The underlying issue with digital marketing is that customers are in a storm of online information. Potential clients are persistently plagued by pictures of cute cats (lots of cats), breaking news, and social posts daily. So how do you reach these individuals and make the most of your digital marketing as the owner or CMO of a business?
Shouting and throwing digital information at consumers to buy your product aren’t nearly as effective as you think when there are thousands of companies simultaneously doing just that. It’s likely you’ll find your marketing dollars positioned between posts of “Free Desktop Cleaners” and “The Secrets To A Six Pack in Two Weeks”. The goal of your online marketing strategy then should not be to add more to this chaos but guiding customers out of it. That’s the logic behind inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is about attracting the right customers, at the right time, by producing the right content. It is customer-centric with personal business engagement, as opposed to product-centric marketing. Instead of wasting valuable marketing resources on individuals non-relevant to your product, inbound focuses on connecting businesses to leads with the highest propensity to become customers, and ultimately long time advocates of the business’ product.
From the White House to local coffee shops, marketing is seeing a shift from outbound to inbound. But what makes this strategy so advantageous? Allow me to share with you three specific ways in how inbound marketing can benefit your business:
1) Cost-Effective Marketing
Why? Instead of blind-firing your message to places where your audience “is”, your audience comes to you, you learn your audience, and through this exchange you’re able to classify your audience and service them better.
As mentioned, efforts are only concerned with attracting individuals looking for something you offer. Spending marketing resources on individuals who don’t want nor need your product is useless, similar to asking out a date that constantly rejects you. It’s possible after the umpteenth time they would give in, but in that time, you could’ve found “the perfect one” (or in this case customers).
Considerably, it’s a lot easier to gain leads from individuals interested in something you offer as opposed to those who just aren’t interested. It’s no wonder why inbound in contrast to outbound marketing delivers 54% more leads (Hubspot). Similar to a matchmaking service, inbound ensures a better connection between you and your customer upon first encounter (love at first sight), giving you key information on how to properly engage them (smoother interactions).
So what about the actual cost of inbound? Lead to lead, inbound marketing costs 62% less than traditional outbound marketing (HubSpot). Content producing platforms such as blogs and social media range from entirely free to cheap. So when considering the benefits of inbound on your business, invested dollars are used the most effectively giving the highest return on investment through greater lead conversions and lower costs.
Jackson Coffee Company
Jackson Coffee Company’s slogan “We roast while others boast” says it all. The Michigan-based coffee house has inbound marketing written all over it and it’s no surprise that the small chain consecutively won “Best Coffee House of the Year” in Jackson, Michigan from 2007-2012. Having out beat corporate competitors like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts the company’s strategy involves pure inbound marketing, one approach being segmented email lists. Through this approach, the company manages to effectively and efficiently market to its customers on a more personal basis. Instead of emailing all its recipients “spam”, the company saves time and money emailing on a customer-preferred frequency. Not only does it save time and money, but likely entices customers to buy their coffee when it’s most relevant.
2) Improved Customer Relations
Central to inbound marketing is its customer-focused strategy. An evident implication of customers at the forefront is improved customer-business relations. This is accomplished through offering content and learning more about customers.
Inbound marketing involves providing valued content to your potential buyers in hopes to gain more insight on them and to be of value to them. For instance, a company writing a blog post on a guide to making a better coffee or a company engaging in conversation with potential customers using Twitter. The former and latter provide the perfect opportunity for businesses to acquire leads by offering value to customers. Furthermore, value can be exchanged to gain information on how to better serve customers. (Side note: Content should be relevant to one’s industry. You wouldn’t write a 5-page guide to making the best burrito when you operate a flower shop.)
Beyond offering value to your customers the implication of improved customer relation through producing content can leverage your business in four interrelated ways:
- Improved branding
- Increased recurring sales
- Greater marketing reach
- And increased leads
Simply put, offering extraordinary customer-centric content and service will eventually build brand credibility through perceived expertise that in turn can produce brand loyalty. Brand loyal customers imply increased recurring sales and brand advocating. The ingenuity behind providing content online is that the Internet allows for content to be easily shared, increasing the odds of brand advocating from loyal customers. This provides the opportunity for your branded content to be shared and seen by not only your direct audience but also your customer’s audience and so forth.
Different from outbound marketing, content shared from a customer to their personal contacts is more probable to be noticed and trusted as something other than a marketing ploy. Think of that time you trusted your friend to try that small restaurant down the road that you didn’t even know was a restaurant? But you still tried it (it happens). People trust people, not companies. So in addition to your business gaining more exposure, the odds of acquiring leads from exposure are improved as well.
General Electric (GE) more recently has been implementing inbound marketing increasingly in its marketing operations. Particularly, the conglomerate has sponsored Txchnologist, a forward-thinking technology magazine that discusses “the great challenges of our era through industry, technology and ingenuity”. This has greatly leveraged GE’s brand as an innovative thought-leader in the field of technology. And if sponsoring a magazine isn’t enough for you, the company has even gone to lengths of creating entertaining science-related YouTube videos. Whether or not watching a video of a machine breaking a baseball persuades you to actually buy GE products is questionable. But one thing is for certain; its videos have entertaining value that have given the brand exposure on a viral level which could lead to future potential sales.
3) Visible ROI and Metrics
Last but not least, inbound marketing can leverage your business by providing your company with a more transparent measure of your marketing initiative’s success.
A transparent and measurable marketing campaign allows your company to see areas of improvement in its marketing plan to further leverage cost-effectiveness and customer relations. This leverage touches upon your business’s overall functioning, informing you whether its your marketing that needs improvement or if it’s another business facet.
It’s difficult to justify money spent on marketing plan that you can’t even tell is working, let alone whether you should continue to spend funds or discontinue it altogether. If you can’t tell whether the dancing monkey is giving any return, why would you consider buying it a unicycle?
Inbound marketing uses data to give insight on what marketing efforts to develop or scrap. Through data tracking visitors on your company website and their click actions, inbound allows you to see the precise effects of your marketing.
In comparison, traditional marketing makes it difficult to trace whether leads were a result of a billboard or radio ad. All leads end up somewhere in the purchasing funnel but can’t be tracked step by step in the process. Online traditional marketing can track leads digitally, however is not as cost-effective to inbound in terms of reach and engagement.
President Barack Obama
Notably, US President Barack Obama used inbound marketing to his advantage winning the 2012 presidential campaign. Obama’s lead campaign team offered an online social platform to assist Obama-supporters in their local campaigning. The platform, “Dashboard”, was hailed as the “Holy Grail of Digital Campaigning”. However, the reason for the tool’s hailing title was not because of its sole purpose assisting Obama volunteers, but rather its backdoor advantage enabling the lead campaign team to data mine the platform’s users. User information was updated and recorded to a database according to their campaign efforts online and offline. The segmented groups were then tracked as measures of regional performance to determine which areas required more campaigning support. This allowed for the transparency to efficiently use time and resources to develop marketing campaign initiatives without redundancies.
To summarize, it’s apparent that inbound marketing can greatly benefit anyone’s business in this digital day and age. Cost-effective marketing, improved customer relations, and visible ROI and metrics are just three of the many ways inbound can put you at an advantage against competition. However, it’s not to say that traditional marketing is outdated, but rather less important when it comes to the digital realm.