Back in the day, marketing strategies revolved around interrupting customers in the course of their lives. These interruptions included cold-calling, direct mail campaigns, print advertisements, TV commercials, billboards and so on. The hope was that, through these intrusive techniques, prospective customers would be sufficiently interested to further explore the messaging of products and services aimed at them.
By its very design, this scattershot marketing approach often targeted the wrong people and frequently annoyed the prospects most likely to want to learn more.
Inbound marketing, which has steadily grown in popularity and effectiveness over the past ten years, focuses instead on pulling prospective customers, rather than interrupting them. People are drawn to products or services through the use of entertaining and value-added content made available to them online.
This method instantly pre-qualifies leads who are more responsive to a specific marketing message and more inclined to take the next step in the purchasing process. As a result, inbound marketing is almost always less expensive than traditional methods (no need to purchase ads, rent booths at trade shows, etc.). It does a better job of targeting a desired audience, since potential customers have already demonstrated an interest in the content provided to them. It also generates greater inbound traffic to a business website—representing visitors who can be captured, converted and sold to over a shorter period of time.
At its core, inbound marketing (also called “content marketing”) consists of three key elements:
Content – Keyword-rich information or resources that serve as the “gateway” for attracting potential customers to a website’s landing page
Search engine optimization – The process of building a website and using inbound links to boost a business’s ranking in search engines, where the buying process usually begins for most people
Social media – The ever-growing platform with which a business distributes content and offers it up for networks to share
So what types of content are most effective in drawing would-be customers to your site?
Perhaps the easiest, and least expensive option is creating a blog aimed at your customers, then populating that blog with useful content. A business blog that offers valuable insights and solutions will gradually emerge as a thought-leader, drawing an ever-greater audience.
Blog posts should include a call-to-action that carries visitors further along the sales funnel, by for example, asking them to exchange their contact information for more great content (a free white paper, case study, etc.). And blog posts are easily shared among social media platforms as well.
Other effective types of content include:
- Q&As with industry leaders and influencers
Whatever type of content you choose to provide, the underlying strategy should be a relentless focus on both the pain your target audience experiences and the solutions your product or service provides to address that pain. Build a list of keywords that fall into “pain” and “solution” categories and then organically incorporate them into your content.
Just make sure these are keywords your target audience is likely to use in an online search, not words or phrases you think they should use.
Use of these “long-tail keywords” addresses the need for effective SEO (the second core element of inbound marketing). The more times people click on the page, the greater impact this has on various search engines. As a particular link rises in the rankings, it becomes one of the first things potential customers see when they begin their initial search.
Your business’s search engine ranking also benefits from interest shown in social media. That’s why it’s a good idea to dedicate resources to promoting blog posts, new articles and other content marketing offers across all channels. This generates greater interest and a potentially large and loyal following.
Inbound marketing represents a dramatic advance over traditional marketing techniques and should be an integral tool in every business’s sales and marketing strategy.