Brand Responsibly Manifesto: 13
What is all this talk about inbound marketing? Is inbound marketing the same as content marketing? And why is it so much more effective than traditional or “outbound” marketing?
When your audiences are looking for what you offer, where are they looking? Most people start researching online before they make a decision. In fact, Forrester Research (2011) shows 70% of the buying decision in a B2B purchase is complete before prospects talk to a salesperson. A decision is more than halfway made because research (most of it online) has already framed the solution.
The stats don’t lie
We all know buying behavior has changed. Today big box stores battle big volume online retailers. A small, local specialty store can have a national or even global market. The internet has had a huge impact on every corner of business. B2B, B2C, e-commerce, non-profits and educational institutions can all reach and connect with wider audiences at a lower cost.
Inbound marketing uses strategies to help your audiences find you online–SEO, blogs and social media. It cultivates relationships based on permission. Outbound marketing relies on interruption–telemarketing, sales calls, direct mail, trade shows.
Inbound marketing works for today’s audiences
“Inbound marketing is a set of marketing strategies and techniques focused on pulling relevant prospects and customers towards a business and its products. Inbound marketing … complements the way buyers make purchasing decisions today — using the Internet and related media to learn about the products and services that best meet their needs.
Inbound marketers offer their audiences useful information and tools to attract people to their site, while also interacting and developing relationships with these potential customers. Inbound marketing tools include blogging, content publishing, search engine optimization and social media.”
According to HubSpot’s 2012 Inbound Marketing Report:
- Inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 61% lower than outbound marketing-dominated organizations.
- 2012 saw growth in social media use across the spectrum. 62% of companies said that social media had become more important as a source of leads in the past six months.
- 81% of businesses rated their company blogs as “useful,” “important” or “critical.” An impressive 25% rated their company blog as “critical” to their business.
Start with a great content strategy
Get a deep understanding of what information your prospects are looking for, where they’re looking and the terms that they use to search on. Create your website to be a magnet to the right audiences, to fulfill on what they’re seeking and how they make a decision. Build your content to help web visitors make a choice, rather than to sell them on what you offer.
Think of inbound marketing like dating
Keep your prospects interested by providing them with great content. Instead of asking for the “sale” each time (let’s get married!), keep inviting them to look further. Cultivate the relationship by providing content that captivates, informs, educates or entertains.
What makes great content? Put yourself in the shoes of your audiences. What would they be interested in? What are the FAQs? How do they like to communicate? How about:
- A video that shows off your product at work, in an unexpected way
- A checklist for factors to consider when choosing a product or service in this category.
- A video testimonial from clients or leadership
- An e-book with educational information to help audiences understand your value
- Free guidelines or worksheets to evaluate new strategies
- Statistics or a report on the industry you’re in
A good content strategy is essential to your inbound marketing program. Delivering content that connects and resonates will build the relationship and position you as the right choice, when those audiences are ready to choose. Build your visual and verbal brand through your content, on your website, and with a clear strategy to reach, connect and invite audiences to look further.
What is inbound marketing? When you build your brand online, build in an inbound marketing program to deliver qualified leads and engaged, self-educated new clients and customers. You’ll be reaching people where they are looking for what you offer.
Below is a graphic adapted from HubSpot to illustrate the flow of inbound marketing.
To evaluate your online brand and explore inbound marketing further:
- Download our Website Effectiveness Scorecard
- Download our overview of Inbound Marketing
- Read HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Report 2012