Marketing is all about making your brand (and your products) more visible to a wider audience. For decades, it referred to a series of intensive, action-based, outbound tactics designed to grab new consumers’ attentions. Advertising was almost synonymous with marketing, and marketers constantly searched for new ways to go out and grab new customers.
Many of these tactics, such as direct mail marketing, TV ads, and radio spots can still be effective, but the best marketing strategy today isn’t even really marketing at all. Instead of focusing on reaching out to buyers, it’s about letting buyers come to you, while maximizing their ability to do so — a reversal of the natural order that both brands and consumers can find acceptable.
So why has modern marketing deviated so far from the traditional model, and how can you take advantage of this?
Modern Distrust of Corporations and Advertising
First, you have to understand the average consumer’s distrust of corporations and advertising. Today’s buyers have seen major corporations coax the onset of a full-fledged financial crisis and spark a major outcry against income inequality. Consumers are also bombarded with more advertisements than ever before, all of which are intended to get people to buy something. As a result, they’ve developed a healthy distrust of corporate brands and advertising in general. They feel that modern corporations are faceless, and have ulterior motives that prevent them from doing what’s actually in the consumer’s best interest. As a result, the return on traditional marketing and advertising strategies has declined.
Today’s consumers also have access to more information than ever before. One quick Google search can tell you everything you need to know about the products you’re looking for, the brands that offer them, and even what considerations you should bear in mind before finalizing a decision. Because of this, more than 81 percent of consumers conduct online research before buying anything. This simultaneously weakens the traditional model of marketing and advertising (because users are finding this information themselves) and strengthens the new, inbound approach.
Inbound Marketing Isn’t Marketing
The “inbound marketing” approach is so different from the traditional model of marketing, I hesitate to describe it as a misnomer. The goal is to build your brand up to a certain level of reputation and visibility that customers naturally find you when they execute their ability and right to research their purchasing decisions. It’s the difference between trying to shove a quarter in someone’s pocket and placing a shiny quarter directly in their path for them to find naturally and less obtrusively.
Types of Inbound Marketing
So how can you make yourself more available and visible to people without going out of your way to do it? There are a handful of angles here, all of which feed into each other to create stronger, mutually beneficial bonds.
· Content marketing. One of the strongest pillars in your inbound marketing campaign will be your content marketing strategy, in which you’ll develop an ongoing series of articles, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, videos, and other forms of content to inform or entertain your consumers. Your subject matter here needs to be based on what your customers are looking for — not just pitches for your products and services. Do this, and you’ll develop a reputation in the industry, and your content can serve as fodder for visibility in other channels like SEO and social media.
· SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a collection of strategies designed to help you rank higher for relevant queries in search engines. You know your users are looking up information related to your products, so why not get in front of those searches? SEO is complex, but content marketing, combined with a strong on-site optimization foundation, will give you a good place to start.
· Social media marketing. Lastly, you can build an audience on social media by engaging with new people, providing a steady stream of content updates, and networking with influencers. Over time, you’ll attract more attention, and you’ll be able to syndicate your content posts to earn them more views.
There are actually several distinct advantages to pursuing an inbound strategy over an equivalent outbound strategy:
· Increased trust. Because your users will be finding you naturally, and not because you shoved your messaging down their throats, they’re going to trust you more inherently. This is going to increase your initial conversion rates, and quite possibly start you off with a more positive, trusting consumer-brand relationship, increasing your customer retention in the long run.
· Lower expenditures. Though not always a rule, inbound marketing campaigns tend to be less expensive than their outbound counterparts.
· Long-term development. Inbound marketing doesn’t offer a big payoff at first, but it compounds in value over time as your reputation grows. Eventually, its ROI becomes so substantial that almost no straightforward ad campaign can match it.
Outbound advertising and marketing can still be effective if your messaging, timing, and choice of medium are appropriate for your audience, but even an efficient outbound strategy can be improved with a complementary inbound wing. Inbound marketing will likely evolve further, but the basic principle will remain the same; give your customers what they’re looking for, and they’ll trust you with more of their needs.