Has a client or perhaps your colleague ever asked you what exactly "inbound marketing" means? Perhaps you've asked that question!
Hubspot, the market leader in the space, defines it as:
Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.
The term itself has been around for at least a decade and continues to grow in popularity.
With this philosophy, marketers adopt a "sharing is caring" attitude. Using optimized content, organizations generate qualified leads online. By publishing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful to your customers, not interruptive. It's creating marketing people can love.
Why does inbound marketing work?
The buying habits of consumers have changed drastically with the proliferation of digital mediums. Paul Herr, a marketing professor and department head at Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, says, "The Internet has influenced which sources of information consumers pay attention to and it is probably changing the way in which consumers process information and see the world in general.”
The internet has helped consumers make decisions, but it's also helped organizations communicate better. With the advent of all this new technology, marketers can capture real-time behavioral data and use it to further segment consumers based on purchase patterns, interests or search behavior.
When you align the awesome content you publish with what your customers are interested in, you’ll earn permission to market to them again, through emails, ebooks and more. When people come to your company or website, they’re in various states of the buying process. They could be looking to purchase today, or they could be just be researching options. Either way, inbound marketing casts a large net of content over the whole purchasing phase, from big-picture introductions to granular details about your product.
Why interruption doesn't work
Consumers these days are skeptical about brands and advertising--which isn't nearly as effective as it once was. Why?
- The proliferation of media. The industry landscape is extremely crowded. You can find at least one TV station, radio station, podcast, magazine and a gazillion websites for nearly any conceivable interest. Consider this: In 1920, there was only one radio station. Now, there are over 1,500 stories on your Facebook News Feed competing for your attention.
- A history of deceptive advertising. Consumers have become accustomed to false claims in advertising and now they view even clever ads as being dishonest. According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, 63% of consumers need to hear company claims 3-5x before they'll actually believe them! And today in 2016, search engines are more trusted than traditional media.
- Technology empowered the consumer. With social media, smartphones and the internet, consumers have gained access to a multitude of tools and information to help them dodge interruptive messages and can instead seek out information when they're good and ready.
Inbound marketing takes communication one step further by introducing permission marketing. Seth Godin defines it as: "the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
The five fundamentals
To attract qualified leads to your business and keep them coming back for more, there are five fundamentals of inbound marketing.
1. Content creation
You absolutely must create unique, targeted content that answers prospects' questions and needs, and then share and distribute that content far and wide for everyone and all to see.
2. Lifecycle marketing
People don't visit your site or interact with your organization one time and become advocates. They start off as strangers, visitors and basic contacts. A marketer must use specific tools and actions to help transform strangers into customers and the ultimate goal, advocates.
As you learn about your consumers needs over time, you can (and will want to!) better personalize your messages over time.
Inbound is multi-channel by nature because on of the major pillars of its philosophy rests on the idea that marketers reach people where they are--in the right place, at the right time. It's important to disseminate your message to all channels where there's interest in your products, services or thought leadership.
Marketers don't work in a vacuum. Your content, publishing/distribution and analytics must work together--like a well oiled machine. These tools and subsequent data will provide the insight you need to continue to refine your inbound strategy to publish the right content, at the right time in the right place!
In short, inbound marketing is about building trust, being loved and outsmarting, not outspending your competitors.
Who do you know that could benefit from inbound marketing? Stay tuned for the next chapter: Inbound marketing fundamentals: The methodology and/or consider booking a 30-minute consultation with me to learn how you can improve your website and inbound marketing strategy.