What Is Inbound Marketing [and How Does It Elevate Your Company’s Brand]?
Throughout your career as a marketing manager, you are often challenged by finding new ways to engage your customers with your company and connect with them so they will ask you for more information about your company’s product and services. This is a day-to-day challenge for many marketing professionals and in today’s business world, traditional marketing tactics don’t seem to be effective.
Inbound marketing is becoming a frequent strategy to help you truly make a connection with your customers by building an on-going communications relationship with them where they see your company as one that adds value. Allow me to explain a bit further.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a customer-focused marketing approach that draws customers to your products and services through strategic delivery of online content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and smart branding positioning. Inbound marketing strategies aim to build a connection with your potential prospects by first identifying them as sales leads, then transitioning them into customers and after they buy that first product or service from your company–into committed customers that are evangelists for your brand.
Today, thanks to the Internet, customers and consumers are empowered more than ever because they are no longer passive just waiting in their office or home for your company’s information to come to them by mail, phone, a sales call, or advertising.
Think for a moment how you go about making a buying decision. Before going to the store or talking to a salesperson, you do your online research to identify the product or solution that best answers the problem you are trying to solve.
When compared to more antiquated marketing tactics that push a variety of content at prospects, inbound marketing offers prospects reciprocal value in exchange for their time and attention by providing relevant, helpful and engaging content to them at each step of their journey to buy your company’s products or services.
What Makes Inbound Marketing so Effective?
There are a variety of reasons why your company should consider transforming its conventional outbound marketing programs to strategic inbound marketing initiatives. As I mentioned earlier, today’s consumers are empowered through the internet. They understand that a company website, social media and blog provide avenues to securing information and data about a company, product or service that they may have an interest in.
Consumers do lots of online research to find answers to their business problems and they use this information to build their base of understanding about the product or service they are interested in purchasing. Prospects will review multiple pieces of digital information provided by your company to evaluate the company’s credibility, market leadership position and value.
Due to ineffective customer research, traditional outbound marketing assumes in many cases that any consumer out there with a budget is a potential sales lead, but that is not the case. There is an ideal customer for each product or service offered by your company and your marketing efforts should attract, convert and delight that ideal customer to build an ongoing relationship with your brand.
Inbound marketing is focused on educating your customers, not just selling them a one-time offering. You want to position your company as an industry expert and provide on-going education opportunities to improve your customers’ understanding of the industry, its challenges and the solutions your company provides to resolve the problems they face each day. You’re helping your customers to be better and in effect allowing them to improve their offerings to their customers.
Inbound marketing gives your company an advantage over the competition by providing your potential and existing customers with fresh and engaging content over the internet. Your company is providing relevant content that your customers can access at their convenience and when they are actively researching information to fill a need for their business.
The chart below about the State of Inbound Marketing prepared by HubSpot compares the effectiveness of organizations using inbound marketing versus traditional outbound marketing. It illustrates that in many regions of the world inbound marketing significantly is more effective in connecting with customers than outbound marketing.
What Are the Key Elements in a Strategic Inbound Marketing Program?
There is no single answer to this question but most inbound marketers will agree that the key elements listed below will get you started on the right path to implementing a successful inbound marketing plan.
Identify your target audience
Upfront strategy and planning will identify your key prospects and help you align your communications with key targeted audiences your company is trying to engage with. This is an important initial step and you need to take the time to speak with team members who interface daily with your customers to gather their knowledge of customer requirements and buying habits. If you don’t take the time at this step to correctly identify your target audience, much of your posted content will not be relevant or interesting to the people coming to your company website.
Create fresh and relevant content
The content your team posts to the company internet must create a relationship with your customer. Content should inform, educate and at times even entertain your audience as they look for a company to help them solve their business needs. Good content means producing information that responds to the buyer personas your team has developed and responds to the stage they are in during the buying cycle. The content should also be optimized to appear in industry search engines so your company’s information rises to the top of most web inquiries by your customers.
As you can see a successful inbound marketing program has many moving parts. For your program to be effective, relevant and evolving you will need to identify team members to manage the variety of elements that make up your inbound programs. The comprehensive inbound marketing plan must be integrated into the various elements within the plan so they can build on each other and improve as your team learns from the feedback you receive from customers using the information your team is posting.
It’s an ongoing process that needs to evolve as the requirements of your key customers change. You can be confident in following the path your customers are laying out for you as you monitor their responses to your posted content. Follow their lead to ensure you are on a solid path for success.
Inbound Marketing with Passion
I’d like to close this piece by encouraging you to develop and implement your inbound marketing strategy with passion. Your objective is to provide your customers with the best experience ever with your company by giving them relevant, creative, and thought-provoking content that helps them improve their business. Your team must focus on content that resonates with the needs of your audience.
At this point, you cannot shortchange the process by not spending the time and resources to provide your customers with fresh, relevant content that helps them learn about your company and the industry. Be strategic, be relevant, refresh your information often and monitor the results. Enjoy the journey— you’ll be rewarded by engaged customers who relish the information your team is providing and readily promote your brand to their customers and business associates. I wish you success.