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Inbound Marketing

Written By: Eric Dontigney

The dominant approach to marketing for decades, outbound marketing directs product, service and business information at customers. Businesses buy radio or television time to air advertisements and placed ads in magazines and newspapers. This approach aims to create interest and sales by telling customers about what a business is selling. Inbound marketing turns this approach on its head. Rather than sending information out to customers, the business creates interesting, valuable content that draws customers toward the business. Once the content successfully captures a potential customer’s interest, the business attempts to pull them into the purchase funnel.

Content

Businesses leverage a wide variety of content formats to drive traffic, gain attention and secure interest in their products or services. The content itself, however, typically provides information and education, rather than direct advertisement. To create interest a contractor can develop DIY videos that step homeowners through basic household repairs. A software development company might develop tutorials that walk novice programmers through the essentials of programming in Java or Ruby.

The valuable nature of the content drives traffic to websites, blogs and other social media outlets, where the business can engage in branding efforts or capture contact information. Most inbound marketing includes a search engine optimization element to help the content rank well for selected keywords. Businesses also use social media to engage customers and visitors in two-way communication.

Conversion

After someone engages with the content by reading, watching or listening, the business begins the conversion process. In most cases, the business uses a call to action that encourages visitors to, for example, subscribe to a blog or sign up for a newsletter. Many businesses use landing pages for the specific purpose of offering exclusive content, such as:

  • White Papers
  • Reports
  • Guides
  • Case Studies
  • Ebooks

Visitors can access this content by providing their contact information. Trading contact information for exclusive content usually means the visitor agrees to receive marketing information from the company. This form of “opt-in” transitions visitors with questionable buying intentions into legitimate leads.  

Securing Initial Sales

Once the business captures contact information for legitimate leads, the goal becomes transitioning those leads into paying customers. Many companies deliver pre-written email messages to leads via autoresponder services. Email autoresponder series deliver a combination of informational and marketing messages. The informational content continues to reinforce the idea that the business provides value and often invites recipients to view new content or attend events, such as webinars.

The strict marketing messages provide product or service information, highlight the benefits, and make calls to action for the lead to purchase the product. In addition to automated tactics, business employees often engage in personalized lead nurturing activities, such as offering to speak with the lead or set up demos of the product.

Per-Customer Profit Increases

Satisfied customers prove easier to move into more expensive products and services, because they already like and trust the company. An effective inbound marketing program follows up with customers at specified intervals, such as once a week or twice a month, with additional offers for upgrades and companion products or services.

Combining this approach with ongoing delivery of useful, informational content reduces customers’ suspicion that the business only wants more money. The costs of marketing upgrades and companion services to existing customers is very low, particularly when using email, which means even a low response rate delivers a high return on investment.

The traditional, outbound marketing strategy engages customers in a one-way communication with content that offers little in the way of information and education. In essence, it asks for customers to buy without providing value. Inbound marketing starts by providing valuable content, often in multiple formats, as a means of demonstrating the value of the products or services the business offers. It engages customers with information, two-way communication in social media and attempts to convert only the visitors that self-identify as leads by “opting-in.”