What is Inbound Marketing?

You don’t have to be Richard Branson to realize that the advertising game has changed. People keep talking about inbound marketing, sales funnel, customer delight, and it’s all Greek to you. Is this something your company should invest in or another marketing fad?

Let’s take a step back to define inbound marketing. Knowing what inbound marketing is from a strategic and tactical perspective, gives you the information necessary to determine whether it’s a good fit for your business. Here’s some insight into inbound marketing to help you understand better why it is so important.

Do Not Disturb!

Have you ever been feverishly working on an important project when a colleague knocks on your door? Or in a meeting that gets sidetracked? Of course. When you are interrupted, you may be polite, but truth is you’re annoyed by the situation. It detracts from what you really need to be doing and whoever interrupted you isn’t getting their message across as effectively as possible either.

Inbound marketing takes the opposite approach. Instead of interrupting your prospects, you’re connecting prospects with the right information at the right time. Instead of shouting into the wind, imagine that your marketing answered the questions that your soon-to-be customers have along their buyer’s journey?

Say you are a private, K-12 school. The parents of your students have thought generally about their children’s education, considered whether public or private school was a better option for them, weighed their private school options by geography and whether the school was religiously affiliated or not to name a couple of factors, and also had questions about your institution specifically. What if you were the source of the answers to those questions? Would that be valuable to your school? Would you have a higher conversion rate from an interested family to enrolling the student? Absolutely! This is the reality of inbound marketing.

The Customer is Always Right 2.0

In outbound marketing, the focus is on the marketer. You’ll notice that outbound ads speak from the company’s perspective:
“Our company is offering…” Inbound marketing focuses on the customer and inbound ads speak from their perspective.
“You can learn/get/improve…”
Instead of tuning out, leads tune in because the content is focused on them. They continue to engage with your marketing because the content answers their questions, teaches them something they are interested in learning, and so on.

Content is King

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times. In inbound marketing, “content is king” is as essential if not more than in other approaches to marketing. One of the first steps to developing an effective inbound marketing strategy is developing buyer personas.

A buyer persona is an imaginary person who best describes your ideal target: their sex, age, occupation, marital status, etc. In addition to demographic information, the most effective buyer personas include a psychographic profile including what their typical day at work and Here’s an example buyer persona for a purchasing agent:

Example_buyer_persona_purchasing_agent.png

Armed with buyer personas for products and services, you will be able to get into your customer’s head and figure out what kind of content would be useful for them. In the context of your business, what is the likely thing they would type into the Google search bar?

Promotion is Queen

Finally, no matter how amazing your content is, it’s useless if nobody knows it exists. Unlike outbound marketing which often reaches a broad audience, the inbound marketing methodology focuses on your buyer personas. The key to promoting your marketing content successfully is to target people who are more likely to be interested in your product, and to leave out those who probably aren’t interested at all. If your buyer persona is wholesalers and resellers worth between 10 and 50 million dollars in the northeast United States, the type of content that you produce, where it’s published, when it’s published, and so on to reach those businesses in a compelling way, is clearer. You won’t get qualified leads from a guest post on BuzzFeed but you would from highly optimized content on ThomasNet.com.

Tactically, this is how our hypothetical manufacturer would promote a blog post that explains the benefits of becoming a reseller for their product:

  • Optimizing the blog post for search engines (this is called SEO) so it gets a higher ranking and doesn’t end up on the dreaded 2nd page of search results.
  • Promoting your content via social media channels especially LinkedIn and other B2B gathering places online.
  • Segmenting your email list to businesses that would likely be interested in reselling your products and promoting your offer and changes to the program for existing re-sellers.
  • Inbound ads to targeting terms like “reseller (fill in the blank product” and related terms.
  • If you’ve read this far, you’re a case study that inbound marketing works. Why not dive in a little further and download our Introduction to Inbound Marketing eBook?

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