4 Stages of the Inbound Marketing Methodology

Ben Donahower
5 min readAug 26, 2016

How do you turn strangers into customers? Answering this question is the crux of any successful business. You need a process to guide your prospects along a buyer’s journey to generate new business. The inbound methodology to convert strangers into customers is a powerful approach to do just that in these four stages:

  • Attract
  • Convert
  • Close
  • Delight

Every step of the way, from attracting prospects to making customers promoters of your brand, employs its own set of tactics and metrics to track results.

1. Attract — Turn Strangers Into Visitors

The first goal is to make prospects aware of your company and the services and products that you offer. You want to attract people to your website and other online channels like social media networks your company may be active on with valuable content, which is simply addressing the common problems and answer the questions that your potential customer have.

Some of the topics that generate awareness for almost any vertical include price, who are the best companies in your industry, reviews, and comparisons. Many companies are hesitant to publish this kind of information, but we’ve noticed that they engender trust and disqualify potential customers who are not a good fit for your products or services.

Outside of these common questions, there are countless industry specific questions that you can address with content marketing. Say you’re a senior living facility. Does your website clearly explain contract options, the levels of care that you provide, and the living environments that residents have available to them including supporting pictures and ideally video?

Maybe you have produced some of this type of content, but have realized if you build it, they won’t come. This is a nice thought…

But not reality. Promoting the content to traditional media outlets, bloggers, influencers on social media, and distributing the other content other channels that your company controls is necessary for successfully attracting future customers online.

Unlike outbound marketing which often reaches a broad audience, the inbound marketing methodology focuses on targeted groups of prospects: what we call buyer personas. The key to success is to target people who are more likely to be interested in your product, and to leave out those who probably aren’t interested at all. If your buyer persona is wholesalers and resellers worth between 10 and 50 million dollars in the northeast United States, the type of content that you produce, where it’s published, when it’s published, and so on to reach those businesses in a compelling way, is clearer. You won’t get qualified leads from a guest post on BuzzFeed but you would from highly optimized content on ThomasNet.com.

Your Secret Weapon to Attract Visitors: Relevant content optimized for search and promoted in key places online.

2. Convert — Turn Visitors Into Leads

Once you have attracted qualified prospect, it’s time to convert them into leads and sales. At this stage in the inbound marketing methodology, you want your visitors’ contact information: their email address, phone number, or some other way to contact them. Once that happens, congratulations, you officially have an inbound lead!

The catch is, no one in their right mind will give you their email address for the fun of it (we’ve all been spammed at some point, right?). You need to offer something useful, so your website visitor agrees to the exchange. A good example would be an offer for a free quote or an invitation to a 15-minute consulting session.

There are many offers that will convert prospects into leads online specific to your business and the buyer personas you are targeting. It’s important to make offers across the buyer’s journey to generate leads at the top, middle, and bottom of your sales cycle. By offering TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU leads you will be a pipeline that of leads that will consistently generate sales.

Your Secret Weapon to Convert Prospects:Compelling offers tailored to the needs of your buyer personas and relevant to the content that they are consuming.

3. Close — Turn Leads Into Customers

It’s not the number of leads that you have that matters, is how many leads turn into paying customers. It’s kinda like planting a seed and expecting it to grow without watering it. You need to shower your leads with the right amount of attention at the right times. Too much and you’ll look spammy and tune out leads, and the lead will hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button before you know it. Too little, and they’ll forget that you ever existed.

Frequency is just one piece of the puzzle: the right lead nurturing content for your buyer persona and the individual lead is even more important. It’s not everyday that you read a piece of content and realize that it speaks directly to your business goals or personal challenges, but when it happens, that’s the kind of email that you will open, read, and act on.

Your Secret Weapon to Close Leads: CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. You need a way to track leads to understand whether your leads are converting into sales or not. We use and recommend Hubspot’s CRM software. It’s a full featured, easy to use CRM, that’s absolutely free.

4. Delight — Turn Customers into Promoters

Delight is the most ignored stage of the inbound marketing methodology, and companies do so at their own peril. I challenge you to look back at the growth of your business and identify how much of your business growth came from referrals, increasing sales from existing customers, and finally from non-referral new business. Chances are referrals and increasing volume or deal size with existing customers are substantial drivers of growth for your business. If they aren’t, frankly, you’re leaving money on the table.

Delighting customers has a direct impact on the bottom line, so keep in touch with your customers. Make them feel special for choosing your company. Send them newsletters, surveys, personalized product offers based on previous purchases, and engage with them on social media.

Your Secret Weapon to Delight Customers: Social media monitoring. Keep up with your customers on social media, so that you can identify opportune time to connect. Did your customer just win an award? That’s a great time to send a note congratulating them. Did they just hire a new employee? Maybe that’s a clue that they need more of the products and services that you offer.

If you want to find out more download Introduction to Inbound Marketing eBook.