7 Things You Didn’t Know You Knew About Inbound Marketing (And If You Didn’t, You Will Now)
It’s always a treat hearing from my friends at IABC Houston, and when they need a speaker for an upcoming luncheon, I’m always happy to step up. Two reasons:
- I get to spend an hour discussing what I love with a group of fun, savvy marcom professionals
- Free lunch at the fabulous La Griglia (score!)
So when they asked me to present on inbound marketing at their most recent luncheon, I was delighted … but flummoxed.
“Here’s the thing,” I told the organizer, “There are entire week-long conferences about inbound marketing that don’t even scratch the surface. How am I supposed to cover it in 45 minutes?”
“Well,” he responded, “I’ll tell you about the first time I attended a webinar on inbound marketing. I went into it ready to learn something new, then I slowly began to realize I know more about it than I thought I did.”
Thus was born the presentation “7 Things You Didn’t Know You Knew About Inbound Marketing (And If You Didn’t, You Will Now).” The IABC crowd seemed to get a lot out of it, so today I’m sharing it with you.
1. What Inbound Marketing Is … and Is Not
Do a search for “what is inbound marketing,” and you’ll find about as many different definitions as you’ll find “gurus” claiming to be experts on it (in other words, a lot).
My favorite definition of inbound marketing comes from HubSpot:
“Inbound marketing is an approach focused on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful — not interruptive.”
Yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it encompasses all the critical elements of a successful inbound marketing strategy:
- Attracting: The days of pushing product 24/7 are over. We need to attract people to our brands with quality content and keep them wanting to come back.
- Content and interactions: Not advertisements, either blatant or thinly veiled as blog posts. Get it?
- Relevant: Inbound marketing meets the audience where they are: in their wants, their needs, their frustrations, their hopes and dreams for the future.
- Helpful: The next time you’re ready to click “publish,” ask yourself, “How is this making life better for the people in my audience?” If you can’t come up with an honest answer, you’ve got more work to do.
Now let’s take a moment to look at what inbound marketing is not:
- It’s not a series of copied-and-pasted press releases masquerading as a “blog.”
- It’s not “news about our company.” Nobody cares. Deal with it.
- It’s not a series of writings that begin with discussion of a problem and end with the solution “so that’s why you need to buy our product.” We have another word for that: a brochure.
2. How Inbound Differs from Outbound Marketing
First let’s take a look at outbound marketing. When advertising first became a popular practice in the early 20th century, brands made a horrifying discovery: people would not seek out their ads.
They realized that if anyone was going to see and hear their messages, they had to be sneaky. How? By interrupting people while they’re doing the things they do every day. Driving to work? Boom, there’s a billboard. Reading a favorite magazine? Boom, there’s a print ad. Working at your office? Boom, some vendor you never heard of hits you with a cold call.
That’s how interruption became the hallmark of outbound marketing.
But then a problem came up. Actually, several problems came up: DVRs that skip commercials. Satellite radio. Caller ID. Spam filters. Popup blockers. Slowly but surely, consumers began taking control of the conversation. And when marketers turned on the pressure, all John Q. Consumer had to do was turn off the lines of communication.
So marketers had to hit the drawing board and come up with a better way, and that better way is inbound marketing. Instead of hitting people over the head with varying iterations of the “buy my stuff” message, what if we offered something they actually needed — and wanted — to attract them to our brand?
That, folks, is what inbound marketing is all about.
To sum up: Outbound marketing is interruption-based, involving tactics like advertising, direct mail, and cold calling. Inbound marketing is attraction-based, involving tactics like SEO, blogging, and lead generation.
3. Why Inbound Marketing Is Important
Aside from the failure of outbound marketing as the sole foundation of a marketing strategy, there are three reasons why inbound marketing is here to stay:
The Noise Factor
Did you know that the average American is subjected to between 3,000 and 20,000 marketing messages every day? People have been marketed to every way under the sun, and they’re tired of it. They’re overwhelmed, they’re exhausted, they can smell a product pitch a mile away … and they can run like hell in the other direction.
