When many people think of marketing, they envision self-serving television and radio ads, annoying direct mail, and cold calls that always seem to interrupt your personal time. These traditional methods are known as outbound marketing, the practice of casting your proverbial line into a pool of mostly uninterested consumers, with the hope that at least a few will be receptive to your products and services.
Inbound marketing maintains that marketing should focus on addressing your audience’s needs and then helping them along their buyer’s journey. When done properly, customers regard you as a beneficial, trusted resource, and so the sales-inherent fear of being “duped” no longer underlies their relationship with your business. They come to your business voluntarily, granting you permission to advertise your products and services, and giving you the opportunity to close the sale. So how do you foster this sense of trust with your audience? You make it about them.
As important as the method is the message. Inbound marketing is about bringing not just people, but the right people to your business with content they find relevant, interesting, and valuable. You offer your audience tools and information that help them, and in turn, they offer their interest and loyalty to your business. It’s completely symbiotic, and it’s the reason inbound works.
The Inbound Methodology represents the journey your potential customers take
as they build a relationship with your business or organization.
Strangers are those who come to your website for the first time. With enough interesting content, they'll return repeatedly, at which point we consider them visitors.
Visitors are clearly interested in what you have to say, and so they're primed to become leads.
Once your visitors have become leads, it's time to nurture those leads with valuable content like blog posts, email newsletters, special promotions, product demos, and case studies, depending on how ready they are to make a purchase.
Once you've closed the sale, it doesn't mean that your relationship is over. You need to continue to delight your existing customers, at which point they share your content with their friends and contacts and become advocates for your brand.
Inbound marketing is all about synergy. There are five principal Pillars of Inbound: Content, the Buyer’s Journey, Customization, Integrated Marketing, and Analytics. While each is important on its own, these five parts are intrinsically connected, so an inbound strategy is only as effective as its weakest link. So what makes Inbound work?
If you’ve ever researched Inbound Marketing, you’ll see the word “content” thrown around quite a bit. But what exactly is it? Content refers to images, videos, blog posts, social media posts--anything that your business creates with the goal of attracting new customers and engaging with existing ones. Your content shouldn’t be a vehicle for bombarding users with sales pitches. Instead, you should create content with the goal of acknowledging the problems and questions your audience has and then, of course, answering those questions.
Nowadays when people consider making a purchase, there’s a lot more research involved than there used to be. Some are just looking to browse new services, whereas others are ready to see exactly what products you offer and move forward with a purchase. The Buyer’s Journey 1) acknowledges that people within your target audience are at different stages in this decision-making process, and 2) uses state-of-the-art marketing tools to tailor advertisements and content to users based on where they fall within that timeline. In other words, an inbound marketing strategy aims to give users what they want, when they want it.
To make the concept of the Buyer’s Journey work, you need to customize content based on the needs of actual people. People like to be engaged, and they like to feel like their needs are acknowledged and their voices are heard. Inbound marketing aims to do just that: with the incredible tools that are now available, you can get to know your audience, and the more you learn, the more you can personalize your content and give your users exactly what they’re looking for.
With social media, automated marketing, lead tracking, and other fantastic marketing innovations, you’re able to engage your audience on multiple fronts, and do so in a way that naturally aligns with how they already use and interact with technology. This creates a marketing campaign that flows with users’ existing habits, rather than intruding and interrupting them.
The final step in a holistic inbound marketing effort is analytics, the feedback you get from the marketing strategy you’ve put in place. Each month, you can get detailed reports with information that helps you determine which initiatives worked and which didn’t. This feedback is critical to maintaining a dynamic, effective marketing campaign, and is key to keeping your business on track.