What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is an essential part of running a successful business. In fact, business and management expert Peter Drucker once said, “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.” Different types of marketing strategies and campaigns have different levels of effectiveness: some marketing strategies are more expensive with very little measurable effect, while others are less expensive or offer a higher ROI (return on investment), yet have a measurable impact on your business. Inbound marketing falls into the latter category. It uses a series of techniques in a strong approach towards shifting the consumer bias towards your business.
Inbound marketing utilizes various online marketing strategies to attract consumers’ attention online. While traditional marketing strategies such as print, TV advertising, and radio ads are quite expensive and may claim to drive customers to a business, they simply do not achieve the massive transformation that online marketing can. This makes inbound marketing ideal for small to mid-sized businesses and startups, who tend to have smaller marketing budgets and need serious results for their efforts.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is the complete opposite of inbound marketing. It refers to all traditional forms of advertising, such as TV and radio commercials, print advertising, signage, cold calls, and email blasts. Most of these tools are ones we tend to ignore as consumers. Inbound marketing has several advantages over outbound marketing, including:
- Inbound marketing is highly measurable and results-oriented. It is quite difficult to tell how many people have read your newspaper ad. Even the number of newspaper sales does not guarantee an equal number of people read the ad. With inbound marketing, strategies and techniques result in immediate action from the target audience. The audiences of inbound marketing are engaged and accessible, making it easier to monitor their responses towards the marketing strategies that have been put in place.
- Inbound marketing doesn’t cram a message down consumers’ throats. One of the biggest problems with outbound marketing is that the loudest and most obnoxious are rewarded regardless of the message content. Inbound marketing focuses on delivering a quality message to the right audience to elicit a reaction. Consumers no longer are willing to stand for a shotgun approach, and instead want targeted, relevant messaging that provides benefit to them.
- Outbound marketing doesn’t consider its audience. If you’re not in the market for a new car, that car dealer commercial is irrelevant to you. With inbound marketing, there is careful planning and study of demographics so only a small percentage of customers are lost to the interruptions while the majority are converted into customers.
Elements of a Good Inbound Marketing Strategy
Most traditional marketing strategies are being frowned upon or ignored by consumers instead of being consumed as they once were. TV commercials interrupt people’s favorite shows, unsolicited cold calls irritate people trying to enjoy dinner, and unwanted emails invade people’s inboxes, and none of these are getting their point across.
Inbound marketing strategies convert at a much better rate since audiences choose to engage with your brand and seek you out. When people interact with your brand naturally, and when you deliver useful content or brand messaging to them, you are more likely to get higher conversion rates. The following are some of the elements of good inbound marketing strategies that you should use:
- Search Engine Optimization: Search engine optimization is the process of structuring your website content for optimal organic placement in search engines. Through SEO, you can target good ranking in search engine result pages (SERPS). High-quality website design and optimized content work together to make identification of your content and indexing easier. SEO is critical to inbound marketing because it helps Internet users find your business through search.
SEO in and of itself includes a barrage of techniques and strategies such as coding, website structure, building links, and proper keyword usage. However, you can simplify your SEO by focusing on the most important keywords in your content and making sure these keywords have enough search volume to help the right people find you. There are many free resources available online that can assist your SEO efforts or you could hire a SEO company to ensure you rise up search results.
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising: Although paid strategies generally go against the inbound marketing methodology, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an exception. There are situations where it is a smart part of an inbound marketing strategy because ads appear when someone is actively searching for something that the ad is related to. Pay-per-click ads do not interrupt any activity online; they appear alongside search results for whatever term a person is searching for. However, we also strongly recommend investing in organic search and content marketing techniques that will give you a higher ROI over time so you can scale back or wean off of PPC in the long run.
- Content Marketing: Inbound marketing cannot survive without content marketing. Content is what you serve to your audience to get them to your site and once they have their foot in the door on your website. Useful and fresh content is essential to attracting more visitors to your site, boosting your SEO, and providing relevance to potential customers. Your content should help your audience answer a question or solve a problem, and you can create targeted content via articles, blogs, videos, infographics, and podcasts. The most important thing to remember about content marketing is that your content should stand out from the clutter of content already on the Internet. Your content should educate, entertain, and inspire your online audience. Map your quality content to where your buyer is in the buying process and you’ll drive more traffic and improve your conversions.
