging with customers
Having consistent communication with the sales team on customer feedback (if applicable)
Agency Tip: If you’ve collected valuable customer feedback that’s worth sharing with your client’s audience (e.g., customer trends), use data storytelling to create a captivating brand narrative. Not only does it position your client as a thought leader, but it also doubles as a valuable piece of content.
4. Set Relevant and Measurable Goals
Depending on the scope of your client’s inbound marketing strategy, things can become complex pretty quickly. Figure out what types of inbound marketing tactics your client wants to incorporate and set appropriate goals based on that.
From keeping on top of SEO KPIs to tracking email KPIs after hitting ‘Send’ on a Mailchimp campaign, outline what your client wants to achieve and stick to measurable goals.
As it’s commonly reiterated, set SMART goals, i.e., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Inbound Marketing Best Practices
When creating your client’s inbound marketing strategy, remember to SCOPE things out, i.e.:
Standardize: Keep your client’s aesthetic, narrative, style, and content as cohesive as possible. Adopting a standardized approach increases brand recognition and lets prospects know what to expect when interacting with your client’s business.
Contextualize: By understanding your client’s customer base and their pain points, you’ll have a better idea of how to create tailor-made content. As we’ve outlined earlier, be sure to craft buyer personas, use emotive messaging, and address specific customer needs.
Optimize: Ensure that your client’s content and marketing channels are performing as well as they should be. Track relevant metrics, conduct regular audits and keep an eye out for any important digital marketing updates or trends.
Personalize: Where possible, use customer names (e.g., in email marketing campaigns), segment correspondence according to demographic details, and personalize the experience as much as possible. Speaking directly to a customer and showing a well-researched understanding of their needs goes a long way in building brand authority.
Empathize: Foster a relationship and ongoing interaction with your client’s customer base through authenticity, empathy, and genuine concern for their pain points. As it’s often said, the best marketing is emotional.
By keeping these tips in your inbound marketing handbook, you’ll be on your way to providing tremendous value to your client’s audience time and time again.
Types of Inbound Marketing Strategies To Adopt
Inbound marketing is made up of intricate moving parts, which is why you must adopt a dynamic approach to ensure it works optimally. Not exactly sure where to begin? Here are a few important strategies to include.
Incorporate Different Types of High-Value, Educational Content
There’s no shortage of ideas to choose from. When it comes to creating engaging and attention-grabbing content, consider using the following:
Informative, educational videos (e.g., tutorials, FAQs, How To’s)
Downloadable resources (e.g., e-books, whitepapers, fillable templates)
Reels (e.g., personable, relatable content such as ‘The Person Behind The Brand’ or ‘Why I Started My Business’)
Interactive polls to drive engagement
Long-form blog posts on user-relevant topics
E-books on in-depth and industry-relevant subject matters
Infographics on key findings based on significant data collection
Agency Tip: Don’t be afraid to repurpose high-performing content. Because an inbound marketing strategy is a multi-channeled approach, there’s an opportunity to optimize content in different ways (e.g., taking a high-traffic, long-form blog and creating a weekly series of social media posts).
Conduct Audits of Existing Marketing Efforts
If your client has an established brand presence, consider running an SEO audit and a social media audit. By conducting these exercises, you’ll understand:
What type of content has historically performed well
The most high-traffic sources
How your client’s brand compares to competitors
This will give you comprehensive overviews of what’s happening and will point to any areas for improvement. By evaluating what’s working (or what isn’t), you’ll be in the position to make specific and informed decisions.
Agency Tip: As part of your client’s overall marketing strategy, conduct audits at regular intervals (such as monthly or weekly, depending on your client’s goals). That way, you’ll keep an eye on notable progress or any overlooked issues.
Use Keyword Optimization
The heart of any well-crafted inbound marketing strategy is considering what users are searching for and why (particularly for SEO and PPC efforts). By adopting this logical approach, you’ll have a better understanding of which specific keywords and phrases to incorporate in content-related efforts, and even uncover related terms that are applicable to your client’s target audience.
Agency Tip: To maximize your client’s inbound marketing strategy, be sure to use different types of keywords, including dividing keywords by user search intent. That way, you’ll cover all possible bases and increase the likelihood of your client’s brand being found by the right audience.
Acquire Relevant, Reputable Backlinks
After you’ve created amazing content, it’s important to maximize its traction as much as possible. The more traffic it receives, the higher the chances of improving brand awareness and conversion. Consider reaching out to other reputable, high-traffic websites for backlink opportunities or even guest posts. One credible backlink will go a long way to increase website traffic and brand visibility.
Agency Tip: Use a backlink monitor to keep track of any new or broken backlinks. That way, you’ll keep tabs on any new developments and backlink opportunities.
How to Prove the ROI of Inbound Marketing
There’s no inbound marketing success without KPIs–which is why you must adopt a data-driven approach and track how exactly those efforts are performing. At each stage of the buyer’s journey, consider using the following metrics to track performance, make improvements (where necessary), and communicate how things are progressing to your client:
Acquired, relevant backlinks
Cost per click
Traffic to lead ratio
Lead to customer ratio
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
Agency Tip: Understand your client’s long-term inbound marketing goals and use this to differentiate between KPIs and metrics. After all, reporting on numbers that don’t tie into their strategic objectives may be irrelevant or even elicit unnecessary questions.
Inbound Marketing Propels Your Client’s Brand Forward
Nowadays, the competition is stiff when it comes to getting user attention. That’s why an inbound marketing strategy is non-negotiable when it comes to increasing brand awareness, building trust, and staying one step ahead of the competition.
It’s nearly impossible to track inbound marketing performance manually across multiple channels, especially when you’ve got a scaling agency and other clients to manage.
That’s why you need a sustainable, automated reporting tool like AgencyAnalytics to pull together all of the most important marketing metrics. Say goodbye to pulling all that inbound data from multiple marketing platforms and hello to increased efficiency!
Through fully customizable dashboards and white-labeled reports, you’ll keep track of your clients’ inbound marketing metrics with ease and accuracy.
Ready to streamline client reporting and steer your clients toward inbound marketing success? Try AgencyAnalytics free for 14 days–no credit card required.
Faryal Khan is an experienced marketer and brand photographer with a passion for content creation. She creates value for brands through storytelling and captivating visuals.Read more posts by Faryal Khan ›