The old model of marketing is ready for a revamp, let us introduce you to Inbound Marketing.
You’ve probably heard of inbound marketing, and you’ve certainly been affected by the shift from “traditional” marketing, which focused on pushing adverts at customers, to inbound's more subtle approach to gradually winning them over. In this guide we will lift the hood and get all up inside the mechanics of what Inbound Marketing is, how it works, and even give you some ideas of how you might apply inbound marketing techniques into your marketing strategy.
The sheer volume of information bombarding us daily is staggering, and often leads to Information Overload. In his 2002 publication, Information Overload: Causes, Symptoms and Solutions (PDF), Joseph Ruff says “Once capacity is surpassed, additional information becomes noise and results in a decrease in information processing and decision quality…[H]aving too much information is the same as not having enough”.
Unfortunately, a lot of traditional marketing falls into the category of “noise”, with customers becoming increasingly resistant to, and suspicious of, the tools marketing professionals are used to using.
The simple fact is that the old model of marketing is broken. Customers simply aren’t paying attention, partly due to information overload, and partly due to customers feeling sceptical about brands and their intentions.
Research by the Nielsen Norman Group shows, repeatedly, that customers simply don’t see banner advertisements on websites. Users literally don’t even look at them.
On top of that, research shows that other traditional broadcasting methods of advertising are failing.
The glaring question is why are these marketing methods failing?
Firstly, there is the staggering volume of adverts, saturating all forms of media (magazines, TV, radio, and the web). As we mentioned earlier, the constant bombardment leads to information overload, and customers eventually disconnect, ignoring the majority of advertising and perhaps even becoming hostile towards advertising.
Secondly, many brands must fight against the history of deceptive and outright false advertising by other companies. These practices have muddied the waters for anyone wishing to use traditional marketing. More importantly, they have made customers suspicious of any advertising they happen to encounter.
Finally, technologies such as ad blockers, spam filters, and caller ID have given customers the power to completely block advertising from their daily life.
Simply put, inbound marketing is marketing with a magnet, not a bullhorn. Inbound marketing is based on creating interesting, educational content which draws your target market to your website. Inbound marketing is all about creating a trusting relationship between you, the brand, and your prospective customers, allowing them to learn about your products and services on their own terms.
Winning the trust of prospective customers is not easy, and inbound marketing takes careful planning and persistent execution.
Inbound marketing is based on two key concepts:
Core to any inbound marketing efforts is high-quality online content. Make sure your web pages, blog articles, and email newsletters are optimised for search. This makes it easier for potential customers to find you when they’re looking for products or services you offer.
Make sure your content is useful and helps customers to learn or solve problems in their day-to-day lives or businesses. This type of content will encourage people to return to your site or social media accounts, and starts the journey of earning their trust.
Learn more about the type of content that draws your customers through the sales funnel. Once you know what content you’re going to create, personalise email, SMS messages, and promotions so that visitors get relevant information as and when they need it.
Above all, inbound is a mindset adopted by marketers who realize they’ll more effectively generate new business by creating – not interrupting – the content their prospects actually want to consume.
When you’re planning your email marketing efforts, make sure you marry them with the rest of your inbound marketing campaigns. Let’s look at a few ways you can incorporate inbound marketing techniques into your email campaigns.
First and foremost, you must ensure that you only send to contacts who have signed-up to receive emails from you. This means putting more effort into organically growing your email list. There are a few ways you can do this:
By using these methods to build a mailing list of truly interested contacts, you’ll see a higher engagement rate, and more conversions down the line than if you were buying email addresses to send your newsletter to.
Use segmentation and personalisation to send targeted emails to the right people. For example, if you are sending emails for a fragrance and cosmetics store, you could send one email to all the male and female subscribers in your list, or you could segment your list into male and female subscribers and send each group a targeted email.
In this way your content will be more appealing, and more valuable, to your customers.
Once a subscriber has entrusted you with their email address, it’s extremely important that you don’t go straight for the sale. You must take your time, keep the inbound lifecycle in mind, and build your relationship more slowly. Send them content that educates them, answers common questions related to your product, and guides them through the decision-making process. This approach will build the relationship between you and your subscribers, and funnels them towards a sale.
When planning your inbound email campaigns, you will need to shift your mind-set regarding email frequency and timing. Send emails so that they are consistent, without becoming a nuisance. If you’re sending too often, even if your content is carefully targeted, you will still find your subscribers being turned off your email.
Do some research into email sending times to see what days and times show the best engagement in your industry. In general, Tuesdays through Thursdays during business hours is the sweet spot.
Finally, match your campaign to your sales cycle. If your sales cycle usually takes six months, sending all your emails in two months is a bad idea. Slow down, relax, and plan your emails to compliment your other sales strategies.
Make sure that every single email you send contains a footer with a simple, short reminder of why the contact is receiving that email, as well as unsubscribe links. This is a legal requirement, and you have to do it.
You can also include options for your subscribers to manage their subscription options. Allow them to subscribe to other newsletters you run, or unsubscribe from the ones they’re currently receiving from you.
Inbound marketing is all about providing the right content, to the right people, in the right context at the right time. If you can do this, you’ll be able to easily move customers through the inbound life cycle, from attracting them as strangers, to delighting them as customers ending up with them promoting your content (and your brand) for you.
You can start drawing customers to your site by creating rich blog content, optimising it for search engines so that you show up in relevant searches, and promoting your content on social media.
Strategically placing calls-to-action in your blog and website can send visitors to landing pages offering free content by gathering their basic info. This can form part of your lead generation campaign.
Once you’ve secured the leads, use email drip campaigns to move them along your buying cycle.
Maintain your relationships with customers after they’ve purchased from you. Send them surveys and smart content designed to eventually turn them into brand ambassadors.
Finally, don’t forget to always analyse your marketing efforts to see where you can refine your process to increase future success.
Now that we know what inbound marketing is, and what sets it apart from traditional marketing, let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
Effective inbound marketing can:
Here are a few ideas you can use to start, or refine, your own inbound marketing campaigns.
|Interactive Content||Use content like polls, calculators, webinars, and infographics to establish yourself as a leader in your market.|
|Mobile Content||Mobile connectivity is hugely popular, make sure all your content is mobile-friendly.|
|Social Media||Don’t try and master every mobile platform out there. Rather focus on platforms that bring you the highest amount of traffic. Focus on platforms where your target market gathers.
Also, remember that social media is about communicating with your followers. Engage in conversation with them, and create great content that displays well on your chosen platform.
|Email is still one of the most reliable and lucrative channels of inbound marketing.
Segment your subscribers and create targeted content to nurture your relationship and funnel them through the sales cycle.
Remember that you are building relationships with customers, earning their trust through consistently demonstrating your knowledge and integrity. Have fun, be creative, but don’t abuse your customer’s trust.