How do you educate yourself before making a purchase? If you’re like 81% of consumers, you’d look to the internet. Modern technology has allowed customers to be more savvy about the products and services they’re interested in, but many businesses still rely on outbound sales processes – cold telephone calls and emails and the use of traditional media, such as billboards and other forms of non-digital advertising.
These type of disruptive channels, as you can imagine, are seeing diminishing returns; people are cutting their cable and relying on Netflix to get away from commercials, and the use of ad-blocking software has become generally accepted, not only because of the invasiveness of some ads, but because they can negatively affect the browsing experience.
Do you think that one of these businesses would be better served by flipping their marketing approach 180 degrees and, instead of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks, carefully considering how they can nurture customers, sharing information before looking to close the deal?
Inbound marketing is no longer just a trend; in fact, as part of their 2015 State of Inbound report, HubSpot’s data shows that three out of four marketers prioritize an inbound approach to marketing. The majority of inbound marketing efforts are based in the digital realm, and consist of creating pieces of content, whether it be blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, or social media updates, with the dual purpose of informing potential customers about their product and industry while at the same time creating brand awareness of their unique offerings. As opposed to outbound techniques, inbound is intended to slowly convert leads into customers through relationship-building; alleviating the stressors of the buyer is priority number one.
When it comes to small- and medium-sized companies, marketing can be an uphill battle. The cost of consistent traditional advertising is well beyond the margins of some companies, and the use of inbound tactics offers the chance to level the playing field, increasing reach while cutting down on monetary cost. According to HubSpot, inbound marketing leads are significantly less costly than outbound leads by 61%.
Small- and medium-sized companies are the perfect size to deploy inbound marketing, as they have the flexibility to experiment that is not afforded to larger companies. Entrepreneur Everette Taylor recently said of Snapchat, “don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and take risks. Monotony = loss of interest,” which is a sentiment not only for social media but inbound marketing as a whole. By experimenting with the content on their social media channels, HubSpot was able to grow their traffic by 241% in eight months; while it might be unrealistic to expect similar results, changing things up every so often allows for an agile inbound strategy.
Content is King; Visibility is Queen
The power of inbound is such that it allows a company to position itself as a leader in its field with relative ease, and not only will this sense of authority naturally draw consumers to them, it also allows a business to show off its personality in a way that doesn’t seem part of a sales pitch. It’s no longer necessarily about who knows the most, but how much knowledge someone is willing to share.
Luckily, this dovetails with existing SEO best practices; while keywords are still a very important concept, Google is favourable to websites with many pages of unique content. According to a recent study, 50.4% of people will only browse the first page of the search engine to find what they’re looking for, which is a happy coincidence. The more content that is produced for your business, the higher that Google will rank your website, and thus more people will see it when they search for related terms.
Inbound also allows the unique opportunity for the external distribution of your content, whether on LinkedIn, Medium, or a guest post on another business’ site. Social media is an excellent distribution network because it provides an opportunity to engage people with your content directly – just make sure to choose relevant channels, and learn which communities might best suit your goals. However, before you fill your Buffer feed with links to your webpage, remember that social media is still meant to be social, so establishing genuine connections should still be a top priority.
Analyze and Validate
With traditional marketing, it’s difficult to know exactly what the ROI of a given channel is. There’s not much reason to throw a lot of money at an outbound channel in the hopes that the right group of people will not only see it, but become customers. Given that inbound can be a strictly-digital strategy, it’s incredibly simple to analyze its performance. Web tracking tools such as Google Analytics allow you to see where the traffic to your website is coming from, and social media platforms have metrics to track the views and engagement of a specific post.
As opposed to having to stick out an expensive campaign, inbound gives you insight into what is best working for a business, and what kinds of content that potential customers aren’t engaging with. For example, if the posts generating the most views contain infographics, you may want to experiment with doubling down on that type of content as opposed to more text-heavy pieces. By relying on this kind of validation process, you can provide your audience with exactly what they want to see, when they want to see it.
Inbound is no longer a fringe division of marketing; it is, without a doubt, the best choice for small- and medium-companies, as it is cost-effective, works seamlessly with existing digital strategies and allows you to not only get a sense for what is working, but redirect your efforts on the fly. Companies as established as Starbucks have been able to use inbound principles to grow not only their digital presence but their brand in general, but even if your company isn’t the next coffee giant, inbound marketing should be on the menu.