Not so long ago, most marketing was called outbound or even interruption marketing. It consisted of advertisements that interrupted exciting TV shows or cold calls that interrupted important business meetings. The only thing that advertisers knew how to do was talk to consumers, even when those consumers were not in the stage of their buyer's journey where they were ready to be talked to.
With more and more media advertising, including TV, radio, print, and the Internet, competing for attention, this kind of advertising grew less and less effective. Both marketers and consumers were ready for a better way. That better, cheaper, and more pleasant way to market your business is called inbound marketing -- and chances are it's much more effective than what you may be doing right now, according to data.
Outbound Marketing No Longer Works
Mashable published a really clever headline to promote an article about inbound. The headline proclaimed that this was the dawn of marketing that you won't hate. No doubt, this is both from a buyer's and a seller's perspective. Consumers were tired of only being talked to. Salespeople would rather not have to chase down customers.
Consider some statistics to demonstrate the drawbacks of old-fashioned advertising:
- With direct mail advertising, an average of 44 percent of pieces go unopened.
- From TV surveys, 86 percent of consumers say that they ignore or skip commercials.
- With younger age groups, 84 percent of respondents say they back away from websites with too many advertisements.
In other words, companies waste a lot of money trying to tell prospective customers something that they really aren't interested in hearing. Even if a consumer might be interested in the message, the constant bombardment turns the best efforts into a sort of background noise that's easy to ignore.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing, often called content marketing, consists of creating valuable content that potential customers or clients may seek out on their own. It's a method for businesses to generate leads. This content might be educational, informative, or even entertaining. The content draws consumers into a place where they can be filtered into prospects. These prospects are actually eager to learn more about a product or service that might satisfy a need or desire.
Even though content marketing certainly exists in print, on TV, or on the radio, the Internet has become the perfect medium for this approach. These are some examples of the kinds of content marketing that you probably see every day as you browse different websites and social media platforms:
- Blog and social media posts
- Consumer review websites
- Websites with videos, articles, and graphics
- Informational eBooks and newsletters
How do businesses use inbound to grow their businesses? For example, a new marketing automation SaaS startup might offer an eBook that provides helpful tips about crafting social media posts that get attention. A website design firm could publish a blog post that compares different kinds of website hosting. Topics could be directly or indirectly linked to the business. If this content has value, it is also likely to get shared online, turning customers into free promoters. These businesses attract new customers and clients by making a connection with their communities and not just by trying to sell them something.
Why Inbound Works
Inbound consists of attracting customers in and not chasing them down. Buyers have easy access to a lot more information today than they did in the past. They also get bombarded with a lot more advertising. A consultative or educational approach not only works better, it might be the only thing that really works today.
Consider some figures from the Inbound Marketing Report:
- Inbound tactics generate 54 percent more leads than traditional advertising methods.
- Twice as many marketers report a lower cost per lead than they enjoy with outbound marketing.
- Average companies say that they save $20,000 a year by investing more in inbound.
Salespeople are also much happier to work with warm leads who have already become interested in a product. Few marketers really enjoy chasing down prospects who may not even be aware they have a need or that a product exists to fill it.
What You Need To Make Inbound Work for Your Business
Even with an inbound approach, there's still plenty of competition. In order to work, companies need an effective marketing platform that includes these basics:
- Blogging: Setting up a company blog is an easy and effective way of attracting prospects and staying in touch with customers. You can keep your audience interested with articles, graphics, and videos. Most of all, a blog helps put a human face on your brand.
- Social networking: If your targeted market hangs out on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, that's where you should be too. Also, social networks give you a way to promote and distribute the content that you post on your blog. Hopefully, some of your current followers will like your content enough to share it with their own networks, and this helps to expand your reach.
- Search engine traffic: Taking the time to optimize your website for keyword searches can pay off with a steady stream of organic traffic. Online searchers are already looking for the products and services that you are offering, so they generally convert into customers very well.
- Marketing automation tools: You can get a lot more done with fewer people if you take advantage of tools that help you automate posts, filter out prospects for targeted messages, and keep track of your campaign statistics.
Your inbound marketing strategy doesn't have to end with blogging, social media, and search engine traffic. You might collect email addresses for a periodic newsletter. You might also publish an eBook, run a contest, or let your customers tell their own stories with testimonials. The important thing is that each piece of the platform should help increase interest and trust in your brand. If that happens, your company will be the one that customers naturally think of when they need what you are selling.
header image credit: Emma Brabrook