Marketing. The pride and joy or the agony and defeat of any business. Some love it, others hate it. But any successful business knows that marketing, when done right, has the ability to propel a product or service into the hands of its customers.
Within the last ten years, there has been a clear shift in the strategies businesses use to reach their audience. Gone are the days of only having traditional marketing channels to choose from and here now is what we call inbound marketing.
Inbound works by creating content prospects actually want to receive. Unlike traditional marketing, where you interrupt your audience, inbound marketing creates content that attracts viewers. A metaphor I like to use for communicating the difference between traditional and inbound marketing is: megaphones vs. magnets. Megaphones demand attention. They interrupt whatever you are doing. Whereas a magnet draws objects to itself, generally in an organic, natural way.
As a business owner or marketer, it’s worth asking: Can inbound marketing make a difference in my business?
Let’s start with a basic explanation of the differences between traditional and inbound marketing to get to the bottom of it.
Traditional marketing = megaphones
When leveraging traditional marketing strategies, it kind of looks like this: You go out to find your audience. You use a megaphone to grab everyone’s attention, “Hey, over here! Look at me!” With traditional marketing, you, the business, initiate the conversation. It has earned the name “interruptive marketing” because the prospect didn’t give permission for contact. You are interrupting their behavior in order to share your message.
Examples of traditional marketing include direct mail, print collateral, popups, tv or radio advertising, cold calls, and unsolicited emails. Traditional marketing isn’t as effective as it used to be because, in today’s digital world, there is just way too much information circulating. Consumers have learned to block out traditional marketing tactics. Consider caller IDs, ad blockers, spam filters, and DVRs and how they all easily allow consumers to ignore your message.
Inbound marketing = magnets
Unlike traditional marketing, where you interrupt your prospect, inbound marketing creates content that attracts an audience. It works by creating content your prospects actually want to see. You are providing something of value. You insert that message into what your prospect is already doing, and you help them do it better. Instead of interrupting, it assists.
Examples of inbound marketing include SEO (search engine optimization), PPC (pay-per-click), blogging, social media, eBooks, infographics, webinars, and whitepapers.
Evolution of inbound
Inbound marketing is all about understanding your audience and their behavior and then producing content that provides value to them. In the past, consumers waited for an ad and then made a buying decision. Today, a buyer’s behavior is drastically different, and inbound more closely follows those current behaviors. Consumers do research online. Inbound marketing provides valuable content in the right place, at the right time to make the consumer’s life easier.
Here are some statistics to think about:
- Inbound leads cost on average 61% less than outbound (traditional) leads (Search Engine Journal)
- Companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t (Hubspot)
- 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus in an advertisement (Content Marketing Institute)
Consumers today demand value. If you aren’t providing it, they’ll go to another business that is. By giving your prospects what they are looking for when they are looking for it, you will naturally attract people interested in what you offer – just like a magnet.
How to inbound
To ramp up your inbound marketing, here are three steps to focus on:
Step 1: Attraction
It’s fairly straightforward: You must first get your prospect’s attention. By focusing on producing high-quality content that speaks your brand’s language and assists the prospect in understanding more about their challenge or need, you begin building a relationship and position yourself as the marketplace expert. This is where blogging, SEO, optimized website pages, and social media become so important.
Step 2: Conversion
Attracting is just the first step. From there, you need to convert the individual into a lead by collecting information. You can do this by offering up a membership, subscribing the individual to a newsletter, sharing an ebook or white paper, or any other piece of content that is valuable. This is the call to action. You provide them something, and in exchange, they take an action. Generally, in exchange for the information, the prospect will share their contact information with you. Once you have that contact information, you have an avenue form which you can continue providing relevant, engaging content.
Step 3: Cultivation
Once a prospect has taken the first step, you need to continue to cultivate the relationship and move them through your inbound marketing pipeline by continuing to deliver valuable content. You may choose to begin a follow-up series of emails that provide value until it is the right time to turn the lead into a customer. When done correctly, the close is often initiated by the customer themselves.
Once a prospect becomes a customer, don’t forget about them!
You’ve done the hard work! You attracted a prospect, converted that individual into a lead, and finally a customer. By staying engaged with them after the sale and continuing to delight them with valuable content, you will turn your customers into promoters of the products and services they love.