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What Is Inbound Marketing? 5 Simple Steps to Connect With Customers

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Admit it. If you've ever been asked to explain inbound marketing to somebody, you've stumbled through basic terms like "create content" and "capture leads," and ended up with an abstract explanation that had a bunch of buzzwords and didn't really explain much of anything. Or, if you're reading this piece because you Googled the words "what is inbound marketing," we can be pretty sure you still haven't gotten an acceptable answer, either.

Well, your search is over. And your search will actually help me answer that question.

For such a powerful new way to connect with customers (some of my favorite buzzwords), and such a revolutionary change in the digital marketing paradigm (even more buzzwords), inbound marketing can seem hard to explain. 

But it's really not. All you have to do is look at inbound marketing through the eyes of the customer, the "persona," the target audience that is at the heart of inbound marketing, and it all comes into focus.

Connect with Customers in 5 Simple Steps

Now that most people spend so much time searching for their information online, inbound marketing allows us to connect with customers and generate leads (another important buzzword) with these simple steps:

1. Start With a Blog

The key is to write a blog about something that interests them. Try to find something they are actually searching for, like "how often should I change my furnace filter," or "is red wine gluten-free," or even "what is inbound marketing?" To be successful, though, this blog should solve their problems, not push your products.

2. Make An Offer

Next to the blog, add an attractive offer for some related content. A call-to-action button, promoting something that also interests them - like a furnace guide, a chance to win a free gift card, or the lead generation eBook at the bottom of this blog. Make sure the offer is good, though, because clicking the button is where your visitor starts down the path to becoming an inbound customer.

3. Get Their Contact Information

Clicking the button gets them closer to the offer, but they still need to fill out a form. That's a crucial step in the inbound process, because that's where you get their contact information. So, once again remember to focus on your audience. Is the content in your offer good enough that they'll be willing to give up that information? If the answer is yes, they'll fill out the form, download your content, and open the door to a content-based conversation and a really solid marketing foundation.

READ MORE: Low-Cost Inbound Marketing Techniques

4. Send Smart Messages

Now you have their email address and you're starting to establish yourself as a helpful expert. Don't mess it up. You can now send automated emails their way, but make sure they are helpful and relevant. If not, your emails will go back to the spam bin as quickly as you can say "old school marketing." But if you send useful, interesting, valuable content in your follow-up messages, you'll continue to educate and build trust. 

5. Connect. Converse. Convert.

The beauty of inbound marketing is that you'll keep learning about them as you continue this "conversation" - even though it's based on automated emails and website analytics. You'll have the ability to analyze the emails they open, additional offers they download, and links that they click on your website...all the way up until you know so much about them (and they know so much about your business) that you turn them over to your sales team. 

And you can safely assume that they won't have to do nearly as much selling - because, with every step of a content-based, inbound marketing conversation, you build more and more trust. As my colleague (and lifelong salesperson) Kathy Heil says, "when I make a cold call, I'm a salesperson, but when I respond to an inbound marketing lead, I'm a consultant - I'm somebody just answering their questions - and it's a lot easier to make a sale when I'm a consultant."

When you break it down, inbound marketing isn't nearly as complex and abstract as we can make it sound. It's really just a great new way to connect with your audience, use your expertise to help solve their problems, and lead them down the path from visitors to customers.

Buyer Persona