Think back to the last time you were driving on a highway and saw a massive billboard with a slogan, company logo or even a call to action displayed in oversized letters. Did you pick up your phone immediately and call the company? Check 'em out on Facebook? Visit their website? Or did you continue on with your drive, only to block the billboard's message out of your mind altogether because you were more focused on finding the right radio station to listen to?
This is a prime example of a failed attempt at an outbound marketing tactic. Think about those "in your face" ads you see everyday: those banner ads on the sides of buses while you're sitting in traffic, the seemingly shout-y car salesman on your television, the giant logo taking up half of the Sunday paper. Does this style of marketing entice you to research more about the product being advertised?
Probably not. Outbound marketing targets the masses and not the ideal target audiences like inbound marketing. With the exception of achieving brand or logo recognition (which, don't get me wrong, is still important when branding yourself), outbound marketing typically eats up your marketing dollars faster than you can say, "Where are my results?"
What many businesses today don't know, however, is that a successful marketing plan doesn't need to target the masses in order to see a return. It shouldn't target the masses, but rather focus on creating quality content that pulls people toward your product or service; where they naturally want to be. This form of marketing is known as inbound marketing. Below are 3 tactics on how inbound marketing can help grow your business and drive results immediately:
1. Harness the power of building a community
You're a business. You sell a product or service. And, most importantly, you have customers. Customers are a brand's best advocates because they already trust your brand. They chose YOUR business to buy from, not your competitor's. They already believe in your brand; otherwise they wouldn't be your customers. Rather than spending valuable marketing dollars on attracting the wrong type of customer, harness the power of your ideal consumer and build a community focused around their wants and needs. By establishing a buyer persona and nailing down your customer's wants, needs, and yes, even fears, you will be able to come up with a solution to market to your customers. It is a brand's job to fulfill their customer's needs and wants with their products or services. Figuring out our consumer's fears will help answer how to give them better "peace of mind". By putting ourselves in the shoes of our consumers, we will be able to better understand our consumers, resulting in the creation of a specific consumer centered community. This is the first ingredient of inbound marketing's secret sauce. Harness the power of building a community that loves your brand.
2. Lure in your prospects through tailored content creation
In order to harness the power of building a customer-centric community, successful inbound marketers must lure in more prospects through waves of content. What do I mean by this exactly? Creating valuable content that drives traffic will keep your prospect coming back for more. By offering consumers "nuggets" of advice, knowledge, or answers to their questions-all relating to your industry-people will naturally gravitate towards your brand. Why? Because as a marketer, you are filling a void with tailored content that applies directly to your consumer. Successful marketers are ones who are able to vary up their marketing tactics to increase interest in a brand. Those companies that take advantage of creating a mini-series, for example, by means of blogging, vlogging, ebooks, infographics, etc. will get people talking. Once prospects are interested in learning more about your business, hook them in with communication and engagement. (See my previous Social Media Today post on "3 Ways to Craft an Effective Marketing Plan for Your Business" here for more on brand engagement). All of these steps lead to the ultimate goal every marketer strives to achieve for their brand: establishing trust. Once a prospect fully understands and trusts your brand, it's only natural for them to turn into a paying client.
3. Actually be SOCIAL on social media!
Thanks to early social media pioneers like Mark Zuckerberg, we have a near infinite number of social networks available at our fingertips. However, it's how marketers actually utilize these networks that plays a major role in how inbound marketing can help grow a business. The concept of social media is simple: connect with people online to grow your network. Unfortunately, this concept has somehow gotten lost over time. Brands who become so focused on their selves and getting their message across, tend to ultimately forget about what social media can do for their business simply by engaging with their audience. In my professional opinion, one company who does a great job of staying social on social media is US Airways. If you check out US Airways on Twitter (@USAirways), their feed is constantly addressing the questions, comments and concerns of their customers. They are, in essence, being social on social media. If someone's flight is delayed and an angry consumer tweets to their account, typically within minutes US Airways is responding to their tweet with more information that usually includes the employee's initials who will be helping with the situation and even a phone number to call. Now let's play devil's advocate. On the other hand, what if US Airways decided to ignore their customers and simply posted generic and self-promoting tweets? What if US Airways used social media as a one-way tunnel of communication and ignored their followers when they had questions, comments or concerns about their travel plans? Would you still want to follow them on social media? In conclusion, brands need to learn to stay social on social media if they want to see an increase in brand interest and build relationships.
In conclusion, inbound marketing is about providing added value and earning customer loyalty rather than pounding a message into consumers' heads and hoping it will stick. By learning to harness the power of building a consumer-centric community, luring in prospects through tailored content creation, and remembering to stay social on social media, brands will ultimately see big results through inbound marketing. Not to mention, your wallet will thank you when you are saving marketing dollars on inbound tactics that have a proven success rate versus "wider-net but less targeted" outbound marketing methods. So what do you think-is your company "in" with inbound?