Monday, 2 September 2013

The Wonders of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a truly wonderful concept. It's so potentially powerful and effective to leverage for businesses that it can easily outperform traditional outbound marketing methods with a fraction of the cost. So then why don't all businesses harness this tool and why are most people unfamiliar with the term? I'll try to demystify this priceless concept in this article.

For starters, let's first look at what constitutes the 'old way' of how companies market their products:
  • Traditional marketing (also called outbound marketing) is a 'push-based' system that uses paid methods like TV ads, direct mail, cold calling (synonymous with telemarketing) and trade shows to bring attention to the minds of potential leads. 
  • It's often costly, out of the control of the paying company and generally hard to measure in terms of effectiveness and response.
  • Communication is usually one-way
  • Customers are sought out (often without permission)
  • Marketers are not motivated to educate and entertain
In contrast, the 'new way' of marketing products deals with:
  • The careful use of online tools and technologies like SEO marketing, content management, email marketing, video/podcast management, RSS feeds and social media engagement.
  • It's cheap, easily to implement and can be more readily measured and tracked
  • Communication is interactive and two-way
  • Customers approach YOU through search engines, social media and referrals
  • Marketers are more motivated to educate and entertain

So what are some of the tools used in inbound marketing and how can they improve your site's traffic/online sales?

  1. SEO methods aim to improve a site's visibility on the pages of a search engine with inbound marketing companies actively seeking to rank their pages higher based on their keyword sets. 
  2. Content management deals with generating fresh, unique and interesting content for visitors to the site in the form of web articles, blog posts, infographics, ebooks or other value-added content. It's often meant to educate and entertain and is also the best way to organically improve your SEO ranking.
  3. Different from the more traditional cold selling email blasts, I'm talking about the careful use of newsletters and bulletins within your site. It's a great way to ensure that visitors are constantly returning back to read new and relevant content, establish relationships as well as potentially convert leads into customers.
  4. Nowadays it seems that people are more interested in learning through watching than by reading. Therefore, by embedding relevant videos (Youtube, Vimeo, etc) into your site or by uploading regularly-updated podcasts, you can reach out to the new generation and keep them hooked and coming back for more.
  5. Probably the cheapest and most effective means of inbound marketing today is the use of social networking sites to drive traffic to your site. By regularly updating your Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Linkedin, Pinterest or Reddit accounts, you can better solidify relationships with both existing and potential customers and clients.

As I've outlined, in stark contrast to traditional outbound marketing that relies heavily on 'pushing' goods and services to the customer's doorstep, inbound marketing is subtle and requires the customer to be 'pulled' to the company. The very foundation is reversed on its head.

Today the very paradigm of how businesses do business is different. Before, companies were in control, but now, it's the user that has greater control and are themselves actively involved in content creation and publication. The lines are becoming increasingly blurred.

Inbound marketing is here to stay and is rapidly becoming an essential tool for any business with an online presence. It's a brave new world in the marketing arena where change is the only constant, so if you are a budding blogger/webmaster/freelancer that can't adjust to the changing dynamics, then you'll find yourself quickly eating everyone else's dust and losing steam.

Don't fall behind, embrace the inbound marketing wave!

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