Time to Change
The market is getting increasingly competitive and dynamic. Consumers are inundated with a constant flow of information. It is becoming harder to get people’s attention and turn them into qualified sales leads. Worse, marketing departments are operating with smaller budgets and bare-bone teams. So, how do you get through all the noise to reach and engage with customers? Inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing (also known as content marketing) focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing specific content for a targeted consumer segment (focus on providing free content). The focus is on providing high value content to a clearly defined audience to demonstrate you are an expert in your field, your product aligns with their values and lifestyle, and provide fun/entertaining content. Types of content that are very effective within content marketing are:
Why Inbound Marketing?
Why adopt inbound marketing? Consumers are constantly searching for sources of information they can trust. They don’t want a hard sale. They want honest and insightful content to learn more and improve their lives. Inbound marketing replaces high pressure sales tactics, as customers are already primed to buy your products or services after absorbing your content (no further selling required). The trust you developed from your consistent content feeds makes sales conversions much easier.
Inbound marketing replaces hard selling with value that customers desire. Inbound marketing is not about sharing useless information. Your goal is to pull customers in and provide relevant and valuable information they find critical to get their jobs done. The content you create helps to improve awareness of your offerings and educates consumers.
There are multiple ways to succeed with inbound marketing. First, know everything about your customers. Get out and talk to them and develop personas to share with teams. Second, make sure all your content is based on keywords to drive search engine optimization (SEO). You want to develop ways to drive traffic to your website, collect leads, and close sales content marketing is a critical component of SEO. A strategy based on clear links, individual landing pages for each offering, and simple call-to-actions (CTA) to convert leads allows your loyal customers to get everything needed from you.
What it Takes
Inbound marketing is not easy. It takes a lot of work to consistently develop valuable content. The first step is to understand your target customers. What do they want? How do they consume information (e.g., mobile, TV, video, white papers)? Where do they consume information? Understanding your target customer and developing content that meets what they want and located where they consume, is critical.
Most inbound marketing is provided online. The goal is to create an infrastructure that keeps consumers returning to your various content platforms (e.g., blog, podcast, video, eBooks). You can also develop hardcopy books, workshops, and speaking engagements to engage in-person. The combination of online and in-person interaction provides multiple avenues to develop relationships and build your business.
Adopting a inbound marketing model requires skills not typical of a marketing team. The first step is a careful understanding of your target customers. In addition, journalism skills are critical to ensure well written and produced articles, white papers, case studies, etc. Content development requires strong writing skills, creativity, and a deep understanding of targets. Don’t stress over technology. It is easy to learn or relatively inexpensive to outsource.
The other requirement is a consistent schedule of content. You want to develop habits (for yourself and your customers) to deliver and receive valuable content on a regular basis. Teams need to develop content calendars to ensure ongoing delivery. You must provide daily content to maintain engagement.
Students and Individuals
And for you aspiring marketing professionals or someone looking to change careers or build a side gig, inbound marketing is a valuable tool to display your talents and skills. Creating a blog, podcast, or video series to share your knowledge is an excellent way to demonstrate your skills, talents, and value to recruiters and hiring managers.
The skills inbound marketing requires are vital for a successful business career. The daily requirements to create new and interesting content creates powerful habits to improve your writing, design, and research skills. The more you create the better you will become in your chosen profession or to build a successful side gig. Consistent writing and ideation will create a powerful foundation for a successful business.
There are great resources to help you get up-to-speed quickly. Gary Vaynerchuk (https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/) is one of the leaders in this movement. His book Crush It! is an excellent guide to leverage content and social media.
Other great sources of information are Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman as well as the many books from David Meerman Scott (https://www.davidmeermanscott.com/). Check-out the Hubspot Academy (https://academy.hubspot.com/) to strengthen your skills. Don’t spend too much time learning and researching. Just jump in and start creating. The more you practice (and learn) the better your content will become.
Joe Pullizzi’s book Epic Content Marketing (http://www.joepulizzi.com/books/) is another great resource. Also, listen to podcasts to understand this medium. In addition, always develop content that you would pay for. If you would pay for it, then offering it for free provides a higher level of value. Develop content your targeted audience wants to read, listen to, and watch. And provide it for FREE.
PROS and CONS
Benefits of inbound marketing are:
Reduce internal costs (e.g., less paid media)
The detailed work of creating ongoing content creates a more engaged and creative workforce who clearly understands the customer’s desires. Building an internal army of creative producers is a long-term investment in future success. The more your employees understand your customers’ needs and constantly develop new, creative ideas to engage them, the higher probability of long-term success.
Time to develop new skills (writing, video production, audio production, etc.)
Challenge of leveraging keywords and SEO in all content
Difficult to clearly understand target customers
The mindset to move beyond paid media is also difficult for many to accept (especially those who have been practicing traditional marketing for many years). TV is not dead, yet, but has much lower return dependent on specific demographics. If you do not have a budget for consistent national advertising, content marketing is a great alternative to the high costs and low conversion rates associated with mainstream medium. In addition, clear goals and objectives need to be defined to communicate success. You will need to convince leaders that inbound marketing takes more effort, but the returns are potentially greater at less cost. Identify several key measures to track and determine what is working.
Overall, the PROS outweigh the CONS. Instead of wasting resources on a shotgun approach to marketing, your targeted content and media will have higher ROI as you focus solely on targeted customers. Start small – maybe one product or sub-segment. Measure, test, and experiment to understand what works (and doesn’t). The more you understand your customers – what they want and where they want to access it – the more engaged they will become as you continually deliver high-value content that meets their needs.
Overall inbound marketing is an excellent strategy to engage with customers. As more and more organizations focus on targeted customers, the ability to directly engage with timely and valuable content will help to increase engagement and result in more effective leads (and easier conversions). Adopting inbound marketing can be intimidating, but with a disciplined approach to understanding your customers, developing internal skills, and delivering ongoing, timely content will create strong differentiation and competitive advantages.
No matter the goal – corporate marketing or personal brand promotion - inbound marketing works extremely well. Also, many organizations are still behind with the power of inbound marketing. You can quickly move ahead of competitors as you engage in a more intimate way with customers..
Start slow. Write a blog and post interesting content on social media. Then move into podcasting or video production. Podcasts are easy to do and interviewing guests can bring new visitors to your website. In addition, videos are the future. Making high quality short videos that engage with customers has never been easier. Software such as Camtasia (https://www.techsmith.com/) or iMovie (https://www.apple.com/imovie/) allows anyone to create professional looking content with little practice. And you don’t need any special equipment to start. Just use your smartphone and imagination. Create fun and engaging content every day.
As you dive into inbound marketing, you and your team will have endless ideas to create great, informative, and engaging content for a specific audience. Developing natural inbound leads is the power of inbound marketing. Potential customers will find your content, embrace its value, and be convinced to use your solutions.
Don’t wait, start now. It is as simple as getting out of the office, talking to potential customers, and creating great content. Now go out there, and Crush It!