Over the past few years, the marketing industry has undergone a transformational shift away from outbound marketing and towards inbound marketing. While outbound marketing is still a viable strategy for many big businesses, inbound marketing typically offers higher returns and longer lasting impact for small businesses looking to maximize their ROI. However, somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten what inbound marketing truly is. It’s become a sort of industry buzzword that lacks real meaning. For the sake of marketing professionals and business owners everywhere, it’s time to push past the word itself and dig into the fundamentals of inbound marketing.
Defining Inbound Marketing
The trouble with the term “inbound marketing” is that the definition drastically varies from person to person. Ask 14 people to define inbound marketing and you’ll get 14 different responses. While some people don’t like that, there’s really nothing wrong with having unique definitions. You just have to have your own clearly identifiable definition that guides your strategies.
In essence, inbound marketing involves attracting visitors to your company via compelling storytelling. Visually, many people like to look at it through the lens of the inbound marketing funnel. There are different versions of the funnel, but most follow this simple flow: attract visitors, convert visitors, close leads, delight customers.
· Attract. The attraction phase is the most challenging phase of inbound marketing. It involves generating traffic and driving customers to your website. Today, that means creating unique content that people enjoy reading and search engines enjoy serving. For websites with no existing content, it can take 6-18 months to start seeing organic traffic.
· Convert. Once visitors are on the site or landing page, inbound marketing attempts to convert them into potential customers. This happens through creative calls-to-action, opt-in forms, and other related methods.
· Close. Next comes the closing stage where potential customers are converted into actual paying customers. This is the most exciting stage for the business, and is honestly a lot easier than the attract and convert stages. If the other two stages are done properly, closing is relatively effortless.
· Delight. Finally, after the customer makes their first purchase, it’s time to convert them into happy customers that will represent your brand and encourage other people to try your products and services. The cycle then starts over for those potential customers.
Keys to Successful Inbound Marketing
There are a handful of keys that set stellar, high-converting inbound marketing strategies apart from average low-converting ones. However, in 2015 and beyond, the single most important thing you can do is cut through the noise.
The internet is extremely loud and chaotic. Social media newsfeeds are never ending, search engines produce billions of results, and the average person receives dozens of emails per day. Your inbound marketing content has to cut through the noise.
The only way to do this is by creating high quality content that adds value and engages users. “Don’t talk about your brand non-stop or try to sell people too early or often in your content,” warns Murray Newlands, business advisor and internet marketing professional. “Instead, try to spark interesting dialogue and discussion with your content.”
The Power of Inbound Marketing
While the term itself may have lost some luster over the past few years, the power of inbound marketing remains at an all time high. As a business owner or marketer, it has the potential to build positive brand equity and develop long lasting relationships with customers. Whether you’re currently using inbound marketing strategies or have been on the outside looking in, now is the time to reevaluate your current situation and make an educated decision regarding how you’ll move forward in this fast-paced consumer marketplace.