If you work in marketing (or anywhere in the vicinity of marketing) you’ve probably heard the phrase “inbound marketing”. You’ve probably heard how great it is, how important it is to be using inbound best practices and how much it can help to grow your business but what is it?
What is inbound marketing?
Is it really that great?
How exactly can it help me and my company?
How is it better than what I’m doing now?
Do I really need to switch to inbound? (that sounds like a lot of work)
How can I tell if it’s really better?
Well, buckle in everyone because those and all your other questions will be answered in this...
What is it??
Let’s start at the very beginning, what is inbound marketing?
Well according to HubSpot (a leader in inbound marketing) “inbound is a method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust...It’s about adding value at every stage in your customer's journey with you.”
So what does that mean? Basically, it means that you make sure that the methods you are using to attract customers is one that gives them something in return.
In other words, your blog post will be so interesting that they will give you their email just to get more like it. Your exclusive videos will be so informative that people will be crawling over each other to download them as soon as their live. Your Facebook posts will be so interesting that they’ll get people to follow you on all of your social media. Your white paper will be so valuable that people will sign over their name, address and phone number just to have access.
Well, maybe not exactly, but you get the point. With inbound marketing you want to make content that is valuable enough that people will come to you, generating leads.
Additionally you want to make sure that you are easy to find for your target audience.
The way that you begin to achieve this is through something that HubSpot calls the Flywheel. This wheel is composed of three parts, Attract, Engage and Delight. These three sections continuously feed into one another in a cycle that keeps the wheel turning.
The Attract section of the flywheel is pretty much what’s on the label. This is where you attract your customers with interesting and valuable content. This is where you have your blogs, videos, social media posts, SEO and ads.
Engage is all about building that relationship with your customer. Once you’ve established that connection you can begin to learn more about your customers to ensure that all of your interactions with them are optimized to fit them.
Last but not least, Delight is all about using the information that you’ve gathered in the first two steps to provide you customers with the right information, at the right time and in the right channels. Then if you’ve done your research and you play your cards right your customer will be so happy with your services that they will tell others about it thus, continuing the cycle and keeping that wheel spinning.
Inbound vs. Outbound
So by now you might be thinking, “that’s all well and good but is this actually that much better than what I’m doing now? Why should I have to change that way that we’ve doing things for years?”
Well, I’m glad you asked (and even if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you anyway).
I’m sure that you’ve heard of this thing called the internet, it has become the the primary way that most people get their information. Gone are the days of direct mailers and billboards on the sides of highways.
People, now, when searching for a something, like the answer to a question or a company to do what they need, they turn to the internet.
Now, why is this important when it comes to inbound marketing? Inbound marketing is designed for exactly this type of world.
Outbound marketing (or traditional marketing) is interruptive in nature, think of a TV ad in the middle of your favorite show or a radio spot during your music. This worked when we had no other option other than to watch or listen and just wait it out. For outbound marketing you cast your net far and wide and hope that enough people are caught.
This became less and less effective when we began moving our information consumption from traditional media to new media. Instead of sitting through a 30 second TV commercial, we sit through 5 second of an ad before we skip it. We now have the option to avoid traditional type ads in new media.
So, what is a marketer to do?Enter, inbound marketing!
Inbound marketers understand that in this internet-centric world, it no longer makes sense to continually push your message out on people and hope for the best. They know that the more that they push the more ways people will come up with to avoid it.
They understand that instead of pushing your message onto people you should instead be trying to pull them in with engaging content that is integrated into the platform that they are using.
Essentially, as their names suggest, inbound and outbound marketing opposites.
Are you catching on? There is a very clear difference between the two and never has that difference been more evident than in this age of technology
So, by this point, we should be pretty familiar with the basics of inbound marketing so how about some examples of what you can do and how that works as an inbound marketing strategy. Feel free to read them all or skip around to the ones that are most relevant to you and your company.
To kick things off we have the good old blog post. In inbound marketing you will have a number of different ways of attracting customers but in the end it’s all going to lead back to you website and your blog. You website acts as a sort of hub for all of your activity on line so your going to want to make sure that the content on that website (i.e. your blog) is going to be attractive to customers.
A blog post is a great way to attract those customers. It gives your customers valuable information quickly in more detail than a social media post and in a more succinct format than a book. Also, if your information is of value to them there it’s possible they will share the post or the blog with their network, giving you more exposure.
Additionally, you blog is where you can begin to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. When you establish something like that you become one of the first places that people go for information.
You doing this by actively staying up to date and informed on news relevant to your field and getting that information out to your readers in an way that’s timely and easy to read.
Podcasts and Videos
Podcast and videos are very similar to blogs in terms of content type and length. Content that you would put in a blog could probably just as easily go into a podcast or a video.
The major difference is how your audience consumes information. Take a good look at the information that you are trying to convey.
Is it very visual and require you to see and pay attention to understand? You could write a blog post with pictures but maybe a video is better suited in this scenario.
Is it something that is a bit more long-form, maybe it’s an interview. You could try and transcribe it and work it into a post, but consider that maybe your audience would get more out of it if you just posted a cleaned up version of the audio.
Additionally, they can all work together. Posting a video or a podcast with in a blog post will make it more interesting and keep your readers engaged in the post.
White papers are a good way to present a lot of really detailed and informative information to your customers. Typically a white paper is tackle a problem within your industry or to explain a certain type of methodology used in that industry. According to HubSpot, they are advanced problem solving guides.
They are very in depth and often will take weeks to months to complete, but the work pays off. Because you are giving out so much information on this topic to your customers, people will usually be more than happy to give you their name and email in exchange. This will give you solid leads and automatically kick off that relationship with a potential customer
Webinars and E-books
Similar to white papers, Webinars and e-books are another way to present in depth, industry related information to your audience. The difference is the type of information that you want to present.
If what you’re trying to show people is more a “how-to” or if it’s examining a certain methodology then a webinar might be more effective to get your point across.
If you giving a lot of good information, may be about something new in the industry that will need to be referenced often, then an e-book might be better.
Similar to white papers, webinars and e-books are also good ways to generate solid leads because people are more willing to give you their name and email address to access them.
Social media is all about meeting your customers where they are and most people nowadays are on one social networking platform or another. If you understand your audience and their demographics, then you should be able to figure out which platforms are the best for you to be on.
Social media allows you to connect with your audience in a more personal, one-on-one way. It will allow you to have that two-way communication that I missing in outbound marketing
It’s also a great way to drive people to your website, if they are already invested enough to click through to your site then it will make them that much more likely to do what you want them to on your site (ie. purchase your produces, read your blog, etc)
Inbound Marketing may seem difficult to start implementing, especially considering that it’s almost the exact opposite of what we’ve been doing in traditional marketing, but taking that first step into a new form of marketing will help your business grow and move it to the next level.