If you’re a C-level business executive tasked with business development and growing revenue in a rapidly-evolving, highly-competitive environment your head probably hurts from the constant barrage of information and advice about how to promote your business. Everyone has an opinion about how to develop the perfect marketing strategy, backed by complex formulations, algorithms and more technology than a non-technical business professional ever wants to look at.
Permit me – if you can tune out that clamor for just a minute – to offer one more piece of marketing advice. It offers a way to create more visibility for your firm and reach more prospects than traditional promotional tools using new, more effective and cost-efficient solutions custom-tailored to today’s digital, Web-based business world. And it boils down to two words: inbound marketing.
The concept of inbound marketing is really not that complicated. It’s simply a sales-oriented marketing strategy that is based on and driven by data (not guesswork or wishful thinking), and applied through the use of techniques that follow a proven structure of “attract, convert, close and delight” the customer.
The cornerstone of inbound marketing is content. Valuable, informative, customer-focused content drives every aspect of inbound marketing. We’re not talking about old-school self-promoting company brochures or product catalogs here. Instead, inbound marketing is powered by fresh, objective content that delivers information and solutions prospects are seeking to fix a problem or address a challenge they might be facing.
This new content is specifically created to attract a targeted audience of potential customers who – although they might not know it – are looking for the products or services your company offers. The content is customer-centric, not your-company-centric.
Over the past decade there has been steady shift from traditional, outbound marketing to online, digital inbound marketing. Within the past couple of years that transition has picked up speed as growing numbers of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketers have witnessed firsthand the cost-efficiencies and marketing effectiveness to be gained from inbound marketing. Today, 75% of inbound marketing teams are more likely to rate their marketing strategy as effective, according to HubSpot Research.
So what makes inbound marketing so much more effective and efficient than traditional outbound strategies? The ability to attract a very specific audience at a significantly lower cost.
Outbound marketing utilizes old-fashioned “push” techniques such as print advertising, television, radio, and billboards that broadcast (in every sense of the word) a message to a passive audience, hoping that they’ll respond and become leads that can be converted into sales. Of course, whether any of those leads has the potential to become a customer for your product or service remains to be seen. Push techniques cast a broad net which can bring in a large number of prospects, but many of them turn out not to be good candidates for what you’re selling. The result? Valuable time, money, and effort wasted reaching and attracting a large number of individuals who will never become customers.
Inbound techniques, on the other hand, are designed specifically to attract individuals looking for something you’re offering. The content you develop to attract on audience predisposed to purchasing your product or service is created to attract, engage, and convince individuals searching for a particular solution. This is a strategy of “less is more” -- spending less money to attract fewer, but more qualified leads. As a result, inbound marketing can cost as much as 62% less than traditional outbound marketing.
At each stage of the sales funnel, content is used to gently guide and then convert prospects. It first attracts the attention of a prospect by expressing an understanding of their “pain” – something they perceive as a want or a need, whether it’s a product to cure an actual pain (for example, medicine for an ailment) or a figurative “pain” (“these clothes are old and ugly – I really need something new and fashionable to look my best”).
Content mix: what prospects are looking for as they research solutions
Once the prospect realizes you understand and empathize with their pain, they’ll decide to look closer at what you have to offer, at which point your content outlines your “cure” and why it’s a better choice than your competition. Convinced that you are the best choice, the prospect is converted to a customer by a final piece of content that provides a compelling call-to-action. This proven process is central to the inbound methodology's customer-focused approach, which is why, according to HubSpot, inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than outbound.
Not only does inbound marketing deliver more customers, it delivers more data about current customers, enabling you to provide better, more focused – even personalized --customer service.
For example, social media provides the perfect outlet for engaging current and prospective customers in conversations that can provide insights into customer preferences, brand reputation, competitive positioning, and a host of other inputs that can help you fine-tune product offerings, special events, customer loyalty programs, and more. Social media enables you to actively listen to prospects and customers to stay on top of developing trends and changing marketplaces.
The more data you gather, the more you know about your customers. This information can be used to power your customer relationship management (CRM) platform and improve the customer experience. That, in turn, creates customer loyalty and more opportunities to increase sales.
Once again, customer-centric content designed to provide actionable value to customers is key. Your content can make you a go-to resource for customers. It helps build and reinforce your brand identity and value while encouraging your customers to share your content with online friends and acquaintances. Your business gains greater visibility and a larger audience that produces more customers.
CRM platforms and marketing automation tools provide a systematic way to gather data, measure it, and analyze it to create more effective and targeted marketing initiatives.
Establishing a consistent process of “test-measure-tweak” can help fine-tune your marketing program, revealing which initiatives work, which don’t, and what aspects should be kept or discarded. Of course, to ensure that you’re gathering meaningful, actionable data, it’s important to determine what you want to accomplish and what you need to measure to help you gauge success. For example, do you want:
Each requires different metrics and analyses to generate accurate and reliable insights. Agreeing to and measuring a relevant set of metrics is fundamental to understanding the success and failure of a campaign.
Inbound marketing, at its heart, is simply an on-going, multifaceted conversation with prospects and customers via social media, your website, messaging platforms, and other online channels.
Inbound marketing, done right, attracts the attention of leads, turns them into prospects, and convinces them to become customers. Inbound marketing makes your business easier to be found, and builds brand identity and value through your overall messaging and business practices.
Outbound marketing, by contrast, hits a passive audience over the head with generic, company-oriented messages that may or may not be of interest to that audience, including individuals who would be more likely to become customers if you gave them valid reasons based on their needs, not yours.
Inbound marketing educates, informs, and eventually convinces customers to interact with, believe in, and spend money on your products or services because inbound provides content that is customer-centric and tailored to what motivates them. That’s what turns prospects into customers and inquiries into sales. And isn’t that what marketing’s all about?
If you are new to Inbound Marketing, please download the Inbound Marketing Guide for Newbies. If you are ready to have a discussion, then please request an inbound marketing assessment. We would love to hear from you.
Bristol Strategy is a full funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of Inbound Marketing services that enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyer on-line. Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow.Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo