The Move from Outbound to Inbound Marketing

What This Means for Your Marketing Strategy

Inbound MarketingI’ve grown to resent those pop-up ads that require you to click ‘stop’ or ‘skip’ before you can continue using the website you’re visiting. It’s even worse when they gradually glide down the screen and you have to chase them with your cursor before you can make them disappear. Not to mention when you miss the little ‘x’ in the corner and click on the ad itself. It’s uninvited and it eats up valuable seconds in your day. Am I the only one?

The thing is; advertising has always been a part of our lives. So much so, we have become accustomed to filtering it out. We mentally tune out the commercials that interrupt our favorite TV show. We flip the pages of our favorite magazine and barely notice glossy advertisements on every other page. We screen sales calls, delete unsolicited e-mails or flag them as spam, and file direct mail campaigns in our recycling bins.

Here’s the rub: we know what those advertisements are trying to do and we filter them out because we dislike being dictated to. We are acutely aware that those behind an ad campaign typically do not have the full picture of who we are, what drives us, what turns us off, or what motivates us. We resent not being appreciated or understood as an individual. We feel tuned out and so return the favor.

Our mistrust increases every time we are manipulated to give away our contact information only to find it misused by over-eager salespeople. We have had enough of marketing messages being thrust at us from every angle, invading our rights to space and privacy. We are fed up of traditional mass marketing, or ‘outbound marketing’.

‘Inbound marketing’ is the opposite of this interruption-based model. Instead of pushing marketing messages at people, an inbound marketing strategy focuses on creating helpful tools and content that pulls people in. This might be via a blog, e-book, white paper, webinar, social media or by simply optimizing your website so that people can find you via search engines. By increasing the amount of valuable, educational content available online for your brand, the chances of being found by people relevant to your business are vastly improved.

Inbound marketing works to undo the damage caused by traditional marketing. It restores confidence and rebuilds trust. By allowing individuals to come to your website, surf around and gather the information they require, you give them the space to relax and enjoy their user experience. By using only contact information these visitors willingly give you to contact them in a highly relevant way, their whole experience of your company is one that they will want to repeat again and again.

3 Guidelines for Inbound Marketing:

1. Build (and optimize) it and they will come

Start with your website and build out from there. Create valuable content that visitors will want to thank you for. Start making it enjoyable to do business with you. Give people access to online tools and resources before they have to ask for them. And don’t forget to optimize all of this for search engines (SEO) so you can be found in the first place. Content creation is a critical first step to draw in those who are genuinely interested in your products or services. Some examples include FAQs, technical information, blog posts, white papers, videos, or online programs to facilitate product selection. There are more – be creative and think what would most help your customer base.

2. Stop thinking about potential customers as giant dollar signs

Remember: people are individuals with the ability to make their own decisions independently of their peers. Start thinking in terms of one-on-one relationships and less about sales revenue. Sales will come. No, you might not see an overnight increase in profits. The lack of immediate, demonstrable ROI may drive your upper management crazy. As a marketer, that can be difficult. But, given time, if you persist in offering valuable, educational, useful information, people will appreciate it and be more inclined to purchase. Offer information to guide them through each phase of the buying cycle. Don’t assume everyone is poised, credit card in hand, waiting to do business with you if you so much as ask.

An important note: when people are nearly ready to purchase and they want to give you their contact information, make sure your landing pages are optimized for these conversions. Don’t confuse website visitors with a multitude of options or contact fields. Keep it simple. Optimize for only one or two keywords per landing page. Offer one clear call to action per page and then only ask for the contact information that you absolutely need. Also, make it clear why they are providing you with their contact information. Make it a stress-free, smooth transaction for the user.

3. The key is trust

In the 1934 classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Carnegie talks about the importance of becoming genuinely interested in other people, being a good listener, making the other person feel important, and doing this sincerely. Validate people by listening to their concerns and showing you understand them. By this I mean listen to what people are saying about you – online, to your customer service department; your sales people. Only with all the pertinent information can you make accurate judgments on what people want from you and deliver on that. Sure, you can respond to people’s questions and concerns on a one-on-one basis, but why stop there? Why not take that individual response and turn it into a blog post, or white paper, or downloadable tip sheet? Share and spread your knowledge. Demonstrate thought leadership and your customers will reward you with loyalty you didn’t dare imagine.

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7 Responses to “The Move from Outbound to Inbound Marketing”

  1. Eric Goldman May 13, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    This article is a great start to the story and you are to be congratulated on providing a concise, understandable overview. It may help your readers to think of the process of Inbound Marketing Automation (the combination of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation), as consisting of 4 phases:
    1) Attract more visitors to the website through Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, and, if needed, Pay Per Click advertising.
    2) Engage those visitors’ attention with industry leading content (website copy, white papers, videos, podcasts). Match the content to the prospect’s buying cycle to ensure you can nurture them around the cycle (see below).
    3) Qualify these visitors by grading their profiles and using their digital footprints to rack up a score and hence “know” their quality. And then, nurture them from cold leads to hot prospects with multi-touch drip email campaigns sending them just the right piece of content they need at their specific stage, to nudge them to the next one.
    4) Automatically feed these hot sales ready prospects directly into your CRM and automatically notify the assigned sales rep (based on product or territory or whatever…).
    Our website contains a Resource Library of white papers, tools, videos and an extensive glossary, all covering Inbound Marketing Automation in more detail.

  2. Georgia Castillo May 15, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    Great post, Nikki! This is an excellent summation of key ideas in inbound marketing. Love the point you brought up about “returning the favor” to advertisers who tune out our individual wants/needs/qualities. I think that many companies make the mistake of diving into an inbound marketing strategy without first really listening to their audience. They don’t realize that establishing a web presence and building trust takes time, and then revert back to outbound tactics.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff! Hubspot and Chris Brogan would be proud :)

  3. NikkiGroom May 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    I’m glad you found it such a concise overview, Eric!

    Hi and thanks, Georgia! You’re right, listening is crucial as a first step in any inbound marketing strategy. This enables an enhanced understanding about those people we want to do business with. We should never just arrogantly assume we know what they want to hear from us without researching this in the first place.

  4. Terry October 25, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Great post Nikki,

    When I think of my favourite websites ( the ones that I visit every time I log on)
    all of your points factor in to my selections.

    Thanks for summing it up so succintcly !

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