Inbound marketing has supplanted both traditional and outbound marketing as the preferred methodology of marketers. It is more efficient; the cost of running an inbound campaign is comparatively lower but it covers more ground. It is more effective; designed properly it will create several avenues of inbound traffic to your website.
Inbound marketing is more consistent; it operates from the platform of building strong relationships with your target market. Thus, using inbound marketing is a more productive strategy in developing businesses.
But what is inbound marketing? Put simply these are marketing activities or processes that bring visitors “in” and patronize your business. The objective of an inbound marketing campaign is for your business to be found. By contrast, traditional, and outbound marketing are processes or activities that require the marketer to go “out” and find your market.
The sales funnel analogy applies to inbound marketing but the process and the stages are much different. Generally, inbound marketing follows these stages:
- Attract. The initial goal of marketing is acquisition; the larger the acquired market, the wider the opening of the funnel.
Traditional marketing applies a random approach in market acquisition. An example would be the act of distributing flyers in a mall or setting up billboards along the highway. Are you sure your efforts are targeting the ideal audience?
With inbound marketing, its activities are intended to encourage the audience to discover the proponent. Content marketing is part of a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.
The centerpiece of content marketing is blogging. Have you read a blog about a blog on a service provider that appears to have the abilities to meet your need? For sure you have as have most of us. Your next step would be to visit the service provider’s website to learn more about his business.
Thus, with inbound marketing the initial focus is to build a wider opening in the sales funnel for “strangers” to come in. From acquisition, the “strangers” transition inside the funnel to “site visitors”.
- Convert. Once you have a site visitor, inbound marketing moves to the conversion stage. The focus now shifts to extract information from the visitor.
When you visit a website, you will come across several “calls-to-action” or CTAs; these are activities the business wants you to undertake. Some of these CTA’s include:
- Free subscription to a newsletter
- Free e-book
- Free trial on a limited period
- Free whitepapers
- Free tip sheets
You can avail of these free items only if you voluntarily give up information. For inbound marketers, the most important piece of information is your e-mail address.
If you decide to complete the transaction, you transition from “site visitor” to “qualified lead”.
- Close. With e-mail address in tow, the inbound marketer will shift to the process of closing a sale. Keep in mind that the information was “voluntarily” surrendered. By accepting the terms of the CTA, the site visitor has agreed to receive marketing and promotional materials.
This is a very important distinction to make because what makes inbound marketing acceptable versus either traditional or outbound marketing is that the process is not intrusive. Instead it is voluntary.
In this stage, the goal is to move the “qualified lead” into a “paying customer”.
- Feedback. Let us assume that the “sales lead” did convert to a “paying customer”. Do you think the relationship will end once the customer has issued you payment? No!
As mentioned earlier, inbound marketing operates from the platform of building relationships. The inbound marketer will continue to build on the relationship by maintaining the original strategies. He will endeavor to create more compelling content that are relevant to the audience.
The idea is to retain markets by building or enhancing the relationship. The goal of the inbound marketer is to move the person from “paying customer” to “business promoters”.
Digital technology and the Internet have created a paradigm shift in how business is conducted. The Internet has allowed us to explore unfamiliar regions and bridge the gaps between cultural and societal differences. Digital technology has made the process faster and more efficient.
Inbound marketing was the response to this paradigm shift. The growth and popularity of the Internet has led to the proliferation of social media networks. In the early 2000, websites were primarily regarded as nothing more than online marketing brochures. Today, the website is a critical component of a business development plan. It is the termination point of an inbound campaign.
Evolution is the reason why inbound marketing is successful. An effective inbound marketing strategy is one that can identify changes in market behavior and implement changes so it can adapt. It is easy to implement changes in an inbound marketing strategy because unlike traditional marketing, its progress can be tracked down and evaluated by online analytics.
Online analytics helps businesses understand the online behavioral patterns of its market. Having these tools available makes it easy to stay updated on market demand, tastes, and preferences which form the bases for any revision on strategy.
The final stage in the inbound marketing process, “Feedback” becomes the crucial point in the cycle because it continues the relationship with the customer after the sale.
Thus, even if you win several battles with your competitors the war for market supremacy remains.
The differentiator is Customer Service.
Customer service has been a constant in the business agenda of most corporations. Top management has recognized the paradigm shift and has acknowledged the value of the customer as social media has become a game changer. If your customer fails to have a great experience, trust that the entire community will know about it.
Building businesses is no longer just about market creation. Perhaps even more crucial is market retention. Social media defined in simpler terms is “word-of-mouth” advertising that has been digitized. It will reach more people faster than traditional word-of-mouth especially if content reaches viral proportions.
Market retention is the objective of customer service. In order to sustain sales you must retain your customer base. Conversion does not end with the paying customer. Business must work to convert the paying customer to a business promoter. And the key lies in effective customer service.