Do you ever feel like you are just throwing money at your marketing budget without seeing a return on investment? With so many online marketing options available, it is easy to throw time and money at advertising, content creation and social media without seeing sales growth. A strong inbound marketing strategy helps you cultivate relationships, focus your digital marketing, and grow your business.
Before we explore whether an inbound strategy is the right choice for your company, you need to understand a few basics.
What is inbound marketing?
Most traditional sales and marketing strategies are outbound marketing. The brand reaches out to consumers hoping some will be interested in their product or service. Cold calling and advertising are two examples of outbound marketing.
In contrast, inbound marketing covers a holistic approach to marketing aiming to cultivate relationships with consumers who are likely to become your customers. An inbound strategy aims to attract, engage, and delight potential customers.
- Attract: Brands attract their future customers by producing helpful content that addresses their ideal customer’s interests or needs.
- Engage: This content inspires engagement resulting in the prospect following the brand on social media, reaching out with questions, joining a subscriber list, or otherwise connecting with the brand.
- Delight: An inbound marketing strategy aims to keep prospects engaged and delighted. After they become paying customers, it aims to retain them and build loyalty.
Chances are you may already be practicing aspects of inbound marketing in your offline and face-to-face business relationships. In some ways, inbound strategy translates the cultivation process to an online environment. However, inbound marketing doesn’t stop with online marketing, it is a holistic approach that works best when integrated among marketing, sales, and customer service functions. Whether you offer b-2-b services, a product, or Saas subscriptions the right inbound strategy follows your customers throughout their relationship with your brand.
To better understand inbound marketing, it helps to have a practical example. A small company offering a business-to-business service may publish a blog containing relevant industry news. This alone isn’t a strong inbound strategy unless there is a way to capture and qualify the leads. The brand’s marketing manager may create an in-depth whitepaper outlining solutions that their clients seek. In order to receive the whitepaper, the reader subscribes to the brand’s newsletter.
A strong inbound marketing strategy would cover ways to cultivate these leads and guide them through the process of becoming loyal customers. It helps visitors to your website travel from being strangers to prospects to customers and then to becoming your brand's promoters. Many in the field refer to this as the “buyer’s journey.”
Differences between inbound and outbound marketing
The primary difference between inbound and outbound marketing is that inbound marketing focuses on cultivating relationships with people with a need or interest in the solutions offered by your product or service. Outbound techniques like television advertising reach out to a bigger range of people hoping that some will be interested.
HubSpot is a leading SaaS supporting inbound marketing strategies. They also walk the walk by building their clientele through resources that are helpful to marketers, salespeople, and small business owners. According to HubSpot, inbound marketing offers the advantage of attracting customers through tailored experiences.
Outbound marketing often interrupts the consumer while they are engaging in other activities. For example, a consumer may be streaming YouTube videos of cute pets when an advertisement for a local veterinarian practice interrupts their experience. On the other hand, Inbound marketing involves creating experiences or resources your “ideal customer” seeks. For example, a veterinarian practice may create helpful content about training or caring for a new puppy to attract potential customers who will soon need their services. Audience members are receptive to the message because it is relevant to their needs or desires.
A strong inbound approach takes it a step farther. In addition to creating tailored experiences, the brand offers the consumer an opportunity to start building a relationship. An opt-in offer is one of the most powerful techniques. Not all opt-in offers are effective, HubSpot outlines some of the qualities that make an effective offer:
- Something of value to your ideal customer, but not the general public. If the appeal is too broad it can be a less effective giveaway.
- This offer needs to be closely aligned with your services or expertise.
- A strong opt-in offer is useful even if the prospect doesn’t immediately make a purchase.
- Your content marketing and social media support attract an audience and the members with the strongest interest will opt-in. Your sales team receives warm prospects who are aware of your brand and have a need for your product or service.
Types of businesses that might benefit
Many successful companies use a mix of inbound and outbound marketing tactics. Each has its own strengths and benefits for the brand. Inbound marketing has the added benefit of cultivating customer loyalty which over time results in word-of-mouth referrals. Some smaller niche brands may even be able to build a clientele completely through inbound strategies and word-of-mouth.
As you may imagine, an effective digital inbound marketing strategy requires the right tools, expertise and strategic thinking. Nearly any small or large business benefits from effective inbound marketing, but most small and mid-sized companies don’t have the in-house talent to create and implement an effective inbound strategy.
As a HubSpot Gold Solutions Partner, we help our clients navigate the technology and strategic planning required for long-term and sustainable growth through inbound marketing. Book a call to learn more about how an inbound strategy may help you grow your clientele.