Businesses Adjust to Inbound Marketing

| September 11, 2014

Technological AdvancesThere are essentially three kinds of marketing: relational, outbound, and inbound. The first two have been dominant for centuries. Inbound marketing leverages the new technologies, adjusts to the new marketplace realities, and is quickly taking its place alongside the others as an essential part of any marketing plan.

Relational marketing is person-to-person networking. People will always do business with those that they know and trust. Outbound marketing is traditional advertising: print advertising, television and radio commercials, mass mailings, email blasts and cold calls. The media may change but the concept remains the same – to drive your message out to a wide enough audience, so that it will find interested recipients, who will become leads and then be converted into sales.

The problem with traditional outbound marketing is that technology is making these techniques less effective and more expensive. Your targeted recipients can block your email blasts with spam filters, sign up for “do not call” lists, and skip television commercials with TiVo. Therefore, businesses are adding inbound marketing as a vital part of their overall plan. In the words of M. Lawrence Light (former chief marketing officer of McDonalds) “It no longer makes economic sense to send an advertising message to the many, in hopes of persuading the few.”

Inbound marketing flips the entire idea of how to reach your audience. The focus of inbound marketing is not that your business will find its clients and consumers, but that the clients and consumers will find you. Inbound marketing is blogs, white papers, search engine optimization, videos – packing your message in content, making it available, and then making it accessible. Inbound marketing has two inherent advantages over outbound marketing. First, its reach is potentially much greater, going far beyond the zip code of a mass mailing and to anyone in the world with digital access. Second, it is much more targeted. Because the clients and consumers find you, they are self-selecting and self-qualifying before they hear your message.

A successful inbound marketing plan needs three key components:
(1) Content is the Core of Every Inbound Marketing Plan. No business, no product, and no service are unique – and therefore your content has to be. Content means the information that attracts the client or customer to your business. It must be current, specific to the audience, and regularly updated. Without sufficient content, an inbound marketing plan will not succeed. Often, proponents of inbound marketing trumpet the economics of delivery as one great advantage over outbound marketing. They note that the cost of electronic delivery is much less than the cost of traditional mailings and advertisement. This is true so far as it goes; but it ignores the real cost of inbound marketing. The true cost of inbound marketing is not the cost of delivery – it is the cost of creating (and renewing) the content. The blogs and articles that are at the core of your inbound marketing plan take time to research and create; or take the money to hire the people creating them. Any business that fails to keep its content fresh (and there are many) will also see its inbound marketing plan fail.

(2) Branding and Presentation. Content gets you noticed, and gets the customers “in the door”; but your web presentation has to be your salesperson for the visitors that are attracted in. Your website is your business’ first and best opportunity at self-definition. You must have an overall presentation that is authentic, credible, and aligned with the values that your customer base is looking for. This does not necessarily mean an expensive website with many features; but it certainly means one that is easily usable and visually attractive. Above all, it must speak to your audience. Remember that your website is not about you – it is about them. A good test is to ask “what are the three words that define what my customers are looking for from my business?” Do your customers shop price or quality? Do they want personal service with recommendations or instant and varied options? Build the look of your website to reflect those words and concepts. We refer to the main page of the website as “home” for a reason – just like home you want your visitors to feel immediately welcomed, comfortable, and know that you are glad they stopped by.

(3) Delivery of the Message. Great content and a great web presentation by themselves will not get your business found. There must be strategy for your potential clients and customers to notice the message, and notice it often enough to come in. Most proponents of inbound marketing emphasize search engine optimization and social media platforms. Search engine optimization is the science of structuring your message so that it advances in rank on Google, Bing, and other such sites. Posting on social media (Facebook, Linked-In, and others) is the way to get people talking about your services and products. The goal is for your message to grow organically, and that is great if it happens. The problem is that you cannot control SEO; and you certainly cannot control what people talk about on Facebook. And so, most successful inbound marketing plans will also have an outbound marketing component. Some will buy advertising space on the search engines; others will publish newsletters; and others will send out email blasts. In the end, many successful marketing plans use digital technology to have an ongoing conversation with their customer base – pushing information out and taking comments in – which sound like relational marketing on a grand scale.

As noted at the outset of this article — There are essentially three kinds of marketing: relational, outbound, and inbound. The best plans will have all three working together.

Category: Marketing