The case for inbound marketing: What’s in it for you?

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By Alexandra Reid

Hubspot’s Brian Halligan coined the term “inbound marketing” to distinguish marketing activities that focus on the consumer experience from traditional outbound marketing tactics.

Inbound marketing is about earning the attention of prospective customers, media and other market influencers. This approach is different from traditional outbound marketing tactics which push messaging on target audiences.

While outbound marketing tactics still hold an important place in a company’s marketing mix, inbound marketing is gaining steam because of a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour. With new technology at their fingertips, people are more in control of what information they receive and how they receive it. As reported by Hubspot, people are skipping over TV advertisements, unsubscribing from company emails, and leaving websites because they aren’t providing them with information they value. Businesses are realizing that they have to communicate on their interest groups’ terms to earn their attention, trust and loyalty.

Inbound marketing helps companies build authority

One of the best ways to earn attention is to use content, such as blog posts, podcasts, videos, newsletters, whitepapers, and updates sent through social media channels, to establish a company and its representatives as influential, connected and responsive thought leaders in their respective marketplace. When a company is viewed as an influencer, trust and loyalty for that company grow and it earns more clout to persuade its community to respond to a specific call to action, whether that is to buy a product, download a whitepaper, subscribe to a newsletter, engage in a discussion or like or retweet an update on social media.

Inbound marketing is Penguin’s best friend

Fast Company recently reported that updates to Google’s algorithms mean that social engagement will yield top results for search engine optimization, which is vital for boosting a website’s ranking and getting noticed online. The Penguin update “was a body slam to websites still trying to ‘trick’ the search engines into ranking them ahead of their competition,” said author Veronica Fielding. “The update emphasized the importance of quality content, originality, and overall user experience.”

Fielding went on to explain that the Penguin update implies that “search engines are openly acknowledging that a website isn’t the only place on the web that a brand needs to maintain a strong presence,” and that Google is now placing a larger emphasis on the interactions people have with each other and brands on social media channels for website rank. Having a presence on social media and producing content that engages audiences is now essential to getting noticed online.

Inbound marketing nurtures longer sales cycles

Inbound marketing is particularly valuable to authority-based businesses with long sales cycles, such as B2B businesses, because it helps those companies build influence and nurture relationships over time. Quick wins in both B2B and B2C sales environments are certainly possible from inbound marketing activities, but more often prospects are convinced to buy after digesting content from a number of different channels and engaging in multiple conversations with a company and its representatives over a longer period of time. While generally less expensive than outbound marketing activities, investment to build and maintain a long-term content marketing program can be considerable, but it’s absolutely necessary to attract and maintain the attention of today’s connected consumer.

Inbound marketing provides invaluable customer information

A large part of inbound marketing involves listening. Often, a company will hire a community manager to listen to conversations on social media and blogs for opportunities for the company and its representatives to engage with their marketplace. Listening to people’s opinions of, and experiences with, your company and competitors also provides invaluable information that can inform your marketing and sales activities, products and services and overall company direction. For instance, marketers are now able to generate far more intricate buyer personas thanks to information gathered through inbound marketing activities.

Inbound marketing lets you have your say

 

Your audience is talking about you, whether you’re listening or not. Maybe they’re saying good things that you could acknowledge, but they might also be venting about a bad experience they had with your company. Because inbound marketing generally includes building a social media presence, it gives you the opportunity to publicly acknowledge problems people are having with your company and provide helpful solutions. This is a level of customer service many consumers now expect to receive from companies. If you don’t have a presence on social media, they will find another outlet for venting, and that might just be your competition, a journalist or prospective buyer.

Inbound marketing is measurable

Inbound marketing activities that take place online can be measured against goals to determine effectiveness as well as return on investment. Unlike a billboard or TV advertisement, marketers can track the activity of people online with precision to determine how they respond to messaging. Marketers can determine exactly how many people read a blog post, how long they spent on the page, and where their attention was directed afterwards. They know how many people downloaded a whitepaper, or responded to a social media campaign. The amount of data available for inbound marketing activities can be overwhelming, but marketers worth their salt will be able to determine what information is relevant and if a goal was achieved.

/// COMMENTS

One Comment »
  • Nick Stamoulis

    August 23, 2012 10:07 am

    Inbound marketing is important because it is a less intrusive way to promote your company. Instead of forcing information on a prospect when they might not want to see it, inbound marketing is instead about joining the conversation and providing information at just the right time. Inbound marketing takes a lot of time and effort to do well, but the data shows that the results are much better than traditional outbound tactics.

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