Ah, a question I’ve been asked several times over the last few weeks. When I started this job, a lot of people were curious what I’d be doing in my new role. Simply put, inbound marketing! That response prompted several puzzled looks and thoughtful questions.
Just for kicks, I recently posed the following question to a few of my [non-industry] friends:
“If you were stopped at the store and somebody asked, ‘what is inbound marketing?’ how would you answer? What would be your best guest?”
Their impressions and ideas of this approach to marketing ranged from fairly accurate to hilariously off-base. For instance, one friend replied, “It’s definitely the latest and greatest, most bomb.com type there is!”
Um, 1) nice job totally avoiding the question, friend, and 2) seriously, who even says bomb.com anymore?!
The overall consensus seemed to be: it's a strategy that companies and organizations use to position themselves as experts by answering the most common questions people have when they are looking for information about products or services.
At the most foundational level, I couldn’t agree more! There are several pieces involved, but the main goal that drives each component is building credibility and expert status with your target audience. It’s sort of like, if you build the right content empire, the right people will come.
What Does Inbound Look Like?
For any style of marketing, there are generally two target groups: the influencers and the decision-makers. Most inbound campaigns are built out around very specific profiles of these individuals. These are called personas.
Personas are primarily developed by looking at the critical differences between each typical influencer/decision-maker’s pain points, obstacles, demographics, and information-gathering methods. These differences help establish the message, voice, and distribution of every piece of the campaign.
The message of each campaign generally addresses the pain points identified in the persona exercise. People are using the internet to find solutions, so if you position yourself as the expert and gain their trust, individuals will be more likely to try your solution when they are finally ready to make a decision.
How Do You DO Inbound?
There are a number of best practices and great suggestions to consider, which is evident with a cursory Google search. Here are 4 of the most important to keep in mind:
- Create good, original content. You’ll see it over and over again, “content is king!” This includes: webinars, ebooks, worksheets, check lists, calculators, blog posts, and white papers to name a few. By providing resources rich with tips, expert advice, and support, you can really position yourself as an industry thought-leader. In addition to promoting the human element of your brand, original content can increase your digital visibility and overall website traffic with strong SEO performance.
- Build strong calls-to-action and solid landing pages. Once you’ve got great content to offer your target personas, you’ll need to create compelling CTAs. In order to download the content you’ve produced, they’ll have to give up some of their contact information so you’ve got to convince them it’ll be worth it. The more perceived value your content has, the more information the user will be willing to exchange when prompted.
- Structure lead-nurturing funnel campaigns intelligently. Whatever your end goal might be, you’ve got to work backwards to string together pieces of premium content that will pull your personas through the buyer’s journey. With a more targeted approach, you’ll help eliminate the clutter that ultimately turns consumers off.
- Set up metrics to track your results and analyze them carefully. While it can be difficult to determine the exact ROI of your inbound efforts, it is significantly less difficult to track how consumers are engaging with your brand. Are you drawing more visitors to your website? Are those visitors converting into leads through one piece of content over another? Are they more receptive to your blog posts or your social media engagement? Take a look at what is working and replicate those efforts across elements that may not be performing as well.
If you’re not sure how to get started or if you don’t have enough time to implement a full strategy, an inbound agency can serve as your strategy and execution arm. To better determine if this is the right approach for your organization, check out our eBook, The ABC’s of Inbound Marketing.