The ultimate way to build up an engaged audience and a brand image that everyone starts talking about is Inbound marketing. With more power in the hands of the consumer than ever before, businesses need to work hard to build up their reputations and become thought leaders in their industries. It takes time to work your way up to recognition by way of content marketing, social media and other inbound marketing methods but, with a consistent approach and a carefully formulated strategy, your brand will have everything it needs to achieve long-term success. The following presents the critical steps that any marketing strategy should include:

#1. Attract Traffic

The first step is to attract traffic to your website. Your website will serve as the hub of your entire digital marketing strategy: you'll be publishing content on it, sharing pages on social media, talking about it elsewhere on the Internet and keeping people informed by way of email newsletters. Around half of small businesses report obtaining new customers from social networks such as Facebook, although LinkedIn is more useful in the case of B2B industries. Search engine optimization (SEO), can also help to enhance your visibility in the search engine results pages. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising also presents a quick and effective way to boost traffic.

#2. Capture Leads

Building up a high amount of traffic to your website doesn't mean much if your bounce rate is too high. To entice people into giving you their contact details and becoming leads, you'll need to have something compelling enough to keep them on the page long enough. Excellent content is an absolute must, and landing pages in particular should be concise, relevant and tailored to the specific audience you are trying to target. Clear calls to action are a must, as is easy navigation and excellent performance across all Internet-enabled platforms. User-generated content, such as reviews and testimonials can also help to make your offer more compelling.

#3. Nurture Leads

If a visitor has entrusted you with their contact information, the last thing you want to do is disappoint. If, for example, your email newsletters start getting ignored or people start unsubscribing, it will reflect badly on your brand. Nurturing your prospects by fulfilling your promises will help to further develop trust and foster greater interest and engagement. Establishing a consistent rhythm of communication with your leads is important, but it's also essential to get your timing and mailing frequency just right. Another important element of lead nurturing is offering personalized content that speaks to the individual rather than the masses.

#4. Convert Prospects

You've succeeded in building trust to the extent that it's now time to convert your prospects into paying customers. This step is where many beginners get it wrong by failing to address purchase anxiety upfront. Among the many reasons for shopping cart abandonment are lack of payment or shipping options, a lack of a clear returns policy or a confusing checkout process. Make sure you provide a personalized and optimized sales process that customers can use comfortably whether they're browsing from a desktop computer or a smartphone. Be sure to provide all necessary information and as many shipping and payment options as possible.

#5. Develop Relations

The sales and marketing funnel doesn't stop as soon as you sell a product or service and receive a payment. In fact, you're barely over half way through the process at this point. By delivering upon your promises and satisfying customers, you'll build loyalty, increase user-generated content like positive reviews and create an army of brand ambassadors. However, it's a good idea to take things a step further than simply keeping your promises. You can also surprise and satisfy your customers by sending them exclusive, personalized offers based on their previous buying habits. At the same time, you should also ask them for feedback, but avoid being pushy.

#6. Collect Referrals

Loyal customers become brand ambassadors to the extent that they'll start spreading the word about your company. This step is perhaps the most important of all, particularly since the modern consumer is far more likely to make a purchase based on the recommendation of a friend. Referral programs can be beneficial for everyone concerned: you get more customers, and your best customers get something in return for their efforts. However, for a referral program to work, you need to take some steps to make it compelling enough by rewarding customers who refer others with a thank-you gift, such as an exclusive offer or freebie.

Final Words

It doesn't matter what kind of business you own, whether it's a traditional high-street store or a company that works exclusively online. When it comes to digital marketing, the same rules and fundamental steps apply, though the optimal way to apply them does, of course, vary by industry. With an integrated sales and marketing plan that incorporates all six of the above steps, you'll have the foundation you need to reach entrepreneurial success.

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