It seems laughable now, but fifteen years ago, the concept of inbound marketing didn’t even exist. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005, when Brian Halligan, the co-founder of HubSpot, coined the phrase and gave an explanation of what inbound marketing was.
We’ll go into that shortly, but for now it’s enough to know that the concept has proven to be a game-changer for SEO. The concept first laid out by Halligan didn’t really take off until about seven years later, but now it is recognized as a marketing priority for many forward-thinking businesses.
This is a broad term to describe a number of different activities that drive valuable experiences. The idea behind the concept is that both you and your target market are positively impacted by these experiences.
Inbound marketing involves using helpful and relevant content get traffic to your blog or your site. Then, when visitors do come through to the site, you can start using instant chat or email to deepen the connection. The value doesn’t stop there, though.
You’ll continue to position yourself as a subject matter expert by providing advice and information that they’ll find particularly useful. You’ll aim to delight prospects and become a useful resource for them.
Inbound marketing is a complete departure from your more conventional marketing processes, and can be a lot more effective.
With inbound, the focus is on creating value for those who will consume the content, rather than focusing on selling your business or product. The aim here is to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and to build your brand, rather than punting what you do.
Let’s say that you sell a device that helps prevent snoring. An article where you go into detail about the benefits of your product wouldn’t count here. And, let’s be frank, it’s also something that people have to be in the right stage of the marketing cycle to read.
If, for example, I’d already decided that I wanted to buy an anti-snoring device, the article mentioned above might be perfect for me. If, on the other hand, I was still in the information-gathering stage, I would want to learn more about a range of options.
In that respect, an article that goes into detail about why people snore, and what home solutions they might try would be right on the money.
Now, sure, it may seem counter-productive to offer home remedies that don’t involve using your device, but it is actually a really clever move. You’re providing a helpful service and a positive experience for your potential client. They’ll thus have a more positive impression of your brand, and, when they decide that they’re tired of using home remedies, they’ll be more receptive to your actual marketing message.
Information that your reader has no doubt been searching for. Your company gets points for providing the information that they need to solve their problem.
A puff piece or outright ad might be ignored – after all, what company goes around saying that their product is not going to solve the problem it is designed to correct? Consumers have become wary of the promises made in ads – they know that not all information received in this manner is reliable.
On the other hand, a piece written from a more objective perspective, and one that provides alternate solutions as well, is instantly more credible. You’re saying to people, “Hey, we’re here to help you. We want you to have all the information at your disposal, so here are some options you can try.”
Clients will learn that they can trust your brand, and also find out how much of an expert you are in your field.
Thirdly, you’re not competing for the attention of those reading the article. With a standard advertising piece, you’d have to hope that it was perceived as being more valuable than the thousands of other advertising pieces out there.
And, considering that we’re all bombarded with advertising messages several times a day, it becomes easy to tune out the noise. Your ad could very well be lumped together with all of the others and be ignored totally.
A piece designed to give information, on the other hand, is useful. People will want to read it through.
We all know that one person – the person who uses every possible opportunity to try and sell us something. How often do you want to engage with that person? Do you jump when they ask you out to coffee, or do you look for excuses not to go?
You’re more likely to avoid them, even if they’re doing something nice for you, because you wonder what their ulterior motive is.
Don’t be the business equivalent of that person. Make the relationship with your potential clients one where you give and take. They know that as a business you need to sell your product to survive. But they also want to know that they are more valuable to you than just the next sale.
By providing content that has nothing to do with actual sales, you take a step towards encouraging engagement and showing that you appreciate your target audience.
With inbound marketing in general, and content marketing in particular, the aim is to create content that is interesting and that will create a good impression of your brand. You will have the opportunity to place a link either in the content itself or as part of your bio.
That leaves the final decision up to the consumer – they can decide to click through your link or not, as they choose. There’s no pressure on them to do so as this is not a hard sell effort. If you create sterling content, however, they will want to do so. It’s a passive form of marketing that is going to prove very valuable for your company.
How many times have you sent a friend of yours a link to an ad? Unless it’s something that they have been specifically looking for, and you happen upon the right ad at the right time, or the ad is particularly amusing, there’s not much chance of you sharing it with anyone.
Content that is useful, however, is something else entirely. Everyone strives to be helpful. Sharing content that is valuable is a great way of accomplishing this aim. You get to help your reader to feel like a hero by being able to provide a great article that he can share with his friends.
It is surprisingly effective. Let’s go back to the anti-snoring device. Maybe you could contact some of the specialist dentists in your area and find out about creating a guest post for them about ways to combat snoring, or possibly an article explaining the different types of anti-snoring devices.
Your post will appear on the dentist’s blog and he’ll share it. So, you’ll straight away get more exposure for your device for the cost of creating one small piece of content. You have access to a whole new range of potential customers at a very low cost.
But, better still, that content is going to stay in place on that blog. So, it’ll be there directing traffic your way with barely any effort on your part for several years to come. Which means that the small cost of creating that content in the first place is bound to have a far better ROI than a single piece of conventional advertising.
Inbound marketing does mean that you’ll have to put in more effort upfront. You need to shift the focus from focusing on the company needs, to focusing on the client’s needs. It’s not a strategy that is going to show results overnight, but it is a far more sustainable strategy in the long-term.
Instead of just blasting your clients with ads, you are making yourself a valuable resource for them. You’re building trust and credibility for your company, while at the same time showing that you understand what your clients want.
Your clients learn to trust your brand and seek it out when they are looking for advice. They’ll want to come to you, and that is something that is extremely hard to achieve with just conventional advertising.
Think of inbound marketing as investing in your brand’s future. The benefits might not be immediately apparent, but over time you’ll start to recognize it as the amazing tool that it is.