In a capitalist world, we expect — with a sigh and an eyeroll — the perpetual drones of traditional marketing. Immersed in a culture in which advertisements broadcasted for a sport’s championship game compete with the event itself, tuning out the siren songs of corporations turns into common practice. The fight for our,the consumers’, collective attention becomes increasingly fierce and more desperate in an era where information is ubiquitous, courtesy of the internet.
But while some companies continue to shout in a noisier world (just as they always have), many more now listen — and respond accordingly. What was once a one-way blasting of the megaphone is now a civil, albeit still biased, discussion between companies and their prospective consumer
Enter Inbound Marketing, the digital successor of traditional marketing techniques.
Why Inbound Marketing?
To the user and the growing company, inbound marketing exists as a mutual breath of fresh air. Inbound marketing revolutionizes old-hat, company-focused marketing practices, such as buying ads or cold-call telemarketing, and instead hones in on customer needs and quality of experience. Content is created with customer utility in mind so users are naturally inclined to visit a site and learn more about specific services without feeling bombarded or bamboozled. Through social media channels, open and dynamic back-and-forth conversations with prospective customers are encouraged and not seen as out of the ordinary.
The core of inbound marketing’s methodology revolves around the creation of quality content that users are actually interested in reading (and hopefully sharing). The content generally solves or informs users about a problem they might be experiencing, often revealing solutions that may not include the direct solicitation of a company’s product. This not only makes for a much-improved user experience, but bolsters credibility for the companies that embrace the inbound credo.
4 Uniques to Inbound
Designed for the buyer persona — Inbound marketing derives its power from its ability to target specific buyer personas, or likely customer profiles, for a given business. Outlining the target audience, actual content creation and dissemination notwithstanding, is the most integral step in outlining a successful inbound marketing strategy. Personas are often strikingly specific, highlighting specific age ranges, occupations, lifestyles, manners of speech and personality traits, among other factors. Though personas remain important for outbound marketing, inbound marketers must intimately understand the way a persona thinks to have the best chance of creating content that resonates and, you know, generates leads. Everything in inbound marketing centers around the thought process, or perceived thought process, of the persona.
User-Centric Content — The beauty of inbound marketing is the creation of content that provides functional utility to readers (even those not ultimately interested in a company’s product or service). Content is written with a buyer persona in mind to solve his problems, suggest his solutions, and then present a potential product or service offer. In this way, the potential leads are nurtured through the marketing process until they’re effectively hooked and become evangelists for the business itself. The business gives the gift of excellent content that actually makes a person want to visit their site. Additionally, with search engines like Google becoming more sophisticated, content produced by search results prioritizes the highest quality and relevant content possible. The incentive to generate relevant, powerful content is very much there.
Cost Effective — Most of the processes used in inbound marketing come at little-to-no cost and the disparity between inbound and outbound is quite wide in this department. Setting up and running social media accounts, for instance, can effectively be done at no cost (or reasonable cost if using third-party applications such as HubSpot). Digital content writing requires some form of word processing and a means to publish, a cost-free process (less the hardware). Graphic design, less the upfront software costs, costs not so much either. What can cost money is finding the right personnel to perform inbound tasks effectively. Inbound marketing is a relatively new field with ongoing trial and error. While its effectiveness is empirically evident, getting results is by no means easy or even timely. Finding the right combination of text, voice, design, site navigation, and promotions requires patience and diligence.
Analytics Friendly — With a host of analytics tools to choose from (Google Analytics, HubSpot, Twitter Analytics, Moz, etc.), the possibilities for researching the return on inbound marketing efforts are seemingly endless. Like anything involving data, what matters is not the data itself, but what is done with the data. The inbound marketing process requires data analysis for the use of proactive adjustment. If a blog gets a lot of views but generates no navigation within a site, an inbound marketer figures out how it can perform better. A visitor reading the blog is only the first step in a lengthy lead nurturing process. Fortunately, data tools help inbound adjusters to find and hone in on positive trends.
When considering your marketing methodology, consider moving from the shouting of outbound to discussing through inbound.