What the Hell is Inbound Marketing?

Jennifer Barker

Business Development Strategist

Oh please. It’s not like you really know what inbound marketing is. You may know a little bit about it, such as the fact that it pulls people toward your company and product rather than away from it. You may also realize that inbound marketing is the preferred way to market your products and services. It should replace most, if not all, of your outbound tactics. In fact, Jeff Rosenblum from Questus stated that outbound marketing, “is inherently obfuscated, duplicitous and full of shit.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

Yet just because you know those few things about inbound marketing doesn’t make you an expert. By admitting that you have a thing or two to learn opens you up to being smarter and more informed. Armed with new information, you can strengthen what you do know and make better use of your online marketing, your advertising budget and the left side of your brain in general.

Inbound marketing is two parts strategy, one part creativity and a dash of nurture. Let’s learn more.

Is Outbound Marketing Even Relevant Anymore?

To begin, let’s talk about what’s happened to marketing over the years. As a brand, you’ve seen this firsthand. As a consumer, you can relate.

People have changed. They’re tuning out traditional marketing tactics because they’re boring, predictable and annoying. With each generation, the brain has become smarter and is programmed to look past things like in-your-face radio ads, sleepy television commercials and pesky direct mail. Here are a few sobering statistics about outbound marketing and its effectiveness, or lack thereof.

  • 86% of people skip TV ads

  • 91% unsubscribe from email

  • 44% of direct mail goes unopened

  • 200M people are on the Do Not Call list

In short, outbound marketing is considered “old marketing” and it pushes people away from products and companies. Inbound marketing is “new marketing” and it pulls people in.

What’s the Deal with Inbound Marketing? How is it Better?

Even though outbound marketing is no longer effective, it has to be replaced by something else. Marketing, at its core, remains vital and always will. How else can brands share their products and services? How else will consumers get excited about the things they’re going to buy? Marketing will never die. But the way it’s used will - and has.

So, we would like you to meet inbound marketing. It’s a somewhat new term that was once described as SEO or content marketing. HubSpot defines it as a focus on, “creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.”

Cool.

When you think of inbound marketing, consider that it happens in four stages:

  1. Attract visitors

  2. Convert leads

  3. Close sales

  4. Delight customers

Stage 1: Attracting Visitors

In the first stage, you’re attracting people to your website. In order to do this, you need to provide them with something they will love. There are all different ways to do this. The most effective is blogging and SEO.

With blogging, you’re contributing valuable content that your audience can benefit from. Let’s pretend that you run your own clothing store. Your blog educates people on the latest clothing trends, which types of materials wash well, how to care for delicate items and so on. Sally comes across your blog when searching for, “What’s the best way to wash my beaded shirt?” She likes your advice and shares it on her Facebook page.

Lacey sees the post on her friend’s page and reads it as well. She likes you. She thinks you’re interesting. Lacey subscribes to your blog and follows you on Facebook.

Stage 2: Converting Leads

As you submit new posts to your blog, you continue to educate Lacey. Your content shows her that you know what you’re talking about and can be trusted. SEO is important here because it helps you get found by people who have a need for your service. We won’t go into detail about SEO in this post, but just be aware that it plays a crucial role in bringing people to your site.

Based on Lacey’s behavior and needs, you can further personalize the relationship with her. For example, if she interacts with your brand on Facebook by commenting on new styles that come into the store, you can reach out to her with a simple, “Thanks Lacey. Stop in today to see some of our styles!” It’s subtle and non-pushy.

Stage 3: Making a Sale

Up until this point, you’ve been nurturing Lacey but have yet to make a sale. Then one day, Lacey needs to buy a new dress for a work party. Where does she go to get it? Your store.

Because you have worked up a relationship with Lacey and she trusts you, she turns to you for the sale. This all happened on Lacey’s timeline, not yours. So while you may not have gotten an immediate sale by shoving your brand in her face, you have a much more meaningful relationship with Lacey. One that will stand the test of time as long as you treat her well. And this is where the last stage of the inbound marketing process comes into play.

Stage 4: Delighting Customers

It’s not enough to just make a sale and then part ways. It may have taken you weeks, months or even longer to close the sale depending on the nature of your business. Why should you just throw away everything you’ve worked for? Satisfied customers are more likely to return and refer you to their friends.

To keep Lacey coming back, you can reward her with coupons, send her personalized emails based on her shopping habits and engage her on social media. You want to keep your brand front and center so that Lacey thinks of you when she needs a new outfit or a friend asks for a recommendation on a clothing store.

Also, by keeping Lacey happy, you can turn her into a supporter of your brand. Brand supporters, or advocates, are those who are happy to share their experiences on social media, rate your business online, participate in contests and try new products. Their word means plenty to prospective customers looking in.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you better understand inbound marketing and how it plays out in the real world. The most important piece of advice that we can give you is to recognize that inbound marketing is a process. You must be patient, diligent and nurturing.

Does this mean that you will win over every customer? No, it does not. Sometimes people part ways or decide that they don't have a need for your product or service even after all of your awesomeness. But when you do turn a visitor into a lead, a lead into a customer and a customer into a brand advocate, it's another testament to your brand. And this, folks, is what inbound marketing is all about.

About the Author: Jennifer Barker

Jen is the Business Development Strategist for SEMGeeks and the only team member born and raised north of the Jersey great divide, i.e. the Driscoll Bridge. Her BFA in multimedia design and extensive experience in digital marketing make her both an analytical and creative thinker. Jen has lived and worked for digital agencies in two major cities over the last 17 years but 3 years ago this “gypsy living, free bird” happily put her roots down at the Jersey Shore. The struggle to defend North Jersey to the rest of the team is an ongoing battle. #TaylorHam

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