When you think of marketing, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It might be commercials that you wish you could fast forward through, or pop-up ads on a website that have you looking for the X. Isn’t there a different way? As an inbound marketing agency in Dallas, we believe there’s a better way to reach people in the ways they want to be reached.
Inbound marketing is all about creating a valuable experience for prospects and customers, providing them with the solutions and answers that they’re seeking out — not the ones you’re forcing on them. It’s focused on putting out tools and resources designed to draw potential customers, and then engaging that audience, providing value and meeting their needs.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is focused on pushing out a business offering, traditionally through paid media opportunities. This might mean traditional offline advertising, PPC campaigns or display advertising. In the outbound marketing world, the loudest and most annoying voices are often the ones that are heard, because they are the only ones that can cut through the noise. It’s in this world that inbound marketing became the preferred method of both content creators and customers.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
The difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing can be thought of as the difference between seeking permission to engage with potential customers and intruding in order to engage with potential customers.
Outbound marketing latches onto a piece of media with a large following — a TV show, print publication or a website, for example — and then interrupts that media with ads. The idea is that a small percentage of the listening or reading group will engage with the interruption and become a customer. Much of the work here involves studying the demographics of the media-consuming audience and trying to predict what your potential customers will be watching or doing, and hoping that you’ll capture enough conversions to make your marketing effort worth it.
More traditional forms of outbound marketing include TV commercials, radio advertisements, direct mail or newspaper ads. Common digital forms of outbound marketing include paid search and social media advertising.
The alternative is inbound marketing, which is based on two separate ideas. The first idea is that you communicate with potential customers on platforms where the audience has given you permission to communicate or is actively seeking out communication. This includes things like subscription-based emails, social media followers or subscribers to your blog. While the audience may not be as large as the one you’d reach with a traditional method of outbound marketing, it’s a higher quality audience because everyone in this group wants to be in communication with you.
The second idea is that to effectively execute an inbound marketing strategy, you must answer the questions that potential customers are asking and then put them in places where they can be found by the people looking for them. In this case, your audience size is essentially unlimited — as long as you can reach them. This is where ideas such as search engine optimization, backlink research, keyword targeting, content marketing and more come into play.
We mentioned above that to create an effective inbound marketing campaign, you not only need to answer the questions that your customers are asking, but you also have to put them in places that your customers can find. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing come into play. In short, SEO can be described as the method of increasing both the quantity and quality of the traffic coming to your website through search engines, typically geared toward Google.
There are many facets of SEO, ranging from the basic to the complex. The first step comes from creating a compelling content strategy, which will inform the type of content you’ll create for your blog, email lists or social media accounts.
How to create your content marketing plan? Start with keyword research. Knowing which keywords are popular helps inform you the type of content that your customers are looking for, and can help you craft the type of topics you want to cover and questions you want to answer. There are many different avenues an inbound marketing team can take when performing keyword research, including searching trends, historical data from Google and long tail keywords. This part of the content planning process will help you discover the exact keywords, phrases or questions that people are using to search online.
Something else that will help you figure out what people are talking about is a concept called social listening, which helps you track and analyze conversations happening online in your industry. This can help you hone in on what your customers are saying about you and about your competitors. Social listening is a two-step process in which you monitor social media channels to find relevant mentions, and then analyze that information to determine actionable next steps.
A final step in the research phase is doing backlink research, which is an analysis of not only your own backlinks but also those of your competitors. This will help you understand the latest trends and linking opportunities that might be available to you and help you further hone your content strategy. Good backlink research should provide insight into what you are doing well and what you need to work harder on.
Once you have a content strategy in place, it’s time to actually create the content. This isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, as there are many different things to consider. Should you go for quantity or quality? How much content do you need to create? What are the best mediums for your content? How can you become a content hub in your industry?
In today’s world, SEO isn’t about “gaming the system”; Google and other search engines are simply too smart for such a strategy to work for long. It’s all about creating quality content that people want to read, link to and share with people they know. The major trend on this front is a focus on long-form content.
Long-form content (more than 2,000 words) typically performs better than shorter content for many reasons and should be a main focus for any website that is looking to be seen as a reliable website authority in their chosen field. In recent years, search engines have rewarded long-form content with better search ranking positions, rewarding the hard work and research that comes with creating long-form content.
