What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing, in simple terms, is the process of helping potential customers find your company. This frequently happens before the customer is even ready to make a purchase, but making contact early can turn into brand preference and, ultimately, leads and revenue. Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing—content marketing, blogs, events, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and more—to create brand awareness and attract new business. Whereas outbound marketing seeks out customers, inbound marketing focuses on visibility, so potential buyers come to you. Instead of “renting attention,” companies employing inbound marketing focus on new methods geared toward building awareness, developing relationships, and generating leads.
These methods make you attractive to customers because they don’t make people feel like they’re being sold to. The content provided by inbound marketing is educational, entertaining, and welcomed by consumers. When done correctly, inbound marketing can return dramatically better results than traditional marketing that disrupts prospects rather than giving them an open invitation to engage. When consumers find your company this way, it has a stronger influence on their future marketing decisions and their feelings toward your business in general. The best part? Inbound marketing consists of entirely organic leads, so it relies on brains rather than budget.
Inbound marketing has the powerful ability to put customers in the driver’s seat, connecting you with people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. Aside from lead conversions and customer retention, inbound marketing can do wonders for social media shares, brand awareness, and search engine optimization efforts. A robust inbound marketing program allows customers to engage with your brand at any time. This allows you to generate qualified leads for much less money than traditional marketing. As the creation of data continues to increase—according to IBM, we create 2.6 quintillion bytes of data per day—information abundance and attention scarcity will only continue to climb. The empowered buyer has all the information they need to make a buying decision at their fingertips any time, any place. Detail specs, pricing, and product/service reviews are right in their pocket, not to mention social media’s impact on information sharing. To be successful in this evolving landscape, visibility through inbound marketing is key.
Common problems that inbound marketing can solve
When it comes to implementing a long-term strategy, inbound marketing is an investment that will help you increase brand awareness, preference, and ultimately, revenue.
- Problem: I need to increase my brand awareness. Up to 93% of buying cycles start with an online search. If your company appears at the top of search results or is active on a searcher’s social network, you can organically increase your brand awareness. To do that, you must make sure you have the right content and messaging in place to show up in these key inbound channels.
- Problem: I want to improve my brand preference. By educating, entertaining, and interacting with potential customers before they are thinking about making a purchase, you build trust and increase the likelihood that they will choose you when they are ready to buy. Never underestimate the impact of becoming a familiar face.
- Problem: I need to generate more leads but have less to invest. Inbound marketing is a long-term investment that builds on itself over time. Your results will multiply many times over as you become more adept at creating and curating content that naturally attracts organic leads.
- Problem: I’m not sure I have the staff or budget to do inbound marketing. Like many things, the more you put into inbound efforts, the more you’ll get out of it. But, if you have a good strategy in place that outlines key themes, content, and distribution, you can make sure to avoid wasted efforts.
ROI of a successful inbound marketing program
Inbound marketing is unique in that it generally has less of an up-front cost than other marketing efforts, and it can have a seriously impressive ROI when used correctly.
- Inbound marketing brings leads to you. Inbound marketing generates three times more leads per dollar than traditional methods (Content Marketing Institute).
- Inbound marketing is easy on your budget. Businesses that mainly rely on inbound marketing save more than $14 for every newly acquired customer (Hubspot).
- Inbound marketing has a proven ROI. 44% of brands that use marketing automation software see ROI within six months, while 75% see ROI after one year
Planning, implementing and optimizing your inbound marketing program
When it comes to inbound marketing, the more you invest, the greater your return. Creating killer content is about brains and commitment rather than budget. You can’t throw money at content and make it effective, you have to put your head and heart into it. Here’s how to get started:
- Step 1: Define your business goals and buyer personas. Identify your target audience and learn all you can about them. You can’t write content to inform your customers until you know your audience.
- Step 2: Provide content at every stage. Preemptively answer the questions that your customers are likely to have at each stage of their buying journey. Determine your unique, compelling story. Why should your audience listen to you? The concept of what we call transformational inbound marketing goes beyond traditional inbound marketing techniques. Unlike traditional inbound, transformational inbound leverages valuable content to attract and retain customers throughout their entire lifecycle, not just before they are a customer but also after. Additionally, transformational inbound marketing puts a greater emphasis on personalization and relevance.
- Step 3: Choose your delivery platforms. The more valuable the content you create for your audience, the more likely you will win them as customers. Determine the best way to reach them, whether it’s through Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere.
- Step 4: Create and execute your content calendar. It is important to create a schedule that will consistently turn out fresh and relevant content to continue to engage your audience. By keeping a constant stream of content that addresses your customers’ questions, issues, and pain points, you’ll maintain relevance and build your brand as a trusted thought leader.
- Step 5: Analyze results and optimize your inbound marketing program. There’s a variety of metrics to choose from when measuring the success of your inbound marketing efforts. Whether you decide to analyze SEO rankings, inbound links, or the number of articles published, these resources will provide valuable insight into how your campaigns are performing. Set aside time for analysis weekly. This step will aid you in understanding how effective your inbound marketing efforts have been and how they can improve.