The reality of inbound marketing

Modern digital consumers are becoming increasingly in control of their buying patterns and it’s more important than ever to consider your customers purchasing behaviour. Inbound marketing is a great tactic for a start-up or small business, and should be a key ingredient within any business’ marketing mix, but it is not the only thing you ought to be doing in terms of marketing your business.

First things first, some context…

Inbound marketing is a strategy implemented by businesses as a way of organically attracting customers, as opposed to chasing them. It encompasses tools such as content marketing, SEO, website optimization and social media to capture leads and plays a huge part in online business today.

Marketing is all about what works for you as an individual business. Some techniques may look good on paper but when put in to practice, don’t achieve what you’d hoped. Once you have a feel for what works well for your brand and your customers, it will be a breeze.

Out with the old, in with the new

Traditional marketing has always proven effective, especially for large organisations – TV and radio adverts, billboards, direct emails and cold calling. But are they now becoming a thing of the past? With the rise of social media over the last 10 years and people turning to the internet for almost everything, traditional means just aren’t cutting it anymore, not to mention the huge price tag attached.

Inbound marketing is a great strategy for long term gain in attracting loyal customers to your business, it is a slow but steady growth tool. Take a look at Hubspot – they are the leader and most quoted source for inbound marketing, and is their main driving force. Their share price has increased massively over the last 5 years due to more companies using services from the likes of Hubspot to increase their sales through inbound.

SEOpressor explains how it is vital to have a range of inbound assets on both your website and social media to attract customers – this ranges from blog posts, apps and a dynamic social media presence. Showing you’re there for your customers at every stage of their purchasing journey and can answer their questions will increase trust in your brand, and your chances of qualifying leads – whether that be a physical transaction or a request to contact information, depending on your business niche.

Marcus Sheridan identifies how buying, shopping and consuming patterns have dramatically shifted over the past few years and that “as consumers we expect to be fed great information.” (They Ask, You Answer). Consumers expect to go on the internet and find the answer to their question almost instantaneously – and when they don’t, they move on to somewhere that will give them what they are looking for. It’s incumbent for companies to show transparency in their work and answering those niggly questions. Like everyone always says when you ask a question, “Google it?”.

SEO and content marketing – a dazzling duo

SEO is an important factor in your inbound marketing strategy as it has the power to increase brand awareness and allows your business to be found at an organic search level. From here, people can then share your brand, increasing traffic without any extra cost to your company.

August 1st saw Google implement their biggest core algorithm search update to date, and one affected area highlighted by this was mobile-first indexing. Websites that don’t have a mobile site or are unresponsive on a mobile device will not rank on Google, simple. Maximising results for mobile can include having key information above the fold and not including pop-ups.

According to Clutch Survey, 87% of B2B audiences find business content through search engines and social media. This content is frequently used to inform buying decisions on a business’s product or service (20%). It is vital that as a business, you optimize your site and content to increase chances of engaging relevant customers. Social media is then used to promote the content and makes it possible for your content to reach a wider audience.

The downside of relying on inbound marketing for your business is the amount of content you must produce in order to keep up to date with industry trends, stay competitive and continue to attract consumers to your site. Inbound marketing may not cost money compared to PPC, but it does cost time and the results aren’t immediate – inbound is a marathon, not a sprint.

Your business should have a healthy social content strategy in place as social media can attract both new and existing customers through organic and PPC advertising, on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin. They also have insights data which allows you to monitor who is engaging with your content and where, which will help your marketing team tailor content to suit your direct target.

It can be tricky for any business to produce a shed-load of unique content everyday especially when roughly everyone in your industry will be talking about the same topics. Someone to learn from is business owner Marcus Sheridan (author of They Ask, You Answer) as he guides you to think like a consumer, not a business owner – what do you as a consumer want to know about this business? Put yourselves in their shoes and think about the questions you get asked every day and turn it into a blog post, webinar, FAQ and so on. From this, you can create your entire digital strategy, incorporating every part of your customer’s buying journey into the mix and by displaying complete trust and honesty and answering the ‘taboo’ questions, will ensure you stand out from your competitors.

Inbound isn’t all you should be doing

Like anything in life, there needs to be balance and this doesn’t stop when it comes to marketing. Your strategy needs to incorporate a healthy mix of tools and tactics for it to be a success. What should be my strategy then? I’m glad you asked.

Any agency or business should have a range of organic and PPC advertising, along with paid and organic social media. Even just dedicating a small amount of budget to the paid means will ensure your website gets enough traffic for you to sell your product or service. More traditional marketing styles i.e. the “outbound” of the marketing world still go too; email, earned media, networking and direct marketing are all still very much alive and successful for qualifying leads.

In short, don’t take inbound as the be-all and end-all of marketing, because for your strategy to work you must have all the other ingredients to make the perfect recipe for success.