Before the internet, the business with the biggest marketing budget won consumer attention. TV and radio spots were high-ticket commodities for marketers, and often the only way for consumers to find solutions. If you could afford to get your message up, you would probably get it across.
The digital age has turned most conventional marketing—especially outbound marketing—on its head. Consumers are treated to not only a much larger volume of advertisements but also a greater ability to avoid them. As a result, the impact of paid advertising has been severely subdued.
What marketers have discovered is that traditional methods of putting messages where consumers operate is insufficient. Consumers want gratification, and ads are, for the most part, annoying and useless. Businesses had to discover how to land messages in ways that made for a better experience for potential buyers.
Enter inbound marketing: the antithesis of outbound marketing’s search for customers. Lead generation is put in the hands of the customer. Pull marketing brings customers to the business’s message as they pursue information, entertainment or anything of value.
Inbound marketing is a powerful tool against increasingly skeptical and discerning consumers. Advertising and cold calling are still critical to the sales process, and an important method to connect with consumers. But, to stay competitive in digital marketing spaces, inbound marketing is a critical integration into an overall marketing strategy.
For marketers, that means understanding the varied manifestations of inbound marketing and best practices. This article will explore those principles and offer direction on growing your customer base.
Table of Contents
What is Inbound Marketing?
Marketing is either inbound or outbound. Outbound marketing is what most of us think of when we think of marketing in general. These are TV ads, radio commercials, website banners, embedded videos or even billboards. Marketers use these channels to directly advertise their products or services.
The user does not have a choice in being exposed to outbound marketing. All they can do is tune out while the marketer hopes to create enough pizzazz to keep their attention.
Outbound marketing pushes your product or service into the potential customer’s space. Inbound marketing, however, reverses that formula. Marketers offer enticing value without overtly selling their services, attracting consumers to their website.
Inbound marketing revolves around supplying value to customers through useful content, experiences and tools. These resources can be informational or entertaining content that users actively pursue on their own. Consumers arrive at material organically, commonly as a result of a search engine entry or social media interactions.
To illustrate, let’s say a lawn care supplier engages in outbound marketing. They may place a banner ad on a home and garden website, sitting AROUND the content the customer wants. The customer is at the page for the article and not necessarily to buy lawn equipment. Much to the annoyance of the user, the ad often does little more than occupy real estate.
With an inbound approach, the marketer may write a blog post on proper lawn maintenance. A user looking for information does a Google search and finds their article. They enter the business’s website and begin to familiarize themselves with the brand and its products.
In this instance, the user actively sought out the marketing material. The brand’s promotion was not sitting around the usable content but was the content itself.
The benefit of inbound marketing is its ability to foster strong connections by immediately establishing credibility and relevance. When customers decide to engage with the brand on their own accord, there is already a certain degree of foundational trust. This facilitates subsequent marketing efforts and the development of a mutually beneficial relationship.
Who Uses Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is one of the best ways to expand your reach and increase brand awareness. For this reason, any company that has an online presence can benefit from focusing on its inbound strategy.
Non-profit organizations and political campaigns that have difficulty demonstrating the immediate value of their product frequently use inbound marketing. These entities use blogs, viral videos and interactive content to inspire interaction with their target audience. This is especially useful for younger generations who demand interactivity and engaging content.
From a business standpoint, B2B businesses with longer sales cycles stand to gain the most from inbound marketing. With high involvement purchases, customers take time researching, meeting sales reps and weighing advantages among the options. They are searching for a solution, and the business that offers the most value wins the sale.
A product-first approach does not do enough to convey value. Salespeople need to bring something to the table at every step of the sales process to win sales. This is why there are big pushes for sales enablement and value-based selling in B2B sales. The customer and their needs must take priority, not the product.
By using inbound marketing, these companies build a brand experience that customers can rely on. They act as go-to resources when their customer has a question or need. When the customer is ready to buy, the trust the business has earned makes them the obvious choice.
B2C companies are also jumping on inbound marketing, adding blogs, chatbots and videos to enhance the customer experience. These are great for raising awareness about their brand for customers that may be otherwise inaccessible.
Lead generation is cost-effective and automated with these inbound marketing tools. Content lives online, requiring little maintenance, so new sales leads can continue to find it to solve their problems. B2C businesses do not have to worry about carefully placed ad dollars to find the target audience. Instead, they create content that is relevant to their industry or brand, so that only the right customers connect.
Steps to Developing an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing strategies follow many of the same iterative frameworks of most marketing and sales methodologies. There are three central steps inherent to creating an effective inbound marketing strategies: plan, analyze, revise.
Step 1. Plan
Creating a strategy begins with establishing goals for your inbound marketing efforts. You may want to highlight a particular product series, expand your reach or increase service add-ons.
