What is Inbound Marketing?

There’s a lot of talk about Inbound Marketing versus Outbound Marketing these days, and more and more people are asking me what the difference is between the two. As there seems to be a fair bit of confusion, I figured it was worth putting together a blog (an Inbound Marketing tool), as well as some really useful links to great articles that should help.

Inbound marketing is the art of earning the attention of your intended audience, including making yourself easily found, by drawing customers to your Website with cracking content. The sort of content includes blogs, whitepapers, eNewsletters, ebooks, videos, podcasts and social media commentary – which includes contributing opinions on other blogs and joining in conversations, such as LinkedIn groups – to name a few. Inbound marketing also includes SEO (as this is part of being easily found) so having an effective SEO strategy is core to success. Fundamentally, Inbound Marketing exists because of the proliferation of social media and its influence, as well as the comprehensive way we now communicate through the Web – essentially Web 2.0.

Outbound marketing is the more traditional marketing – such as cold calling, telemarketing, advertising, press releases, product brochures, and so on.

If you look at the Wikipedia definition, “inbound marketing was defined by three phases: Get found, Convert and Analyze. A newer model illustrates the concept in five stages:

  1. Attract Traffic
  2. Convert visitors to leads
  3. Convert leads to sales
  4. Turn customers into repeat higher margin customers
  5. Analyze for continuous improvement”

Inbound Marketing is where you “earn” your stripes, by providing prospects with awesome information relevant to helping them solve a problem, which over time, makes them loyal to your brand. The core strategy with Inbound Marketing, as I see it, is to ensure the information you produce is focused on a prospects’ challenges. It is not about what product or service your company offers, but about how you understand your customer.

When developing great Inbound Marketing content, ask yourself this question – what challenges are my customers/prospects facing – not just the ones I solve, but all challenges? If you can identify these challenges, then create a content marketing campaign to help them solve them. It’s about feeding them with information they want, which gets them coming to your site, and ultimately making them act – i.e. buying your product or services. Essentially, big business today is starting to claim it’s in the story telling business – with Cisco and Coca Cola in the lead – so now you’ve got to work out how to get your organisation on board, and how you deliver it.

Off the Top of my Head

Here’s an example I heard recently. A number of banks in Asia have told a colleague in the digital media arena that they want to launch a blog but don’t know what content to include. As I’ve said, Inbound Marketing isn’t just about blogging, but in this specific case, here’s a few ideas off the top of my head these banks could blog about:

  • Independent investment advice in Asia, maybe specifically focusing on new opportunities, such as Myanmar?
  • Retirement advice
  • Holiday destinations in Asia – luxury, family, and for the financially strapped
  • Mortgage advice
  • What the global economy means to you
  • Luxury goods reviews – focusing on high wealth customers
  • Major events of interest to customers – The Grand Prix, Major sales, Concerts, etc…
  • Student vlogs  
  •  SME strategies for success
  • Etc, etc, etc..

These stories could be segmented by customer audience – i.e. large business customers, SMEs, high wealth individuals, normal customers, students, etc.. And of course, as far as topics go, I could go on.

In the case of B2B, I believe it is the same. What challenges are your target market facing? How can you help them overcome these challenges? My advice, educational content discussing how they can overcome core issues should be the primary goal of your Inbound Marketing campaign – even if your company does not offer a solution for these challenges. You are building loyalty and appreciation with prospects – something that goes a very long way today.

Cost and Time

The fundamental challenge of inbound marketing is cost and time. The time it takes to create the relevant content, as well as the cost of production, is seen by many, as prohibitive. The next objection is typically – but we don’t have the people to write the stories! No problem.

There are lots of terrific freelance writers/journalists looking for work, and you could partner with leading digital and traditional publications to contribute content as well. Also find the great bloggers in your market, writing on topics relevant to your customers and publish their content on your site. They’ll appreciate the extra dollars as well as the awareness it will get for them. If students are a target for your business (today or in the future) get them to run a competition, videoing the results – the top 10 get included on your site and the winner gets a prize. There are many ways it can be managed, with a little bit of imagination. The important thing is to start thinking like a publishing house – because that is what the future is about. Making your business a one-stop-shop for useful information that will help your customers enjoy a better life!

If you’re still not convinced, I think the statistics are proof enough, including the issue of cost. These stats are all from HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report:

Cost and Budget Statistics

  • Inbound leads cost per lead 61% less than outbound leads.
  • The average cost-per-lead for outbound-dominated businesses is $346.
  • The average cost-per-lead for inbound-dominated businesses is $135.
  • 89% of businesses are either maintaining or increasing their inbound marketing budgets.
  • The average budget spent on company blogs and social media increased from 9% in 2009 to 21% in 2012.
  • The average budget spent on telemarketing decreased from 10% to 5% in 2012.
  • In 2012, small businesses plan to spend 43% of their budgets on inbound marketing, while large businesses plan to spend 21%.
  • In 2012, small businesses are only giving 14% of their budget to outbound, while large businesses are allocating 33%.
  • In 2012, small businesses plan to spend dramatically more of their budgets on social media and blogs than large businesses.

Lead Quality and Sales Statistics

  • 57% of companies with a blog have acquired a customer from their blog.
  • 92% of companies who blog multiple times per day have acquired a customer from their blog.
  • 62% of companies using LinkedIn have acquired a customer from the network.
  • 70% of marketers indicate that they blog at least weekly.
  • 77% of B2C companies report that they have acquired a customer through Facebook.
  • 65% of B2B companies report that they have acquired a customer through LinkedIn.

What’s Important to Marketers

  • 62% of companies report that social media has become MORE important as a source of leads.
  • 51% of companies reported that direct mail has become LESS important as a source of leads.
  • 25% of marketers report that their company blog is “critical” to their business.
  • Over 40% of marketers report that Google+ is useful to critical for their business.
  • 81% of businesses reported that their company blog is useful to critical for their business.

Examples and Resources

One of the great content marketing companies is HubSpot who have both defined the term – Inbound Marketing – and use it extensively in all that they do. Here is a HubSpot blog discussing Inbound Vs Outbound Marketing, and it is definitely worth signing up for its blog and marketing literature – especially if you are a content marketer, or want to know more about it.

The Content Marketing Institute, who published one of my articles recently, also provides great information on this topic. If you’re struggling to get buy-in from the top, this article is great “Explaining Content Marketing to the C-Suite,” as well as an interview with Marcus Sheridan “No Excuses Content Marketing” – also a worthwhile read.

For more insight, here’s an article that appeared on Mashable, another on Business2Community, and one from my old colleague, Chris Fell, in Australia of g2mSolutions.

Plenty of great information to get you going right?

So is Inbound Marketing a focus area for your business? Let me know?



6 thoughts on “What is Inbound Marketing?”

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