Inbound content marketing – a primer
Inbound marketing, a term coined by Hubspot with credit attributed to the company’s co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan, is essential to keep in mind when following modern best business practices. It’s also an increasingly important tool to use in today’s business landscape and technology driven climate when it comes to designing websites and campaigns.
Basically, inbound content marketing, a combination of “inbound marketing” and “content marketing” — it’s a relationship where you can’t have quality inbound marketing without quality content. The strength of content marketing is only as good as its content. And strong content should be a main focus to achieve effective inbound marketing, which heavily relies on using quality content to more naturally attract people to your company, its website, and fundamentally its products/services. Inbound content marketing can be viewed as a reciprocating cyclical subset of the other and two sides of the same coin or goal.
Inbound marketing is the opposite of outbound marketing. Outbound marketing, or traditional marketing, pushes messages out to an audience and buys their attention by using tools such as: cold-calling; direct paper mail; radio advertisements and promotional spots; TV advertisements; sales flyers; spam; telemarketing; and traditional advertising tactics. In contrast, inbound marketing is seen as a “free” alternative that attracts and earns an audience’s attention through marketing activities by creating or offering interesting and relevant content to them.
There are four stages to the inbound marketing methodology.:
- Attract: attract strangers to become visitors to your company and its website
- Convert: convert visitors of your site to leads
- Close: closing the sale, turning leads into customers
- Delight: delight customers so that they will become promoters of your company and its products/services
Each stage uses specific tools for content marketing. For instance, in the attract stage, you could use blogs, keywords (SEO optimization), and social publishing particularly with social media to draw in an audience. In the convert stage, use forms and call-to-actions to gather people’s information and promote quality content and then use landing pages to offer the content.
What and who do you really want?
A main goal of inbound marketing or content marketing is to produce content that answers your prospects’ questions, not to produce content with a hard-sell mentality where the focus is to push your products/services onto people. Instead, content should be interesting, inviting, and pull people in. This is evident in the attract and especially in the convert stages. A major way to make the initial impression is through website design.
Content should be personalized and differentiated so that it categorically fits with a specific buyer persona. Buyer personas should dictate which and how content is generated. Buyer personas could include demographic details and personal details (personality traits, lifestyle, etc.), and professional details (industry, title, company name, etc.). The goal of using buyer personas is to attract the “right” people to your company and its products/services. It’s about the finding the best fit.
For example, if a jewelry company created a buyer persona called “Conscious Hipster Millennial”, it might look like this: someone born between 1980-2000 who lives in urban and suburban areas, works in small to medium-sized businesses or as a consultant or freelancer, is an early adopter of technology yet values vintage appeal, values independence, and is globally, socially, and environmentally conscious. A very traditional, high-end luxury brand company marketing blood diamond designer fine jewelry produced in a sweatshop may not likely appeal to the “Conscious Hipster Millennial”.
That same company might have more success promoting its conflict-free, fair trade diamonds or gemstones made from recycled glass and minerals and hemp jewelry. And if the company doesn’t have nor intend to have a more consciously-made line of designer jewelry? Then “Conscious Hipster Millennial” simply doesn’t fit the company’s ideal buyer persona, and the buyer’s journey ends for that particular person in the attract or convert stages. Time, energy, and other resources should instead focus on people who fit another buyer persona — say, for example, “Unconcerned Traditional Riches”, which would be someone who is more concerned about the prestige of owning the luxury brand label and the karat size of the jewelry than about the process or people who are behind making the jewelry.
Content should also be differentiated based upon where the person is in the buyer’s journey. Prime example: The worst thing is to approach a stranger in the attract stage and begin talking about buying something or about talking prices of your products/services right off the bat. That person barely knows anything, if at all, about your company or its products/services and their value to them. In the attract stage, he/she is still focused on researching what your company and products/services are all about. He/She is searching your company website, reading reviews, asking their networks for recommendations and advice. Talking at someone as if they are ready to buy when they haven’t yet even made up his/her mind about you or your products/services, or especially when they’re not even interested in buying anything at the moment, is off-putting and can quickly turn someone from a prospective buyer into someone who would no longer be interested in becoming a customer or a promoter. You and the content produced should build a rapport in all steps of the buyer’s journey.
Benefitting from inbound/content marketing
Inbound Affinity Diagram
E-commerce companies and companies or organizations that rely heavily on sales (in other words, pretty much every company or organization that exists), can easily recognize the benefit of using inbound content marketing in their website design. It can be a harder sell (no pun intended) to convince nonprofits about the value of inbound marketing. Yet, if inbound/content marketing is used to drive revenue, build databases, and generate leads — and ultimately, sales — it also can cultivate better relationships with your current and prospective customers and patron donors.
Some nonprofit organizations may reap the benefits of engaging in inbound content marketing sooner than others. My experience has shown, for example, that organizations that focus on the arts tend to have a harder time in general with fundraising efforts than organizations that focus on diseases, poverty, and children. That’s exactly where and how inbound/content marketing can help.
Taking a crash course in inbound marketing, and being certified as a way to improve knowledge, was a recent task for me, personally. The concepts are coming in handy as I’ve taken on the task of being the new webmaster for a nonprofit organization — even more handy, since its website is also in need of an overhaul to bring it up to 2015 and beyond standards. As opposed to incorporating inbound marketing into an existing web design and site, which may or may not perhaps be easier, I have to implement it from scratch. With a fresh start also comes a fresher perspective along with appreciation of tools to drive traffic and growth.
For instance, I learned the importance of understanding the buyer’s journey and purposefully creating then utilizing buyer personas. I also learned the proper process for creating call-to-actions and that email marketing is far from being dead (although some of our own experiences with email may have us think otherwise). Plus, I gained knowledge on best practices for webinars and social media. I even added “smarketing” to my vocabulary (i.e., sales + marketing).
Here are some resources to get you started on your inbound content marketing journey. Good luck, cheers, and thanks for reading up to this point! Enjoy.