If you own a small business, you’re either dabbling in online marketing or you’re thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and putting together a serious online marketing strategy. You want to know how to market your business over the Internet the right way. You might not know what all goes into it, but you know you need it.
This article is for you, as we’re going to discuss inbound marketing and why you, the savvy business owner, should implement an inbound marketing strategy.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Let’s start with the basics. If you read our recent article Content Marketing, What It Is, Why It Matters, you know that content marketing is the marketing of your content online, where the purpose of that marketing is to attract and retain customers. Your content is any material you can post online, such as pictures, text, video, etc.
Inbound marketing specifically is marketing that attracts customers, through search engine optimization, to find your published content. The key word here is attract. It’s sometimes described as pull marketing, as in you’re pulling customers to your website because they found your content via a web search.
This is a critical difference from outbound marketing, which is pushing a message out to a wider audience. Outbound marketing can be any “traditional” marketing effort, such as a TV ad or a cold call. Outbound takes place online too, in the form of ads on websites, pay-per-click ads, and emails.
A classic example of inbound marketing is when a blogger publishes an article on his personal blog that demonstrates expertise in his field. The article is found by Google, and eventually it shows up in the #1 spot in Google searches. People do searches, visit his blog, and discover the blogger is an expert in a certain area and he sells services. The blogger than is hired by one (or more) of his audience members for his services.
As a small business owner, it’s very likely you’re an expert in your niche. If you weren’t, why would you start your business in the first place!
Your goal, then, is to let potential customers know about your expertise and that your products and services are the best out there. You want to become a trusted source for information. You do that by publishing content that brands you as the expert and using an inbound marketing strategy so your content gets found by the right audience—the audience being potential customers.
The reason you’re doing all this is because customers who are searching on the Web are looking for answers to questions from experts, and they become more willing buyers when they’ve identified you as a trusted expert. You want to be the go-to person on the Web for whatever your niche is.
Also, if you have the best content on the Web, you’ll also tend to get the lion’s share of the traffic. More traffic equals more leads.
The term “Inbound Marketing” was originally popularized by HubSpot, and you can read more about their Inbound Methodology.
What Does This Mean For Me?
What this boils down to is your small business should become a publisher of expert-level content. At the most basic level you’ll have a blog that shows off your expertise (or the expertise of your staff) in text or video, but you should have a fully formed strategy behind the publishing of content that takes into account what is being published, what platforms it is published on, when it gets released, and what your competitors are publishing. Everything should be SEO optimized and have the ability to be sent out over multiple channels. You should also have the ability to track the traffic your Inbound Marketing is bringing in and measure its effectiveness.
You might be saying, heck, I’m no writer and I don’t have a clue how to make professional looking videos! How can I publish content? That’s where 29Doors comes in. As the web development and online marketing experts, we can help you develop a strategy and work with you to craft the right content.
Should I Keep My Outbound Marketing?
The answer to this is absolutely, yes. You should add inbound marketing to your overall strategy and you want inbound to work hand-in-hand with your other marketing efforts, including outbound. In the end, any content you create for inbound marketing can also be reused for push marketing.
As an example, that expert article you published on your blog can and should be linked in an email marketing campaign that gets pushed out to a general email list. You should also post your expert level content to social media.
The key is having the overall strategy optimized and keeping it running like a well-oiled machine.
Example of Inbound Marketing
Let’s get into a real example of inbound marketing to help understand it better. Let’s say you own a commercial real estate brokerage in Atlanta. You have a good website that has already been search engine optimized and you have a marketing company that is handling your online marketing. You want to expand your marketing efforts to include inbound marketing. Where to start?
For this example, you launch a blog on your website and write an article about the “Recent Trends in the Retail Industry in Downtown Atlanta.” You happen to be an expert on the subject because you’ve been in the industry for many years. You know the retail industry in Atlanta back and forth. You craft an excellent article that is optimized (with the help of your marketing firm) and it ends up on the first page of Google for certain search phrases. The article gets a fair amount of traffic.
At the bottom of the article is a call to action to contact your office to learn more. Because you’ve demonstrated your expertise, people actually call in and become instant prospects. Not only that, but the people who are calling in are retailers who are interested in commercial space in downtown Atlanta! They are exactly the right audience for your business. This is an example of inbound marketing and its effectiveness.
