To answer the question, what is inbound marketing, you need to understand the inbound vs outbound marketing debate. To help the customers that I speak to understand this I ask “where does your instinct lie when you first sit down to consider a new marketing campaign for your organisation aimed at prospects?”.
Is your instinct to start any campaign by you contacting them? – e.g. most commonly, by sending out lots of emails to lists?
To continue, when someone (industry statistics will tell you how many to expect) reacts, you SEND them something else. Then you SEND them something else – like links to your website where more information awaits. Maybe you call them. Then they buy. Maybe.
This is outbound. It is largely your efforts to get through to them.
So answering the question “What is Inbound Marketing”, it approaches the issue from the opposite angle. Inbound Marketing asks how and why prospects (them) should make contact with your organisation (you). People are looking for information that you possess. All the time. Inbound Marketing is about anticipating what you have of value, how prospects might search for that information and presenting your valuable content, in easy-to-consume stages, to prospects.
Assume you sell paint for sealing concrete garage floors.
OPTION 1: You buy a mailing list of homeowners. How many thousands do you have to send to find someone just about to paint their garage floor? You advertise on an online DIY website. How many people who are just about to start painting see that and click?
This is outbound marketing instinct. You have something that someone needs – you just have to find them at the right moment. You know in sending out lots of information that maybe 95%+ of readers/viewers won’t be interested. But, that’s ok, because 5% might be interested.
OPTION 2: You publish a website page, a blog article, and a tweet on “Which paint to use for which household job?”. To download the guide the reader has to fill in a form. You then publish a website page, a blog article, a tweet on “How to paint concrete garage floors”. To download the guide the reader has to fill in a form. You then send out a “two-for-one” voucher offer to any of the above respondents and put it on your social media sites. To get the voucher the reader has to fill in a form.
This is inbound marketing instinct. You anticipate what information people want – and put it where it can be found – and then engage with each of your prospects systematically. Remember, in this approach, everyone you engage with is interested because they instigated the enquiry – they found you.
I mentioned delivering content in ‘easy-to-consume’ stages and inbound marketing has its own terminology for these three distinct ‘option 2’ activities. ‘Top of the funnel’ (educational content); ‘Middle of the funnel’ (the proof that they should use you) and ‘Bottom of the funnel’ (the offer to encourage a purchase). This is central to all inbound marketing content strategy as, not only do these stages work together, but each individual stage works across every digital channel and social media site.
From our own marketing campaigns, the most striking difference is the small number of respondents you need in an inbound marketing campaign to show converted business. One single track created a couple of hundred page views, a couple of dozen leads and a couple of bits of brand new business. In the old money of outbound marketing, I might have had to send out over 20,000 emails to get that sort of result. I haven’t upset anyone or put them off by sending irrelevant information – yet I have won as much new business.
At the turn of the century, there was a debate on marketing approaches between ‘interruption marketing’ and ‘permission marketing’ (Read: Permission Marketing by Seth Godin). I would argue this debate around ‘outbound marketing’ and ‘inbound marketing’ is today’s version of that. And I know which side of the debate I sit on.
My instinct is for inbound marketing – because, at the end of the day, whether B2C or B2B, that’s how I like to be marketed to!
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