Wednesday, 10 February 2016

What Is Inbound Marketing?

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Julie and I gave a talk to a group of 50 business people in Aberdeen recently. The subject was How to Generate Leads From Your Website. Of course, our talk was really about Inbound Marketing but we had a hunch that wouldn't strike a chord with our audience. At the start of the session and to test that theory I asked the question, "Who's heard the term inbound marketing?"; no-one raised their hand. So, what is inbound marketing?

First, What's Outbound Marketing?

To put some context on our explanation of inbound marketing, it's probably worth giving a quick overview of its polar opposite, outbound marketing. If you're already clued up on this you can skip right on by.

Outbound marketing is the kind of marketing most people have been exposed to. It's TV adverts, newspaper adverts, radio adverts and so on. In essence, outbound marketing interrupts people who are doing something else, such as watching a film on TV or reading a magazine. Although it's been very effective and remains reasonably so, many argue its days are numbered and it's getting harder to get a decent return on investments.

The statistics suggest in 2016 it's going to be harder than ever to attract new customers by interrupting them. Perhaps it's time to look at the alternative. So, what is inbound marketing?

Inbound Marketing in a Nutshell

Having established in simple terms what outbound marketing is, the easy answer to the question what is inbound marketing is to say it's any marketing activity that doesn't interrupt people. It's about activities that bring customers to you instead of you going after them. It removes the need to guess where they are going to be, for example in front of their televisions, and it removes the need to rent some space in order to put your message and products in front of them!

In very simple terms outbound marketing tends to rent the space it occupies whereas inbound marketing owns it. In order to reinforce that let's explore it by looking at an example.

Outbound Marketing Rents Space

Because outbound marketing interrupts people who are doing something else, it generally needs to rent that space. Think about an advert in your local paper, you pay for it, it might be seen by someone who's interested, it might not.

Inbound Marketing Owns Space

Many purchases today start with a Google™ search. Setting aside paid search results such as Google AdWords™, the results that people see in Google are effectively owned by the websites appearing there. They've earned their Google rankings by having great websites and great web pages. Another business with a big wallet can't simply buy that space off Google, they have to earn it. In other words, they need to own it.

Think About How You Made Your Last Big (or small) Ticket Purchase

I'm currently considering a big ticket purchase, an electronic drum kit that retails for around £3k. The price of this kit is pretty much the same wherever you look; my decision of where to buy it is not based on price. At this stage, I'm still confused about which model to buy and I'm researching this by reading articles/blogs and watching review videos.

Now, guess which retailer is at the top of my list for the actual purchase? Right, the one who has fantastic product reviews and videos, the one who's helped me better understand the differences between the models, the one who has helped me and not just sold to me. They're doing inbound marketing.

So, What Is Inbound Marketing?

Hopefully by now I've got the message across that where outbound marketing sells to people, inbound helps people. This act of helping builds trust and where there's trust there's potential for doing business. Thinking about your own website for a moment, how much of its content is helpful and how much is overtly trying to sell?

Many companies have websites that do little more than tell the world how great they are. "We're the best..", "We're the cheapest..", "We're the biggest..." etc. Is that going to cut it today when people have at their fingertips the most amazing reseach tool ever known? I doubt it.

If you want to chat about your website and how it might be made more effective why not book an SEO Coffee Break, we'll do a lot more than just talk about search engine optimisation!

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