Only 12 to 15 percent of customers are loyal to a single retailer, but that small group of shoppers can generate between 55 and 70 percent of that company’s sales, according to the Center for Retail Management at Northwestern University. With an inbound marketing plan, brick-and-mortar and online stores alike can create loyal, repeat customers. They can do this by spreading their brand and reaching more shoppers than ever before, as well as nurturing browsers until they become paying customers. This is accomplished with a combination of content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimization.
To accurately answer what inbound marketing is, it’s necessary to first cover what it isn’t. Inbound marketing is not the traditional marketing you’re used to. Traditional, or outbound marketing, is like casting a wide net and hoping to catch a few fish. Inbound marketing is like casting a line with a lure. It draws people to you.
Effective inbound marketing happens when you leverage a digital marketing strategy to organically reach your target audience and draw interested, qualified leads to your business. By understanding your target demographic, you can reach people that would already be interested in dining with you. You can do this via content marketing like blogs and articles, email marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization.
In the retail industry, the most useful content is usually blogs. Blogging is a great resource for retailers because it engages and educates prospective or existing customers in your brand even when they’re not in the store. It’s also a tool to establish your brand as an industry leader, and therefore establish trust. They will feel confident in your store and products after seeing how much useful content you post, and they will feel confident in your products after reading about them. You will eventually establish loyalty.
HubSpot recommends that businesses blog as often as they want their leads or customers to pay attention to them. Retailers can populate their content marketing calendar with topics like retail industry statistics, trend reports, stories, how-to buying guides, item reviews, etc. to educate prospective customers about the brand.
Do: Think outside the box; blog about more than just your own store, products and items. You can make subtle mention of them in your posts, but don’t go overboard. The content in your marketing plan will be much more useful to your readers if you explain how and why your clothes or mobile phones can help prospective customers, rather than simply telling them how great they are.
Don’t: Write self-promotional blog posts full of strategic keywords. Using a ton of generic keywords like jeans, fashion or winter doesn’t help people find what they are looking for. Plus, it won’t give your blog or website priority in search results and it won’t do anything for your readers. Google knows when you are manipulating your search engine results.
Aside from short-form content like blogs, emails, and social media posts, you can create long-form content that discusses topics more in-depth. These could be eBooks, whitepapers, guides, or other posts. While blogs are shorter—usually 500-600 words—these longer forms of content start at a thousand words and can go up to several thousand words.
The goal of advanced content marketing is to capture leads by showing expert thought leadership. The content should address a common pain point of your target audience and how the reader can overcome it. Whether it’s a guide on the proper care and maintenance of devices, or how to create a capsule wardrobe, the piece needs to be worth your reader’s time.
Email marketing is often used by businesses to keep in contact with their leads and clients. For retailers, it can be used to offer coupons and other incentives, alert prospective or existing customers of an upcoming sale and engage those who have abandoned their online shopping cart without making a purchase. Sending smart emails is a chance to show your leads that you understand their interests, needs and buying habits. Inbound marketing resources allow you to send emails tailored to specific shopper types, like leads, loyal customers, customers who often buy sweaters, etc.
Do: As part of your marketing plan, you can send browsers or leads low-commitment blog content to keep them engaged in your brand – especially when they abandon their shopping cart or leave it empty. This will hopefully guide them further down the sales funnel.
Don’t: Make your e-mails too long with more than one topic and more than one related offer or call to action. HubSpot recommends that readers should glance at your email and know the value it provides to them within five seconds. If you are unsure about the effectiveness of your emails, use inbound marketing resources to measure click-through rates.
Plain and simple, social media marketing is vital to a marketing plan, allowing you to spread the word about your store far and wide. Social media sites were created for conversation, and as such, they open up endless lines of communication between your brand and your customers.
In addition to emails, you should also offer coupons and deals through social media. HubSpot reported that 58 percent of Facebook users expect exclusive offers from business pages—after all, it makes following your brand worthwhile. Getting good deals makes customers happy and they will then associate that happiness with your brand. Also, they may share their positive purchasing experience with a friend or family member, encouraging them to follow you, too.
Do: Encourage your prospective and existing customers to engage with you by adding social networking widgets and social share modules to your website and emails. Likewise, add social calls to action, like “to learn more, visit our Facebook.” Another great way to engage customers in conversation is to respond to tweets, wall posts and comments. Again, this shows that you care about their needs and interests and they are more likely to invest in a brand that has them in mind.
Don’t: Focus too much on the “media” and not the “social.” Constantly spewing out images and information about products without engaging in a dialogue makes your social channels feel sterile, robotic, and uncaring. Social media is what businesses use to connect with their audience, not to talk at them. It’s critical that you don’t forget the human element when writing posts. Appeal to your audience on an emotional level and show them that you care about their needs. Use light humor, trending topics, and viral posts to spark conversation.
Find a good balance between consistency and promoting. While you want to make sure you’re posting consistently, be careful not to over-promote your products or flood people’s feeds with a ton of posts. Don’t include product promotion in every post, either. Follow an 80/20 rule, where 80% of your posts are focused on relating to customers, and 20% are focused on promoting products.
In today’s economy, many retailers aren’t seeing the sales that they used to and are struggling to come up with new ways to attract—and keep—customers. An inbound marketing plan can help both brick-and-mortar and online stores put their products on the map, and start a conversation with their customers that they will be excited to engage in.
Inbound marketing is an effective strategy for many businesses. When you have the time and resources, your business may thrive by implementing a few of these tactics in your marketing strategy. If you lack the in-house resources to accomplish this, you may want to look into getting some assistance.
If you’re interested in learning more about inbound marketing, and how you may be able to leverage it to bring in more customers and gain more revenue, check out our free eBook: Is Inbound Marketing Right for Your Business?