The First Stage of Inbound Marketing: Attract
In our previous article, we looked at the basics of inbound marketing and its four main stages. In this post, we’ll focus on the first stage, whose goal is to attract users to one or several websites.
We covered how the goal of an inbound marketing strategy is to reach your clientele by providing content that answers its actual needs, rather than trying to create new ones. The idea is to get the customer to come to you, unlike traditional marketing, which uses different methods to promote services and products to consumers.
As with any marketing strategy, it’s important to start by determining personas, as well as their needs. This preparation is crucial to the success of your marketing plan, no matter what strategy you’re using. If you want to create targeted content, logically, you need to know whom you’re speaking to.
A persona is a fictional character that represents a target group whose main characteristics help you better understand your clientele and its needs. These characteristics should be established in accordance to the product or service you’re offering. Once you have a better idea of your clientele’s issues and concerns, you’ll be better equipped to establish an adequate content strategy.
In an inbound marketing context, content should be informational rather than commercial if you want to stand out as an expert in your field. The goal is to build a trusting, long-term relationship with your potential customers (“prospects”), as well as your current ones.
Certain inbound marketing specialists also suggest directing your readers to other websites that deal with similar topics. This shows a certain level of neutrality, which can only be beneficial in helping people view you as an authority in your field. However, try to avoid referencing your own company or brand within your content: if your goal is to be considered an expert, your articles shouldn’t read like advertorials!
A good content strategy will help you with planning, production, and distribution. The plan can also be used to build your SEO strategy to attract high-quality traffic.
An example of inbound marketing that is often used is the Michelin Guide, which has been published for over 100 years. The guide is a tourism directory which contains tons of information on hotels and restaurants that meet certain criteria. It is available in several countries, and its sales numbers are in the millions. The guide is not directly related to tires, but it contributes to highlighting the Michelin brand, which is known as a global leader in its industry.
Inbound marketing is based on the concept of helping prospects find you directly by sharing targeted, quality content. Distributing your content can be done through different channels, which will help gain you several “entrance doors” online, making you much easier to find.
Of course, your company website may enable you to post content, but where inbound marketing is concerned, a blog should be your main platform. The reasoning behind this is that a blog gives you the freedom to expand on your content a little more. It also gives you the opportunity to engage with your readers.
Another interesting aspect of this marketing strategy is that sharing content is done through various channels. A blog lets you publish feature articles, but different social networks can also help share them.
Even if you regularly post excellent articles on your blog, it doesn’t mean internet users will spontaneously find them on search engines. Some fields are very competitive online, making it difficult to stand out. Among others, this is the case for the travel and automobile industries. Optimizing your website or blog for search engines is therefore an essential part of a successful inbound marketing strategy.
SEO is also about having a keyword strategy based on your content and persona analysis. The content you post should be based on SEO results. As you can see, all the inbound marketing processes are connected.
It can also be very useful to have listings in different directories when it comes to helping prospects find you online. Local directories like the Yellow Pages, or certain specialized directories can help you attract targeted visitors. As mentioned previously, the travel industry is very competitive online. Having a listing in travel directories will help increase your visibility where it is often difficult to stand out from the competition.
Social media also plays a crucial role when it comes to inbound marketing in terms of promoting your content and strengthening your community’s interest. According to the NETendances 2014 survey carried out by the CEFRIO, a little over 7 out of 10 adults use social media. Aside from connecting to their account, consuming content is their most popular activity.
Each network is different, and you can take advantage of this to reach your goals. Choosing which platforms to use for your company depends on your target audience. Once your communities have been well established on your chosen networks, you can then use them to share content and generate traffic on your website or blog. It may seem obvious, but if you’ve just posted an article on your blog, share the news on your social network accounts! People who are in your community have explicitly chosen to follow you. This makes them a choice audience for reading your content.
Nothing is left to chance when it comes to inbound marketing. All the stages and processes are aligned with the same goal: acquiring a high-quality clientele. Our next post will focus on the second stage, which consists in converting visitors into potential customers.