You probably figured out that our last blog post was laying the foundation to the real star of our story, inbound marketing. Traditional marketing, during it’s long decline, is transforming into digital marketing, and the cornerstone of that is inbound.
Inbound marketing is exactly what it sounds like: people coming to you for your business instead of you having to go out to get them. While this is a revolutionary idea, a lot of the groundwork for true success is the same as traditional marketing.
Know your audience
Just like the old models, you need to know who your target market is. Positively identify their pain and the types of solutions that you have for them, but probably more importantly now, you also need to identify their demographics and habits more completely.
Let’s say in the old model you were selling luxury cars. You’d research where the people who could afford your car lived, and you would devise an advertising campaign around that. You’d target their favorite television channels, you’d buy billboards in their area, you’d devise a postal campaign to blanket their geographical area, and then you’d wait. And wait. And probably wait some more. In the end, you’d get maybe one out of a thousand pieces of advertising done, one out of ten thousand (or more) viewers.
In an inbound marketing model, you still do that research, but you’re able to get much more granular. You want to know the average age of a person interested in luxury cars, their dominant gender, their common work industries, their family format, and their credit habits. You want to know what features are important to them, how often they look for new vehicles, what brands they’ve purchased or even looked at in the past. With this knowledge, you start a careful campaign of blog posts (to leverage yourself as an authority and go-to source on all things relating to luxury cars), social media presences (discussing issues luxury car owners frequently encounter), videos describing different features and performances of luxury cars, and a continuing path that doesn’t just sell someone a luxury car – it walks them down a carefully designed path that educates them on why your luxury brand is better than anyone else’s and presents the final sales process to them in a neatly wrapped package with minimal obstacles to closing the sale.
But how does your customer find you in the first place? This is the “inbound” part: they were already looking for a luxury car.
The SEO (search engine optimization) that should always be a natural and critical part of your marketing efforts is set up to reach your customers more quickly and more readily than anyone else. They’ve already started researching for their purchase, or maybe they’ve seen an advertisement elsewhere and wanted to look up a feature. Because they’ve already expressed interest in luxury cars, if you inbound marketing does its job, you’re already half-way to the sale: selling something to someone who already wants to buy is always going to be more effective than trying to convince someone who has no previous thought of it.
Calculating the ROI
Calculating the ROI in the traditional manner was (mostly) purely a mathematical process. This many dollars were spent on advertising over this amount of time, and these many sales were made. If you were lucky (and you asked them nicely), people would tell you where they found out about you. This many dollars went in, and that many dollars came out. The process of A/B testing could take weeks or months, depending on what kinds of advertising you were doing, and the average lifespan of a campaign meant that one small mistake could take months or years to go away.
When we talk about inbound marketing, there are vastly more data points to consider, but that also gives us an enormous amount of control over our success. A/B testing is tracked on a daily basis in some cases, and campaigns can easily be limited to only a few weeks, if you like. When you purchase paid advertising on social media channels, you’re also purchasing concrete numbers on how many people potentially saw your advert, how many people clicked on it, how many people engaged with it. Because the majority of the customer’s journey happens in the virtual realm, everything is traceable.
As we talk about actual costs, though, this is where the model really differs the most. In both the traditional model and the inbound model, you have to have trained professionals working on your behalf to create your content through an agency, contractors, or an in-house department (or, frequently, a combination of all them). In both models, these teams create a variety of materials that all speak to one another – a consistent message is vital, no matter what the channel. The difference is that traditional advertising is kind of a one-shot deal for any given campaign whereas inbound marketing requires a lot of time and upkeep. You’re building relationships, not just selling things.
After that, though, the money goes in vastly different directions. You’re not paying for 30-second slots during the Big Game, you’re paying for this many thousands of people to see your advert in their own online environment. You’re not paying for a million pieces of post to go out to (ultimately) the one hundred people who will actually visit your shop, you’re paying for preferential treatment in search results for people who already want to buy your stuff.
You’ll end up spending less on advertising and more on customer experience, but you’ll get a lot more business out of it.
It’s not “if”, it’s “when” inbound marketing happens
There may be, in some parallel universe, a place where traditional marketing is hanging on, and maybe there are little pockets of mostly-rural regions where it might still work, but for the extremely vast majority of businesses, it’s crucial to recognize and move more towards the inbound model.
When you ask the average person on the street about their pet peeves, at some point advertising comes up. They use ad-blockers, they fast-forward through commercials, they throw away junk mail without even looking at it. A lot of traditional advertising methods are just noise now, and more and more people are ignoring it. You have to be really clever to get people’s attention anymore, and that’s an awful lot of pressure – and you have an awful lot of competition.
By making the move to an inbound marketing model, you are shifting your focus from talking about your product to speaking with your customer. This isn’t just a great way to build loyalty – it’s also a vital source of information on how and when to improve your own product or service.
The secret super-power of inbound marketing is that it’s not just easier to sell to your customers – it can make you a better business.