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Inbound Marketing: What you Need to Know

As a marketing manager or director, it’s important that you’re familiar with the latest trends and emerging strategies and how they could help drive growth within your business. The channels your audience are using to digest information are evolving constantly so to make the most of your budget, you should be willing to consider any tool, service or idea that could help you effectively reach your target groups.

But, with so many products, services and strategies claiming to be ‘the next big thing’ it is understandably challenging to know where to focus your attention. It would not prudent to cease all existing activity and focus everything you have on any the latest idea or strategy but creating the right mix of traditional and modern techniques is undoubtedly the best way to maximise your marketing spend ROI.

One relatively modern method is inbound marketing. First discussed in 2006, it is arguably the most effective marketing method for doing business online today. Inbound marketing empowers your audience to choose where and how they digest information – switching the communication model from a system of pushing messages out, to a pull technique that aims to attract customers through quality content creation, aligned with your audience’s interests.

If you are looking to get more involved with inbound marketing, developing a deep understanding of best practices is key to your success. So, with that in mind, take a look at the six most important things every marketer needs to know about inbound.

The Old Ways Might Not be the Best

20 years ago marketing and PR was a very different ballgame. Print media was still strong, TV advertising was still watched and we all thought we understood how our customers made purchasing decisions.

The following two decades brought about unprecedented change and today we find that with increased noise, many of the channels we are used to are no longer delivering results, at least at the same scale. Email, although certainly not dead, is finding it harder to cut through the inbox quagmire, Tivo has made it a cinch to skip through the TV ads and print circulations continue to fall. To ignore these facts is tantamount to marketing masochism.

Few would argue that the driving force behind the demise of traditional marketing techniques has been the Internet. The web has fundamentally changed all our lives and how we live them. We have far more choice now. More choice in terms of the channels we use to digest information, in where we spend our time and how we want to be spoken to.

To quote the founder of Hubspot, Brian Halligan, ‘you can no longer rent your way to consumer attention, you need to earn it’. Earning attention is a central element of inbound marketing – less about shouting for attention and more about finding ways to engage with your audience in a meaningful way.

Be Spectacular

Inbound marketing is about creating content which will resonate with your audience and keep them coming back to you. Sounds fairly simple and it would be in a close system where you are the only one doing it. Unfortunately, you are not, everyone is doing it.

Think about how many direct competitors you have, now add in all the other businesses in different areas looking to attract the same audience as you. Think about the amount of time your audience is likely to have to digest content. Now think about all the other demands on their attention, from funny cat videos to the latest news headlines. Throw all of it into the mix and you realise that writing a blog piece every now and then is not enough. You must be creating content regularly and it has to resonate with your audience on some level, it has to excite them. It has to be spectacular.

Turn Your Website into Your Own Communications Hub

The objective of inbound marketing is to engage with your audience, not to stand on a soapbox and demand they listen to you. Your website should be a haven for informative, relevant information and your content should have value and be deemed a resource your audience derives value from. Think of it like you are trying to build a relationship with a new friend. You don’t do that by showing off, you do it by talking and listening, showing an interest and demonstrating that you have something in common with them. The same principle applies to inbound marketing and content creation.

If you were asked, you should be able to identify five or ten distinct customer personas without much difficulty. When it comes to content creation, these are the people your content should be directed at. Too many organisations think of their websites like a pulpit from which to disseminate your information to the masses. Instead, think of it more like a group of friends in a bar, everyone has something to say and everyone is willing to listen.

Make it Easy for the User

Once you’ve managed to entice your target audience to your site, you need to ensure you don’t waste that opportunity. Each user will have a different set of motivations and priorities and each will be at a different stage in the buying process. Some might want to get in touch straight away. In this instance, make sure you have contact functionality wherever the user may go. This could be at the end of an article or a live chat function. Equally, they may be on a learning exercise. In which case, make sure related content is being offered to help the user travel around the site and learn more about your organisation and why they should choose you.

If your current site doesn’t assist with providing effective calls to action, get on to your digital agency or in house team and ask them to add it. It shouldn’t take very long or cost very much but if you aren’t offering your audience ways to continue the conversation, you are losing out.

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

We all learn in different ways. Some people respond to rich content and images, some to video, others learn best through hands-on experience.

When it comes to content creation, using a good mix of written features and articles, infographics, imagery, and film is the best way to ensure you reach each type of person and keep them engaged during their time on your website of social media channels. For example, a tweet with an image is likely to achieve twice the level of engagement as those without and according to Forbes Insight, 59 percent of senior executives would rather watch a video than reading text. What’s more, of those, 50 percent of those who viewed an online marketing video went on to make a purchase for their business.

Choose the Right Team

Regardless of whether you’re using an in-house team or looking to work with an agency, make sure you choose wisely. You want a team that truly understands digital, social media and modern marketing and comms channels and tools. They should be excited about what the future holds, how their role can develop and what they can achieve for your business or brand. Inbound marketing is about cutting through the clutter to make your content and activity stand out so don’t be afraid to try new things in your efforts to attract your audience. Not everything will make a positive difference but it might be the secret weapon you’ve been looking for.

Hopefully, this little refresh has helped you see where your current activity could be added to and how by making the effort to understand inbound marketing in more detail, you can make a genuine difference to your organisation’s marketing output.