But when you offer them something they need and want, something that intrigues them and engages them with no strings attached? Then they just might listen.
The Trust Factor
People are overwhelmed with choices. Where there were once two or three brands to choose from for a particular solution, now there are hundreds, if not thousands. And maybe half of those are worth the paper their business cards are printed on. How do people know whom to trust?
That’s the beauty of inbound marketing. It lets us build a foundation of trust, so that when we do come on with our marketing messages, people are much more likely to sit up and listen.
The “What’s in It for Me?” Factor
Thirty years ago, if your customers wanted something from you, they had to sign on the dotted line first.
Today the tables are turned. Consumers (both B2B and B2C) are in control. We have to give them something before we can expect them to listen to us.
4. Inbound Marketing Is Multifaceted
Our jobs as marketers just got a whole lot more complicated. Back when we were just advertisers, we had print, radio, TV, outdoor, trade shows/events, … and that was pretty much it.
Now that we’ve seen the light of inbound marketing, we’re faced with a tsunami of tactics, including but not limited to
First of all, relax. You don’t have to do it all … at least not all the time. That being said, you do need to determine the right mix of tactics and the right timing, given the preferences and habits of your audience, the internal resources you have to work with, and the current face of your industry.
5. Inbound Marketing Does Not End with the Sale
Remember the old sales funnel diagram that started with awareness, led the prospective customer all the way to the closing and then … stopped?
What a waste. Once prospects become customers, they’ve only just begun to deliver returns on our investment. Are we creating success stories about them (with them as the hero, natch) that they’ll be excited to share? Are we inviting them to present at our webinars and other events? Are we asking them to help grow our communities by sharing our content with their peers? Are we inviting them to write guest posts for our blogs?
In other words, are we helping them evolve from customers into evangelists?
6. Not All Inbound Marketing Is Online
Yes, most of what we talk about when we’re talking inbound marketing has to do with blogging, email, podcasting, and other online stuff. But that doesn’t mean we can neglect the many offline opportunities for delivering engaging, relevant content.
For example, did you know that Airbnb recently partnered with Hearst Media to create a magazine — a print magazine? Believe it or not, print is enjoying a renaissance, even among technology-obsessed millennials.
Another venue to explore is live events. No, I’m not talking about webinars: I mean live, in person, on-site events like conferences, summits, and workshops — and not just the ones you host yourself. Did you know that every time one of your thought leaders presents at an industry conference, that’s inbound marketing? Think about it: They’re attaching your brand to useful, relevant content, so … yeah, it is.
7. Inbound Marketing Is Not (Necessarily) Linear
Did you know it takes between seven and 13 touchpoints before a consumer will even interact with your brand? Back in the day, that meant seven to 13 iterations of the message “buy my stuff.” But with inbound marketing, making those touchpoints is a much more pleasant task. Instead of bombarding people with ads, we can offer useful, engaging content that gives them what they want and need. The result? They might actually — heavens forfend — look forward to hearing from us.
To sum up, what makes inbound marketing special is that it accomplishes all three of the prerequisites for people doing business with us:
- They have to know us. By publishing useful content consistently and frequently, people can get to know us as a trusted advisor who has the answers they need.
- They have to like us. How hard is it to like someone who helps solve your problems without asking anything in return?
- They have to trust us. Trust is one of the most precious commodities in the marketplace today. You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. But you can build it, and one of the ways to do that is by offering the insightful, engaging, and maybe even entertaining gems that will keep them coming back.
And when a need for your products or services does arise, which brand will be foremost in their minds? Yours.
Find out why Joe Pulizzi had this to say about The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN!
“A simple yet effective guide to an approach that most businesses get flat out wrong. Do yourself and your business a favor and take a deep dive into this book. You won’t regret it.”
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and author of the book The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN!