The Internet, however, has gradually shifted the focus of marketing from these traditional outbound activities to more inbound activities. The idea is much more customer-focused. In many cases it's also more affordable. In all cases, it's an important part of any savvy marketing strategy.
What is inbound marketing, and why should you be considering it in your marketing strategy?
Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that attracts people to you and reaches them in a place where they already want to be. When you align your content with your customer's interests, you are attracting the right people, people that you can more easily convert. Inbound marketing happens across a variety of communication channels and involves a higher level of interactivity than outbound marketing.
Simply put, inbound marketing focuses on three key customer interactions: attracting, engaging, and influencing.
AttractingThe first step in attracting the right audience is to write relevant, high quality, interesting content that your target audience will discover when searching for your product or service. Search engine optimization, blogs, keyword analysis: all of these things work together to attract your audience to your website. Ultimately, that is the goal: attracting the right people to your website.
You can't just rely on strong website content alone. You also need to look at generating quality content on other channels that tie to your website. Social media is key for attracting the right audience.
Survey your users to find out what social media they already use (or make a few phone calls and ask a few questions). Take some time to consider how you can fit on these channels. Spend some time on them if you're not familiar with them already. Learn from how others—particularly other companies—are making good use of these channels. Develop a sound strategy for what you want to say on social media and how you want to say it. Then start generating relevant, high quality content. (Sound familiar?)
EngagingOnce your audience is on your website or Facebook page or Pinterest page: What do you want them to do? All of your content and communication should have clear calls to action. Lead the reader where you want them to go: landing pages and forms can be excellent ways to engage an audience once they are interested in your business. Of course engaging your audience also means interacting with them. How are you responding when a customer comments? Are you following other accounts? Liking other Facebook posts? Online marketing activities thrive on two-way interaction. You've attracted your audience, now it's time to tie them more closely to your message.
InfluencingThe goal of all marketing activities is conversion. You've primed the customer by attracting them and impressing them with solid information. You've shared your personality and engaged with them on their channels. Now it's time to bring them to the store—to get them to pick up the phone—to convince them to share more information so they can be contacted by sales. Online surveys, contact forms, email newsletter registrations are all ways to lead your audience to the next step.
One more thing to remember through all of these inbound marketing activities: monitoring.All of these efforts can be tracked and watched. Don't ignore the reports and stats - monitor them. You'll get a lot of information about what truly attracts people and what turns them away. Then you can adjust your efforts accordingly. Inbound marketing is a much more fluid and responsive activity than traditional marketing. Make sure you are taking full advantage.
Inbound marketing is a fairly complex engine with lots of parts that also intertwine with your entire marketing strategy. Your offline activities influence your online activities and vice versa. In other words, inbound marketing can't succeed in a vacuum. It's important that all of your marketing activities work together.
We recently read an excellent article that talks about inbound marketing and its place in a customer-focused mission: Learn more about what Lego can teach all marketers.
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