As originally published in Forbes.com.
Inbound marketing — it’s a term you’ve likely heard of, but what does it really mean? With so many avenues of marketing available, sometimes it’s hard to keep track. Inbound marketing refers to a technique of drawing customers to a product through a balance of content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization and branding.
So, how does it work? Before we answer, let’s dig a little deeper.
Unlike outbound or traditional marketing efforts that rely on TV, radio, telemarketing, press releases, billboards, etc., to generate leads, inbound marketing says, “Nah, we’re going to kick back and let the customers come to us.”
Alright, so it doesn’t really say or mean that specifically, but it’s definitely a different approach to marketing your brand and business. Outbound marketing chases consumers. Inbound marketing leaves a trail of crumbs.
With such high demand for content — social media posts, articles, blogs, quizzes and more — consumers always come around. It’s getting them to stick around that’s tricky. Think about a problem you’ve recently had. A question you sought the answer to. What was the first thing you did? I’m going to guess you hopped over to Google and asked the Magic 8-Ball itself. And right there on the first page, you found blog after blog, article after article providing more information than you probably needed to know.
Marketers craft content on the pretense of consumers consuming it. They know you’re coming. And so, they write their blogs, pack it full of keywords and punt it sky-high into Google’s upper stratosphere (otherwise known as the first page results), in the hope that consumers come through and discover their brand as a byproduct of their search. Ranking high on Google isn’t as easy as that, but you can begin to understand the demand and competitive edge of inbound marketing, its place and its importance when you stop to think about your own role in content consumption.
But wait, there’s more (in our best infomercial voice — by the way, that would be an example of outbound marketing). Catapulting a blog into cyberspace filled to the brim with keywords isn’t what inbound is all about. That’s just a glimmer of the methodology at play. To be honest, we’d be here all day if we went into more detail. (And not that we don’t want to spend time with you while you read this, but we’ve got places to be.)
Okay, so how does inbound marketing work?
There is a multitude of techniques to try to entice customers, pulling them in rather than pushing your brand outward. Inbound marketing is a great way to attract consumers through content-based marketing, usually done through social media and the internet. It has gained popularity in recent years as being more successful than traditional marketing, and will likely continue to head in that direction in this growing internet-based world.
So, what exactly is inbound marketing? Inbound marketing is a digital marketing strategy that guides consumers to your company when they are looking for solutions to a problem. Essentially, it is the opposite of traditional outbound marketing, which involves billboards, radio ads, cold calls, etc. Instead, inbound marketing entails creating content and experiences that draw them in, rather than seeking them out directly. By utilizing search engines and social media, consumers will initiate their interaction with your company, not the other way around.
There is a multitude of benefits to inbound marketing that make it an important strategy to employ. First, it utilizes a source that people currently use during most of their days: the internet. Taking advantage of this source maximizes the potential exposure your company may receive. It has also changed buyer behavior, turning many to using the internet for shopping. It is also content-based, which is a benefit to companies that produce content that they want to put on a platform. It also generates quality traffic; people are not only visiting your websites but doing so because they are interested in learning about and potentially purchasing from your brand.
This strategy of inbound marketing can also be cost-effective compared to other forms of media. It can also be immediate and long-lasting. By using the internet and social media, inbound marketing is able to reach new audiences while cultivating brand awareness.
Inbound marketing has grown in success and popularity for a reason: It is great at responding to the psychology of modern consumers, addressing their needs conveniently without having the impersonal forwardness of outbound marketing. Companies are finding greater responses to their inbound marketing over their outbound, making it a more appealing strategy. It also has created a simplified way for selling and marketing, one that increases trust and loyalty between the consumer and the company. Many today have associated outbound marketing with distrust and impersonal qualities; inbound marketing challenges those traits by building trust with the consumer.
As a company, taking the steps to incorporate inbound marketing into your overall marketing strategy is beneficial. Once you start seeing results in the quality of traffic and brand exposure, you won’t want to stop taking advantage of the multitude of benefits the inbound marketing strategy offers.