What is Inbound Marketing and Why it Matters

The purpose of this article: fully explain what is inbound marketing, it’s nuances, activities, technologies, and why it matters to the growth of your business.

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Use this informative guide to inbound marketing as you prepare your business growth efforts.

Prologue

Much of the information covered in this tear-down of inbound marketing isn’t new. Rather, only an array of strategies and tactics adapted and massaged over time due to the ongoing improvements in technology and our desire to find our ideal buyers.

Successful marketing seems to elude many businesses, like trying to grasp smoke with your fingers. You come away from your efforts with an empty-hand.

When attempting to diagnose why a business isn’t successful with its marketing it’s that, more often than not, the company isn’t making its marketing all about the ideal buyer. Success comes from focusing all marketing on your ideal buyer. It should be about helping people by providing the solution to a problem or need that your ideal buyer has.

The misconception among businesses is that it’s about the thing you’re selling, and this is wrong.  The most important thing is the people your thing is going to be sold to.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar  

what is inbound marketing

Introduction

Inbound Marketing is a way to grow your business.

In a nutshell, 30-second version:

What is inbound marketing and why it matters:

Lots of businesses blast messages across the internet in a disruptive format to solicit leads. What inbound marketing has brought to light is that producing content that answers an ideal buyer’s question, is educational, useful, and trustworthy will attract leads. In addition to inbound marketing’s impact on attracting leads, by understanding the sales process, and the need your ideal buyer to consume information as they go through the journey to make a purchase, designing marketing automated lead nurturing campaigns that can qualify leads and make them ready to speak with sales and have a higher likelihood of closing.

Let’s take a deeper look at the origins of Inbound Marketing.

History of Inbound Marketing

Origins of the Inbound Marketing

inbound marketing search trend

 

Like every good origins story, the creation of Inbound Marketing was possible by the alignment of many variables. Much like the origin of the fantastic four. Right place at the right time and – voila!

This curiosity and empowerment from inbound marketing were just a blip on the search radar in 2007. Using Google’s Search Trends, you can see from 2008 inbound marketing wasn’t a “thing” yet.

Though coined by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan in 2005, inbound marketing hadn’t yet crossed the chasm into the mainstream.

For comparison, here is inbound marketing (BLUE) compared to Facebook Marketing (RED).

inbound marketing vs facebook-marketing-google search trend

 

Prior to all this inbound and Facebook marketing, thought leader Seth Godin identified the concept of permission marketing, which is also the title his 1999 book on the topic.

As you can see, prior to this Inbound Marketing talk, there are many methodologies and strategies centered around providing value and putting the solutions to your buyers questions for free in some form of content. This type of value offering, which closely associates with today’s inbound marketing, was content marketing.

 The first content marketing title: “director of online and content marketing” at Netscape appeared in 1998.

We’ll explore the component of content marketing briefly, as it plays a critical role in the origins of Inbound Marketing.

The principles of content marketing was extended with notables like: Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, and Tony Robbins who used content in the form of infomercials to pull in their ideal audience prior to asking for the sale by providing value.

Rise in popularity

Inbound marketing was directly impacted by the adoption of content marketing through blogs. This content marketing approach has evolved and is extremely prevalent in online publishing aka blogging.

As we’ll see in the section Technology Behind Inbound Marketing, the progression of a social internet, riding on the back of advancing bandwidth infrastructure, mobile devices and open source publishing platforms, like WordPress, has empowered the populous to put knowledge, and experience in the form of answers and solutions out into the world. Challenging the knowledge gatekeepers.

The environment was ripe for HubSpot, Inc., to raise its hand and brand the label of Inbound Marketing. The company took on the charge of bringing inbound marketing to the masses. So much so, that the company’s founders even wrote the book on it, titled “Inbound Marketing”.

The people over at HubSpot (an inbound marketing software company) do an excellent job providing a massive amount of content for their own inbound marketing, ironically enough, including resources about inbound marketing.