We can take this a step further and add to the strategy. You have a whitepaper created that is called “Strategies for Retail Businesses in Downtown Atlanta.” That whitepaper is featured prominently at the bottom of the initial blog post and also in the sidebar of your website. It includes an email opt-in where users submit their email address in order to download the free whitepaper. You end up getting 20-30 emails per month with this tactic. Over the course of a year, several of those leads convert to customers.
Because you’ve attracted leads to your site via the initial expert content, they are finding the whitepaper and turning themselves into prospects.
From here you can grow your strategy in a number of different directions. You can broadcast your content over your social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You can start a video series that demonstrates further expertise and post the videos in your blog. You can launch a focused email marketing campaign for the leads list you’ve generated from the whitepaper. The sky’s the limit and it builds on itself over time as you develop more and more content.
Further, because you have Google Analytics on your website, you can track the traffic you’re getting and measure it’s effectiveness.
The Components of Inbound Marketing
There are a number of components to consider for Inbound Marketing. We’ll review the most important ones here.
Website – First and foremost, you need a great website that puts your business in the best light. This is your office, and you want your office to be a professional space that is unique to you and your business. It should be easy to navigate, fast loading, and responsive for mobile devices.
On the website, the customer may find pieces of valuable and interesting content that you’ve published, such as articles, FAQs, infographics, a knowledge base, videos, etc. Your website may get updated occasionally but not usually on a daily basis. Your website should absolutely be SEO optimized so that your content is visible in Web searches. Your website is the hub and the most important component for inbound marketing.
Blog – We are considering a blog a separate entity even though it is often part of the same software platform the website is on. For example, the 29Doors blog and the website are both on WordPress. The reason we consider it separately is because a blog should be a place where news and articles get published with regularity, whether that’s daily, weekly, or even monthly. The blog is essentially your news channel. You should have a strategy for the type of content and the frequency you’re publishing on your blog. All of your blog content should be SEO optimized as well.
SEO – Search engine optimization, or SEO. We mentioned SEO earlier in this article, and most people have heard of it and even know a little bit about it, but most folks don’t really understand it. Most business owners we talk to think of SEO as website voodoo that magically gets a website to show up higher in Google.
In actuality, there are over 200 factors Google looks at when ranking a website (or a piece of Web content), and two of the most important factors are keywords and linkbacks. Linkbacks are hyperlinks from another website, preferably a high authority one, that points to your website.
But did you know that other SEO factors include the age of your website, the number of pages of content, the speed the site loads, and even if it’s mobile optimized? What all that means is not only do you need good content, you need to have a great website first and foremost to rank above your competitors.
Keywords – Keywords are important because when a search engine scans your content, it needs to know what it’s about. Keywords embedded in the content help tell the story. You’ll also want your meta description and page titles to be accurate and descriptive, because search engines store that information as well. Keywords should be researched using the Google Keyword Planner and similar research tools.
Landing Page – A landing page is a special marketing page that presents an offer, such as a free whitepaper, and entices a lead to submit their email address and click a button in order to download. Landing pages can also be used to sign up leads for free demos, free webinars, free newsletters, and are also used as the page someone lands on when clicking a paid ad. Landing pages should be focused and specific for the content you’re marketing.
Call-to-Action – Anyone familiar with sales will be familiar with a call-to-action. In the Web world, a call-to-action is typically a button with some marketing language that entices a lead to enter in her email address.
Email Marketing – After a lead submits their email, they go into your email marketing system and will receive emails that further builds the case for your expertise and market your services. This should be carefully managed so that a lead is nurtured into a prospect and eventually becomes a customer.
Analytics – Analytics are essentially data that can be reviewed and analyzed from your website to determine where traffic is coming from and what content is being consumed. Google Analytics is the most common analytics platform and it’s free to add to any website.
At first blush, inbound marketing can seem somewhat overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts and there should be a certain degree of craftsmanship that goes into making expert content. But like any marketing effort, you’re investing in the creation of resources that brands you and your business as an expert and a trusted source for customers. If you can achieve status as an expert and use inbound marketing like a pro, you’ll be well on your well to attracting new leads and growing your business.
Interested in learning more? Contact an expert at 29Doors and we’d be happy to discuss your inbound marketing strategy. Call 855-438-2900, x1 or use our online form to send us a message.