Long-form content helps any brand be seen as a subject matter expert or a thought leader on a given topic, which gives you more credibility and drives more organic traffic. In addition to higher search engine rankings, long-form content is more likely to be shared via social media. If a post is filled with helpful information that the reader finds useful or trustworthy, they will be much more likely to share it via social media, which can create a wildfire effect.
In addition to driving more traffic, long-form content has the added benefit of building reader trust, which is usually even more important than the traffic boost. When a reader finds something that offers useful information that they can act upon or share, it generates value and goodwill that will make the reader more likely to check out more of your content or products in the future.
Another popular strategy is to create what’s called skyscraper content, which starts with finding an already well-received and popular piece of content in your industry. Then, you find a new spin on this content by repurposing it in a new medium, getting better statistics or creating a better way to transmit the information. Once that content is created, you can reach out to some of the people who linked to the original piece, since you know that it’s a topic they are already interested in.
Finally, creating your content marketing plan is to always be experimenting, whether it’s by using different platforms, media or methods of getting your message out. Infographics (see below) are a very popular add-on for content, as they easily highlight key points and make content more shareable.
Another example is video marketing, which is currently in high demand due to the fact that many users like to listen to their content rather than read it, especially on voice-activated devices such as smart speakers. Creating high-quality content that is both written in long-form and expressed through video marketing can help you reach different subsets of customers who may be interested in your brand, but prefer to get their information through different mediums.
In the end, successful content marketing is all about creating share-worthy content that earns links and citations and provides value for the person consuming the information. If you do this, your business will grow and you will create content that your potential customers will find.
Once your name is out there, you might begin to think you that your digital marketing job is done. However, this is when reputation management comes into the picture. Reputation management, as you would expect, has everything to do with influencing and controlling your reputation online.
All of that SEO and keyword research doesn’t mean anything if you have a negative reputation in the marketplace or if people will be turned off of your business even if they do find you. An effective reputation management strategy makes your happiest customers also become your most vocal customer and ensures that when your potential customers do find you, they will see positive reviews and want to do business with you.
It is important to collect your customers’ information in order to measure their satisfaction and build a relationship with them. From there, you can work to get your happy customers to write reviews of your business while listening to the complaints or issues from customers who did not have a positive experience. Both sides of the coin will help you build and maintain a positive reputation in the digital world.
Another potential avenue here is called influencer marketing, which is a marketing strategy in which influential people promote your products or brands. This works when you can properly identify both your target market and the people who might be influencing them. While in the past, this might have mostly occurred via television commercials or radio spots, this form of marketing is now very common on social media as well.
Maintaining active and engaging social media accounts is hugely beneficial for reaching customers and cultivating your reputation — especially if you are targeting a younger audience. Potential customers will look at your social media accounts, and if those accounts are active and keep their interest, they will see you as a company or brand they want to give their business to.
The final key to helping your customers find you is making sure that your website is properly optimized for Google search engines, and that you have created a good user experience on your website once they find you. One important aspect in both respects is ensuring that your site loads quickly. You can use Google’s PageSpeed tool to make sure that your site’s load time is as fast as possible. Not only will a slow load time lead to penalization from Google, but it will also create a negative user experience.
Another factor that is more important than ever is building a website that is mobile-friendly. If you don’t like the way your site looks and interacts on mobile, your digital marketing team can help tweak it to create a positive user experience.
Finally, there are a few more technical terms that can help Google find you, especially when it comes to the relevant terms that you hope to be found for. This includes things such as fixing meta descriptions and title tags, which inform search engines about your content. This can also include housekeeping items such as checking your site for broken links and fixing them. There are many small technical details that Google likes to see that can help your site if done right — or penalize your site if they are done wrong.
In the end, any inbound marketing campaign and strategy will be a long-term strategy. It can be a labor-intensive process to plan, implement and then refine your strategy through constant testing. At times, success can be difficult to measure, and you will need to be clear up front about what you are trying to achieve and how you will track your progress. But when your inbound marketing strategy is working, it can provide massive value well into the future once you put the pieces in place to succeed.
Inbound marketing helps you reach your customers in ways they want to be reached, building trust with them from the first moment you interact. It puts the tools in place to allow your customers come to you, rather than interrupting their experience to reach them. This can offer better return on investment and customer satisfaction than outbound marketing techniques.
This is why inbound marketing has become the smartest digital marketing strategy in the internet age.