Inbound marketing is the concept of attracting customers to a business through relevant, helpful and interesting content that adds value to a customer’s journey in purchasing products. Because something that is interesting to one consumer may not be interesting to another consumer, inbound marketing focuses on targeting ads to consumers who actually are interested or may be interested in what that ad is about. Businesses are starting to utilize inbound marketing more to build awareness in consumers without interrupting them with annoying ads.
Efficacy of Inbound Marketing: Marketo
In this article by Marketo, author Andrea Lehr details the benefits and efficacy of inbound marketing when used by businesses. The article discusses how using inbound marketing that focuses on content creation can drive inbound traffic, increase authority of the business, and, most importantly, generate a higher return on investment than traditional outbound marketing tactics (outbound marketing is the opposite of inbound in that businesses initiate the conversation by sending its message to an audience instead of the consumer finding them through inbound marketing). This trend towards inbound marketing comes from the fact that consumers do not want interruptions and have employed things like ad blocker. In addition, people want valuable content that ignites conversation so simple banner ads and pop-up videos no longer suffice as those just throw information at the consumer in a meaningless way.
Overall, Lehr gives us two key insights to consider when planning marketing strategies in the future which help in answering this blog’s question of why your company needs inbound marketing. The key insights are to leverage inbound marketing to control your businesses online presence and content marketing can earn your brand nearly three times the exposure of more traditional marketing efforts.
First, if you are going to employ inbound marketing, growing your company’s online brand presence is important as inbound focuses on earning consumers attention rather than buying it through the offering of engaging content. Consumers are spending more time online doing research which means that if a company can increase its brand presence, consumers will be able to find content from the business easier. In the study mentioned in the article, it notes that 77% of respondents said their purchase decision would be positively influenced by a product they heard about through an online search and 55% of respondents said online articles positively influence their purchase decisions. Thus, by having a large presence, your business will appear in more searches as well as if you are included in and writing online articles about your business, you will help raise awareness in consumers.
Second, and the most compelling find from the study, is that content marketing can earn a brand nearly three times the exposure of more traditional marketing efforts. If a business is focused on the return of investment of a marketing campaign, inbound is perfect for them as it is cost effective, in that the study compared the success of three outbound marketing campaigns to a popular inbound tactic resulting in the three times more exposure for the same price, and helps companies remain competitive.
In general, Lehr says that because consumers are demanding content, it can be assumed that inbound marketing will greatly benefit a business especially in terms of return on investment but more importantly it helps consumers build trust with businesses and lead to becoming references to additional customers in the future. Though Lehr gives us a good idea of why inbound marketing is great and where to do it, there is much more depth to the concept of it than that.
How to do it: Hubspot
Lucky enough for you and I, there is already a platform out there that specializes in training how to properly and effectively do inbound marketing. Hubspot is an inbound focused marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Because you can sign up for free online to take their courses on inbound marketing, I will just briefly summarize the first lesson that teaches you the basics of inbound marketing.
What is Inbound?: As mentioned before, it is not like traditional advertising which is marketer-centric (cold calling, cold emails, etc.). It is the opposite as it is customer-centric and focuses on the creation of content to capture a company’s prospective customers attention and make the consumer come to the business instead of the other way around.
Why Inbound?: The facts above provided by Lehr also fall in line with this question. Consumers want content and if company’s can provide consumers with helpful, relevant content, then consumers will find that content organically, become more aware of the products, and ultimately lead them to trust the brand.
How to do Inbound: Hubspot lists the best practices for inbound marketing as use buyer personas, use buyer’s journey, create remarkable content, and leverage your content. Below, I go briefly into those four things:
- Use buyer personas: Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and inferences about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Personas should be created by doing research, identifying trends from that research, and creating personas that you market to with the content you create on your site.
- Use buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision are the three stages of the buyer’s journey. It is important that you market to consumers depending on where they are in the journey. It begins with awareness where the consumer is experiencing or expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity and they are doing research to give a name and find a solution to their problem. It moves to consideration where the consumer has now a clearly defined and given a name to their problem and they are committed to researching and understanding the methods that will solve the problem. The final stage is decision which is where the consumer has decided on a solution strategy for their problem and is researching where to purchase that solution from. If you market to consumers depending on the stage they are in, you can affectively reach more students.
- Create remarkable content: when you create content that is tailored to both the personas you created and the stage that consumers are in the buyer’s journey, it becomes helpful and relevant content that consumers will use in the decision-making process.
- Leverage content: it is important to make content widely available to consumers so they can find it organically as well as to make sure the content serves your business goals. This means distributing the content in the best places for your potential consumers.
Though this is just a very short explanation of how to do inbound marketing, it shows that you can build trust with consumers by giving them the ability to find your business without interrupting their lives with advertisements and providing them with useful, interesting content that can benefit their lives as well.
Starbucks and Inbound Marketing
To put this whole concept into perspective, Starbucks is a company that uses inbound marketing effectively to connect with its consumers. As a coffee shop, Starbucks employees have the ability to connect one-on-one with customers in-store which is very beneficial to the atmosphere the company creates in its stores; however, it is much more difficult to create a meaningful connection with customers online. Starbucks, through interesting content marketing, has found ways to interact with fans on the company’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Some of these ways include embracing seasonality in that they create content marketing campaigns that reflect on specific times of the year. For example, in 2017, Starbucks released an extremely successful Pumpkin Spice Latte campaign for which consumers loved and praised. Starbucks knew it had a following of consumers that were obsessed with the company’s Pumpkin Spice Latte that released every fall. At this stage, consumers were in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey and Starbucks began to release content that engaged those consumers. As depicted below, Starbucks posted announcements and content surrounding the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte on all of their social media accounts so that consumers of the tasty treat could connect with the company.
The thing that makes Starbucks different from any other company posting on social media is that the company replies directly to consumers (as shown above). This is extremely important in inbound marketing as consumers are coming directly to the business to ask questions and leave comments that have helped Starbucks create new products and services that benefit their consumers. By effectively using inbound marketing in addition to their incredibly interactive marketing campaigns and their use of promotions to inspire, educate and even challenge consumers, Starbucks has acquired the ability to connect easily with consumers and increase their social media platforms to 37.2 million likes on Facebook and 11.9 million followers on Twitter.
Overall, inbound marketing is incredibly effective and if done correctly, can increase awareness in consumers and ultimately, provide a higher return on investment for marketing activities. Relevant content that actually benefits me, in and of itself, seems like a much better way to catch my attention than pop-up ads. I would take those over interruptive ads any day.