Inbound marketing is perfectly tailored to customer-centricity - and consequently increases the probability of customer retention and repeat business. After all, you (as a consumer) want to go 'where everybody knows your name'. It's a maxim that has helped the humble pub to attract regulars and now even multinational coffee chains are recognising the value of the customer experience by learning first names. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

To demonstrate how inbound marketing can be a powerful and cost-effective tool for marketing, allow Aprimo to walk you through the perfect customer experience. First, imagine a potential customer is looking for a good caffeine kick in the morning.

The good news is that they've identified your coffee shop as a possible venue to meet their need. This in itself may not have occurred by chance. Perhaps they were attracted by your shop's facade, or they heard you have a great reputation from other customers. Like a retail outlet, many of your inbound channels already exist: an intuitive website with up-to-the-minute content that has been found through SEO, or the call centre that your chain already runs. You have the resources, so why not capitalise on them? This means you're not pumping extra cash into tools that may only attract a small number of leads (as you might do with direct mailing, email blasts and TV adverts). In fact, inbound marketing is reported to cost up to 61% less than traditional outbound marketing.

Back to the customer: the door opens, and the aroma of Arabica beans is too tempting for them to refuse. With inbound marketing, you can be certain that the customer is interested in what you can offer, because they have made the initial contact with you. There's no need for cold calling or email campaigns (which often yield negligible results). When a customer drops by your branch, or visits your website, you are already in prime position because 100% of your visitors will already be warm leads, and self-qualified. Additionally, inbound marketing enables an interactive dialogue between company and customer, rather than the one-way communications usually associated with outbound marketing. Customers have a voice and want to be heard, and you have the power to help them feel valued.

Now your relationship has begun. Because it was the customer who initiated contact, you have a positive connection to build upon. You're not simply responding to those customers who have made a decision to buy; you are also able to communicate with those who are still in the research stage. Give time to nurturing this relationship because it allows the perfect opportunity for up selling, delivering product information, an educational message, or simply chatting with the customer and deepening the relationship. You haven't bought their attention with a targeted campaign - you've actually earned it - and this transforms your salespeople into trusted consultants, encouraging customer trust and retention.

So, now that you know what your customer is interested in, you can begin to assemble a profile of their needs and interest. This is essential to forging a good relationship because you can use it to build up a picture of the offers that may benefit each particular customer (i.e. you know they like an iced latte, so perhaps they'll be interested in an iced mocha).

There is a real-time personalisation process associated with inbound marketing which allows you to not only identify the most optimal message, but also identify the best time to deliver it. You can also learn from responses and continuously make strategic improvements to your process. The data you gather can also be effectively integrated with your outbound marketing efforts. If you learn that a certain demographic - 18-25 year olds - is well-disposed toward a certain product - for example a frappe - you can begin to target your offers accordingly.

At the same time, consumers' control of information is growing at an exponential rate. Technology and social networking allow for widespread reviews, ratings and recommendations. By enabling bespoke offers and information, inbound marketing enables a strong element of customer service which will encourage what is perhaps the most powerful marketing tool available in the modern, connected world: word of mouth.

Inbound marketing is perfect for customer-centricity, offering a personalised and interactive approach. As Vince Bowey, managing partner for Knowledge Network International said: "Many of the companies that have deployed this kind of capability have seen their success rate sky-rocket because whenever you give the right customer the right message at the right time via the right channel they tend to respond more positively."

Inbound marketing provides a multitude of opportunities to grow your company, and your reputation, with devastating efficiency, many of the costs already covered, and the associated resources right under your nose. Aprimo has posted several short videos explaining inbound marketing - click here.