What is Inbound Marketing?
Before we define what Inbound Marketing is, let's first define what it is not. It’s not what most people think of when they think of marketing or advertising. That’s traditional advertising, and it is, by nature, interruptive. You’re driving down the street looking at the trees and BAM! a billboard. You’re watching your favorite show and BAM! a commercial. You’re ducking down into the subway station and BAM! every wall, everywhere you look, is trying to sell you something.
It’s not bad necessarily, but it does reinforce that old saying about how 50% of your advertising spend is wasted (the problem, of course, that you don’t know which 50%).
With traditional advertising, you blast your message out to everyone as loud as you can and cross your fingers that the right people hear it and respond.But there’s a problem with traditional advertising, isn’t there? We see so much advertising all the time that we don’t really pay attention anymore, do we? At the same time, it’s becoming more affordable to advertise across new channels so the number of advertisers is increasing. So with an increase in competition and a decrease in the average bear’s attention span, we’re beginning to see that the cost per new customer is going up across the board.
And on a human level, people are beginning to revolt against traditional advertising. People want to do business with their friends, not the burly guy who can yell the loudest.
So what’s the solution? Enter Inbound Marketing.
As an advertiser, Inbound Marketing is a fundamental shift in thinking. As a human, Inbound Marketing is a no-brainer. Inbound Marketing is what happens when you stop yelling, start listening, and begin thinking of ways to actively be helpful to your customers.
When I work with clients to put together an Inbound Marketing campaign, we start by making sure that they are 3 things: targeted, helpful, and measurable.
Inbound Marketing is Targeted
To execute an inbound marketing campaign, you first have to understand your customers, their needs, and which of those needs your business can help meet. The Inbound Marketing lingo for this is “Creating a Persona”. Over the course of time, you may create many personas, but if you’re just getting started, you’ll just want to create one or two.
The first thing you’ll want to do when creating a persona is articulate who your ideal customer is, what their pain points are, and what the triggers are that cause them to seek your service to begin with. Define what the biggest obstacles are that might cause them not to go with a competitor, or not use your service type at all. Think through their job role, what part of the country they live in, and what their family looks like. Once you have all of these you can write it out, almost as a story.
After you have your persona, you’ll want to think about their Buyer’s Journey. People go through this type of journey when they make a purchasing decision:
- 1. Awareness: they have become aware that there is a problem
- 2. Consideration: They have become aware that there are solutions and are researching what they are
- 3. Decision: They know the type of solution that they want, and now need to decide between a couple of products or vendors.
Once you have created your persona and know their buyer’s journey, you are able to write new content and tweak your current content so that it speaks to a particular persona at a particular stage of their buyer’s journey. Talk about targeted!
Inbound Marketing is Helpful
Traditional thinking around marketing assumes that everybody is ready to buy your product or service right now, and that’s not the case. On average, about 3% of the people who hit your website are ready to buy. The other 97% are either in the Awareness stage, the Consideration stage, or the Decision stage.
Think about it like this. Say you have a job where you sit down all day, and you’re looking for ways to be more active. There are a lot of different ways that you could do this: you could exercise after work, you could get a Fitbit or an Apple Watch so you get reminders to stand during the day, or you could sign up for a marathon so you have the motivation to run.
What you need from a company that sells running shoes is NOT a flyer for 10% off running shoes. Not yet anyway. What you need is some objective help in deciding how to be more active throughout the day. Let’s say instead of the 10% off flyer, they wrote an article titled “5 ways to stay active throughout the day”. Hmmm, that sounds like something you would find helpful.
As you get to the article, you may see that they have an offer for a checklist that gives you 10 things you can do at work to feel healthier. You give your email address and get the checklist.
At this point, you’re aware that they’re a shoe company but so far they haven’t talked about shoes. They’re just being helpful, and helping you move from the Awareness Stage of the buyer’s journey to the Consideration Stage of the buyer’s journey. As you continue to interact with their brand, they’ll eventually talk about running shoes, but only as you are ready to commit to running. And when it’s time for you to buy running shoes, they’ll be the first place you look because they’ve been there every step of the way.
I like to say that Inbound Marketing is Human Marketing. It’s one person on one side of a computer genuinely trying to help a human on the other side of the computer. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of content, but once you have it, you have a machine that can generate all kinds of leads and revenues for your business, and do it in a way that is genuinely helpful.
Inbound Marketing is Measurable.
Inbound Marketing is one of the few marketing channels that allows you to measure success with every step. Because it’s targeted, and because it’s helpful, everything is driving toward that next step. If they’re a stranger, we want them to come to our website, so we’re measuring the strength of our SEO efforts, we’re measuring CTRs and CPAs of your online advertising.
Once they’re on the site, we want them to engage with us, so we’re measuring conversion rates. Are they clicking through to the high impact pages that have offers? Once on those pages, are they filling out our forms?
Once we have them in our database and we start communicating with them through email, are they opening the emails? Are they clicking on our links?
Are they starting to view content that indicates that they have moved to another stage of the buyer’s journey? If so, are we collecting enough information to start talking about the specific services or products that they’re interested in?
With every question listed above, we have the opportunity to improve. Some of it is semantic. Do people like this word over that word? Some of it is related to value. Do people even care about what we think they may care about? Some of it is related to user experience. Can people easily find what they need?
This is really where the fun begins, and you can start testing and optimizing everything to provide the best, most helpful, most human experience possible.
As a HubSpot Partner Agency, we work really closely with the globals leaders in CRM and Marketing Automation software to create and execute these types of campaigns that provide real value and real results to our clients. Speaking of results, Forbes said recently that "the results should be noticeable in less than 30 days after implementation. For instance that for a company with sales in the low millions per year, the increase in sales should be about 10% annually."
This isn’t just limited to businesses above or below a certain level of revenue. If your clients have a buyer’s journey, then let’s explore a solution that is targeted, helpful, and measurable. Oh, and human.