Many who keep abreast of the sweeping changes in the marketing field are familiar with the term inbound marketing. Here's the latest Google Trends report on inbound marketing:
But beyond the "marketing insider" echo chamber, awareness and understanding of inbound marketing drops off precipitously. In truth, most business owners and managers are not familiar with the term and how it can benefit their business. Here's an overview.
But first, some historical context.
Marketing has changed a lot in recent years simply because the way people buy has changed.
In a B2B buying situation, a study by the Corporate Executive Board found that buyers are now 57%-70% through their purchase before they first contact the seller.
People have always hated being marketed to, and in recent years they have been able to tune out more and more unwelcome marketing messages.
These days, consumers can avoid a lot more marketing messages than before. For that we can thank DVRs, satellite radio, MP3 players, Caller ID, Do Not Call Lists, Do Not Mail Lists, CAN-SPAM legislation, Internet ad pop up blockers and RSS readers.
And the ability to tune out marketing messages is not going away:
• 86% of the population skips TV ads
• 91% have unsubscribed from email lists
• 44% of direct mail is never opened
• Over 200 million phone numbers are on the Do Not Call List
In marketing, one of the biggest shifts created by the Internet is from space to attention.
As a result, attention has become the core constraint of marketing. That's why great content, rather than money, is now the coin of the realm in marketing.Marketers Now Need To Think Like Publishers
We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in. ~Craig Davis
And this brings us to inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is a philosophy rooted in the idea that people value personalized, relevant content – not interruptive messages.
The inbound methodology is about helping brands attract, convert, close and delight visitors, leads and customers through a variety of channels like social media, blogging, SEO and email. In essence inbound marketing pulls customers to your company instead of shouting at them with interruptive messages.
One of the leading inbound marketing software companies, HubSpot, has boiled down the inbound marketing process into four key areas: 1) Attract 2) Convert 3) Close 4) Delight.
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is about getting found online, converting a visitor to a lead, and then measuring, analyzing and iterating to refine the process and improve the results.
Marketers are publishing useful, helpful and even entertaining content about solutions to the problems for which their prospective customers are searching online. Keyword research and SEO are a part of this and blogging is the primary method of publishing the information. Social media is used to help spread their content and attract more traffic.
Once on a site, a visitor is offered something valuable related to their research (like an ebook) in return for their email address and contact information.
Now with permission granted, the marketer continues to offer helpful information via email on a regular basis to the prospective customer. If there’s a fit, the prospect takes the marketers “digital hand” as they are guided through their buying experience.
How are they guided through the buying process? Primarily with two things:
Does it work? According to HubSpot’s annual State of Inbound Marketing Report, companies who are increasing their inbound marketing budgets are enjoying a lower cost per lead, shortening their sales cycles and increasing their sales close rates.
Graphics credit: Corporate Executive Board and HubSpot