Let's talk about inbound marketing and how it compares to other terms you might be a bit more familiar with like content marketing and digital marketing. The real question is, what is it and how can inbound marketing help your business?
The Set Up
The major forms of marketing and advertising 15-20 years ago were: newspapers, radio, television, yellow pages, direct mail, trade shows and telemarketing. All interruptive styles of marketing. It was all about pushing your message out, a one way conversation, in which the goal was to interrupt your prospects. Look at television commercials, radio ads, or telemarketers calling you during dinner, all forms of interruptive marketing.
When the internet and social media came along, it totally changed everything. People were tired of being sold to and bombarded with advertising, that things like the do-not-call list or the CAN-SPAM act were being put into play. Take for instance TiVo and DVR, they allow users to record television and skip through commercials. All the sudden things shifted. Now consumers have the power. Especially with the invention of smartphones, we now have access to the internet, social media, etc. right at our figure tips.
Wiith the power to do research on our own time, we come into the sale process much more educated. Some statistics say as much as 75-80% of the sales process is already done by the time the consumer reaches out to the company. This is done by reading online reviews, internet searches and research, consuming blog content, ebooks, etc.
As a result of all this, companies and marketers have had to completely re-think marketing and fundamentally change the way they are trying to reach target audiences.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is all about attracting the right audience and helping to educate and engage with them through the buying process. The goal is to lead prospects down a path to become customers by doing it in an authentic and helpful way. I like to think the golden rule of inbound marketing could be summed up as “market to others, as you would have them market to you.”
Let's break down inbound marketing to some of the tactics used:
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Creating Lead Magnets such as: ebooks, guides, whitepapers, doing webinars, podcasts, etc
- Advanced tools that handle marketing automation
- Paid social media ads
Inbound marketing, content marketing and digital marketing are all very closely related. But, there is an important distinction between inbound marketing and the other terms.
Content marketing and digital marketing focus a lot more on the individual tactics. Whereas inbound marketing uses those same tactics, but the key difference is that inbound marketing uses a proven strategy and a methodology behind getting more traffic leads and sales online.
As the owner of an inbound marketing agency we work with lots of businesses who are doing various content marketing tactics. They might be doing some email marketing to their lists, maybe blogging occasionally, or they're trying to be active on social media. The missing piece is that they don’t understand or follow a methodology and strategy. They are just executing on tactics without a strategy. They don’t generally measure key performance indicators (KPIs) and utilize that data to make decision moving forward. Often they aren’t testing, measuring and adjusting based on the data. As a result, they never get the traction or return on their investment that they desire.
Inbound marketing is a framework for using content marketing in a much more comprehensive and effective way. It's taking these various tactics and making sure they all work together as an integrated process rather than just separate stand alone tactics.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology
Attract Stage: We focus on driving relevant traffic to your website and use tactics such as blogging, and social media. Also, could include paid social media ads, google adwords, etc.
Convert Stage: This is where we convert anonymous website visitors into leads with tactics such as lead magnets, calls to action, and landing pages.
Close Stage: When we move leads through the marketing funnel to become customers using lead nurturing.
Delight Stage: We help turn customers into promoters of your brand, making them brand advocates.
We want to attract new people into our marketing funnel, convert them into leads, nurture those leads into customers, and then delight those customers so that they will post positive things on social media, they’ll refer us to other people and they’ll become ongoing customers.
In addition to the Inbound Marketing methodology, it's important that we understand what's called the buyers journey.
The Buyers Journey
Many businesses fall short under the assumption that people are going to flock to their website and contact them right away. That is just not the way the world works today. A lot of people who come to your website are looking for solutions to their problems, they’re looking for more research, but they’re not at the stage where they're ready to buy yet. That's why it's important to understand the three distinct phases of the buyer's journey. Once you understand that you can create content that appeals to each of the buyer's stages, you can use this knowledge to capture people that you’re currently not able to.
Another important aspect of inbound marketing is what we call buyer personas or target audiences. With buyer personas we want to understand who our best prospects are, their pains, their challenges, even to the point where we can develop fictional characters. By getting a clear understanding and putting a face and fictional name behind them, this allows us to develop content that speaks directly to each of these personas in a personal, individualized way, making the content much more effective.
The key take away is that inbound marketing isn’t some fad, or gimmicky way to market. Inbound marketing is simply how you reach customers in today's world. Hopefully this gave you a better understanding that there's a methodology behind inbound marketing and how all these different tactics work together to grow your business.