People now shop and learn in a fundamentally different way than they had ten years ago, simply put they are turning to the Internet to seek out products and information, usually starting with Google or another search engine, or by seeking out advice from friends on social sites. Inbound marketing may be a relatively new concept to most, but with the rise of the Internet it has become something that every marketing professional must have a strong grasp on, otherwise you’ll be letting potential customers fly right by your offering for another. As consumers have become more adept at avoiding traditional “interruption” or outbound marketing, marketers and communication professionals have had to find new ways reaching and attracting customers and donors, effectively “pulling” people in by making the right strategic moves and creating lots of “remarkable” content, after that those relationships need to be cultivated effectively and genuinely.
Inbound marketing is a science, and doing it right is hard work. It requires a deep understanding of your customers, demographically and behaviorally, it requires lots of testing, and of course it requires lots of great content. Suddenly it’s no longer about how big your marketing budget is, you can do a lot to get the word out by making the right moves on the inbound side of the equation. In the posts that follow I’ll explore the various areas of inbound marketing from a high level, doing my best to explain where they fit into the puzzle and some tips for making your inbound efforts more effective.
The 10,000 foot view…
There are now over 100 million blogs on the web right now, and counting. They have become an important source of information for millions of people. As traditional industry trade publications are losing subscribers many of the industry experts who once wrote for them now have their own blogs that are quite good. If your organization isn’t actively managing a blog related to your industry/cause now is the time to start. Many stakeholders have a tough time envisioning how a blog can actually be leveraged to help bring in more web visitors, and ultimately more conversions, of course they like what they hear but remain skeptical when it comes time to allocating resources. The reality is that blogging can establish your organization as a thought leader in your industry, help with SEO rankings, and allow your customers and prospects to engage with you as opposed to being hit constantly with sales messaging, effectively changing your website from an online brochure to a living hub for your marketplace.
Social media has certainly produced a lot of hype lately, I’d bet a day doesn’t go by that you don’t hear someone talking about it on the news, at work, or even at the dinner table. From a marketing standpoint it may be the most misunderstand channel at your disposal. Some executives see it as a “free” place to promote their products or services, while others don’t even try to connect the dots at all. Both outlooks are potentially disastrous. So what is social media? Wikipedia defines social media as “Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.” That’s pretty accurate. From a marketing standpoint it’s about connecting online and building relationships by sharing information. If you have nothing of value to offer in the social media space than it is not going to be a successful channel for you to pursue.
Search engine marketing is now the great equalizer in marketing, by following best-practices for optimizing your site and generating remarkable content you can compete for the top spots in the major search engines with the biggest names in your industry. Google and the other search engines have changed the way we go about finding information on just about any topic. According to ComScore1 Americans conducted over 16 billion searches in June of 2010 with Google accounting for over 10 billion or 62.3% of that search volume. Enough said. If you’re not paying close attention to your search rankings or leveraging PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on the major search engines your losing valuable web traffic and perhaps thousands of potential customers.
Of course, inbound marketing is far more than just blogging, social media, and search engine marketing, but these channels make up the core of what inbound marketing is. If you can master these areas you will be well on your way to becoming an inbound marketing ninja. In posts that follow I’ll explore these area in depth and hopefully provide some useful tips that can help you choose the right strategy to meet your marketing goals.