In one sentence, inbound marketing is: education – it is educating potential leads throughout the buyer’s cycle so that you can guide them down through the sales funnel. Drawing people into the top of the funnel with marketing assets, introducing people to a product or service and gradually teaching them the ins and outs. This process of attracting prospects in and then leveraging your knowledge to educate them to a readiness to buy is the essence of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing involves the use of blogs, white papers, eBooks, videos, podcasts, newsletters and social media (among other things) that make people aware of your company and the products you offer. This information allows them to reach out back to you once they are more serious about buying from you. Throughout the nurturing process, they become more comfortable with choosing your product over the competition and this makes the buying process much smoother. Statistics show that 79% of companies in 2013 that had a blog reported a positive return on investment (ROI) for inbound marketing, so there’s good evidence that these are worth the effort.
On your end, inbound marketing involves optimizing your website for online searches and social media so that anyone who is looking for products within your industry (or industries) will find you first. This optimization involves placing your content in the proper context for potential clients, which includes time and location. In a nutshell, outbound marketing is like a politician posting “vote for me” advertisements all over town because they want to win, while inbound marketing is when someone actually walks around town offering information and asking for your input because they care. Few people listen to the first, but they are eager to interact with the second.
Trust – A new way to search
About a decade ago, people would be less informed about products they need and companies competing to sell them. Nowadays, thanks to search engines like Google, consumers have the power to research not only the products, but the companies behind them. This means that people are more sensitive to advertisement overloads and more skeptical about deceptive advertisers. But the good thing about it is that if your company does its job well, people will find you and develop loyalty towards you. That’s why blogs, eBooks, podcasts and social media are essential to building trust and a good reputation. These mediums educate people about what your product is, why you’re passionate about it, and how it can improve their lives.
The Application of Knowledge (Capture, Nurture, Convert, Retain)
Returning to the example of the politician can also show why and how inbound marketing works. Offering information and asking for input allows you to attract those who are interested, get them on your team, and inspire them to promote you (instead of having to promote yourself). Publishing a blog or white paper is like telling the members of a community “here’s some information that could make your life easier”. Then, after they sign up for newsletters and follow you on social media, they receive updates about how you’re improving and what else you can offer them. This also gives them opportunities to provide feedback or ideas about what they need and how to improve your product. Lastly, by responding to their interests and concerns (with some marketing automation perhaps) you will make the interaction more personal and build the rapport necessary for them to say “I’m sure other companies are great, but my vote is for these guys.”