With this brief history we ask; Why has inbound marketing grown? And why are so many companies and individuals who are adopting the elements of inbound marketing into their business growth activities are seeing success?

For this type of adoption, the result of the business model must be visible. Let’s explore how inbound marketing impacts business models. This section will help you see in greater detail why it sees a rise in popularity.

Impacting the Business Model

Growing traffic, leads, and buyers

For businesses small and large to adopt, integrate and deploy activities it’s imperative that those events move the needle. Grow revenue, reduce costs, streamline a system, or something that yields a return on the activities much greater than the time and money invested. The activity should also provide you a competitive advantage.

Any business with a sustainable lead generation process has the highest opportunity to reach their desired growth rate. This ability to feed your business new business and generate consistent results is a competitive advantage.

Sustainable lead generation is what inbound marketing is capable of doing for businesses. An inbound marketing empowered business is different from merely a successful business. Companies that feel; as long as you’re making money, your business is a success are blind. At what cost is that success. Are you at the mercy of your buyers’ whims? Are you taking on more buyers that you don’t really want or find you don’t enjoy working with them? You may be successful, but is the business doing serving those you want serve?

Empowered businesses are not just successful, but successful on their own terms. You need to be able to have systems that control your ability to attract new business. Companies that deploy inbound marketing approaches have this ability. That’s what separates an empowered, inbound-focused company from the rest.

Proven time and time again: when you provide value to others without the expectation of anything in return – results and solutions first – eventually, your ideal buyer will be happy to provide value back to you.

By using inbound marketing, your market finds you, your content creates an appetite for what you offer and then they will buy it.

Inbound marketing is similar to giving someone who’s starving a little bit of food. Once you’ve whet their appetite, they’re going to be hungrier. This is a pull, or also known as attract, methodology. This makes you more valuable to your ideal buyer and when you’re seen as more valuable, they come to you rather than you chasing them. You don’t need to disrupt their day to day with your ads, or bash them over the head and drag them back to your cave. Simply demonstrate you can help them by truly helping them and you’ll greatly impact your business model.

Elements of inbound marketing

Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing consists of various elements that, when used together, generate a full buyer focused business growth funnel. This is done by promoting a company’s usefulness through multiple digital technology channels to attract capture and nurture buyers over the lifetime of their interaction with a company.

  • Blogs

Ignore the word “blog”. Think: creating useful and informative content on a website daily/weekly/monthly. A blog is one of the most effective ways to generate useful content centered around the needs of a company’s ideal buyer by tailoring content to the keywords they’re using to search for their answers.

Blogging is a core channel of content marketing and, in turn, critical to inbound marketing. Blogging as a content medium enables people to create content that is closely related to what services or products being offered to a particular market, but instead of selling them, the blog allows the company to educate people so they get to know, and trust the content provider.

Business who blog receive 55% more website visitors and are 13x’s more likely to see a positive ROI than business that don’t. (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014)

Blogs allow for the author to educate visitors during the buyer’s journey which results in the building of trust and expertise. Blogs have been proven to build traffic, authority, and assist the content provider in becoming a thought leader in their topic/industry by providing educational, helpful, and industry related content. (source)

  • Podcasts

Conveying meaning and value though tone and inflection has enabled many to extend beyond the limitations of written copy. It’s certainly not a replacement for blogging, but there are many reasons to include it in your Inbound Marketing strategy.

People listen to podcasts an average of 22 minutes. Edison Research. [PDF]

Compare that to the 45 second average for video and the three minute average for blogs, and you can easily see how podcasts have the advantage. To be in someone’s ear for 20+ minutes is a big way to build credibility. When they have a need, you’re going to be they think to turn to.

  • Video

Video is not different from the buyer focused content we’ve covered in this deep exploration of inbound marketing. Video content is a compelling media, especially when distributed through YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram as educational content that helps the viewer or as entertainment.

