Inbound marketing is already the talk of 2017, and its necessity will only grow further into 2018 and beyond. The theoretical approach to inbound has been around for nearly 10 years, yet few have embraced it. While these marketers are stuck in the traditional confines of SEO unwilling to explore the various marketing automation platforms that can help propel their client’s service into something remarkable, the best boutique digital marketing agencies offer inbound marketing and provide an entirely different level of service that brings unprecedented value.
So What is Inbound Marketing Anyway?
Inbound marketing is a customer centric approach focused on attracting members of your buyer audience through content and interactions deemed helpful and relevant, versus interruptive. In opposition to outbound marketing, inbound doesn’t fight customers to get their attention nor does it rely on the hard close. Instead, inbound uses channels like SEO, blogs, social media, whitepapers, ebooks, and other modes for sharing material with potential clients that addresses their needs, qualifies buyers, and nurtures them through a funnel that looks like this:
Each of these stages in the inbound methodology has potential customers with specific problems and needs. By creating content aimed to address these problems and move qualified buyers into a discovery stage where they begin looking for solutions, you will be running an inbound strategy that will harvest much better results for both your agency and your clients.
1. Inbound is more Effective
Nobody likes to be hassled or pitched to. Years ago techniques like cold calls, cold emails, and flyers clogging up your mailbox were relied on to get attention. But outbound has been in our faces to such frequency that consumers have grown numb to it. When people click on content that is “salesy” or get nagging emails, it’s a massive turn off. Today’s buyer is savvy and seeks an education before making a purchasing decision, and with a robust inbound marketing strategy, you can inform, help, and delight your potential customers with content that will convert sales versus causing them to curse while engaging their call-blocking feature.
2. Inbound Attracts the Right People
If you own a Porsche dealership would you market your fleet to a Toyota driver who makes 50K a year and who looks at pictures of Porsche because he is a wishful dreamer? Of course not. But when you create standard SEO-friendly content designed to rank organically in Google attracting any guy out there who can spell the automaker’s name, you are spreading yourself thin by attracting lookey-loos.
The inbound marketing methodology uses a buyer’s journey model to attract people and qualify them as high-quality leads who could actually become delighted customers. It is broken down into three stages: (1) awareness, (2) consideration, (3) decision.
Content for Awareness Stage – Jake wants to polish his professional appearance and amp up his lifestyle. He feels that his life doesn’t reflect his motivational drive, and all of his colleagues seem to be living the dream. Jake wants his world to reflect his success, but he is still discovering ways to achieve this.
Content for the Discovery Stage – Jake reads some luxury living blogs, and determines that his living conditions are lower than they should be. He wants to have nicer things to reflect that he has made something of himself. He could buy a new home, buy a new car, get new furniture, or buy a new wardrobe.
Content for the Decision Stage – Jake could buy a new home but isn’t ready to drop that much money in an unstable housing market. He could get some new suits but he wants something with more impact. He decides to get a luxury sports car, and Porsche has always been a favorite maker.
By creating SEO-driven content designed to rank for the searches these buyer types are performing, you will have website visits from the right buyers, as opposed to bored online surfers who exist outside of your market’s audience.
3. Inbound Simplifies Marketing
The two main areas of the inbound methodology that simplify the process comes down to the relationship between your sales and marketing teams, and through marketing automation. Your sales and marketing departments can work together in identifying data, such as key insights into what customers want, and what was lacking to meet their needs. Highly-targeted content can be churned out as a result that educates consumers by providing answers to their questions through each stage of the buyer’s journey. When performed under the inbound canopy, content creation becomes much easier than efforts put out by a team of writers sitting around a table taking blind stabs in the dark with their pens.
Marketing automation is a software used to automate strategic marketing actions with a highly personalized touch. Rather than have people in your department send out emails, post to social media, and perform various web actions, these tasks are automated to blast the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Not only is marketing automation cost effective for companies in terms of paid manpower hours, it also allows for transparent tracking so companies can see just how successful their various campaigns are in measurable areas. Marketing automation also makes things easier by weeding out sold leads and nurturing relevant prospects with the type of content they will love channeling them through the funnel where they will gain your trust and become a delighted buyer.
4. Inbound Takes Good SEO and Makes it Better
If you are known in your industry as that marketing agency with SEO experts capable of ranking circles around the best of them, you still have a lot of room for improving. You can rank organically for a number of big keywords relevant to your client’s business, but how many of those clicks turn into paid transactions? Do you have a high CTR with a high bounce rate and dismal session duration? If so, you have optimized the content to rank using a keyword strategy, content the Google bots love (for now) and your technical SEO is all buttoned up. But if your content isn’t providing any value or even ranking for the right people, then it might as well be a blank page. The inbound methodology helps make good SEO even better by catering strategies to buyers, and not entirely to bots.
Instead create content based on the data scrutinized from your sales and marketing team, customer surveys, and interviews. Use the right keywords to organically rank the right content for the right people at the stage of the buyer’s journey where they currently look for more educational information, and not a BUY NOW page. An agile inbound marketing approach focused on customer-friendly SEO will distinguish your offering as something placed well above the bar.
5. Inbound Marketing will Remain Buyer Centric
Remember when you could cold call leads or use tactics to get people to fill out online forms before swooping in with a hard close? These days are over. With the influx of available online information and the buyer’s need to be educated, shoppers are savvy decision-makers who no longer require getting product information from sales teams. Even the majority of in-store shoppers turn to their mobile devices to read reviews, do product comparison, and learn about other solutions that could solve their problem. As mobile search capabilities continue to soar and will only become more focused by tech industry pros, inbound is an ideal marketing methodology to embrace in 2018 because, simply put, it will be current for years to come.