The Ins and Outs of Inbound Marketing (PART ONE)
The last few years have seen a shift away from outbound ‘push’ marketing campaigns, towards inbound, permission-driven interactions. In the first of two posts on the subject, we explain the difference between Outbound and Inbound Marketing, and why and how the shift in emphasis from one to the other has happened.
What’s the Point of Marketing?
Good question. After all, business is about making sales, isn’t it? But in order to make sales, you need first to find, educate and build relationships with your prospective customers. During this marketing/communication process you convey your brand values, you build confidence in your ability to supply the best solution, you inform, you deliver thought leadership, you share the bigger story about your business and its services. Most importantly, you build trust. That’s when the sales come.
You won’t make sales without the groundwork – and the groundwork is marketing.
Inbound vs Outbound
So, there’s been a shift away from outbound, towards inbound marketing. But why? And what’s the difference between the two?
Outbound marketing is essentially any activity where your message is pushed to your prospective customers. This includes activities such as telephone cold calling, high-volume email marketing or postal mass marketing campaigns, as well as web-based tactics such as banner advertising. The theory behind these approaches is that if you ‘throw enough mud at the wall’ some of it must eventually stick. Outbound marketing is a volume game, but when you realise that returns on outbound marketing campaigns can be as modest as just 1%-1.5% (and in many scenarios that’s actually regarded as a ‘positive outcome’) you can easily see, there must be a better way.
And there is. Inbound marketing involves the kind of activities which pull prospective customers towards you. Not just anyone either; these will be buyers who are activelyinterested in products or services like yours, because they’re gearing up to make a purchase.
Targeting can Miss the Mark
Consider what’s commonly referred to as your target market. That’s normally a sub-set of all people or businesses, who fit a certain profile – the typical type of customer who usually buys from you. Your target market however, is full of people who could be customers, but who aren’t actually looking to buy right now. You can spend time, money and effort in communicating with them, when they have no plan to purchase and no budget. Never mind throwing mud at the wall, that’s a bit like banging your head against that wall!
But here’s where inbound marketing comes into its own.
With your online shop-front bursting with engaging, relevant content, prospective buyers from within your target market find you because they’re in the process of researching online – and they’re researching because they are ready to buy. They know they have a need, so you don’t have to persuade them of this. They’re only looking for which solution is best.
At this point, it will be your high-quality content, presented through your website, blog, videos and creative social media presence, which reaches these buyers – at the precise time when they are actively engaged in a purchase process. And this entices them to interact with you.
Interruption vs Interraction
So, outbound marketing is a push activity. It interrupts – not just prospective customers, but a much wider audience, forcing them to see what you’re offering, even if they’re not in the market for it – or in the mood for it. We all can recall instances of unwanted marketing interruptions of this kind. And whilst it still goes on, it’s largely recognised that this is an outmoded form of awareness-building, and can potentially be costly and damaging to a brand or business. It’s counterintuitive to the way today’s internet-savvy customers prefer to buy.
Inbound is a pull activity. Your value-rich content and online presence makes you discoverable (through search criteria, hashtags, keywords etc), prompting people who are actively looking for a product or service like yours, to come across what should be useful, informative and engaging information, and choose to interact. Inbound marketing aligns with, rather than gatecrashes the way today’s buyers make their purchase decisions.
Inbound permission-based marketing creates positive connections, builds awareness and interest, strengethens the buyer/suppier connection, encourages engagement and nurtures long-term customer relationships. That makes it a very attractive proposition.
Outbound – not such an Attractive Proposition
Today’s buyers are a secretive, less tolerant and more sophisticated lot these days. You’ll know this, because you too are a buyer. They are likely to research quietly and privately, only making themselves known once they can see you have a solution in which they can see themselves investing. They’re tired of being pestered, swamped by irrelevant offers and information about things that are of no interest to them. And today, they can block you and screen you out more effectively than ever before.
Not only that, but with the arrival of GDPR, the upgraded data protection rules, the restrictions on who you are allowed to communicate with have tightened considerably, making outbound marketing not only unattractive, but costly in many ways, and all but redundant for many companies.
In Part Two, we will introduce you to the HubSpot Attract, Engage, Delight methodology and show you how your business can begin to capitalise on the evolution in the online marketing environment.