Decide what you want to accomplish, and use that to determine the style and content of your marketing materials. Even though inbound marketing is less direct, it is critical to direct customers towards actions that support your objectives.
Step 2. Analyze
When you have clearly defined plans and goals in place, you can formulate a measurement method. Choosing from numerous tracking tools from services such as Google or Ahrefs can give you insights into website performance. These services, along with your own KPIs, reveal how your tactics contribute to sales and customer engagement.
Step 3. Revise
Growth-oriented marketing is committed to continuous improvement. When you execute your plan and measure its effectiveness, you gain insights for future campaigns. Tracking performance history of all of your inbound marketing efforts shows you what works and should be replicated.
What Are the Careers Around Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is growing in popularity and complexity. As it transforms into its own dominant discipline, specific careers are becoming increasingly sought after to manage campaigns.
Copywriters are arguably the most essential creatives in any inbound marketing campaign. They create marketing materials, including hard copy collateral and digital resources like blogs, web text, advertising copy and whitepapers.
An effective copywriter makes the difference in generating website traffic and growing your brand’s reputation. Organic search is incredibly influential in driving business due to its heavy use and inherent trust associated with results. Skilled SEO copywriters know how to use keywords, backlinks and a number of other SEO tools to increase rankings.
A quality copywriter is a technical inbound expert with a solid appreciation of customer-centric marketing. They adopt a voice that resonates, and they are careful to speak to real circumstances their audience faces.
A data analyst is an expert at deciphering data related to the performance of inbound marketing efforts. Using a variety of software tools, analysts investigate how people operate on websites. They find connections between data points to discover how a strategy corresponds to changes in sales.
Data analysts need to be proficient in sorting and deciphering figures as well as using complex technology. Many quality analysts emerge from marketing, math or statistics backgrounds, with some positions requiring advanced degrees.
Teams are largely characterized by their leadership. Marketing managers play a key role in managing team dynamics and communication. They outline goals, roles and expectations to maintain a singular, unified focus.
Marketing managers are responsible for keeping deliverables on time and meeting established criteria. They need to be present throughout the entire campaign, connecting the various team members.
Managers do not need comprehensive understandings of every intricate detail. Instead, they need to grasp the effectiveness measures and various factors that contribute to the overall campaign. They must be effective communicators and strategic goal-setters to keep expectations realistic but challenging.
What Are Some Effective Examples of Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is more than a content marketing scheme. It is a multi-faceted collection of materials and tools that add value and create a positive experience. The following are some of the most effective inbound marketing tools used today:
- Topical blogs.
- Social media campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest).
- Search Engine Optimized (SEO) website text.
- Viral videos.
- Web-based seminars (Webinars).
Any of these can be used to drive enthusiastic traffic to your website. Let’s explore each in more detail.
1. Topical blogs
Blogs have been shown to be the most effective type of content, more popular than email and whitepapers. The vast majority of companies use a content marketing strategy anchored by a recurring blog.
Blogs are possibly the best example of inbound marketing. They are incredibly low-cost but extremely beneficial in growing traffic. Companies that post more blog content monthly enjoy far more traffic than those that post less frequently.
When you provide rich information in a regularly recurring blog, you grow a loyal following. As customers progress through the sales funnel, the superior value of your blog helps to position you as a favorable purchase option.
When you apply SEO, an extensive catalog of blog posts bolsters your authority in the eyes of search engines. When you employ technical SEO, keywords, links and a variety of other factors, you will occupy the top of SERPs more consistently. This will broaden your reach, enhance your reputation and generate far more traffic.
2. Social Media Campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
Social media is the second component of organic marketing next to search. It is extremely impactful in improving brand visibility. Most target audiences are active on social media platforms and there is no shortage of opportunities to promote content.
Businesses can strategize their social media to match their audiences. Older customer bases may be more active on Facebook, but you may stick to Twitter for a younger crowd. If you want creatives, check out Pinterest.
These services provide helpful tools for businesses to attract users. Instagram Stories, for example, allows brands to post articles, videos, tutorials, quizzes and other interactive content. Many services are even integrating purchase portals, allowing businesses to move from lead generation to sale on one platform.
Ebooks, like whitepapers, are meant to establish authority through exclusive informative content. They are long-form articles like “ultimate guides” that you provide as the value in a lead magnet.
It takes time, effort and expertise to create an e-book, so you need to make sure you have the tools to craft truly valuable material. When done correctly, though, you can use it as the enticing hook behind a landing page. For B2B businesses, this means more valuable contact information to capture leads to enter into the sales pipeline.
4. Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Website Text
Search engine optimization (SEO) is not a specific form of content but a critical principle to apply to your web content. SEO is the system of techniques used to improve your search engine rankings.
Users generally do not look past the first few suggestions offered by Google. If you are not making an effort to cater to the search engine’s criteria, consumers will never find your content. With little to no visibility, the effort you put into creating your recurring content will go to waste.
