What is inbound marketing, you may be asking? Well, here's the basic principle and theory.
You own a shop and somebody walks in off the street one day. They like what they see, you get talking to them, you show them some of your products, you even paint a picture of what your products could do for them. Then they buy something, and – over time – they become a regular customer.
But everybody is different; in the example above, what attracted that specific shopper to that specific shop? What was it about the story you told that made them want to buy the product? How can we capture that essence and use it to attract more shoppers and turn them into a solid long-term loyal customer base?
That’s the problem the vast majority of businesses across the globe face, especially when they start out and are looking for ways to grow and expand.
Marketing isn’t an exact science. It never has been; internally for companies it’s a loss-making department to make other areas of the business more attractive to potential clients to bring revenue in through other channels.
That’s changed though with inbound marketing. Software and techniques are available to give marketers information they’ve never had access to before, from how website visitors interact with certain pages, the time they spend on a site, location information, and other hugely valuable metrics.
Despite all the money they cost, television, radio and magazine ads simply can’t give you that kind of information or control over your campaign. Statistics are assumptive and estimated at best. Inbound marketing can; here’s how you can use it to attract customers, even before they want to make a purchase.
The cornerstones of inbound marketing
Inbound marketing is a long-term game that has potential to yield an excellent ROI for investors looking to grow and beat the competition. Even better, the sheer amount of inbound options available means you can construct an incredibly creative campaign and have fun while doing it.
HubSpot describes inbound marketing as below:
"Inbound is a method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust. As technology shifts, inbound guides an approach to doing business in a human and helpful way.
Inbound is a better way to market, a better way to sell, and a better way to serve your customers. Because when good-for-the-customer means good-for-the-business, your company can grow better over the long term."
A huge part of inbound marketing is about building trust and being genuinely helpful for potential customers. It’s also about having an active online presence, and where possible, personalising your interactions for your prospects. Inbound is about aligning different digital channels with a coherent message and “nudging” a consumer towards a goal. It’s not about interrupting them with a broadcast message. Here are some of the ways it’s done:
Content marketingEver searched for something in Google, or asked Alexa a question, and wondered why certain websites are always top of the pile? Brands use content marketing to climb up the search engine rankings; the higher your site, the more likely it is to be explored by searchers specifically looking for the products and services you provide.
Creative content – whether articles, blogs, images, infographics or video – can also keep people coming back for more. Good content is helpful, relevant and easy to digest, with the best pieces shared amongst other potential customers to help spread word of your brand’s message.
Google are constantly introducing new algorithms that change the way content is ranked (much to the frustration of many a brand and SEO manager), but one thing always reigns true, they are trying to make content as useful to the user as possible.
Social media marketing
The evolution of social media is constantly presenting us with a various of channels which can be used to communicate with new audiences. A strong social presence helps to build your brand image, develop relationships with customers, answer queries and share interesting content.
Social media is also about listening - and online channels provide an incredible way to learn more about your audience. Browsing target audiences can reveal common challenges, unfulfilled ambitions and valuable gaps in the market.
Email is still and always has been one of the best ways to reach people directly, so long as it’s constructed in a way that doesn’t send it straight to the spam folder. Emails shouldn't be a hard sales pitch, and customer data must be gathered ethically.
Email is a great way to continue an existing relationship after initial introduction to your brand, and it's often perfect for nurturing a customer towards a sale.
You don’t need a studio to produce video content. The power of YouTube, Instagram Stories and other channels has helped many small businesses explode. It has helped them get their message out to huge target audiences, as well as opening up a new streams of communication and revenue.
Speed it up with biddable
For quicker results and to target the right people more effectively, a lot of brands also like to throw a healthy dose of biddable media into the mix if their budget allows.
Complementing young inbound marketing strategy with paid activity helps to attract the right targeted users sooner, testing your inbound campaign and providing near-immediate feedback.
It can speed up the whole process, and as the inbound marketing campaign takes hold, the budgets can be reduced until you’re entirely dependent on your creative efforts. On the other hand, if biddable is working well for you, then keep it up!
Creative inbound combinations
Another benefit of inbound marketing – as well as getting your name out there – is that it can reduce your costs per lead and ultimately costs per sale, introducing people to your sales cycle as they come across you via social, email, search, or other marketing method.
It is a long-term game and it’s one of discovery and creativity. But just choosing only one of the above options to grow your businesses is the same as hedging your bets. The best results come from a mix of inbound methods, complementing each other to reach out to different customers with different needs and wants at different times in different ways.
This is where the creative part comes in. No one business is the same, and whatever model you use you can create a hugely creative inbound campaign that gets your message across quickly and effectively, captures the right data, generates leads, and opens the buying cycle to customers.
That in turn, with the data collected, helps you refine the buying cycle to improve conversions. If a mix of content and social marketing is bringing people back to a specific page on your website, then what can be done to improve their experience and turn them into long-term customers when they arrive?
There are many other forms of inbound marketing out there - but that’s part of the excitement of inbound marketing. Existing methods are constantly evolving and new strategies constantly appearing, providing companies with new ways to get the most from their marketing mix. Get in touch to learn more.