The days of traditional marketing may be numbered. Today’s consumer has grown weary of the steady deluge of content that hammers them from every direction possible, from commercials on television to e-newsletters in their inboxes to sponsored updates in their Facebook feeds. It has become downright intrusive. Consumers are on unwanted content overload and it is beginning to have a negative impact on their opinion of brands.

But wait, there is a better way.

Inbound Marketing has become critical to any robust marketing program and is well on its way to replacing traditional marketing. If Inbound Marketing is not already a part of your program then it is time to go fishing!

Not sure how to bait your hook? We’ve got your back. Here are the top five things you need to know to understand inbound marketing and send your program out to sea. Hook, line and sinker.

  1. Inbound is the reverse of the traditional approach. Traditional marketing tends to be interruptive and is, in reality, a pretty selfish and rude way for brands to approach potential customers because it is purely based on convenience for the brand. It rarely takes into account the customer’s experience nor does it consider the specific needs of each buyer persona. Inbound marketing is quite the opposite in that empowers potential customers with the right information at the right time during their buyer journey, enabling the customer to make the right decision. This makes for a far better experience and the customer experience has become a driving force behind customer decisions today.
  1. Inbound is about being a part of the conversation. Traditional marketing uses the megaphone approach, speaking at potential customers, while inbound marketing emphasizes joining a conversation by sharing helpful and relevant content. However, rather than pushing that content out into the world blindly, inbound marketing merely makes the content available for those that are interested. The primary goals of inbound marketing are to provide resources that support the buying process, draws potential customers in and empowers them to make the right decision for themselves. Inbound marketing is the difference between being told what to do and being presented with the information needed to understand what the right decision truly is, and therefore, once that decision is made, it is even more powerful. Customers are more likely to stand behind a conclusion they were able to come to on their own because they will understand why they made that decision and have the validating research.
  1. Inbound leverages multiple types of content and tools. In order to be successful in inbound marketing is developing a comprehensive library of content, which includes ebooks, webinars, reports, whitepapers, videos, product demos, infographics, etc. When it comes to creating, be sure you are taking into consideration each stage of the buyer’s journey because different types of content will appeal to different audiences in each stage. In addition to content, there are tools to both draw customers in and encourages them to take the next step in the buyer journey. These tools include the company blog that drives readers to other content within the site, social media messages that inform potential customers that content is waiting for them, specific landing pages for each piece of content that includes a contact information form, the inclusion of calls-to-action and carefully targeted marketing emails. It is critical that you don’t fall back into your traditional marketing habits when you leverage these tools. Remember the guiding strategy behind inbound marketing is to provide the information and let customers discover it. It can also be helpful to understand where your different buyer personas are online – do they spend their time on a specific social channel? Great! Make sure you are using a targeted strategy on that channel as part of your distribution plan.
  1. Inbound has a precise methodology. There are four stages to the inbound marketing and sales process – Attract, Convert, Close and Delight.
    1. Step one: Attract visitors to your site using social media, SEO and frequent blog posts to keep the content fresh.
    2. Step two: Convert those visitors by putting valuable content behind a contact information form.
    3. Step three: Close those deals using a CRM tool so you can track your interactions with the customer and be sure you are contacting them at the right time, with the right information and at the right cadence in order to make a sale.
    4. Step four: Delight your customers by delivering on the promises you made during the sales process and continuing to engage with them through fresh, relevant content that will empower them to be successful with your product or service, reassuring them that they made the right decision.
  1. Inbound requires continuous analysis and adjustments. As a marketer, analysis should be a part of your daily routine, regardless of the approach you are taking, but it is particularly important when it comes to inbound marketing since you are relying on customers to come to you. Take time to regularly analyze each part of your inbound strategy from the content (Are people actually accessing it? Which type of content is the most popular? Least popular? Which topics are the most popular? Lease popular?) to the distribution plan (Which channels are working? Which aren’t? What time of day is the most successful?) to the quality of the leads (Which content are the leads that convert downloading the most?). Take this information and update your strategy accordingly.

Still not sure what kind of bait to use and want to know more about inbound marketing? Stay tuned for Rory Schaff’s post on the highest impact inbound marketing strategies and Andi Bean’s post on how inbound marketing can generate leads.

Photo Credit: Andrey Trusov