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Revisiting the 4 stages of inbound marketing

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Welcome to 2023! If you’re like most marketing professionals, you’re probably awash in predictions, trends, and other advice right now to help you navigate the new year. But before you begin formulating strategies for the year ahead, it’s worth taking a few minutes to review the basics of inbound marketing to make sure you’ve got a solid foundation to build upon.


Let’s start with a definition of inbound marketing - it’s a practice that provides tools and information for prospects to educate themselves about solutions to the challenges they’re having and to engage with brands. Inbound marketing emerged with the dawn of the digital era, as people discovered they could independently learn about and research products and services online without needing to get the companies behind them involved. Marketing departments soon realized that their traditional tactics – such as billboards and radio ads – were no longer reaching the desired audiences, and inbound marketing emerged as a strategy to capture interest and educate potential customers.


Today, inbound marketing is everywhere, delivering results for companies that have learned to do it right. But that’s the important part; doing right. Here are the four basic stages.


Attract - The first stage of inbound marketing is designed to draw prospects’ attention to your brand. People can’t learn more about your company or consider your offerings if they’ve never heard of you. This stage focuses on emails, ads, social media posts, presence at industry events and other promotional tactics that get your company’s name in front of targeted audiences who are most likely to be interested.


Engage - The second stage continues the momentum started in the attract stage but offers more detailed information that focuses on specific challenges and how to solve them. Often the tactics used in the attract stage will point prospects to longer-form, more detailed engage content that offers insight, advice and anecdotes to help people better understand how to solve a problem or take advantage of a trend. However, content at this stage should avoid trying to sell prospects on specific offerings; the approach should still be educational and informative.


Delight - In this stage brands deliver the information prospects need to make a purchase decision. This is the right time to offer product features, testimonials, comparisons, ratings, analyst reviews and other tools that can help people determine if your offering is right for them.


Repeat - Once a prospect converts to a customer, the process can begin again to cross-sell other products and services or upsell new releases.


Doing inbound marketing right means knowing what content and tactics to use at each stage of the strategy, ensuring you’re giving prospects the information they’re looking for, and focusing on building relationships. It requires patience and discipline, but when done well it can significantly grow your business.


Looking to implement or improve inbound marketing at your company? Visit our services page. And check out the book, The Principles of Inbound Marketing for Small and Start-Up Businesses, to learn more about how inbound marketing can help grow your organization.

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