Shifting your company to an inbound marketing strategy

Inbound marketing has become one hell of a buzzword in the last decade. The advent of the internet saw a huge shift in how, what, when, where, and why consumers are consuming, and inbound marketing is the response to this shift. Before we go into inbound marketing strategy, let's start by defining what exactly inbound marketing is:

Inbound marketing is a consumer-centric marketing model that focuses on building a lasting brand image and attracting longterm consumers. Instead of forcing information on potential customers (outbound marketing), inbound marketing attracts customers to the firm organically. This shift in ideology from "push" to "pull" marketing tactics allows companies to focus on building and maintaining customer relationships based on a foundation of high-quality content aligned with company values. Inbound marketing, in a sense, is simply a form of customer education. As Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, puts it, inbound strategy is the "process of turning a stranger into a delighted customer." Here's a neat video by HubSpot Academy that unpacks the process that Halligan is referencing: 


Understand who is buying your stuff

Inbound marketing isn't a one-size-fits-all process. There are many different ways to draw in your consumers, and the method you choose will depend highly on your buyer persona. Are your consumers likely to seek out a blog for information? Or are they more inclined to interact with your firm on social media? Though market research is costly and resources can be scarce for new companies, by researching and creating buyer personas you can better understand your consumer; thus, you can better understand how to effectively market to them.

You may be wondering why you need to understand your customer if inbound marketing is all about your customer seeking out you instead of you seeking out them. This "if you build it, they will come" mentality is something to be wary of. You need to understand your customer because your inbound marketing, the content you create, needs to satisfy the customer's desires fully. You want your customer to not only visit your website, but stay on your website and browse it. And to make this happen, you've got to tailor your website to them.

Larry Kim from WordStream spelled it out with pizza, which makes this example awesome:

"If you own a local pizza joint and you go around stick fliers and menus under people’s windshield wipers and rubber-banding them to their doorknobs all the time, that’s outbound or interruption marketing, because you’re coming to them and getting in their face, even though you have no idea whether they want pizza or even like pizza.

But if someone in your area searches for 'pizza' on their mobile phone at 5 pm, and they get an organic local listing or a mobile PPC ad from your businesses, that’s contextual. Neither option is interrupting the flow of what they’re doing. Either way, you’re giving them information they were already looking for. Because PPC, like SEO, is contextual and query-triggered, it’s inbound marketing."

Eggs in baskets

PPC and SEO are just a few ways a firm can begin their inbound marketing efforts. It would, of course, be fantastic to have the ability to dominate all platforms of inbound marketing to attract your consumers, but resource scarcity means that it will be more important for you to put your resources into just a few inbound methods. The old adage warns you against putting all your eggs in one basket, but putting a single egg in a dozen baskets is also inefficient. Maximize your output by narrowing down a few channels that will attract your buyer persona with the least resources.

There are all kinds of methods of inbound marketing you could consider when deciding which path to take. Here's a helpful little infographic filled with inbound marketing methods (outbound marketing vs. inbound marketing):

In addition to being a more effective marketing tool in the long run, inbound marketing is also renowned for being more cost-effective. Inbound marketing is generally an inexpensive alternative to outbound marketing with regards to ad spending and paid media. That said, while writing a blog post certainly costs less than paying for an advertisement in a magazine, you must take into account the opportunity cost of inbound marketing. Because these tactics may take a while to attract consumers, inbound marketing may end up costing more than you might think in terms of time and effort. Matias Honorato with Tradecraft says it takes around 6 months to start seeing measurable results from inbound marketing. In order to be successful, this marketing must be consistent in quality and content over that time period - easier said than done.

Overall, the ROI from inbound marketing is greater than that of outbound marketing simply because it is more of a longterm strategy. With inbound marketing, you're building relationships with your consumers that will last a long time. With outbound marketing, the focus is more on short-term revenue gain.

Death to clickbait

Now, time isn't the only challenge of inbound marketing. Generating quality content and maintaining brand authenticity are pressing challenges to the inbound marketer. Potential consumers who seek out information and end up at your website, post, or blog should be satisfied after consuming your content. What does this mean? It means don't publish clickbait! If your title or heading promises something that your article or content doesn't deliver on, that potential consumer will no longer be a potential consumer, but a stranger, and possible detractor, to your brand. In the future, that person will be extremely unlikely to actively view your content simply because your content didn't have the quality and authenticity that instills a sense of trustworthiness in your brand and attracts consumers.

Simon says, "Why?"

Inbound marketing - surprise, surprise - takes careful strategy to deploy successfully. We already talked about knowing your customer and putting your eggs in a few different baskets, but what we've only begun to touch on is messaging. Messaging, in sales or marketing, comes down to one core principle: sell your vision, not your product. Aligning your marketing tactics with your firm's values will allow you to create a more wholistic and comprehensive brand in the eyes of the consumer. You need to know exactly what your brand stands for and why your firm exists. As Simon Sinek would put it, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." So show them "why you do it" through your marketing.

Finding your magic number

Another key part of your inbound strategy is to find your "north star" metric(s). In other words, what are the steps taken to achieving your ultimate goal? In HubSpot's multistep process of converting a stranger into a delighted customer, a firm's immediate marketing goals will range over time from getting more people to sign up for a weekly newsletter to encouraging loyal consumers to take a survey about their experience with the firm. Where is your firm in this process? Honing your marketing efforts through knowing your customer, knowing your purpose, and knowing your goals will help you to create an inbound marketing campaign sure to succeed.