Introduction to Inbound Marketing Strategy
Most people think of marketing as a cost-intensive effort involving booking ad space in newspapers, magazines, television, radio and also ensuring physical presence through hoardings, leaflets, and flyers. The birth of the digital age and rapid penetration of the internet has now enabled marketers to get customers to come searching for their products and services at perhaps a much lesser cost. Welcome to the world of inbound marketing, where your content will drive traffic to your website, social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, and other media. Or it could be your guest postings on other websites and mobile sites.
Inbound marketing strategies have been deployed by many during the past decade but only getting more noticed now. Among the reasons cited could be recessionary trends worldwide, the increased competition, squeezing in margins in the industry that is perhaps causing companies to economize on brand marketing activities.
Effective and Popular Media
Here are the effective and popular media through which inbound marketing strategy is being done.
With the growth in internet penetration worldwide, the best strategy to reach out to potential customers is to have a website. Many companies who advertise in print media, electronic media, and hoardings now emphasize their website addresses to let customers log in to the concerned websites to get more information.
Care has to be taken regarding content, pictures, videos, and other information that is put on a company website. Apart from product descriptions, images, and videos, the details of promoters, location of manufacturing facilities, distribution network, new products launched, forum to submit feedback and complaints regarding products, a toll-free number to connect to customer service, online chat facility, online product ordering facility among other features would attract new visitors to the site.
The visitors could be people who have heard about the company from somewhere and wanted to know more; it could be from people who have searched in Google for a particular product or service and have landed on your page.
For such visitors, the relevance of the information provided, their importance for the customer, the brand image of the product, the credibility of the information, design, and layout of the HTML pages, page loading times all will have an impact on how the consumer perceives the company and the brand. A simple, elementary design with smooth navigation between sections would go a long way in visitors coming back to the site for information, thereby leading to sales inquiry and conversion.
With the growth of social media, websites stand to be promoted better if they have been linked to social media pages that are updated regularly.
People have been blogging for a long time, mostly to write about personal thoughts or about specialized topics to share with the public. Some people have made reasonably good income through blogging by arrangement with Google for Adsense. However, now corporate attention is more focused on using blogging as a business promotion tool. Inbound marketing strategy blog sections are now regularly updated on company websites, and they could be written by in-house content writers, subject experts, and analysts, which adds value to the site. Sometimes, a company’s expert may also write on blogs run by independent people or groups for business purposes and have a large following. This also adds credibility to the company in its inbound marketing strategy efforts. It could be about new technology, new research findings, or it could be about the relevance of some new product launched.
For a company that wants to start blogging without any investment, WordPress and Tumblr offer a user-friendly platform to begin posting articles, photos, and comments and share them on social media to gain more mileage. The use of info-graphics in blogs would go a long way in making inbound marketing strategy content attractive, especially if it is related to marketing, technical or scientific topics.
3. Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn until a few years ago, social media was only a marketing strategy used to complement traditional marketing efforts by companies. However, analysts have now predicted that social media is now emerging as a medium on its own, just as the website is. It can be gauged from the search engine leader Google having an arrangement with Facebook and Twitter. It is fairly easy for an individual, an organization, or a corporate entity to start a social media page. However, better results are got when paid services of such inbound marketing technique platforms are utilized for enlarging the reach and exposure to the potential buyers.
There also how much effort, time, energy, and money has to be devoted to various options have to be worked out based on the company’s area of operation, products, and services. FaceBook would be ideal where there are more images and pictorial content to be published. For the media, news, scientific and technical products, Twitter and LinkedIn may be more appealing. Fashion, entertainment, beauty, food, and consumer products could focus more on FaceBook.
It is always good to have a landing page for visitors to reach for more information through FB, Twitter either to register or buy a product or service. In the absence of a proper landing page, visitors could get confused and leave the social media pages without liking, sharing or refuse to become a follower, as in Twitter.
Social media is also useful for creating event posts, sharing important events appointments within the company, product launches, getting customer feedback, and so on. The more the likes and sharing activity on your social media page, the better will be the brand awareness created and consequently to sales conversions.
Organizational marketing can be best done through LinkedIn, which is a professional networking forum. New appointments, new product launches, opinions on strategies and trends in the market can all be discussed through Linkedin Posts and also through the LinkedIn Pulse.
YouTube has emerged as a popular medium for sharing videos by the fashion industry, music, film industry, motivational speakers, corporate training firms, market research, market news, analysis and advisories, nutrition, health, fitness, sports, art, dance, news media and variety of other professions. YouTube videos typically of three minutes to five-minute duration are searched for or shared according to how interesting, or relevant the topic is for a large audience. There has been no limit to the kind of videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and also shared through social media.
