Back to Basics: What is Inbound Marketing?

the-future-of-marketing-dan-moyleOkay, so maybe you’ve heard the latest buzzword term “inbound marketing.” I can’t explain it any better than the folks who are truly on the forefront of this revolution. Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan wrote an entire book about this movement. They even titled it “Inbound Marketing.” Now that’s what I call genius. They also founded a marketing software company called HubSpot. So if you want the long explanation of “what is inbound marketing” then get their book on Amazon and read the HubSpot blog.

But if you’re looking for a layman’s explanation of this new marketing revolution, then let’s go. Inbound marketing uses content like websites, blog articles, videos and ebooks to get found on the Internet, convert views into leads and customers, then analyze it to do it again efficiently.

You’re probably already on social media if you run a business. Maybe you’re even wondering if you should be on every social media platform as a business. Before you rely too heavily on Facebook, learn a bit about what inbound marketing is.

Here’s the long and the short of it. When you want to solve a problem (looking for a product or company) where do you go? Do you pick up a phone book? Seriously – go look at the layer of dust on that phone book. If you can even find it. Almost no one goes to the phone book anymore.

When was the last time you sat down to watch prime time TV and actually watched the commercials? Short of the really funny ones (baby speed dating?! Love that eTrade kid!) commercials are an intrusion into the latest episode of The Walkng Dead. With DVRs, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon streaming video and the like, ads are fast becoming a thing of the past.

How about billboards? On your last drive, did you take down the phone number on that attorney’s billboard? Yeah, there was a number on that billboard full of text and a picture of some guy in a suit you passed at 80 miles an hour. But hey, someone paid a bunch of money for that billboard and that photo shoot so you’ll remember to look later and call him next time you need a lawyer right?

Let’s put this into a practical application. How do you begin to solve problems like figuring out what your credit score should be for a mortgage? How do you find the best kitchen cabinets for your kitchen remodel? Where do you find the best price on your children’s birthday gifts? You go to the all-knowing Google (or Bing and Yahoo). You search online long before you pick up the phone or go to the store and you research from the comforts of your home. Maybe you’re on your mobile phone during your work meeting. In other words, you’re a user of inbound marketing.

Where shouting and pushing their message used to be the way businesses got your attention as a consumer, now they have to draw you in through search engines, social media and other new marketing techniques. That’s the basic philosophy behind the inbound marketing revolution.
There’s more to it than that. As a business, you’ll use inbound marketing to drive website traffic through search engine results, you’ll be able to convert those visitors into leads with offers of eBooks and email subscriptions, then analyze it all to build on the successes.

We have learned to tune out the shouting and interrupting

One key to the inbound philosophy is a complete 180 from traditional business practices: Give away your material in the spirit of educating customers and potential customers. That’s right. Your “secret sauce” of doing business is no longer a secret. As a consumer, I can find information on almost anything I could ever want to know about on the internet. I can compare prices at the click of a button. I can find out “best solutions” to my problems from my friends or search engines.

Reviews on Google, Facebook, Amazon or Yelp are gold in today’s economy. If people are talking about you with rave reviews, business goes up. Yes, it’s also called “word of mouth.” The difference: a much larger audience and a way to track it all. Everyday people now have hundreds – even thousands – of followers on Twitter and heaps of friends on Facebook. The internet has given power to the people.

The best example of this: the actual secret sauce on the Big Mac. We all know (don’t we?) that the amazing sauce in the catchy song is really just Thousand Island dressing, basically. Each major fast food joint has tried to duplicate the Big Mac. You can even do it at home. But it’s just not the same.
McDonald’s recognizes this, and is no longer afraid to share its secrets. The social media campaign for McD’s now includes videos behind the scenes. Food photography, debunking the myth about how long a burger will last on a counter and other word of mouth stories are covered by McDonald’s corporate marketing team now.

The secret sauce is no longer the biggest asset you have. It’s your transparency, your customer service and the loyalty it all builds.

Here’s another example.

Marcus Sheridan runs a pool business in Virginia. It’s not a national company – you can’t install pools all over the country from one shop. But if you’re looking to compare concrete pools and fiberglass pools, you’ll find River Pools & Spas. By using inbound marketing and simply answering customer’s questions, Marcus was able to own the pool space online, hands down. And it’s driven millions of dollars in business.

Sounds good right? It wouldn’t have been possible without River Pools & Spas sharing its secret sauce. The company has blogged about price, problems and competitors. Practically any question you could Google relating to pools is answered on the River Pool blog.

So far so good. You’re understanding inbound marketing. How about the why?

Why Inbound Marketing?

The short answer to “Why inbound?” is this: Inbound marketing costs less than outbound marketing. How much does a TV or radio ad cost? How effective are they (and can you measure that)? Can you pay one price and they air forever? Inbound marketing – specifically blogging – is evergreen. If you publish an article about your product and how it solves a particular problem, that article serves as a magnet for interested parties. Each subsequent piece of content you create becomes another magnet, drawing prospects to your business.

Also, the generations coming up now can recognize a traditional advertisement from a mile away. Instead of shouting at customers, inbound is a quieter conversation that draws people in for more information. Blogging, e-books, videos and podcasts help to draw people in and gain trust. Wouldn’t you rather do business with someone you trust rather than “just another salesperson?”

Warm Lead vs Cold Lead

Inbound marketing creates warm leads. How much work is it to cold call potential customers and convince them they need your product? Maybe the better question is: When was the last time you bought something after an out-of-the-blue phone call, direct mail or email? These are all traditional outbound techniques. What if, instead, when a possible customer was looking to solve a problem and your product or service did just that, they found you? That’s a warm lead. You have their attention, if only for a short time. You need to grab that attention with relevant information.

A warm lead takes less time to convert into a customer. A warm lead has a better chance of becoming a repeat customer (depending on what you’re selling and your service) because you’re offering them something of value up front – something they’re looking for right then – not just a random sales call.

You Are What You Publish

Marketing guru David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) is known for this quote, and it’s a simple truth. “On the web, you are what you publish.” If you’re not talking about your company and the solutions you offer, someone else is. Whether it’s customers talking about your business or your competitors, you are what you publish online.

The businesses who get this, get inbound marketing. If I’m searching for the best landscaping solution for my shaded yard, and you sell shade plants, don’t you want to come up in Google for something like “shady yard plants?” If your only presence on the web is the name of your company, no one will find you. Unless someone knows you or has heard of you, they’re not searching for your brand. Set aside your ego (it’s hard, I had to do it too) and start producing content that solves the problems your prospects have.

You know the what, why and how. For more on all of this, and who you may want to consider hiring to do it for your business, download the ebook below. It’s a short read, and shares a bit about my story. Maybe you (business owner or boss) can find the right person to get you on the inbound marketing track.

How-I-Turned-Journalism-into-an-Inbound-Marketing-Career_CTA

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