Inbound Marketing – An Essential Business Success Strategy
The bread and butter reasoning behind inbound marketing is the realization that people don’t want to be sold to. Or at least they think they don’t want to be. Most customers want the “soft sell” – to be informed without feeling pressured – they’re in complete control. We’ve all been told if all you do is inform, you’ll rarely get any sales. It’s a proven fact that you have to tell people to buy at some point, or they won’t.
Well maybe in some cases; but not all.
Some customers will click off your site, or walk out of your store if they feel like you’re telling them to buy something. Others will go somewhere else if you don’t tell them what they want and how to get it…
This game is so easy and rewarding, isn’t it?
So many dizzying contradictions for a business owner, salesperson, or marketing team to deal with: sell without selling; they won’t buy if you don’t ask; sell it don’t tell it…
And on and on it goes.
If you don’t understand the human psyche, you’ll be forever lost, dumping money into fruitless campaigns that do nothing to launch your business forward. Inbound marketing is more passive, but can make sales go viral with proper execution and a little luck.
Like sending an innocent cute little kid into someone’s house to sell them a vacuum. The kid doesn’t have anything to gain right? Of course you’re going to listen to him, and potentially buy when he has the deal of a lifetime in tow with him.
For those of you who’ve never heard the concept, or perhaps just aren’t quite sure what it’s all about, we’ll start things off with a few brief points about what inbound marketing is, and then discuss a few successful and contemporary ways it should be implemented.
Basics of Inbound Marketing:
- Most inbound methods are inexpensive or free. Costs that can be incurred include: copywriting fees, video editing, actors (voice or video), website links, paid guest postings on blogs, web hosting, and many others depending on the methods chosen.
- Visitors who come to your business or sales site as a result of inbound marketing techniques are more “warm and targeted” than random “cold and non-targeted” visitors who may have no actual use for, or established perceived value of your offerings.
- With inbound you’re always “building a list”, rather than buying one. This point relates ever so closely to the next one.
- Inbound marketing is about ‘earning’ your customers, rather than ‘buying’ them through advertising (ie., outbound marketing.) The trick is to appear passive and unbiased, while you’re actually cleverly trying to turn the prospect into a customer by being informative.
- In going inbound, you need to be more genuine with you intention, helping your customers to find what they are looking for; to find what matters to them. No dirty tricks allowed in inbound marketing.
- This form of marketing is an essential tool for any small business. Whether you’re starting from scratch, or already firmly established.
- Content used in inbound marketing methods needs to be convincing and practical, rather than merely pushy and “Buy this thing now before the apocalypse kills you and your family!” type of stuff.
- Consider any inbound tactic as a “presales funnel“. You’re warming the customer and directing them to a place in the funnel where they’ll best be served.
- While no type of marketing is “set it and forget it”, more attention is required to cultivate, nurture, and benefit from inbound methods. Creating, monitoring, testing – these are just a few factors that you need to prepare for before pressing forward.
- You can work inbound methods into a “service after sale” scenario that will keep existing customers loyal, and keep past ones coming back for more when they see the value you continue to offer. This is in addition to the fact that you’re always cultivating more.
- A level of trust is already established once a customer’s made it through this presales funnel, making the initial transaction (somewhat) easier.
Brian Halligan, of Hubspot first used inbound marketing as an official nomenclature in the business/marketing world.
Basically, you’re never sending the customer unsolicited information. All newsletters, social media “adding” and “friending”, coupons, catalogues, links to sales page, emails, texts, phone calls, etc. – need the express permission of the customer in order to avoid becoming “interruption marketing”.
Interruption marketing can be anything from cold calls to spam email, right down to those pesky little pop-ups that we all hate which “interrupt” our train of thought while looking for information online. They haven’t asked for it, therefore you’re interrupting them.
A Deeper Look into Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing continues to grow in popularity. Here are some interesting stats from HubSpot:
The Pre-sales Funnel (Inbound Marketing)
Don’t bother looking up this term on Google, you won’t find it anywhere. You’re hearing it for the first time right here folks! Feel free to give me a written “pat on the back” in the comments section if you like it!
Let’s face it: Some customers will click to your webpage or drop into your store, buy hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of merchandise or services, and it’ll take no effort on your part whatsoever. That’s the “bonus” you get once in a while that comes around so few times in life. The reality of business is you have to include a presales funnel – to direct your customer into the “during” and “after-sales” funnels.
We’re not going to touch on the latter two today. This article is all about our presales funnel, or inbound marketing.
You want to cordially warm up the customer, with seemingly innocent information about your product, company, past customers (testimonials), industry news, stories, photos, free information, etc. Free, free, free! We all know the effect that free swag or info is going to have on people! Your pitch, either passive or direct, will be incorporated in one of these pieces, or may come in another correspondence delivered at another time.
You’re likely going to use more than one of those types of marketing techniques and there are certainly a lot more not mentioned that can be used in your specific funnel. They all gather at the top, and your correspondence with them eventually leads them to the bottom.
3 Very Popular (and Effective) Inbound Marketing Ideas to Implement
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, Yelp, Digg, Youtube, Yahoo Answers, Upcoming, Google+, and even LinkedIn. There’s no way to tell you how effective any of these outlets will be for your business.
