I talk to a lot of business owners and managers about their marketing efforts. In most conversations, we get to a junction where I ask the question above. Most times the people I’m talking to get some faraway look in their eyes and answer some version of: hmmmmm; I think so; I may have; or even a flat out “no.”
Inbound Marketing is an emerging discipline in marketing. It has developed in concert with the evolution of technology and how we use the web. At its core, it’s about being found online. Business owners and managers are starting to hear the phrase whispered around the periphery but the practice will soon become mainstream.
You see, traditional advertising and marketing was all about one-way communication of messages boiled down to the lowest common denominator. Traditional advertising vehicles reached a mass market, so your messages had to connect with as many people as possible to warrant the huge investment it took to place them. Hence: Bud Light was for guys who watch football and ogle scantily dressed women. Plenty of people drink Bud Light, I would hazard, but that’s the lowest common denominator – and it worked….for a time.
Now, we can fast forward through commercials, avoid telemarketers with caller ID, throw away “junk” mail and generally avoid advertising messages when we choose to.
With every evolution in technology, quickly came the advertising tactic to hijack our use of it. The phone begat telemarketing; TV and radio begat advertising; print publishing was practically developed for advertising; websites begat banner ads; cell phones begat SMS advertising. It’s enough to drive a modern human nuts. Not only have we become exhausted of being marketed to, but we’ve become savvy at evading it.
So what’s a business owner to do?
How about we zoom out and look at what humans are doing these days?
By and large, when people make a purchase these days – be it sneakers, a dishwasher, toner cartridges, a new CPA or industrial components – they first apply fingers to keyboard and ask Dr. Google for advice. Or, we ask our network – many times using something like Facebook or LinkedIn to access what many call the “hive mind.”
So, a savvy modern marketer would look at that and wonder: how to be found by Dr. Google or the hive mind? And that, dear reader, is what Inbound Marketing is all about.
I like to say that Inbound Marketing is like a Picasso: it takes things you may already be familiar with – a nose, two eyes, two ears and a chin – and rearranges them into a very different picture. In this case, the elements are your website, social media, a blog and email. You may think you know how each of these things “works” but when you put them together in the way of Inbound Marketing, they create a completely different picture.
Traditional marketing used to bombard with messages in the hopes that you would remember them when you were in the store aisle or driving down the road. Inbound marketing allows you to be found at the point of need – right when someone is trying to solve a problem.
By employing Inbound Marketing techniques you can:
- Attract people and prospective customers who are looking for what you offer
- Engage with them during their research and decision-making process
- Demonstrate credibility with your online content
- Educate them to the finer points of your offering, or how and why you differ from your competition
- Nurture them through a purchasing process with valuable information and resources (the higher the purchase price is, the longer it typically takes to make a decision)
- Stay connected and engaged with them when they do become customers
Doesn’t that sound a lot more meaningful – and effective – than assaulting your audience with stuff they don’t want, when they aren’t looking for it?