Inbound marketing was once neatly described by dot com millionaire Seth Godin, as “permission marketing”. It is based on tactics that pull potential customers into the business, rather than ones that push to get in front of them.
The easiest way to think of it is like this, if potential buyers find a business, it’s inbound marketing. On the other hand, if a business finds the clients, it’s outbound marketing.
“Permission marketing: Turning strangers into friends and friends into customers” Seth Godin.
Inbound marketing methods can be summarized as:
Compared to outbound tactics, these techniques generally cost less to do. They can also be more accurately targeted, meaning they should result in a better return on investment.
A certain level of investment will still need to be made upfront, such as to fund the creation of high-quality content. That doesn’t come cheap, but once created the content will become a lasting asset that can be used again and again.
Now compare this with a print ad placed in a trade magazine. Once the ad has run and the next issue is out, its impact is over.
Inbound tactics are particularly useful for businesses who:
Another benefit of inbound marketing is that you can be up and running fast. It can be as simple as setting up a company blog, uploading some interesting content, and sharing it via social media. Plus helping it get found on search engines with a little SEO push or some sponsored social media posts.
While print ads, billboards, banner ads, TV and radio ads, print direct-mail, email blasts, event sponsorships, and big trade shows were traditionally all mainstays of a business marketing plan, they are no longer as effective as they once were.
Remember the Yellow Pages? The concept worked at the time because it was the only place where people could quickly and easily access a wide range of business details. The books no longer exist, because thanks to the internet, we don’t need them. All the information we want and more is now available online.
People are still looking for the products and services they need, just in different places. The key challenge for marketers is how to make them find you.
There are a couple of hybrids, which blur the boundaries between inbound and outbound marketing and can work really well if used in the right circumstances:
Pay-per-click advertising shows ads to people browsing the web, who express a specific interest or meet a stipulated demographic. The key to using these types of ads effectively is to be very targeted. One issue to bear in mind, however, is that it is getting more and more difficult to generate results, with tools such as ad blockers getting in the way.
Account-based marketing is about pushing messages out but in a well-researched and highly targeted way. In fact, the messages are so well targeted that the content is produced purely for the intended recipient.
It will be developed for a specific, target account and then distributed across various channels, with the aim of getting it in front of them. Again, if used intelligently this can work well, particularly when the target is a larger corporation.
The main thing to recognize is that the buyer journey is no longer linear and marketers need to stay on top of the new trends and developments.
We all encounter different brand messages all the time, which reach us via a variety of channels. It will take multiple touchpoints with a potential customer before a sale is made.
Start by looking at your marketing mix with an open mind, a calculator, and some common sense. Use the methods that fit best with your culture, your business model, and most importantly, which will attract the clients you want to work with.
When using inbound marketing tactics, you will typically work with a far smaller audience than for outbound and your success will come down to the quality of your content. It is how you will attract quality leads, who you then turn into quality customers.
Less is always more, so focus on the quality of your methods to attract the clients you really want.
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