YouTube has more than 1 billion users. Everyday, people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views. The number of hours people are watching on YouTube each month is up 50% year on year. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (source)

Inbound marketing that includes creating impactful videos for marketing content has proven to be a key tool in driving awareness about a particular company. A great example of this is Moz’s whiteboard Friday. Randy, founder of the inbound marketing software, centers their educational videos around empowering the viewers by sharing their knowledge and expertise.

  • eBooks

Ebooks, electronic books, range in length and complexity.

Ebooks, as an element of inbound marketing, are typically used as a downloadable offer in exchange for a website visitors email address. This transaction is where many using inbound marketing make the transition from free content (blog and web pages) to gated content.

Gated content is content that requires a key to gain access, this key is in the form of an email address in this case.

  • Email Marketing

Email marketing can lead many to assume, SPAM. From inappropriate emails in the late 90s to SEO companies promising to perfect your website. Email marketing can often be associated with robotic harassment. This may be a reality of email, but this is an inaccurate application of email in inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is about attracting people to the content being created, and therefore email marketing plays a nurturing role in this equation.

Email marketing is triggered, once a buyer has shown interest by participating in the offer / email transaction, mentioned in ebooks. Software allows those implementing inbound marketing to setup extremely targeted and useful automated emails that help nurture a more fulfilling relationship with potential buyer.

With the opt-in of the user, companies will also reach out through email campaigns in an effort to remind the person of the resources available to them.

  • White Papers

White papers are more often used in government and business-to-business marketing. Inbound marketing in these spheres are usually driven by a desire to be an authority by helping reads to understand a particular issue. White papers, should also provide a solution and help the reader make a decision.

White papers play a significant role in convincing an interested buyer, and less as an attraction tool for pulling in strangers.

These are delivered to the end-user much as like an Ebook.

  • SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), in today’s modern day, is heavily tilted towards “Google Optimization”.

This extensive topic is very dynamic and is impacted by constant changes in the digital ecosystem. Though SEO is an entire field, we’re only going to focus on its role with inbound marketing.

This is not SEO recommendations, simply an overview of SEO as it pertains to inbound marketing.

Key areas of SEO activities on a given website are the title of the web page, the header tags used to identify sections of a website’s content, the written body content and finally the meta data.

Another critical and on-going component is high quality off-site signal creation like link building, media mentions, and social media activity. This is also known or typically integrated into off-page SEO, where as the optimizations on a website are often referred to as on-page SEO.

  • Social Media Marketing 

Social media has huge importance throughout inbound marketing. With 72% of online adults use social networking sites it’s no surprise that its a powerful marketing tool to interact, and attract, and inform potential buyers. (source)

Technology behind Inbound marketing

The software needed to provide the elements listed above have many options and providers. There are literally hundreds of them.

Depending on the size of the business will determine which solution, or combinations of solutions would work best. This isn’t an endorsement for one over another, simply a brief list of technology tools used to execute inbound marketing.

Full Service Solutions

If a single software is preferred over a combination of independently owned tools, than a full service software solution is a good fit.

Combining Services

To avoid the risk of having all the tools needed to execute inbound marketing with a single provider, reduce risk by using many different services.

When a fractured service structure is used it requires more time managing and a diverse level of software expertise. Not to mention, keeping up with the ever changing landscape across multiple providers.

That said, inbound marketing can be achieved by using the following tools:

Where to go next?

It’s truly as simple as helping others become successful without the expectation of anything in return. Providing value through inbound marketing enables you to provide results first – eventually, others will be happy to provide value back to you in terms of buying what you provide.

As a digital marketing agency that manages inbound for our client’s growth and our own brands Stylishlyme, TrucchiFacebook and of course Uhuru Network, we fully execute inbound marketing as a part of the digital marketing services deployed to hit growth goals and desired revenue in our Business Advantage (BA) process.

Learn more about our BA process and reach out us to see if inbound marketing is a good fit for your organization.

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