- Social Media: After creating phenomenal content, you need to get it out to your audience. The first thing to do is publish it on your site, then look for other platforms where you can attract even more readers to your content. This is where social media comes in handy. By sharing your content, you have the potential to reach the millions of people who are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites with your expertise. The other benefit is that other social media users can also share your content, helping it spread even further.
- Landing pages: Your landing page is designed to attract a very specific person (buyer persona) to a very specific call to action. It could highlight a product, offer a download opportunity, or a subscription service. The landing page should be relevant to your call to action, the reason why the lead followed the link in the first place. The landing page should also be focused on your goal and have a brilliant design to engage your visitors and maintain their attention.
As a bonus tip, you can use remarketing to keep your visitors engaged. Once the visitor has expressed interest and found her way to your website, what else do you have to offer to keep her there? Remarketing is all about keeping your products or services in the mind of your visitors; via cookies, you can follow the visitors that come to your website around the web, and provide a reminder ad to urge them to come back and visit your site. You can remarket to show specific ads to visitors who showed interest in a specific page on your site, for example your pricing page, people who have placed items in the shopping cart but have not purchased them yet, or simply anyone who has visited your website.
Here are a few inbound marketing strategies you can try on your business:
- Creating Content: You need to create multiple forms of content to appeal to all kinds of audiences. Some people prefer a long and interesting read, while others just want to look at pictures. Creating a quality blog is an effective way to market your business, and helps you attract new visitors and maintain the interest of your returning visitors. Your blog should be a hub where your audience comes to get informed on topics you’re an expert on. Another way to keep your audience happy is through creating downloadable content. Downloadable content nurtures your visitors with longer form content. Through content such as guides and ebooks, you can stay in contact with your prospective customers while building trust with them.Keep on top of your publishing using an editorial calendar so you always release fresh and relevant content regularly.
- Optimize for Your Top Keywords: SEO permeates everything you do for inbound marketing. Keyword research and optimization is the most powerful tool you can use to attract top search engine rankings. Research the keywords that people are likely to search for when looking for content like yours, and use these words properly in your content. When looking for keywords to focus on, do not just stick to a few relevant terms that are variants of the same meaning. Gain traffic for different keywords, but stick to just 1-3 per page. Create special pages on your website that are only for these specific keywords. Insert them naturally into related content (meaning they’re not awkwardly placed or overstuffed in the copy). Optimizing long tail keywords that are relevant to your business can help you come up on top too.
- Social Media Q and A Sessions: Social media makes inbound marketing a viral and interactive experience for both business owners and social media users. For the latter, they are no long just hearing about companies and going to their website; they can also follow them and interact with them on social media. Social media should be used in conjunction with your other inbound efforts. Having a presence on social media platforms is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to engage people on these platforms, and remember: there is a human being behind every follower, like, or share. You need to connect with these people, and asking and answering questions is a great way to do it. Respond to your followers and be active on your profiles. There are so many social media features that you can use to monitor conversations about your brand and your competitors, such as hashtags and mentions. These will provide you with the opportunity to interact with the people actively discussing your products and services. This will increase your brand image and even reach across social network platforms.
- Build your mailing list: Your mailing list is one of the most important factors in building your business. Marketers often say email is where the money is. You can leverage the power of your mailing list with compelling content and news blasts to grow your business. You can use a sign-up page or pop-ups to encourage people to opt in to your mailing list. Today’s pop up forms are much more sophisticated than in the past, and offer high conversion rates.
- Online PR and Guest blogging: Online PR, including article placement and guest blogging are additional ideal inbound marketing strategy because they creates powerful back links, gives you access to larger audience, and creates an opportunity to build your brand. If you’re mentioned on sites such as the New York Times, Huffington Post, and so on, then you can build your credibility to your audience. Add a list of the places you’ve been published on your landing page for all your potential leads to see. It may be the one thing that gets them to buy from you.
As you can see, there is no cookie-cutter method to implementing inbound marketing strategies. Your campaign should be customized to your specific marketing and sales goals. For a start-up business, there are many tools available online that can help you leverage inbound marketing on a budget.
Working with inbound marketing experts is a great way to set things in motion the right way. One of the biggest mistakes you can ever make in inbound marketing is allowing a certain element of your campaign to lag behind, which is quite common if you’re going it alone. Having the right partner who has experience in inbound marketing is essential if you’re serious about getting results.