If you’re like most people, you probably frequently find yourself skipping commercials on TV or the radio, deleting marketing emails and recycling unopened “spam” mail. Realizing how effectively you can avoid these marketing tactics might cause you to wonder — is this stuff even still working for businesses?
What Is Inbound Marketing?
A growing percentage of marketers would say no, it’s not — at least not as well as a set of newer techniques known collectively as inbound marketing.
More traditional marketing practices — including the commercials, emails and direct mail marketing materials you avoid — are known as outbound marketing. Outbound tactics work by sending out messages to large groups of people in the hopes that some of those people will take actions to become customers.
Inbound marketing works the opposite way. As people begin using the internet, streaming services and social media more often, they’re becoming more in control of what media they see. Inbound marketing takes advantage of these trends by letting customers come to the business. Inbound marketers create content, such as blog posts, articles, video and podcasts. The goal is that people interested in the business in question will search out and find this content and, through it, become introduced to the business.
Here are some of the key benefits that a well-managed inbound marketing strategy can have for your business.
Communication Is Two-Way
One of the main differences between outbound and inbound marketing involves engagement. With outbound marketing, the conversation goes one way — the marketer sends a message to the customers. With inbound strategies, the conversation can go both ways. The marketer shares something with the customers, and they can engage via things like internet comments and social media.
This two-way conversation helps businesses build relationships with people, which creates trust and makes people more likely to become loyal customers.
Target More Effectively
Inbound marketing can help you more effectively reach the people who are most likely to become customers of your business. The content a marketer creates for a business will be related to what that company does. For this reason, the people that discover and engage with that content are also likely to be interested in the company’s products or services.
As opposed to sending out a message to a large group of consumers and hoping it finds its way to the right ones like with outbound marketing, inbound helps you to reach exactly the right people.
You don’t need a huge marketing budget to increase your visibility and brand awareness. All you need is top-notch content.
As you probably know, things can go viral online overnight. Everyday people can become famous quite suddenly. Something similar can happen with online marketing content. You might not find yourself on the Ellen DeGeneres show, but you’ll probably notice more people discovering your content and brand.
If people really like your content, they might even share it on social media, increasing its reach and adding to its credibility.
Well-made online content can improve your brand’s reputation, establish credibility and create trust with customers. When a brand consistently creates content that’s valuable to people in some way, they’ll begin to see that brand as an industry resource.
If you regularly share helpful advice, accurate information and useful insights, people will perceive your company as knowledgeable and be more likely to trust you to be good at what you do.
Not only is inbound marketing effective, but it’s also cost-effective. In fact, the average lead costs 62% less with inbound marketing than with outbound. A lead is, as you may know, someone who expresses interest in a company.
With inbound marketing, businesses create a lot of their own content or hire a company to create it for them. Then, they share it online, which costs a lot less than mailing it out, putting it on a billboard or buying an ad in a magazine. Sometimes, people will even share your creations and endorse your brand for free on social media.
Using inbound marketing increases companies’ lead generation and sales numbers. The more content you put out there, the more people are likely to discover your business. If you do it right, some of these people will become leads and eventual customers.
Every time someone visits your website because of your inbound marketing material, you get another chance to encourage them to take the next step in the sales process. This is done through calls to action — requests for a customer to complete a specified action like signing up for an email list or requesting a quote. The most qualified leads will make their way through the sales funnel until your sales team helps close the deal.
Customers Like It More
Outbound marketing is interruptive. It often gets in the way of what people are really trying to do, like watch a TV show or read a magazine. It often uses more hardline sales tactics, which people don’t particularly enjoy.
Inbound marketers, on the other hand, seek to entertain or educate people with their materials. Inbound marketing is designed to provide value to people. Plus, people seek it out and don’t engage with it unless they want to, so they won’t feel interrupted and are likely to be truly interested in it.
Choosing the Right Strategy
Although a lot of marketers are now turning towards inbound marketing and away from outbound, what really works best varies from business to business. If your outbound strategies are working, you don’t need to stop them. Just try supplementing them with inbound methods. Do some experimenting by trying new tactics and analyzing their results. You might find that inbound works best for you, or you might find you prefer outbound after all. Most likely, you’ll land on some kind of combination of the two.
Inbound marketing, although somewhat new to the game, can provide enormous benefits to almost any business. It’s uniquely suited to today’s internet-connected world and creates results at a reasonable cost. If you’d like to upgrade your marketing strategy, consider implementing some elements on inbound.
Author Bio: Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.