If you are getting more educated on marketing and the direction it is taking in 2018, you’ve probably heard the term “inbound marketing” before. But maybe you aren’t sure what exactly it means or how it can work for you to benefit your business.
We’re here to demystify inbound marketing for you. We’ll explain why it is a practice that you should consider if you hope to build your client base.
Inbound Vs. Outbound Marketing
“Inbound marketing” as we know it was the brainchild of HubSpot CEO and co-founder Brian Halligan; the term describes a marketing strategy that differs from older typical techniques, which could be described as “outbound marketing.”
With outbound marketing, you reach out to potential clients through methods that can be easily ignored or remain overlooked—for example, direct mail campaigns via email or hard copy postcards and flyers, or commercials on local television stations. You don’t necessarily know who you’re going to reach and whether they are going to be interested in your business. You will end up wasting, time, effort, and money, and potentially be viewed as invasive at best, if not downright intrusive. Prospective clients view you with distrust, erecting an immediate wall that you must work to scale.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, helps potential clients find you through numerous online channels including search engine results, blogs, and social media postings. When your customers come to you seeking information, everything you offer them will be greeted with open arms. You get the opportunity to establish your credentials without having to prove that your intentions are good— it’s easier to develop a relationship based in trust.
While many of us still read the newspaper and watch television, most of us rely on our smartphones for receiving news, searching for information that we need, and making purchases. We have the ability to find whatever we’re looking for in a few seconds thanks to our smartphones and computers.
eMarketer projected in 2016 that by the end of the year 146.9 million North Americans would surf the internet or use internet-connected apps on their phone while they watched TV. (They’d be less likely to pay complete attention to commercials as a result.) That same year, 68.0% of internet users used a smartphone to browse the web.
According to eMarketer’s projections, this year 79.1% of internet users would be smartphone users, and 91.6% of internet users would surf the web and watch TV at the same time.
These numbers mesh perfectly with inbound marketing; it allows you to attract your client base from among those millions of people. Whether they are multitasking or not, using ad-blocking software on websites, or paying premium subscriptions for streaming apps that allow them to bypass commercials, you have a way to reach them.
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How Inbound Marketing Works
The cornerstone of inbound marketing is content. And that doesn’t just mean blog posts— content can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even YouTube. (Video is becoming increasingly popular; if you haven’t used it, now’s a good time to start.)
The cycle is pretty simple: You create content that your clients will want to find: content that addresses their needs, concerns, and problems. You attract these prospective clients, who are more likely to become actual clients, and build your brand by providing them with reliable, trustworthy content that they need and can use. In turn, those new clients will tell others about your business.
There are four phases to the inbound marketing strategy:
Attract— As millions of strangers browse the web, visitors will be attracted to your sites when they see your content and realize it’s something they need and can use right now. Again, blogging and social media are the most effective ways to attract interested visitors.
Storytelling is a key component this stage. Just as you build a connection with your children when you read to them before bed, you build authentic relationships with prospective customers by telling them stories. But instead of reading “Goodnight, Moon” for the umpteenth time, you’re telling the story of what your business does, what information you have, and how you can use it to help them.
Convert— Ok, your visitors are at your site. Now what? It’s time to convert them into leads. Make it easy for them to reach out to you to ask for more information and share their contact information via web forms, messaging apps, or by setting up virtual meetings.
Close— Turn those leads into clients by providing them with content relevant to their specific needs. Follow up with emails that offer the information that they will want.
Delight—You’ve closed the deal. You’re done, right? Wrong. Word of mouth is a powerful tool; delighting your client is the best way to get them to spread the word that you ( and everything you have to offer) are awesome. Send follow-up surveys; make sure that you’re only giving them information that they want, and none that they don’t. Continue to engage with them via email and your social media accounts to show them that you are invested in them and are listening and responsive to questions and concerns.
How Can I Use Inbound Marketing to Help My Business?
- Develop your content
Before you sit down to write a blog post or craft a Tweet, stop and think for a moment: Who is your ideal client? What are they looking for? What would they want to hear from you? Designing content targeted to the needs, problems, and wishes of your ideal client (or clients) will help you attract those visitors.
- Build your social media presence
If you think social media is for kids, think again. As of 2016, more than 87% of Canadians had a social media profile; they’re spending more than three hours per week scrolling through social media on their phones. If you’re hoping to meet prospective clients where they are, you’ll find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You want your content to be shared widely; social media channels will help your visitors (and eventual clients) to do that easily. This will attract more visitors to your site, turning them into leads and then clients. Information that is eye-catching and brief is most likely to be shared (think info-graphics and videos). Visual content is now 40 times more likely to be shared on social media networks. (Remember what we said about video earlier? We weren’t kidding.)
- Make it easier for visitors and clients to keep in touch with you.
Using forms for visitors to submit contact information and providing chat apps on websites (and making use of chat features on social media) allows visitors to reach out when they have questions. Why? Because you’ve made it simple for them to do.
If you are easily reachable and responsive, this will only continue to build trust. When visitors trust you, they’re far more likely to become leads and then clients. Better yet, they’ll stick around and tell others about your business and about how great you are to work with.
Inbound marketing is an effective marketing strategy in the current era because potential clients are often online. By creating targeted content that potential clients are looking for that engages them, answers their questions, and helps them see how you and your company can solve their needs, you can turn visitors into clients in no time. Rather than focusing your efforts on marketing strategies that might not work, you can devote time to creating better content and staying engaged with prospective and current clients via social media, building your business’ reputation as one that delivers what it promises, and one that is responsive to clients.