Search engines are getting smarter and are now closer than ever to filtering truly valuable content. It used to be that keywords, even when used awkwardly, would make your rankings improve. Now, marketers are encouraged to create truly usable, relevant content over employing tricky SEO techniques.
Websites need to be designed for high-quality experiences that resolve users’ problems. SEO experts are able to affect visitors by optimizing content for specific, relevant keywords. This simple practice makes you more credible in the eyes of search engines and will subsequently rank you higher.
Off-page SEO is perhaps even more influential in building authority. Search engines will rank you higher if other sites acknowledge your authority. They do this primarily through backlinks—links on other websites that bring users to your content.
Getting backlinks is likely to prove difficult if you are not currently ranking high. However, you can take steps to start building a backlink structure by reaching out to industry thought leaders. Influencers could partner with you for exposure or you can offer guest blogs that link to your page.
5. Viral Videos
The written words in blogs are effective and simple to produce. However, if you have the capacity for video, take advantage of its growing demand.
Videos bring your brand to life, allowing you to inject personality, humor, and value into your content. Plus, with the short attention span of many users, shorter videos tend to have more success with audiences. This makes it easier for you to produce a manageable schedule of video posts.
Long-form content can be abridged in a video for users that cannot invest time or effort into in-depth material. Videos supporting written articles or webinars expand your social media appeal without forcing you to create work from scratch.
6. Web-Based Seminars (Webinars)
Today consumers engage with video content more readily than written material. Consider turning information that would otherwise go on blogs or whitepapers into engaging webinars. With
webinars you can connect to a wide audience over multiple platforms, to create great content. Webinars are a great way to inject your brand’s personality into your content. A real
person not only represents the brand’s values but also makes the experience feel more personable. You can read a great piece on the power of webinars in this article.
Like e-books, webinars are great as gated content for lead generation. Customers will not only be eager to obtain the information but also the easy-to-digest visual presentation.
Tips for a Successful Inbound Marketing Campaign
Now that we covered what inbound marketing is and different ways to apply it, let’s look at best practices. While your strategy should be unique and founded on in-depth research, these inbound marketing tips can work for anyone.
Create a Content Strategy
Content marketing is a major component of an inbound marketing strategy. A content strategy will build authority, create value and give users more opportunities to interact with your brand.
You must create a detailed content strategy to target the appropriate audience and maximize their engagement. The following are some key questions to consider:
- What content does my audience prefer? Would they get more use out of videos, blogs or infographics?
- What are the major pain points to address in my content? What kind of value will my content contain?
- Where should I promote my content? Is my audience more active on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?
- What kind of content schedule is manageable for me? Can I produce it on my own or do I need to work with an agency to produce the volume I need?
With a strategy in place, you’ll be better equipped to iron out the technical side with SEO, website support and customer segmentation.
Track Your Results
There is an endless array of analytical tools online to track customer behavior on your website. This data should frequently be referenced to adjust your inbound marketing tactics. With tools from services like Google, MonsterInsights or Crazy Egg, answer important questions, such as:
- What content is performing well?
- Where is most of my website traffic originating from? Is it Google or Facebook?
- How long do users stay on each page?
- Where do users go after leaving pages? Do they go to purchase or do they leave the site?
With these insights, determine what content works and what needs improvement. Then, continually track your performance, so you’re able to readily respond to market trends.
Master Your Technical SEO
Technical SEO involves a mountain of website elements that affect its performance. Different aspects of technical SEO include site structure, indexability and mobile friendliness.
There is a lot to cover but fortunately, services like Google and SEMrush can do the heavy lifting. These tools offer site audits that point out glaring issues and easy, step-by-step methods to fix them.
Open Your Lines of Communication With Chatbots
Chatbots are great for enhancing the customer experience and gaining insights into what your customers want. Adding a chatbot is a simple, hands-free way to guide users more efficiently to important content and answer questions.
Over time, you should see patterns emerge with common questions and concerns. Use this qualitative information to continue developing relevant content and more efficient chatbots.
Create Targeted Landing Pages or Lead Capture Popups
Landing pages and popups are some of the most productive sales prospecting techniques. When you use landing pages to strategically target certain visitors, the experience is more personalized. There are numerous tools and web builder plugins to create and test landing pages to tailor, allowing you to optimize your messaging.
Like value-based selling is to your sales team, inbound marketing is the marketing approach to building relationships. With these inbound marketing tips and best practices, you can begin developing a plan to increase your authority.
Still not sure if you can handle an inbound marketing strategy implementation? Our team at Selling Revolution provides expert analysis and direction to establish strategies that inspire confidence. To learn how we can transform your sales and marketing processes to maximize your business generation, book an introductory call today.