Marketing is becoming increasingly difficult. Although there are more channels than ever, and although it is easier than ever to target your marketing, clients and customers are becoming increasingly discerning. They want to be treated like adults – and this is where inbound marketing comes in.
But what is inbound marketing, and how can it help you make sales?
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing involves the use of content to make sales. It requires businesses and freelancers to produce innovative, useful content, in order to attract potential clients and customers to their products and services.
Inbound marketing is closely related to content marketing, which describes the production and dissemination of the content itself. It is a highly effective marketing method that, since the popular adoption of the internet, has become one of the most important and valuable means by which businesses can make themselves more visible.
Why is it better than outbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is about developing trust. The production of great content encourages a relationship of trust between potential clients and a business, the intention being that this relationship will ultimately be converted into a sale. Customer relationships based on trust are likely to be more valuable over the course of their lifecycle than those based on, for example, necessity or impulse.
Outbound marketing, meanwhile, which describes techniques such as TV advertising, direct mail, and telemarketing, is about ‘forcing’ your way into the consciousness of your customers. It is less effective because it is generally unwelcome. Potential clients and customers tend, as a rule, not to want to be ‘marketed at’. Instead, they want to build relationships that are beneficial to them. Producing great content, rather than bombarding them with advertising, is one of the best ways to achieve this.
What is the process?
There are several models that attempt to describe the inbound marketing process, but each can generally be divided into three parts: attraction; conversion; and analysis. The first step is to attract visitors. In great part this relies on the quality of your content, but it will also require the effective use of techniques such as search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC) advertising, and social networking. More information on all of these techniques is available elsewhere in our Knowledge Centre. The second stage, conversion, can be split into two sub-stages: converting visitors to leads; and converting leads to sales. Converting visitors to leads is particularly challenging here, and will rely on you making very clear exactly what you are offering across all of your messaging and across every channel. Finally, analysis is absolutely key. By monitoring the behaviour of your visitors, and by making frank assessments of your ability to convert, you can help to identify what is working and what is not, and to change your behaviour accordingly.
How do I get started?
One of the most attractive things about inbound marketing is that the barriers to entry are very low. In fact, all you require is a web presence and some knowledge. Indeed, that web presence need not even be your own website, although that is recommended. Many content marketers are now using channels like Google Plus to disseminate their content, some with great success. Your first step, however, is to work out what your potential customers need, and to determine how that intersects with your talents. Then, begin creating unique content that meets those needs. Good luck!