Inbound marketing has a lot of benefits to offer especially to small businesses that have limited marketing budgets. The gains from a successful inbound marketing strategy are bigger than traditional outbound marketing and the ROI is higher.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is not something new, it’s a term that circulates the marketing world for almost a decade.
In simple terms inbound marketing is about content, attention, engagement, trust and satisfaction. All these elements have a single goal: to help businesses connect with their potential customers and establish a channel of by bi-directional communication with them that will lead to more sales.
The increase in the number of people using the Internet for everything they want (information, products, services, leisure) and the rapid rise of social media networks has lead to the generation of a new model of selling online, a model that has content marketing as the starting point for any inbound marketing campaign.
What are the main components of inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing can be thought off as a super set which includes a number of digital marketing disciplines. Things like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), blogging, social media marketing, Search Engine Marketing (including PPC) and email marketing are tools that can be used in the different stages of inbound marketing.
Rand Fishkin published this nice diagram about inbound marketing when they decided to switch from seomoz to moz, which gives a very good idea of the main components and tools of inbound marketing.
What are the benefits of inbound marketing?
So, inbound marketing has to do with techniques for reaching to your customers in an organic way and not in a destructive way. By following this approach, what do you have to gain as a business?
#1 – It’s cost effective
When talking about business and benefits, the first thing that comes in mind is cost. Inbound marketing can generate leads to a company (of all sizes) in a much cheaper manner than outbound marketing.
As you can see in the graph below (taken from the state of inbound 2014), small businesses can generate leads from inbound marketing by spending only ⅓ of what it costs them to get a lead from traditional outbound marketing.
This is very important especially for business that have small budgets and want to make efficient use of every dollar they spend on marketing.
#2 – It’s long lasting
Remember that the goal of inbound marketing is to build connections with your customers. This means that it’s not a once off relation but it’s something that will last for more time provided that you have established trust.
Let’s take for example blogging and SEO, which are among the most popular tools of inbound marketing.
When you blog and provide consistently great content and implement good SEO practices what is the result? At the beginning you will reach a few customers since SEO is a process that takes time to work but after a few months your rankings with increase and the traffic will start to flow in not just once but hopefully for a long time.
Take for example social media. Once you have a strong presence on Facebook with thousands of fans to your business page, what it the outcome? You can reach out to your audience (or to a portion of it) and connect with them every time you update your facebook page and this comes in no cost (assuming that you want to reach them organically and not through paid facebook ads).
The same goes with email marketing and any other inbound method. Once you can provide content that your potential customers want to read and provided that you have gained their trust by establishing your authority on the subject, everything else becomes easier.
#3 – Reach new markets and audiences
The fact that inbound marketing is purely executed online, this allows you to reach new audiences and diversify your reach by running different types of campaigns.
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For example let’s say that you are selling ‘SEO services’ online and you decide to add ‘social media’ services to your list of products.
With traditional marketing and because the profile of both customers is the same (when it comes to TV or radio advertising or other traditional methods) you could not easily make the segmentation and target only those that need the one but not both services.
With inbound marketing and PPC in particular, you reach people looking for social media services by targeting only those keywords in your ppc campaigns.
This is just a simple example but the fact that you can select exactly and in great detail who will see your content has huge advantages and that’s why the ROI is higher. It’s more targeted, more relevant and it goes out to people that need it without reaching out to a larger group of people hoping that some will be interested in your products or services.
#4 – It’s immediate
Someone is looking to buy a product online, they find your website searching Google for that product, they read your content which has everything they need to know about that product, they trust your store as being reliable and safe and they purchase the product from you.
This is the ideal scenario and of course this is not always the case but it’s possible with inbound marketing.
With outbound it’s a different story as there are more steps added to the process that make it more complex and not immediate.
Take for example radio ads, someone while driving listens to a product ad and finds it interesting. After he goes home (and if he still remembers the ad), he will search the internet and find the products in the ad. Then he will follow the inbound marketing path (as explained above) but still may not buy since this is not something that he really wanted (unlike the case of searching for it in Google).
#5 – Build authority and brand awareness
So far all the benefits outlined above have to do with costs and sales but this is not always the only marketing goal of companies.
There are cases where you want to build your brand name and raise awareness about your company or change the perception people have about your products. Inbound marketing is the perfect solution for this, not only it can help you spread the word and make your brand known but indirectly this will general more leads and sales in the future.
You can make use of social media, quality blog posts, slideshows, infographics, PPC, SEO (to name a few tools), to get your brand in front of thousands of prospects and educate them about your company without them understanding that you are trying to ‘shape’ their opinion about your company.
Talking about authority and perception, take a look at what hubspot managed to do with inbound marketing. They invested heavily in educating people about it and are now considered the ‘authority’ resource on inbound marketing. This of course has a positive impact on the sales of their marketing tools.
Most important inbound marketing techniques every business should use
How do you take advantage of all the benefits of inbound marketing described above, which are the more effective techniques to use?
Blogging is an Art
It may be a surprise to some but blogging is by far the most effective inbound marketing technique. According to statistics among inbound marketers, blogging has a 13X higher return than any other method.
Sounds too good to be true, right? It is true but in order for blogging to be effective as an inbound marketing tool, you have to take into account one very important factor:
Content quality: The quality of content produced through blogging has to be of top quality. This means to provide real value to the readers (prospect customers) so that they continue to the next phases of the inbound marketing cycle i.e. to get the attention of the reader, so that they engage with the content, trust the provider and convert in a way that leaves them happy and satisfied from the result.
Master Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Good content needs another think to become a great sales channel and this is no other than SEO.
Give them Incentives
Even if you can reach to more people with SEO, you need to give them incentives so that they make the next step. Incentives can be anything from a useful ebook, a free guide, discounts or a free trial to use your services.
Those that accept your incentives have already passed the attention and engagement phases and it’s your job now to gain their trust and satisfaction. If you make fake promises that will damage their trust and satisfaction and then even if you give them great incentives the end result will not be the desired one.
You need a great Website
It goes without saying that the base of blogging and content is your website so it’s good not to forget that. Even if you have great content but is hosted on a website that does not meet certain standards you are doomed to fail.
A great website these days has to be fast, clean, mobile ready, seo and social media friendly, and updated regularly with fresh content.
You need to have a ‘call to action’ plan
A call to action is the point where you ask your readers to do something, to perform an action that has a value for your business. For some cases this can be asking them to register to your newsletter, following your brand on social media, commenting on your posts, subscribing to a paid service or purchasing your products.
Whatever your call to action goals are, you need to make sure that these are reflected in your website design and content.
For example if you take a look at my blog on my company website you will see that on the right sidebar and within the content of my posts there are clear calls-to-action and this is how I get new customers and leads for my business.
Showcase your expertise on other websites
While working on building content for your website and establishing your brand or personal image, you can take advantage of the reputation and traffic of other websites. This can be done through guest posting on websites that can provide value (and not just SEO value) for your business.
It is not an easy task to do because it will take a lot of your time and resources but it’s a great opportunity to reach bigger audiences and connect with potential customers that otherwise would not find you. This comprehensive guide by Neil Patel, explains everything you need to know about successful guest blogging.
Inbound marketing is here to stay
Maybe you didn’t realise it, but if you are having a presence online you are practicing inbound marketing. All your efforts to build traffic and get new leads are part of the inbound marketing process.
It may be a more cost effective method compared to outbound marketing but that does not mean that it it’s easy to do and that everyone can do it. It takes time, money, practice and a lot of effort to understand how to get your customers from the beginning until the end of the process but for sure it’s a discipline that is here to stay even if it evolves so as to stay in synch with the latest trends in digital marketing.
Featured image source: Marketing Land