Imagine you're planning to buy a new washing machine. The problem is, you're not really sure how much you need to spend, and you're confused by the many options out there. So, you type "buy new washing machine" into Google. That doesn't help—there are almost 5 million results.
Some of those results are for companies that sell washing machines. When you click on their links, you're taken to landing pages with lots of pictures of washing machines and lots of different prices. You're still in the dark. Then you see one link for an article, "How to buy the best washing machine without paying for features you don't need." That looks helpful. You click on the link. The article answers your questions. It helps you solve your problem.
When it comes time to make your purchase, which company will you buy from—the one with rows of pretty pictures and endless product descriptions, or the one which helped you solve your problem? That's the essence of inbound marketing.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Marketing has changed in recent years, not because marketers got tired of doing things the same old way, but because consumers changed. They're more suspicious, and more critical, than they used to be. It's one of the reasons millions have registered on do-not-call lists to avoid telemarketers, and millions more fast forward through TV ads. Inbound marketing recognizes that, for today's consumer, you need to establish trust before you ask someone to buy your products or services.
Does Inbound Marketing Work?
A host of recent studies demonstrate the effectiveness—and cost-effectiveness—of inbound compared with traditional (outbound) marketing strategies. Consider these stats from Impact:
- Leads generated with inbound cost on average 61% less than outbound leads
- The average cost per lead drops more than 80% after just 5 months of inbound marketing
- For mid-size businesses, inbound costs 31% less than paid search
- Companies that leverage inbound marketing save $14 dollars on every new customer
- On average, inbound marketing doubles website conversions (from 6% to 12%)
How Do You Get Started?
Inbound marketing works, but the fact is, it works much better for some businesses than for others. Another fact is that the companies which succeed typically work with an experienced inbound agency that knows the ropes and can execute inbound strategy better than your in-house team. That said, there are key components of every successful inbound program, including the following 4:
1. You Need a Smart Strategy
"Strategy" is one of those buzz words that intimidates a lot of businesses, but all it really means is having a comprehensive plan designed to achieve your goals. Far too many businesses try a little blogging, or a dose of SEO and paid search, but never take the time to develop that plan, and so aren't as successful as they could be. Be sure you have a smart strategy before you launch your inbound campaigns.
2. You Need to Know Your Audience
Who is it you're hoping your content will influence? If you're like most businesses, your prospective customers are not monolithic—they have different needs, different pain points, and are interested in different products and services you offer.
You need to identify each segment of your target market. One of the best ways to do that is by creating robust buyer personas—these are fictionalized representations of key marketing segments which will help you develop content that moves the needle to pull them ever closer to making purchases.
3. You Need to Know Where Your Audience Lives
If you were building a brick and mortar store, you'd want to construct it as close as possible to where your customers live. The same is true with inbound marketing. Where on the internet do prospective customers for your business "hang out?"
Chances are many of them are on social media sites, but which sites they frequent differs based on the kind of business you own. For example, if you own a B2B company, you're probably going to have more luck marketing on LinkedIn; if yours is a B2C business, you might be better off on Facebook. The point is, you can't effectively market your business until you identify where your customers are.
4. You Need to Understand What Your Customers Care About
In the example at the top of this blog, the customer needed information (about washing machines) before he could make a buying decision. That's what he cared about. The marketer who understands this need is the one who's most likely to make a sale.
So, how do you find out what your customer's problems, pain points and questions are? One of the best ways is to stop talking and start listening. And don't worry—they'll be happy to talk to you. They do it on social media sites every day. Look at the questions they ask most frequently and the discussion topics which most engage them. If you're persistent, you'll begin to understand what your customers care about most, and you'll be able to create content which addresses their pain, answers their questions and solve their problems.
Adopting inbound marketing strategies is more than swapping out a few of your old tactics for a few news ones—it's a paradigm shift, a change in mindset. Success with inbound marketing depends on the extent to which you know who your customers are and where they live, understand what they care about, and deliver content that helps them solve their problems.
The best marketing agencies will help you develop clearly defined, customized strategies which deliver exceptional customer experience to drive growth. To learn more about the ways our discovery and strategy, media and technology, creative and digital, social and activation services will help your business increase sales and grow, contact us today.