Ahhh, marketing. Every company does it – whether it be through an entire department, a small team wearing multiple hats, a single person operating out of the supply closet, or an agency. And you, as a consumer, encounter marketing everyday. Marketing tactics range from old school mailers and yellow page ads to digital Inbound Marketing tailored to the buyer.
Here at The Marketing Squad, we consider ourselves an agency of the latter – an Inbound Marketing agency – with 10 years of experience. To this day, we are still surprised that people either don’t know what Inbound Marketing is, or worse, they don’t believe it has any value for their company.
Inbound Marketing is a more effective alternative to traditional marketing strategies, and we would shout it from the mountain tops if we weren’t located in the valley that is Louisville, Kentucky. So instead, we thought we’d share with you the definition of Inbound Marketing, how you can implement Inbound in your own marketing strategies, and why you should.
I implore you to read on, not because I will know that you did, but because marketing in any form is complex and critical to your business and worth more than just a few whimsical paragraphs.
What is Inbound Marketing?
It’s no secret that technology has changed the way we interact with the world, especially as consumers. In their lifetime, the average person will spend 5 years and 4 months on social media alone. That’s 1 year and 10 months more time than we will spend eating and drinking! And that doesn’t even take into account the amount of time we will spend reading blogs, searching Google, interacting on forums, or browsing websites.
Needless to say, our lives have become very digital, therefore, it makes sense that marketing should as well. But if you take traditional marketing strategies and simply apply them to digital media, the outcome is clutter and noise in a space where consumers want clean design and control.
Inbound Marketing is strategic marketing for the digital world. It is rooted in attracting buyers, as opposed to invading their space. Traditional mailers, billboards, and print ads are all examples of marketing tactics that are forced into your environment. Social media, blogs, and subscription-based emails, on the other hand, are examples of opt-in marketing.
The goal of Inbound Marketing is to create content that people want to see. Then, you place that content in the appropriate form (landing pages, social posts, blogs, email blasts, etc.) and share it with your audience. If your audience finds your content engaging, compelling, or just downright useful, then they will share it with their networks and you will begin to see your reach grow.
This might sound a little daunting and probably harder than traditional marketing, but Inbound Marketing can be broken down into a few steps.
Steps to creating an Inbound Marketing Strategy
- Set goals – What does a win look like for you?
- Research your buyer – What are their pain points when buying? Where do they hangout digitally?
- Create your content – Keep your buyers’ preferences in mind!
- Share and promote your content – If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound? When it comes to marketing if you aren’t sharing your content, then the internet is the woods and the tree is your content.
- Analyze, refine, and repeat – Did you receive your desired outcome? Determine how it could be made better and use that information to create your next campaign.
If you haven’t noticed by now, content is key to Inbound Marketing, so you might be asking yourself, “Where do I find the content in the first place?”
Good question! Content for Inbound Marketing should be based on what your buyers and potential buyers find interesting and/or useful. At the same time, it can’t be fabricated. In the digital world, secrets don’t keep and lies are quickly – and publicly – uncovered.
Your content should stem from your business and what you do. If you’ve got something that makes you unique, like actually unique not just a tagline that says you’re different, then that should be the heart of what you share. Having a story to tell makes creating compelling content easier.
Concurrently, you should create content your buyers want and need. Buyers no longer head directly to the store where a sales person helps them determine what solution fits their needs. No, instead they go straight to their Facebook friends or Google search, and by the time they get to the store, they already know what they want to buy. This is the new buyer’s journey.
Buyer’s Journey in the digital world
- Awareness – the buyer realizes they have a problem
- Consideration – the buyer defines their problem and researches solutions
- Decision – the buyer chooses a solution
The majority of your content should appeal to the Awareness and Consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. When people go searching for answers, you want your content to be helpful in providing them answers. It gets your company front of mind, without immediately parading your own services – remember, the buyer wants to be in control, not sold to.
So what does this look like in the real world? Well, let’s talk about tangible ways to implement Inbound Marketing for your business. Consider this blog post moving from the Awareness stage into the Consideration stage – you know you have a problem, here are some solutions.
Websites designed for Inbound Marketing
Inbound Marketing starts with your website as a foundation. Your website holds all of your content and is the place where people go to learn more about you. If you are practicing Inbound Marketing, your website is also where people will find answers to their questions, and become one step closer to being a buyer.
Unfortunately, not only do people judge a book by its cover, but they can and will judge your company by your website. In the digital world, a website is often the first encounter a potential buyer has with your company or product, and you want to make a good impression.
