Inbound 101 – What is Inbound Marketing?

Much has changed in the world of marketing in the past 15 years. Not only have the roles of marketers changed – and will continue to change – but the manner in which we build and execute our marketing strategies are evolving as well.

One such change is the move from Outbound Marketing towards Inbound Marketing.

So what IS Inbound Marketing – and really, why should anyone care?

Think about how you discover, consume and share information online – it’s changed a lot over the past 15 years, hasn’t it? Back in the early days of the commercialized internet there were a few information sources that you may have visited, and getting that information out to others was usually done by emailing links directly to people in your network. Today you have access to thousands of sources for information and hundreds of ways to share the information you feel is worth sharing.

Now, as a marketer, think about how your messaging has changed to meet this new behavior. How do you “rise about the noise”? How do you make sure that your site is the one that customers come to and learn more, buy more and share more of what you have?

In a nutshell, the best way to marketer today is with Inbound Marketing practices.

Back in the day you would get the attention of potential customers through buying ads. You would blanket the web with your ads – static ads, animated ads, serious ads, funny ads – you would try everything in order to draw the attention of your customers and get them to click and come to your site. This is a typical Outbound Marketing strategy and is still the most popular method used today. However, this method is becoming less and less effective and MUCH more expensive.

What is where Inbound Marketing comes in.

Inbound Marketing is about bringing customers IN to your site – not going OUT to get them.

So how is Inbound Marketing executed?

Inbound Marketing is all about the relationship you have with your customers. It’s about information sharing, teaching, and helping resolve customers’ issues/pain points. It’s about doing the work up front to earn the trust of your customers – and with that trust your customers will buy from you, recommend that others buy from you, and will likely ignore your competition, even if that competition comes to them with a cheaper price. Inbound Marketing removes the risk of “throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks” and replaces it with long-term, solid customer relationship management.

In order to get started with a solid Inbound Marketing strategy you need to remember these 3 things.

  1. Content Creation – since inbound marketing is about helping resolve your customers’ pain points, the best way to get started is through information sharing. Developing content that answers their questions right up front (with minimum tech-speak/acronyms/fluff) and then sharing that content to the ends of the web is a keystone of an inbound strategy.
  2. Personalization – you need to know your customers and know them well. Develop in-depth Buyer Personas and tailor your content to speak directly to them. When customers feel as if you understand them, and you “feel their pain” and that your product will resolve their pain then your sales process is no longer about “selling” but “helping”.
  3. Delight – no matter where a customer may be on the sales path, make sure that they leave every interaction with you and your company happier than when they started. This is not your typical “The Customer Is Always Right” – it’s more than that. If an angry customer calls into your call center, empower your call center agents to offer a “free gift” for their trouble. Or if the wait is long for food at your restaurant, empower your waitstaff to offer a free appetizer sample. Happy customers don’t mean they get what they want – it means that you worked with them to resolve their immediate need – and that need could simply be the need to feel they have been heard.

Overall, Inbound Marketing requires a bit of (or more) buy-in and training throughout an organization – especially sales and marketing. But if you start now, at the end of next year when you’re presenting your marketing budget and your ad spend is lower but your conversion rates and retention rates are higher, you will quickly find converts to this effective marketing methodology.