Age of Inbound Marketing
Once upon a time, marketers ran television commercials and placed ads in the newspaper and simply waited for the phone to ring. That was so long ago, it actually seems like a fairy tale. An expensive fairy tale because creating invasive television commercials which break into the middle of programs or giant billboards on the side of the road which disrupt the peaceful landscape are a large investment with a shrinking pay off.
Consumers fast forward through the ads, change the station on the radio, and look the other way as they drive down the road. They don’t want to be interrupted. Today, people look for information online, even in fairly low tech industries they browse and search at their own pace. In many cases they aren’t looking for just coupons and discounts, they are looking for general information about trends and features, company personnel, examples of how others are using your product, and what people think about your business. It isn’t magic, the more information (or content) you have on your website, the more ways people can stumble on your website when they are in research mode.
Information at the Core of Inbound Marketing
The shift to information as a selling tool allows even small businesses to compete with much larger companies. Unable to outspend competitors, they can choose to use information to outmaneuver them. Sharing educational, informative, and relevant information is the core of a successful inbound marketing campaign.
This is a process which starts with blog posts, videos or podcasts, white papers, workbooks, and checklists, broadly referred to as content, designed to answer questions your prospective customers are likely to have. It isn’t magic. More content gives people more ways to stumble on your website when they are in research mode. Offers for more information in exchange for an email give them what they came looking for, and give you a way to stay in touch.
The Pieces of the Inbound Marketing Puzzle
So how do you launch an inbound campaign?
Start with your customer
Create a profile of your typical client. This persona goes beyond just observable demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and family status. It looks at issues and goals which drive purchase behavior. When you start to think of your customer as a person it is easier to write compelling content which answers the questions they are likely to have in the purchase process. Do they need your product often?
If customers are frequently in buying or investigating mode, inbound marketing is a great way to stay in front of prospects and feed their need for information. Casual status updates on social media will gently nudge them to your website or simply remind them you are still around. If your product is more of a one time purchase you may need to be a bit more aggressive, driving traffic to your information with paid advertising.
Create High-Quality Content
Your objective is to establish your company as a resource and an industry expert. Your goal is to get potential customers to come back time and time again and to trade their email for more in-depth information. So to start the process remember that blog posts should solve problems and be focused on the reader.
A subtle mention or link to your product/service is fine but if your blog post is a thinly-veiled ad for your company, it will have very little value to your inbound marketing strategy. Don’t rush to put junk out there, just to have a lot of information stuffed with keywords. While the high volume, low-quality content may fool search engines it won’t fool people. And ultimately, you need people to buy from you. So focus on building helpful, interesting content so people want to download, share and in time they will call you.
Match Campaigns to Your Sales Cycle
Inbound marketing combined with marketing automation is a terrific way to move prospects from one phase of the purchase process to another. The right automated email can help you reduce the number of calls you have to make. So as you design follow up emails, don’t simply add everyone to a generic email list. If someone downloads a guide for a specific product or service, make sure the emails you send relate directly to that product or service.
Be Realistic and Patient
Inbound marketing will not double your web traffic overnight. Blog posts build value over time. The content you wrote a week or two ago or even a month ago will continue to be found in niche services and continue to drive traffic for months or years to come. Search engines may or may not notice the first article you wrote on white beans. However, once you have a series of articles about those delicious white beans and how to serve them, you will begin to be seen as an authority and your content is more likely to be found when someone searches for a soup recipe using white beans.
In most cases when we’re working on content marketing with a client, we start to see results around month four. That’s how long it takes to get all the pieces in place and build up enough content and credibility for people to start taking notice. The trick is to keep doing it, adding to your content library, week in and week out. Then just when you aren’t sure anyone is reading, you will get an email or download notification or someone will tell you they found your site in a Google search. Then you know your inbound marketing program is working.
Is inbound marketing the right choice for your business? Use our Inbound Marketing Budget worksheet to compare the cost of starting the program to the payoff based on the lifetime value of your customer.
Watch us Live!
Recently, Lorraine and Sam sat down to talk about inbound marketing during a segment of our Facebook Live program. If you enjoy this recording, be sure to look for us live every Monday morning at 11:00 am.