Design is crucial to any website. It goes without saying, your website’s design should be visually pleasing. Current website design trendsinclude bold typography, eye-catching images, and minimalism. Additionally, you want important elements of your website to grab users’ attention, whether it be through popping color, geometric structure, or cinemagraphs. Most importantly, though, you don’t want to clutter your website. Unnecessary images, menu bars, and text can overwhelm the user, while overly flashy animations, sounds, or functionality can distract from the information you are trying to convey. Your overall goal should be to design a balanced website that highlights your story, your product, and your end user.
Beyond first impressions, as the consumer is traversing your site, you want them to build trust in your products, your brand, and your team. Just because you have a well-designed website, doesn’t mean you have a credible website. Websites built with Inbound Marketing in mind are built to build trust by:
- Putting your story, what makes you unique, front and center
- Highlighting your team and your processes
- Answering questions that your buyer personas are asking
- Leading users down a path of conversion, i.e. providing them with information that takes them from visitor to buyer
When we build a website here at The Marketing Squad, we start with the end user in mind. A wireframe is always created to map out how your content will be displayed to the users on the buyers’ journey. If you’re curious about the end product of this kind of design thinking, check out some of our work.
Once you’ve got a base, it’s time to start marketing your content. Now, you can create a website with static content that takes into account the buyers’ journey and Inbound methodologies. But true Inbound Marketing is on-going and evolving.
Long-term Inbound Marketing
If it isn’t clear by now, Inbound Marketing centers around content. Directed by your buyers’ needs and wants, your content should provide information about industry problems, solutions to those problems, and your products that offer those solutions.
A good Inbound Marketing campaign starts by defining a problem your buyer personas have. For example, if you are a mechanic one of the questions your potential customers might ask is, “How do I know when to get my oil changed?” To answer their question, and attract them to your website and company, you should create a variety of resources, including, but not limited to:
- A blog titled “Four Signs Your Car Needs an Oil Change”
- A downloadable checklist for regular car maintenance
- A landing page where someone can schedule an oil change
Other Inbound Marketing content includes:
- Social media posts
- Blog series
- Email newsletters
- Email blasts
- Strategic digital ads
- And Call-to-Actions to tie it all together
Blog content is a core piece of Inbound strategies because it is often the source that draws potential buyers in. Blogging is an education tool in the Awareness stage of the buyers’ journey. E-books and guides take the user further into the buyers’ journey. The user realized while reading a blog, that they had a problem, and now they are looking for solutions – solutions they will hopefully find in another piece of content you offer.
Once you’ve got people engaging with your content, the next step is to keep them engaged. This can be done through connections on social media, email blasts, and strategic digital ads.
Ultimately, your Inbound Marketing strategies should lead them to buy your product or service.
When you’ve finally converted a lead to a customer, it can be tempting to say, “There, I’ve done it – I’ve mastered Inbound Marketing.” That is not the case, though. Inbound Marketing is an always evolving process of creating, sharing, and refining content.
The best results come from building upon your content and continually engaging with customers and potential customers in order to grow your reach.
At this point, you might be questioning the amount of time and energy it takes to execute Inbound Marketing. And I won’t lie to you, it does take time, our base monthly program starts at about 20 hours per month.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, especially if your business is growing or trying to grow.
Benefits of Inbound Marketing
One of the biggest benefits of Inbound Marketing is the tangible results. Have you ever received exact data on the amount of people who actually opened and read the flier you sent through the mail? Not likely. What about the number of people who heard your radio commercial? Inconclusive.
Inbound Marketing, on the other hand, provides actual data about your marketing efforts, which can be tied directly to ROI. From Google Analytics to social media analytics to email analytics, there are legitimate numbers to detail the amount of people who saw your content, opened your email, liked your message, or clicked your link.
Not only will you be able to see the return on your time, but you’ll also be able to gauge what is working and what is not with solid evidence. This is super beneficial as you try to refine your efforts and become more efficient.
Another benefit of Inbound Marketing is its ability to aid your sales team and help them excel. Content helps get your message out to the masses, so your sales team isn’t going in cold. Inbound Marketing also shortens your sales cycle by indicating Sales Qualified Leads who have gone through the funnel of your content – from Awareness to Decision. By using content marketing to prime your sales team, you create a shorter and more efficient sales process.
These are just two of the benefits of Inbound Marketing, and for each individual business there are a variety of other benefits to implementing Inbound Marketing, based on your current processes and ultimate goals.
As you can tell, we are pretty passionate about Inbound Marketing and how it can help grow your business. And we’d love to talk to you more in-depth about the way it can impact your business. If you’ve got quick questions, feel free to post a comment below or reach out to us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. If you’re serious about growing your business and want to see real results, let’s start a conversation.