How did it start?
To explain what inbound marketing is, we need to go back a few years. Do you remember back in the early 2000s when emails started to be the best business tool for sending out advertising? When there were no regulations about who could send you an email? When your mailbox was always full of ads about products you didn’t even want?
Wait? Isn’t that still the case today? Almost! Even though GDPR helped a lot, consumers are still feeling overwhelmed by online ads. They are EVERYWHERE! Not only in your mailbox, but also on google, on social media, and even on your little local favorite blog. But why?
The reason is that companies have started abusing the web to send one-way messages to consumers. Yet, consumers are REALLY tired of that. They started avoiding ads at all costs. They installed AdBlock on their computer. They are watching Netflix or Amazon Prime to avoid commercials when watching TV. They are even asking for more regulations from the government.
But then, how do we reach our customers in 2019? How can we make them aware of what we are offering without being annoying? That’s not as hard as you think. The trick is to let them go to you! That’s exactly what Inbound Marketing is for.
Inbound Marketing: My definition
For me, inbound marketing refers to a strategy that is about getting found organically by (potential) customers, through either social media, search engines or other channels. The term was first used by Halligan & Shah, founders of HubSpot in 2005. Since then, it has been widely used by the marketing community.
Let’s discuss my definition of inbound marketing a bit.
Getting found organically
So, what does “getting found organically” mean? For those who are new to the marketing world, organically means that you did not pay to be found by your consumers. On google, this implies that you will appear as the first, or second search result that is not categorised as an ad. The thing to understand here is that with an inbound marketing strategy, you do not pay to be found. You want to achieve it! You can achieve it by working hard and creating valuable content that will be interesting for your target group.
By (potential) customers
If your marketing is done correctly, you will only be interested in reaching two types of people: your potential customers and your current customers. What do I mean by that? I mean that you don’t want to spend time and energy getting found by consumers that are not, and will never be, interested in what you are offering. That’s why you need a specific target group when starting your marketing process. Later on, you can expend and try to reach more, but at the beginning you should keep it clear and concise. This will really help you.
Through either social media, search engines or other channels
The final part of the definition is about where you want to be found. New companies should focus on social media and search engines in the beginning. Those are the best channels to reach more potential customers. Another great way, when done correctly and in an inbound way, is by email. The biggest channels used when doing Inbound Marketing are online. However, offline channels can also be used.
Now that the definition is clear, let’s see what is included in a successful inbound marketing strategy!
Inbound Marketing: The components
After hours of research, a thesis, and work experience, I came to the conclusion that any successful inbound marketing strategy will include 4 components; content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and email marketing.
Content marketing is without a doubt the most important component of inbound marketing. It is the glue that connects the three other components. The goal here is to create content that will evoke interest in (potential) customers. There are two things that are important to consider when implementing a content marketing strategy.
First, what type of content are your target group interested in? Some target groups are more interested in watching short videos than reading a blog post. The key is to know these preferences and plan accordingly.
The second important thing to consider when creating content is the subjects. What should you talk about? The best subjects are related to something that will help your (potential) customers solve their problems. Of course, it should also be somewhat related to what you are offering. Helping your customers will help develop a relationship between you and them that will be based on trust.
But don’t forget that content marketing is a long-term investment. You will need to create content regularly and for a long period of time for it to work. Yet, when done right, the return on investment of this strategy is proven to be high!
Social Media Marketing
Having a social media marketing strategy is a must to succeed nowadays. Since everyone have smartphones now, people have access to their social media everywhere they go.
You should definitely exploit that, but in an inbound way! Which means that you will need to create awesome content that you will share on your own social media. Hopefully, that content will be so good and useful that your target group will engage with it. By doing so, you will expand your reach and new potential customers will find you.
In the beginning, focus on 2 or 3 social media platforms. To be successful in this strategy, you need to post new interesting content regularly. This means around 3 times a week. Thus, if you have too many accounts, you risk feeling overwhelmed and won’t have time to do it properly.
Search Engine Optimization
The goal of SEO is to increase organic traffic on your website. The aim is to make your website rank as high as possible on the organic search lists of Google. Knowing that more than 75% of Google users click on organic links versus paid links, SEO is a very important component of inbound marketing. To summarize SEO in a few sentences, I’ll divide it in two sections: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO combines all the SEO elements on which you have the power to act directly. It is basically about finding out what your potential customers are searching for on Google. You’ll then optimize your website so that Google will find it relevant and helpful to answer those searches with your website.
Off-page SEO, as opposed to on-page SEO, is a section that is not 100% in your control. The major component in off-page SEO is link building. Link building can be summarized as getting inbound links from other websites. Inbound links lead consumers from other websites to your website, which is really good. But more importantly, they are perceived by search engines as stamps of approval from other websites. In other words, the more other websites link to your website, the more Google will perceive it as trustworthy.
It is very hard to explain SEO in a few small sentences, but I hope you’ll read my future posts about it as it is very important.
Email marketing is the last necessary component of inbound marketing. Email marketing is great for increasing engagement with your audience since it is direct and can be personalized. Moreover, in an email, there is plenty of room for different types of content (text, video, images).
Another great thing is that the recipients can respond to the emails. Emails can also serve as reminders and help drive your subscribers to your new YouTube videos or blog posts, and could also help increasing the traffic on your website.
Creating an effective inbound email marketing strategy is rather time-consuming. It will require patience to grow your subscriber list and to convert your leads into sales. Yet, it can be quite rewarding and deliver better results than an outbound strategy.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that inbound marketing is the way to go nowadays. It can help you grow a long-lasting relationship with your clients. It is also the best way to reach your target group without spending tons of money on annoying advertising. Moreover, it is proven to be great for start-ups and entrepreneurs. Finally, I would say that I feel way better with myself when working with inbound marketing rather than outbound.
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