It doesn’t matter where you are or which sector you work in, Inbound Marketing is incredibly important for generating leads, enquiries and sales for your business. It involves your website “getting found” using videos, e-newsletter, blogs, social media, SEO and other kinds of content marketing, which combine to promote your business message online.
But why has it become so important? The reason is down to increasing market competitiveness, more advanced search engines and changes in Google’s algorithms.
A brief background to Inbound Marketing:
More and more people are shopping online, posting online reviews and using smartphones on a daily basis. Here are some very insightful stats from Mobile Marketing Magazine:
▪ 1 in 4 people updated social networking sites daily
▪ 70% search for information through their smartphone
▪ 50% buy goods through their smartphone
This number is only set to get higher and doesn’t account for the activity of laptops, PCs and tablets – it’s no wonder that doing business is becoming so competitive! This is where Inbound Marketing comes in to dramatically improve exposure of your products and services on any Internet device.
Take search engine algorithm rules as an example, particularly Google’s. They place websites and adverts higher in the search rankings if they have unique, fresh, relevant and useful content such as:
▪ Keyword optimised website copy (SEO)
▪ Regularly updated e-newsletters, blogs, whitepapers
▪ Regular interaction with well-targeted audiences on social networking sites
▪ Testimonials, links to your product/service reviews and useful authority websites
All of these are examples of inbound marketing. Using any or all of them will increase website exposure to the right Internet users, meaning you get more website traffic that results in qualified leads, enquiries and sales.
To find out more about how to attract more enquiries and sales to your website using some of these inbound marketing techniques, read this article: 10 Steps To An Effective Website.
Inbound Marketing: the 5 core principles
If you want to maximise the effects of inbound marketing on your business’ performance, there are 5 main principles to consider.
1. Interruption vs. Permission
These variations of marketing are very different; interruption is usually favoured by large companies with big budgets who can afford to place their ads “above the noise” of daily advertising on traditional media. From advertising on the side or buses to billboards, interruption marketing catches people’s attention in their daily lives and can be more subliminal.
Permission marketing is the generation of leads using e-newsletters and e-marketing, where people opt-in for personalised, relevant marketing promotions. It places power in the hands of the consumer and makes them a lot more likely to enquire and buy. This is the smart choice in today’s customer value focused market.
2. Buying behaviour has changed
As I outlined before, the introduction of smartphones, tablets, online communities and reviews has transformed the buying behaviour of consumers around the world. It’s much easier to compare product/service providers, prices, offers and share experiences all over the Internet. Therefore, businesses are striving to offer better customer service and value than their competitors in the form of guarantees, information, special offers and consultations. This is what inbound marketing caters for; satisfying the needs of modern consumers to generate sales.
3. Owned vs. Rented
The ‘owned’ principle relates to email marketing, an important part of inbound marketing. Email lists are a brilliant way of communicating directly to a specific audience, whilst being low cost and easy to monitor and track. Also, owning a list of email address of leads that you have accumulated from opt-ins on your website, is incredibly valuable for increasing sales. You know these people are already interested in what you have to offer, allowing you to develop an ongoing relationship which often leads to them buying.
Rented marketing involves placing ads on platforms like Google, Yahoo and Facebook, and paying them to promote your message. You will be shown to a wider audience range on more websites, but won’t have guaranteed qualified leads and data to build on straight away.
4. Bucket vs. Pipeline
Pipeline marketing has proven to be a very effective strategy for small businesses and sales executives who want to generate more qualified leads, enquiries and sales. As another form of inbound marketing, the pipeline is a series of around 6 stages of action, from grabbing attention to making a sale. As the probability of a sale increases down the pipeline, you can measure the potential value of a customer as you use SEO, social media posts, free downloads and other inbound marketing techniques. This pipeline can be adapted to win new customers or retain old ones.
The leaky bucket marketing theory is the opposite, where you use unmeasured, direct selling to get new business. This means your customers will have lower value and will be continuously lost as new ones are added, greatly reducing ROI (return on investment).
5. Broadcast vs. Conversation
These two strategies are largely used on social media nowadays. Broadcasting involves posting news, interesting stories and links that you think people will find valuable. This is a very traditional approach to marketing that many businesses still rely on, but customer behaviour has moved on.
On the likes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and your website, you can use the inbound strategy of conversation marketing to gain a deeper understanding of your most relevant and valuable potential customers. Start a related conversation topic, post a competition, ask for opinions on your products/services; anything that gives you marketing insights. Once someone establishes a relationship with a company/brand, they are very likely to buy from you again and again.
As you can tell, inbound marketing is a flexible and far-reaching method of boosting your leads, enquiries and sales process. Apply it to any Internet marketing channel or platform and you will notice huge differences in conversion rates, giving you competitive advantage in a changing business world.
Article by Laura Wootton