Attracting customers is the cornerstone of business. Without customers, we simply don’t make any money. In this post, we’ll be looking at how to do just that in the most effective and budget-friendly way, by introducing you to the concept of Inbound Marketing which, put simply, is the single best way of attracting new customers in this digital age.
Chances are that you’re already familiar with Outbound Marketing, which is the traditional one-way marketing we all get bombarded with daily. The aim of Outbound Marketing is to repeatedly expose the target audience to your message through interrupting their normal lives with advertisements over and over again, in the hopes of them remembering your business or product.
Even though this approach has been around since the dawn of marketing, the peculiar thing is that it’s not all that effective. Wouldn’t it be more interesting for your prospective customers to see marketing material which they actually wanted to see, instead of advertisements they are prone to ignore, and find boring or even invasive? Think of how many times you’ve skipped an ad on YouTube, and then think of how much money a company has spent on that particular ad. Surely there must be a better strategy – and luckily there is. Enter Inbound Marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is a budget-friendly and non-invasive way of driving customers directly to you, through interesting and original content, which, on average, generates more than 3 times the leads per dollar spent relative to a traditional marketing campaign. In this article we’ll look at the three main categories of Inbound Marketing:
When scouring the web for information about a new product, a staggering 80% of business decision makers prefer to get information about a company or product through articles over advertisements. And I for one certainly don’t blame them. Who hasn’t seen flashy advertisements promising the world, but after buying the product, felt disappointed and mislead by its advertisements. It’s not surprising that the belief that advertisements are designed to mislead the customer is widely held by both companies and consumers.
So how do we generate content which is both relevant to our prospective customers, and at the same time leads people directly to your website? One method which is gaining more and more traction is having an industry specific blog, with articles that are relevant and informative to the target audience, without trying to shove a product down their throats. This seems counterintuitive to many, as we were brought up with the idea that to sell anything, we need to, well, try to sell it! But, for content marketing to be successful, we need to abandon the old views, and instead have it as a primary goal to deliver consistently valuable information with the goal of creating content which is actually relevant to the reader.
The underlying premise is that if a business continuously delivers valuable information for free to the public, the audience will be considerably more inclined to buy their product or services. That’s all very well, but even if you have the best and most informative blog around, how do you make sure prospective customers actually stumble upon it, while browsing online? As mentioned, a basic concept of Inbound Marketing is that it’s non-invasive, so it would be detrimental to simply place an ad for our blog. This is where SEO comes in handy.
In the past, when trying to find a company, we would grab the nearest phone book, and call the company. Today, phone books make for excellent door stoppers, but not much more. Instead, when researching a company, the vast majority of us turn to online search engines, with Google being the most popular. On average, Google handles more than 100 billion requests each month, and that translates to a unique opportunity of driving some of those searches to our content. In order to do so successfully, our goal is to rank as high as we can, when prospective customers search for relevant keywords and the practice of doing so is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. To successfully achieve this, we need a have a basic understanding of how search engines work.
Search engines index the web, looking to lead users to the pages most relevant to their query. They do so by taking into account the content on our sites, and how many other pages are linking to it. This means that when writing the content we’re trying to attract customers to, we need to make it as easy as possible for the search engines to deem our sites as being relevant to our keywords, by optimizing our content and building inbound links to these keywords. For some great basics about choosing your keywords, read our article. Combined, content creation and SEO are incredibly powerful tools to use as part of your marketing strategies, but we can do even better by also having a presence on Social Media sites.
We’ve covered the basics of Inbound Marketing, and while using content creation and SEO will greatly increase your customer base, having a presence on Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to name a few, can drive even more customers to you. Not long ago, the mere notion of businesses communicating directly to the public in an open forum was unheard of. That has changed dramatically with the introduction of Social Media sites. The main goal of your Social Media strategy should always be to genuinely interact with your followers, and not just to put up content and then forget about it.
Just like with content creation, the point of your Social Media presence should not be about selling, but rather to create unique interactions and, as the very name implies, to be social! Respond to everyone posting on your Social Media pages, and make sure you don’t post generic content, but rather invite your followers to comment on your content, and be sure to engage in the discussions yourself. Remembering again that Inbound Marketing is non-invasive, don’t try to sell your product or post updates about how fantastic your product is. Rather, tell your story, and make it interesting and relevant to your followers, with the aim of having them share your posts, and thus, essentially, sell your products for you!
In this article we’ve scratched the surface of Inbound Marketing by looking at the concepts of Content Creation, SEO and Social Media. The take home message is that when used properly, Inbound Marketing is an incredibly effective and cost-efficient way of driving customers directly to you. Creating interesting, non-invasive and relevant content without obviously trying to sell your product is the future of marketing, and should constitute a large part of your marketing strategy.