And this is just a list of the most popular. Social media is important, we all know that. However, the type of industry you are in is the most important indicator of how well any one of these avenues will be for you.
You sign up and create a profile after deciding which outlet(s) have the most potential for creating an inbound marketing “presales funnel” (see this very concise, helpful article: socialmediatoday.com). After, you start posting relevant, funny, interesting, objectionable, viral, inspiring facts and info, to start building trust and authority.
Some people feel they should just start adding their competition, related industry professionals, celebrities, etc. This is a bad idea, it just pollutes your profile. You want real-world people to add you. Having more followed or added friends and contacts than you do followers is a sure-fire way to look like a schmucky company desperate for business, but with nothing of value to offer.
Add relevant content daily; hourly if possible, and keep self-serving sales posts limited in comparison to value-added ones. Use a 1/20, or 1/100 rule to keep yourself out of spam territory. Because of the frequency you can post on social media, you can get away with even posting daily sales links, but remember that it’s more of a numbers game than blogging and other platforms.
You’ll need thousands of views in many cases to get a single sale, lead, or opt-in. Be always adding value to cultivate interest in your profile, so maximum eyes see the posts you really want them to. By the same token, you should see the real value of having only people interested in your company attached to your followers and followed lists.
This is an inbound marketing method that’s been done to death, which still has profound reach.
ou set up a blog, either free through Google Blogger or other platforms, or an official blog attached to your company site or online storefront. Then blog about trends, news, concerns, how to’s, products – etc – that are related to your service, product lines, consumer interests, and after sales information about your products/services. Build trust with your visitors and don’t hammer them with constant sales pitches. Soon trust is built and they become receptive to your sales-related suggestions.
…perhaps even years if you rely on customers finding you without having to use paid advertising, such as paid traffic, to drive human eyes to the blog
Content building also takes time and/or money, depending on whether you pay a writer, or do it all yourself. You also use the blog to gain email addresses, and other customer contact information – this is called building a list. Once you’ve established trust, you can use the list to implement other inbound marketing methods, such as email newsletters, and even more direct marketing methods such as product catalogues and “warm” outbound phone calls if given permission.
Make acquaintances with other blog owners (related to your industry or not) and work out arrangements where you can guest post on their blog, and have them do the same on yours. This drives ready-made traffic to your site, along with an increased link profile for your blog which can get you free search-engine traffic. Always invite comments and questions. Make sure you can be contacted easily with the click of a mouse.
Consider this equally effective, whether it’s done via email or snail mail. The trick is that you need a list of customers or prospects who’re interested in what you’re promoting. Newsletters need to be more informative than selling. This is the medium you want to use for building trust, just as with the blogging platform.
If you can keep your readership happy and seeing you as a trustworthy authority, then they’ll be at least receptive to reading your catalogues, visiting your sales page, using free trials and coupons, filling out surveys, etc.
Tell people how to solve their problems, what’s going on in industries related to your business, share customer testimonials and heartwarming stories, news about upcoming product launches. “Upcoming” is the key word here. Whether you’re a manufacturer, service provider, or reseller, always tell people in advance whenever you can. It makes you an enlightening source, rather than someone trying to coax a sale.
If you have special sales going on (what other kinds are there right?) give a brief description and link, but be careful about using psychological triggers (like “tomorrow only” and “sale of the Century”) and big bold fonts. Once in a while is okay. Too often and you quickly become a spammer.
Send physical newsletters once a month, bi-monthly, quarterly, etc. Weekly is okay too, as long as the recipient has an expectation of that frequency when they agree to be on your list. Email letters can be sent at the same rate, but remember to be careful about selling. Emails are so easy to ignore, and spam so despised, that you really have to be careful about how often you pitch a sale (see: Best and Worst Times to Send Email.) It’s fine to include a link to your sales-page somewhere innocuous, such as the letterhead or signature area, just don’t directly point it out every time you send them something.
Before You Go… How About Connecting Your Online and Offline Efforts?
If you’re in the offline retail business, it’s time to get your game face on and to start using online sources to drive traffic to your store. Integrate an online presales funnel for your brick and mortar operation. Allow people to order and either do a pickup (preferably at a discount), or to have it mailed to them. Better yet, use content marketing to build up interest on your offline business, online.
Memphis Invest, a real estate investment firm in Tennessee, sees 260% increase in sales by connecting their online and offline marketing efforts via practicing inbound marketing strategies and tactics.
You can learn more about the success story here.
This creates a very passive stream of income and expands your marketing reach beyond the four walls of your store. Check out this article on Forbes about the dangers retail businesses are facing because of digital marketing: Trends Driving Retail Toward Extinction.
If you’re strictly online-based already, then stop spamming all the time (if you are) and try a more clever and passive approach to hooking your customers with inbound marketing – in addition to any other methods that are successful for you already.
The art of “selling without selling” on the Internet is something that the team at Copyblogger really understands. Grab their free Internet marketing course if you haven’t already: Internet Marketing for Smart People. Lots of free and useful insights in that course.
There you have it folks. Time to go out and start using what you’ve learned here today!