Steps in Inbound Marketing Strategy
Below are the steps in the inbound marketing strategy:
The first step in the inbound marketing strategy is to attract potential customers to your company. For that, all the media outlined above- Websites, Social media, blogs, YouTube have to be optimized with relevant content. The quality of the content, their relevance to your target audience, the authenticity of information, design, and appearance aesthetics add to the appeal of the content to attract the audience.
It is not sufficient to attract the audience to our website or social media page; they must stay longer on the page and also be able to interact with the company. It should contain forms to fill, a call-to-action such as a download an app, or a white paper, attend a seminar, a landing page to capture the information, email details to get back to the visitor. Enabling inbound marketing automation on site would make it easier to do the follow-up on inbound email marketing, or if they are followers on Twitter and FaceBook, appropriate follow- up action can be done through those platforms too.
3. Closing the sale
The first two inbound marketing strategy steps of attracting and conversion will have to culminate in the closing of the sale. Various inbound marketing techniques and tools are at the disposal of marketers for this purpose. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool helps keep track of all the contacts, companies, and deals in the pipelines, which enable easier connection with the right prospects. A robust Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) at the backend would provide the support needed for CRM to work. A series of focused emails may be required to close the sale.
4. Creating buyer personas
As in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, creating buyer personas or fictional profiles of potential customers is important to prepare content and other information that is relevant to them. Apart from buyer personals, a little bit of research on keywords, low impact, high impact keywords (long-tail keywords) will help in getting more clicks, conversions, and sales.
This is a strategy to push specific Pay Per Click ads to customers according to their browsing history. A person who visits a cosmetics company page will start seeing Facebook ads from companies that sell cosmetics, beauty services, and hairdo services. It is an effective strategy as it reminds customers to continue the journey they started without sounding to be an aggressive sales pitch, according to Peter Cartier, an inbound marketing strategy specialist.
Why will Inbound Marketing Strategy become more popular in 2016?
Following are some reasons why it will become more popular in 2016:
Digital marketing has found Adblockers to be a hindrance to their promotional efforts on websites and social media. Advertising being an outbound promotional effort is also costlier. Adblockers have become popular because people dislike ads popping up on a site when they are eagerly looking for some useful information or book some service or product online. Despite the creativity, technology such as animation and 3D that goes into an online ad, viewers may simply shut it off with Adblockers, thus denying its reach to a vast audience. Therefore, it makes sense to pursue passive outbound marketing, which attracts the audience on its own merit rather than trying to catch their attention by intruding into the viewing experience.
There is a very compelling reason for corporates to focus on inbound marketing strategy. It is its cost-effectiveness compared to outbound marketing. Earlier studies have shown that an inbound marketing strategy is about 60% cheaper than the traditional marketing strategy. In popular websites, Pay per Click (CPC) rates are very high and there is no guarantee of conversion to sales. Moreover, display ads on websites and social media have lesser click-through rates compared to text ads.
It establishes better credibility among existing and prospective consumers as the focus doesn’t appear to be directly to gain business. Here the company is showing its expertise, products, technology, human resources strength, and research capabilities to a large audience. A pure-play outbound strategy will be seen as an all-out effort to persuade and sell the product hence not sufficient to create credibility among the public.
Inbound strategy in marketing has been around for a decade and many have gained better return on investment (ROI) compared to traditional marketing. This is partly due to the recessionary trends that were unleashed by the US financial crisis of 2008 and thereafter its repercussions spread across Europe, Asia, and Africa. It should not be considered a one-off operation and needs sustained effort to get better results. So the fact that some people have liked and turned customers don’t mean it would happen forever. Therefore, the companies need to engage them, delight them and make them promoters of the products through word-of-mouth or shares through the digital medium. To achieve these surveys, smart calls to action, smart text, and social monitoring have to be done on a regular basis.
Customers can be given survey questionnaires to find out their feedback and what new products they are looking for. There should be smart calls-to-action- register, vote, or signup for an event, product or service. The existing inbound marketing technique platforms- website, blog, social media should continue to have compelling inbound marketing strategy content tailored to the interests and requirements of the audience. This should help them find a solution to the problem they are facing, achieve their goals by the introduction of new products and ideas.
The inbound marketing strategy content need not be with the intention to sell or market, sometimes it can just be to inform and make consumers aware of their rights, or in the case of the health and nutrition industry, it could be an about how to overcome the trauma of a disease, how to keep healthy, how to choose the right nutrition mix for age and so on. If it is the paint industry, it could be some tips on how to keep the exterior and interior walls fungus-free, moisture free and termite-proof or related issues. A company that has the problems of the consumer paramount than selling its product will establish better credibility and brand value. It will enable them to outpace the competition in the long run.
This is a guide to Inbound Marketing Strategy. Here we have discussed the top 5 effective and popular steps in the inbound marketing strategy. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –