The marketing world is in constant flux; changes in technology and shifts in values influence how potential customers view brands and products. So, how should your businesses market its products and services to an ever-changing market?
You probably know what traditional outbound marketing looks like: It takes place when a business presents a potential customer with a product that they believe the customer needs. This type of “seller-centric” marketing essentially says to customers, “I am going to tell you what you need, and you should buy it.” This strategy is disruptive, meaning that it does not integrate into a person’s regular activities. Instead, like a vacuum salesman knocking on the door in the middle of the day, it disrupts your customer’s normal activities and demands to be noticed.
But who wants to buy a vacuum that way anymore? The answer is, not many people. Enter inbound marketing: a way to connect with strangers, turn them into leads for your business, and eventually turn a happy customer into a promoter of your brand or services. Inbound marketing strategy is focused on giving people information that is relevant to them, not just to the seller. Research has established that up to 87% of customers will unsubscribe from emails or leave websites that they consider to contain irrelevant content. Around the same number of people will fast-forward through traditional television advertisements. This is a clear sign that the modern customer has become more discerning.
How to Spot the Difference
To paint a clearer picture in the differences between inbound marketing strategy and outbound marketing strategy, take a look at these examples of outbound marketing methods. You’ll see that when a seller focuses on telling people what they want, this often interrupts the natural flow of peoples’ routines and begs to be noticed (remember that vacuum salesman?), which is why it is sometimes referred to as interruption marketing.
- Direct mailing campaigns: Sending out flyers to a large list of addresses and hoping that customers see your mail and take action.
- Cold calling: Interrupting people in their daily schedules can have a high average cost to acquire a new customer.
- Cold emailing: Buying an email list and sending those contacts an email that you hope will bypass a spam filter.
- Billboards: Dropping some money on a huge interstate billboard, telling people to re-route their day and head your way.
These outbound marketing tactics are not always a failure. In fact, some of them work quite well when done correctly. But the difference between common outbound marketing strategies and inbound marketing tactics is this: Inbound marketing strategies focus on adding value to a potential customer’s life and providing information that is relevant to them. Instead of interrupting their lives, inbound strategies aim to earn attention organically. Contrast the actions listed above with these four essential inbound marketing actions:
1. Attract: Bring strangers to your website using social media, keywords, and SEO-friendly blog posts.
2. Convert: Turn website visitors into leads with calls-to-action, landing pages, and contact forms.
3. Close: Create customers out of your leads through lead-nurturing actions like offering sales-ready product trials or exclusive content.
4. Delight: Engage customers to the point that they become promoters of your brand through social media and reviews.
First Things First: Understanding a Buyer’s Journey
The inbound marketing actions listed above will take place at certain times in a person’s “buyer’s journey,” or the steps that a person takes to get from defining a need to finding a way to fill that need. Presenting an individual with the correct content at the right time in the buyer’s journey is essential to turning a stranger into a customer. These stages can serve as a roadmap to what content you should present to a potential customer:
1. Awareness Stage: In this initial stage, a person becomes aware that they have a need or problem, and does research to understand, frame, and give a name to their problem or need. (“The food in my refrigerator is never cold, I never have enough room, and the ice-maker is broken.”)
2. Consideration Stage: Research is then begun on approaches and methods to reach a resolution to the problem defined in the awareness stage. This includes online searches on details of a product or service and how it fits into a person’s criteria. (“It is time for a new refrigerator. But what kind can I afford, which ones are big enough, and which ones have an ice-maker?”)
3. Decision Stage: Finally, a person has decided on a suitable solution and is compiling a list of potential vendors or products. They will then reduce it to a short list and make their final decision. (“The refrigerators that fit my criteria are Kitchen Aid, Kenmore, and Frigidaire.”)
All About the Content
The focus in your inbound marketing strategy is this: pulling people in. You want to pull people to your website or business through the use of relevant content. Content marketing can be many things: videos, blog posts, white pages, e-books, quizzes, case studies, coupons… almost anything that you can imagine! What is important is that the content is relevant to your potential customer, easily consumable, and bolsters your appearance as a leader in your field.
Spending time and resources on an inbound marketing strategy is an investment. The more content you create, the more people you can influence and the more potential leads you can foster. And, by creating content that is “evergreen” (content that does not go “out of date” as soon as it is published), you create a cache of content that you can use in many ways. Have a lot of blog posts on photography? Compile them and create a photography e-book that is downloadable from a landing page on your site. Growing your reserves of content gives you room to repurpose blog posts or videos in many ways.
Optimizing your content for search engines like Google is another important aspect of inbound marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) is done by using appropriate keywords in your website’s content and eventually ranking for them in an organic (non-sponsored) Google search. You can do this by creating quality content with relevant links, strategic keywords, and easy-to-read formatting.
Content for the Three Buyer Stages
Tailoring content to the buyer’s journey is essential, as some content works best for people in the awareness stage, while other content is better tailored to the consideration and decision stages.
1. In the awareness stage, content like checklists, e-books, white papers, and blog posts are a good tool for people looking to give a name to their problem or need. If Amanda moves into a new apartment and does not have enough furniture, a checklist titled “Essential Furniture for Your First Apartment” will be much more useful to her than an ad for 15% off of a dining room set.
2. A similar idea works for the consideration stage, when your potential customer is doing research and gathering information on how to fulfil their need. In this stage, you want to offer content like catalogs, case studies, product spec sheets, and photo galleries. So, in the consideration stage, Amanda has now done a little digging and after reading a furniture checklist, she realizes that she does not have enough seating in her apartment. She then seeks out relevant content like furniture catalogs, product spec sheets, and samples that she could see in-store or online.
3. Finally, in the decision stage, Amanda has narrowed down her options and pinpointed exactly what kind of seating she needs: two small armchairs with tan upholstery. Now, what could motivate her to make a purchase in this stage of her buyer journey? Offers like a coupon, consultation, or free trial will give the final incentive to close a deal.
With these examples, it is important to again underline the difference between outbound marketing strategy and inbound marketing strategy. With outbound marketing, the buyers’ thoughts and feelings are hardly taken into account. This is because it is all about the sale. But knowing how to approach buyers in their journey is about more than the eventual sale—it is about providing timely, relevant content that is beneficial to people on their specific buyer journey. Instead of being focused on “sell, sell, sell!” your strategy should be focused on being a resource for quality information at any stage of the journey.
Now that you know the difference between outbound and inbound marketing strategy, it is important to know what the benefits could be to you, the business-owner looking to improve your business’s lead generation.
Inbound Marketing for Different Business Types
Different industries usually require different marketing approaches, all of which can be tackled using inbound strategy and different degrees of content marketing. Take a look at these areas of business and how they use inbound marketing to their advantage:
Inbound marketing for financial services and banks
Interacting with customers is essential in the financial services industry; to foster these relationships, create FAQ blogs and SEO-friendly content for common areas of interest using articles with headlines like, “What Does Your Credit Score Really Mean?” This creates customer engagement and establishes you as an authority in your field.
Inbound marketing for lawyers
Expanding your existing client base can be done by setting up a blog on your law firm’s website. Writing posts that address common legal questions like “What to Do After a Car Accident” will drive visitors to your site. Additionally, ads targeted to your geographic area or for specific search terms will help you hone in on the potential clients that fit your buyer persona. Place offers behind landing pages that require potential clients to complete a form. With the information gathered, you can start generating more inbound leads.
Inbound marketing for photographers
Websites and social media platforms are among the best marketing platforms to highlight a photographer’s skills and specializations. Post your photos using relevant hashtags and tag thought leaders or influencers in your area of expertise; these methods lead potential customers and clients to your content.
Inbound marketing for recruitment
A lot of job searching is done online these days. When people find your recruitment or staffing agency engaging in social media, you position yourself as a relevant, useful resource. Using blog posts like testimonials, hiring spotlights, and job-search advice are also good ways to be viewed as an authority among job seekers.
Inbound marketing for private schools
Parents often rely on the Internet to find and choose private schools for their children. There is thus a need to have a considerable online presence. Your private school should use social media to keep parents up-to-date on school news and use a blog to post about education-related topics. Also, consider running online advertising to target specific search queries during your peak season of student enrollment.
Inbound marketing for insurance agents
Insurance agents are often looking for new clients. Establish a website with relevant content, calls-to-action, and great landing pages that encourage visitors to fill out forms to receive helpful information like e-books and free estimates.
Inbound marketing for manufacturers
This is a field that is known for using cold calling and billboards as a means of driving sales. Manufacturers can use blogging and SEO strategies to rank for targeted keywords. You can also prioritize online content by building a mobile-friendly website and introduce relevant content to generate leads.
Inbound marketing for healthcare providers
Today, people are looking for a diagnosis to a myriad of symptoms, so healthcare facilities and physicians need to be available online where patients are looking for their help. Populate your website with content that answers common health concerns or touches on issues that your potential patients likely face. Using inbound marketing strategy for your healthcare practice catches the attention of your potential patients in their search for answers about their health.
Inbound marketing for real estate agents
Real estate agents can apply inbound marketing knowledge to build trust among clients and create more exciting leads to convert into sales. Being an approachable, relatable inbound marketing-focused agent means making your real estate business works for your customers, not the other way around.
Inbound marketing for agencies
Marketing agencies can use inbound marketing knowledge to direct traffic to their businesses. This can be done through targeted email marketing, SEO/SEM, and social media marketing.
Inbound marketing for higher education
This sector can use these marketing ideas to increase new student enrollment and current student engagement while boosting alumni relations. Good inbound marketing will create a relationship with shareholders, students, parents, and staff through things like a university blog, monthly email updates on university news, and a social media posts straight from campus.
Inbound marketing for nonprofits
For the nonprofit sector, inbound marketing works to target potential supporters and draw them to your organization. Create content that is easily consumable and clearly expresses the value of your cause. If there is a major influencer in your specific area, reach out and make connections on social media to promote each other and create awareness of your organization.
Figuring out how to implement an inbound marketing strategy takes time and a lot of effort. The research, planning, and execution of a results-oriented inbound marketing plan requires continuous manpower and dedication that not every business has available. If you are looking for an inbound marketing company in Little Rock, partner with the experts at iProv by calling 501-235-8194 today.