Inbound Marketing: What’s all the fuss about?

Inbound marketing magnet

Inbound versus Outbound – Part Two

This is part two of a three-part series pitting inbound marketing against outbound. Keep reading to learn more about inbound marketing or go back to part one to find out all about outbound.

What is inbound marketing?

The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was the era of the ‘Ad Man.’ Mass marketing had come of age and advertising and marketing were seen as synonymous. As the 1980s and 1990s came about the industry had realised that there were different types of people šŸ¤£, and began segmenting audiences and adapting messages accordingly. By the 2000s, with the advent of the internet, we had begun to personalise our messages. But still, we were pushing these messages out into the marketplace.

Inbound marketing turned this on its head. The ‘push’ was abandoned in favour of the ‘pull.’

This customer-centric approach to marketing which had been slowly building was taken to the next level. Marketers began to look at the entire lifecycle of the customer – before, during and after the sale. We thought about how we could Attract, Engage and Delight our customers.

Inbound marketing creates a system of reciprocity where:

  • Quality content overcomes objections and solves problems;
  • Customer-centric products engage and reengage customers;
  • And satisfied customers draw in new customers.

The term ‘inbound marketing’ was first coined by Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan in 2006.

Hubspot produced an entire methodology around this term. They created free training materials in inbound marketing. And, they built a successful software business that supported its practice.

Inbound marketing and content marketing are occasionally used as interchangeable terms.

While inbound is a methodology rather than a means its popularity has very much been driven by the digital platforms that have changed the way we research, compare and share in a digital economy.

The following platforms are core components of inbound marketing practice:

#1 – Search Engine Optimisation

In inbound, search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about creating quality content that answers the reader’s search intent. Research your target audiences’ wants and needs and create content that answers their search queries. Then optimise that content so that it can easily be found by search engines either via on-page SEO tactics or off-page SEO tactics.

#2 – Blogging

Blogging remains a primary element of inbound marketing, though successful strategies now go far beyond this one (seemingly simple) element. In the early days of inbound it was enough to just have a blog but today your blog needs to be more relevant, more in-depth and more unique than ever.

Take time to research how your blog can help solve problems for your target audience.

#3 – In-depth Content Creation

One of the core components of inbound marketing, in particular for businesses selling to other businesses is in-depth content creation. This type of content is informative rather than promotional.

Common examples of in-depth content items include white-papers, eBooks, how-to guides, industry research and insight papers, trend predictions etc.

In-depth content can be used to engage prospective customers or to delight existing customers.

Quality in-depth content takes a long time to research and develop. Therefore it’s most effective if:

  • The path-to-purchase is long – it takes months or even years to finalise a sale.
  • The payoff is big – high-value items or when securing a recurring revenue stream.
  • The customer relationship will be long-term – churn rate is a factor.
  • Customer referral is important – existing customers drawing in new customers

In-depth content is often ‘gated’, particularly when it’s used to engage prospective customers. To access this content a website visitor must enter her email address or other personal data.

However, many proponents of inbound marketing now believe that this type of content should be open and free to access for all. This improves its value for SEO and increases share-ability. Though obviously, you’re losing out on the lead generation aspect.

#4 – Social Media Engagement

Social media and inbound marketing have grown hand-in-hand over the last decade. For the first time ever brand was given a platform where they could directly engage with their audience. In inbound social media is more than simply a place to post your blogs and other cool content it’s an ongoing conversation with your customers new and old, your prospects, the media and the industry.

The right social media strategy can make all your inbound marketing efforts meaningful.

How to use inbound marketing effectively

Effectively implementing an inbound marketing methodology in your business will take time and money. While the rewards can be very desirable it’s essential that you do not underestimate the staff time involved. It’s not necessary to adopt an inbound approach across all aspects of your business, however, it’s important that where you do use inbound you do so wholeheartedly.

A blog with shallow, unoriginal content is worse than no blog at all. Five posts a day on social media mean nothing if you have no interest in making it a two-way conversation. But don’t beat yourself up about it, consistently creating quality content is no mean feat. So long as you keep a customer-centric approach and marketing, sales and customer service keep working together you’ll get there…

In the meantime, visit Hubspot Academy for free inbound training and certification.

Read part three of ourĀ Inbound versus Outbound series: The final call – inbound or outbound?

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