There are two main ways of marketing today. Outbound, the more traditional approach, can still generate leads quickly. Inbound, a largely digital-focused approach, is more cost-effective and builds a better audience long-term. This article will explain the differences between the two marketing methods before exploring how to build a strong inbound marketing strategy.
Outbound marketing has many components. These include ads, direct mails, trade shows, seminar series, email blasts, and cold calling. These tactics see the marketer creating a message and reaching out to an audience to see if they’re interested. Emphasis on the “if.” Difficult to measure and effectively target, outbound is often more costly and generates less return on investment (ROI) than an inbound marketing plan.
On the other hand, inbound marketing is focused on getting found by the right people when they are already learning and shopping. For small business owners, inbound is particularly appealing because it can be more affordable. Plus, it is easier to personalize and measure.
An apt analogy shared by Hubspot compares outbound to lions going out into the jungle to hunt for their prey, while an inbound marketing strategy sees the lions strategically waiting by the watering hole for their prey to show up thirsty.
Building an effective inbound marketing strategy draws on a range of elements to bring people to your business. These can include:
- SEO and PPC
- Email Lists
- Content Marketing
- Social Media
- Press Releases and Public Relations
- Landing Pages
SEO and PPC
First, here is an explanation of the acronyms. SEO is search engine optimization, and PPC is pay-per-click. They relate to search and digital advertising. For inbound marketers, search advertising is critical because it means you are providing customers with the information they seek.
Search engines work to understand the user’s intent, and your inbound marketing aims to provide them with the answer to their problem. If you do so successfully, you’ll have strong SEO. More people will come, you’ll gain more search credibility, and the cycle perpetuates itself.
Top SEO strategies include:
- Strategic keywords
- Topic clusters
- Optimized page load speed
- Mobile-friendly website
Your inbound marketing plan can include paid search and paid social. Top channels for this approach are Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. But being smart about where to spend your digital ad spend will depend on evaluating trends and determining where you can find your audience. A professional services firm, for instance, might have more success on LinkedIn. A home catering company might target Instagram more.
Ok, we mentioned email as an outbound marketing tool too. How does that make sense? Well, outbound emails are sent out to potential buyers whether or not they have expressed an interest in receiving the communication. The best outbound marketers base their efforts on educated guesses.
However, on the inbound side, email marketing is targeted to someone who has already expressed interest. They may have signed up for a newsletter or filled out a form to download some of your content marketing (that’s next). So, the marketer has a better idea that their email campaign is targeting an interested audience.
The inbound marketer takes the time to segment email lists. The lists avoid sending “one-size-fits-all” campaigns. Instead, the marketer considers what the recipient is interested in, who they are, and where they are thought to be in their buying journey.
Content marketing is another big umbrella element of an inbound approach. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as: “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
An inbound marketing strategy won’t get too far without content. For SEO and PPC to work, you’ll need engaging content. Content marketing benefits your audience (potential and loyal buyers) by offering tangible value and relevance.
A successful content marketing strategy depends on your business understanding its purpose and goals, audience, and unique brand story. You can’t just publish content for the sake of churning out content, notes Hubspot’s content manager Christina Perricone. “To positively impact your audience and your bottom line, your content must be tied to your business.”
Want to see some great content marketing examples? Check out CMI’s 40 examples e-book.
Social media has its own wide variety of tactics. You’ll need to start by establishing a presence on the top social channels. Then, you can make a difference with social media by:
- Social listening
- Direct messaging
- Using hashtags
- Posting videos
- Offering augmented reality
- Posting user-generated content
One big piece of advice for 2021? Stop using social media as a broadcast channel. It’s been said before, but it’s becoming even more essential that businesses engage with their audience on social channels.
Blogging is one way inbound marketers attract audiences. The blog isn’t typically going to convert someone, but it will bring them to your site for the information they need. Blog posts let you begin a relationship with a prospect who might never have heard of your business before. Plus, you can use those blogs as a way to capture leads by having calls to action for your landing pages, e-books, infographics, or other content marketing.
Not much of a wordsmith? Hire a professional writer to give your brand a voice. Ideally, with an image every 75-100 words, according to research. And keep it at an average of 1,151 words. Read these other statistics to learn more about blogging success.
Press Releases and Public Relations
Typically, PR is associated with outbound. It’s about getting media coverage and publicity. You’ll write a press release or put together a press kit and pitch newspapers, magazines, TV, or radio. In the digital age, you’ll also publish your press releases online and send them to bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, and any social media influencer.
Yet, PR can be an important cog in the inbound marketing wheel. After all, PR needs content just as inbound marketing does. Social media and blogging can be tied to PR campaigns to expand reach. Plus, the public relations effort can help establish thought leadership and SEO if you optimize for search and integrate the PR campaign with the rest of your inbound strategy.
The landing page is the destination where your audience member goes to download your engaging content. Landing pages offer concise, quickly scannable text and mobile-friendly images. The significant role they play is in having a form the interested customer fills out to download your offering.
The form is where you get the email and other details you need to shape your inbound marketing to their individual needs. The best landing page forms:
- Only ask for information you must have
- Have a carefully crafted call to action (CTA)
- Are easy to navigate
- Use buttons or drop-downs to avoid typing
Now, You’re Ready For Inbound
Inbound is gaining ground as the go-to marketing strategy, especially for small business owners and start-ups. You can generate leads, increase sales, build brand loyalty, and engage an audience by taking a crack at any of these elements in an inbound marketing strategy.
Inbound marketing demands an online presence with a solid business website with fresh design, new content, web pages, annual redesigns, and more. Adding an inbound approach to your marketing efforts doesn’t have to be complicated. This article has shared key components of a strong inbound marketing strategy to get you started successfully.