The marketing internet has been awash in articles talking about “inbound marketing” this, “outbound marketing” that, and “content marketing” is the next BIG THING—so much so that it’s getting confusing even for us. The explosion of new marketing terms, tactics, and techniques can be overwhelming, we get it. After all, many people ascribe to the idea that marketing is marketing is marketing, right?
Well, no. It’s not that simple anymore. Today we’re going to take a look at inbound marketing (but here's more about outbound marketing, and content marketing, if you're interested!). Here's why we're such strong proponents of inbound marketing and of it’s use by pretty much any company, in any industry.
Definition Time: Inbound Marketing
First things first, just what is inbound marketing and how is it different? Market leader Hubspot coined the phrase inbound marketing to describe the growing tactic of using content to attract, engage, and delight customers (existing and potential alike) in order to grow your business. The term “inbound” was used to counter what Hubspot refers to as “outbound marketing,” or traditional marketing where a brand forces information and sales pitches on their audience.
Inbound marketing provides a counterpoint to that, where you work to attract customers to your brand by providing engaging, informative, and highly relevant content on your blog, social media, and elsewhere on the web. The inbound methodology combines multiple media types across multiple channels to convey your brand message, raise awareness, and provide solutions to pain points that your customers are known to have. All that while building trust in your brand as a source of great information.
And as for content marketing, well that’s a subset of inbound that covers the how-to of producing all those great, useful blog posts and social media updates.
Some examples of the tactics used in the inbound marketing customer journey (all of which are covered in the Hubspot Certified Inbound Marketer program offered via the Hubspot Academy):
- Paid ads: Crossing over from the traditional marketing world, paid ads are still a crucial piece of an inbound marketing campaign. What differs is the content of these ads, they’re not sales pitches per se, rather they provide information and a CTA to learn more by clicking through to a landing page full of further information.
- Videos: Testimonials play on the fact that people trust other people more than corporations, and guided how-to’s can show how easy it is to use your product to solve problems.
- SEO: Optimizing the back-end of your website’s pages helps bring organic traffic in from search engines and can help propel you to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages).
- Blogs/social media posts: These make up the content aspect of inbound, being produced with the intent of providing relevant information to your readers. This engenders trust and gratitude when they can use that information to start solving existing problems and leads to their readiness to convert to paying customers when the time is right.
- Email newsletters: Once a reader has found your content useful, they’re often ready to hand over contact information to subscribe to your newsletter. Use this channel to convey more brand stories, industry news, company updates, and exclusive offers.
- Chatbots: Once a reader starts looking around your site, they will inevitably develop questions. Having a chatbot programmed to handle the basic FAQ duties frees up your staff to handle more pressing matters while at the same time making that information available 24/7.
- Marketing automation: As you build your contact list, automation software will enable you to keep your newsletters, blog posts, and social media updates on schedule. Many also let you segment lists based on a number of factors which allow you to tailor your content even further to resonate with more people.
- Lead generation: Once a reader has learned what they need to know, chatted with your bot to fill in the blanks, and received enough emails to know they can trust you, they’re ready to reach out and convert. All without any pushy sales calls.
- Blog posts/comments: Happy customers still enjoy learning, so targeting your existing customers with some content tailored for them is critical. They are also more likely to leave insightful comments on your posts, so be sure to check in regularly and respond in kind.
- Social media conversations: New and existing customers have questions, and increasingly they’re asking them via social media. Be sure someone is monitoring your accounts to answer these inquiries in a timely manner. Social media reputation can make, or break, a company.
- Marketing automation: Everything listed above carries over to this phase of the customer journey.
- Smart content: By smart we mean not only intelligent and on-point but also tailored to its audience. Those segmented contact lists? Use those to send content specifically tailored to those recipients. For example, users of your widget might want to know about some advanced techniques, while potential customers are still looking for basic how-to guides to show them how you can help.
The Market has Changed. Inbound is the Response
Today’s customers no longer want to be talked AT, they want to join in a conversation. We have the rise of social media to thank for that. These channels are also where customers are looking for that conversation, even with companies. Traditional, or outbound, marketing was about cold calling potential customers and pushing sales information on them rather than asking how you could help.
Inbound developed to remedy that situation and give people the helpful interactions they were looking for. By engaging in casual conversations with your target audience, you’re putting a human voice to your company’s brand. Once trust is established and someone finds themselves in need of a product or service, they remember those conversations and how human you made the company feel, and they’ll come calling. No cold calls necessary.
Inbound Epitomized the Saying, “Give Your Best Stuff Away for Free.”
The saying about giving your best stuff away for free is often misunderstood. It’s not saying you should provide the same service you charge for, for free. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic to fix your car for free, would you? What it means is that by sharing the best of your niche knowledge and understanding of your industry via your content marketing and inbound strategy, you will engender the kind of trust that creates lifelong customers.
By publishing insightful, relevant, and most importantly useful, information you will gain your audience’s trust as you grow the organic traffic to your site. It’s this combination of increased traffic and solidifying yourself in the minds of your target audience that makes inbound such a powerful marketing tool, and such an important piece of a solid marketing plan as we head deeper into the 21st-century.