The Squirrel is always out scouring the WWW for nuts of information to share with his followers on the web. Today, he ran across this article from our friends at HubSpot. It dives into why marketing is moving online, not only because it can be measured, but also because it produces results. The squirrel likes results.
This continues with the age old question, what is better, cold calls, being found on the internet, or customers finding your company. The squirrel is a big component of customers calling on him.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is marketing focused on getting found by customers.
In traditional marketing (outbound marketing) companies focus on finding customers. They use techniques that are poorly targeted and that interrupt people. They use cold-calling, print advertising, T.V. advertising, junk mail, spam and trade shows.
Technology is making these techniques less effective and more expensive. Caller ID blocks cold calls, TiVo makes T.V. advertising less effective, spam filters block mass emails and tools like RSS are making print and display advertising less effective. It’s still possible to get a message out via these channels, but it costs more.
Inbound Marketers flip outbound marketing on its head.
Instead of interrupting people with television ads, they create videos that potential customers want to see. Instead of buying display ads in print publications, they create their own blog that people subscribe to and look forward to reading. Instead of cold calling, they create useful content and tools so that people call them looking for more information.
Instead of driving their message into a crowd over and over again like a sledgehammer, they attract highly qualified customers to their business like a magnet.
The most successful Inbound Marketing campaigns have three key components:
(1) Content – Content is the substance of any Inbound Marketing campaign. It is the information or tool that attracts potential customers to your site or your business.
(2) Search Engine Optimization – SEO makes it easier for potential customers to find your content. It is the practice of building your site and inbound links to your site to maximize your ranking in search engines, where most of your customers begin their buying process.
(3) Social Media – Social media amplifies the impact of your content. When your content is distributed across and discussed on networks of personal relationships, it becomes more authentic and nuanced, and is more likely to draw qualified customers to your site.
Why Inbound Marketing Makes Sense in a Recession
As the economy slows down, companies are turning to Inbound Marketing because it is a more efficient way of allocating marketing resources than traditional, outbound marketing. As our CEO, Brian Halligan, puts it, when you’re inbound marketing, the thickness of your brain matters a lot more than the thickness of your wallet.
There are three specific ways Inbound Marketing improves on the efficiency of traditional marketing:
(1) It Costs Less – Outbound marketing means spending money – either by buying ads, buying email lists or renting huge booths at trade shows. Inbound Marketing means creating content and talking about it. A blog costs nothing to start. A Twitter account is free, too. Both can draw thousands of customers to your site. The marketing ROI from inbound campaigns is higher.
(2) Better Targeting – Techniques like cold-calling, mass mail and email campaigns are notoriously poorly targeted. You’re reaching out to individuals because of one or two attributes in a database. When you do Inbound Marketing, you only approach people who self-qualify themselves. They demonstrate an interest in your content, so they are likely to be interested in your product.
(3) It’s an Investment, Not an Ongoing Expense – When you buy pay-per-click advertising on search engines, its value is gone as soon as you pay for it. In order to maintain a position at the top of Google’s paid results, you have to keep paying. However, if you invest that money in quality content that ranks in Google’s organic results, you’ll be there until somebody displaces you.
The Roots of the Inbound Web
Only in the past year and a half have the technology, the tools and the public’s use of both evolved to the point where Inbound Marketing is practical.
In the early days of the Internet, there was no mainstream marketing. There were lots of experiments but few business buyers and consumers.
In the mid-1990s, as the first Internet bubble grew, companies began to follow their customers online. Tools for independent publishing were weak, so companies’ online presence mirrored their offline presence. They sprayed advertising across mass media sites and prayed a few potential customers would see it.
When the dot-com bubble popped in 2001, marketers began to reassess the effectiveness of the spray-and-pray approach. They saw that consumers and business buyers were starting their purchase process less on mass media sites, and more on search engines. They discovered that in many cases targeted search-engine advertising was far more effective than display advertising on large media sites.
As spending poured into search marketing, a new era of Internet growth began. In addition to changes in Internet marketing, this phase of growth — Web 2.0 — produced significant changes in the way we use the web. It shifted from a read-only platform to one where anybody could publish, connect with friends and share content.
Now, as we enter a new economic downturn, online marketers are using the tools of this new read-write web to become more efficient. They’re using social media, they’re publishing content and they’re optimizing it. They’re becoming Inbound Marketers.
The Inbound-Marketing Secret? Empowerment!
Eight years ago, when the dot-com bubble collapsed, the idea of a single man using great content, social media and search engine optimization to build a New Jersey liquor store into a $50-million-a-year business in the course of two years would have been absurd.
Yet that’s exactly what Gary Vaynerchuk has done since he launched Wine Library TV in 2006.
This is the power of Inbound Marketing.
With the tools that have become mainstream over the last two to three years, the scale of any business can be unlimited. If you have a great product and the skills to communicate with your customers, you can compete with the biggest advertising budgets.
That is exciting, and for small businesses it’s empowering.