Inbound Marketing: What is it, why does it work and how to do it
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is strategy where the focus is on helping potential customers to find and interact with you. These people already have an interest in the product or service that you offer so a significant part of a successful inbound marketing strategy lies in identifying these people and getting your message seen by them.
Conversely, outbound marketing, which can also be called interruption marketing, aims to push your message in front of anyone, including people who have not shown any previous interest
Why Inbound Marketing works
The biggest advantage of inbound marketing is that you are targeting your efforts towards people who are interested in what you offer. They are often actively researching providers, and because these are ‘warm’ leads, conversion rates are generally higher and because you are targeting a small part of the population, costs are generally lower. The buyer also feels like they chose you, rather than being sold to.
Outbound marketing is often considered more aggressive, intrusive and can be seen as annoying; think TV or radio commercials, leaflets through your door, ‘spam’ emails, cold calls etc. Interruption marketing is often considered a numbers game – get your message in front of enough people and someone will be interested.
The below table shows some examples of inbound and outbound activities.
The 6 elements of a successful Inbound Marketing strategy
Hopefully you are convinced that inbound is the way to go – so here are 6 elements to focus on to get started.
One of the key ways we can identify when someone is potentially interested in our products or services is by the nature of searches made in search engines. Words used by the buyer which signal their potential interest are called keywords.
SEO or search engine optimisation ensures your website ranks highly on search engines in response to the searched keywords which you think best match your offering. For example, if you run a store selling sports equipment and someone searches for ‘cricket bats’, then these keywords suggest this person could be a good match for your business so you will want to make sure they can find you.
If they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you. And they won’t look very hard.
Search engines use complex algorithms to decide which websites to show in which order. SEO aims to leverage multiple elements of that algorithm and includes a range of tactics such as use of keywords in the right places throughout the site, contextual content, page load times as well as more technical elements which ensure that the website can be understood by search engines.
2. PPC (Pay per click)
One of the few elements of inbound marketing with a direct cost, PPC generally refers to paid search ads (on Google or Bing) which appear at the top of the page of search results. If your website isn’t reaching the top spot naturally, PPC is a powerful tool to increase the visibility of your site to the right people.
PPC involves an auction-style bidding competition between you and anyone else who wants their ads to show in response to the specified keywords. There are a number of factors which determine the success of a PPC campaign, including choice of keywords, keyword match types, negative keywords, relevance of the ad text and landing page – as well as the amount you are prepared to pay for each click your ad receives.
In addition PPC can refer to Google shopping ads, remarketing ads and even the sponsored ads on other searchable sites such as Amazon, AirBnb or Checkatrade.
Google has become increasingly sophisticated at interpreting a number of signals to identify users’ interests and intent to create audience categories such as ‘researching a trip to USA’ which allows advertisers to show relevant and targeted ads without relying solely on keywords.
3. Content Marketing
‘Content’ means anything you can see, which includes the wording on your website as well as downloadable PDFs, brochures, infographics, photos, videos or interactive elements.
Content is vital to any inbound strategy because:
It can boost the relevant keyword content of your site which can help your organic ranking and boost your visibility and CTR. Adding a blog is brilliant way to add a huge amount of relevant, useful content, rich in target keywords to your site.
High-quality and original content helps engage your website visitors so that they spend longer on the site, develop an affinity for your brand and you can demonstrate thought-leadership and credibility, all of which helps you build a relationship with the website visitor and increase the likelihood of a conversion.
To be effective, content needs to be original and relevant to the potential purchaser, so research may be needed to understand exactly what your potential buyer finds interesting.
4. Social Media
Yes, posting on your own social media pages is considered inbound marketing because the user has already made the effort to follow you in the first place, which demonstrates a degree of interest.
Someone who likes and follows you will see the content you post, as well as comments you make and can read your profile. This enables a potential customer to ‘watch’ your brand from afar, assessing if they like what they see, before they make contact.
Paid ads on social media, result in pushing your content in front of a wider audience and therefore are classed as outbound marketing.
5. Landing Page Experience
As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. When you have worked so hard to be ‘findable’ and attract people to your website, it is essential that their first impression is the right one.
The first webpage that the visitor arrives at is the ‘landing page’. They may arrive at this page from a PPC ad, a link on social media or from an organic search engine listing. In every case, what they see must match with what they are expecting to see – take our potential ‘cricket bats’ customer, if they land on a page all about tennis shoes they’ll probably back out without even looking to see if there is a link to cricket bats somewhere.
The landing page can be a normal page of your website, it you have an appropriate one. Alternatively, you can build a link-specific landing page, designed to perfectly match what the link promises but hidden from normal navigation so other people can’t accidentally find it.
6. CRO – Conversion Rate Optimisation
So, you have attracted and engaged potential buyers. Great; the final stage is to help them towards the conversion goal, which might be submitting an enquiry form or completing an online purchase.
Either way, the key is to make it easy for the customer; keep the number of required fields on an enquiry form to a minimum, make sure delivery information or T&Cs etc are available early so the customer is confident in what they are purchasing.
You may employ re-marketing ads or abandoned cart emails to remind people who have previously shown an interest to return to complete their purchase.
Finally, Google Analytics or a similar website analytics tool is essential for understanding what activities result in the best website conversion rates, enabling you to run experiments and compare the results.