Marketing is an important activity of any business – whether online or offline, small or large, and whether it is finance, hospitality, retail, manufacturing, transport, or any other industry. It is not enough that you build something – it’s important that others know about it; that is how you get people to come and actually buy something from you. To get new customers, enter new markets, and expand your business, marketing is very essential.
This is the conventional approach to marketing; this is what we have all been used to for decades: print media ads, TV ads, billboards, hoardings, telemarketing, pop-up ads, cold calling, and so on. This approach merely talks about the product or service, and does not consider whether the viewer or reader wants to see the ad or not. How many times have you switched your FM station or TV channel because of ‘boring’ ads? Don’t we install ad blockers and popup blockers on our computers because we find them annoying?
This means that outbound marketing is often invasive, and disturbs the very people at whom it is targeted. Of late, it has saturated, and has become increasingly unpopular, because nobody wants to sit and listen to a lengthy sales pitch; people have learnt to avoid such marketing very smartly. Marketers have been compelled to come up with new methods of publicizing their products. This approach is known as Inbound Marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Rather than go and knock on doors, inbound marketing, also called content marketing, aims to have people knock at your doors, asking for the products and services you provide. How does this work? You provide people with content that is interesting, fresh, and relevant for them. It is usually in the form of:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Email newsletters
- Social media posts
- Paid search ads
Inbound marketing is a soft way of selling; it does not directly pitch the product or service to the target audience. The whole thing is about educating the potential customer, getting them interested, increasing engagement with your brand, and slowly nudging them towards a purchase decision.
- Pulls in interested readers
- Provides value for the consumer
- Engaging, one on one, and fluid
- Gets more qualified leads non-invasively
- Cost effective
- Wide reach
- Pushes at everyone, whether interested or not
- Hard sell, it’s all about the product
- Mass communication, one-way
- Goes to customers, invasive
- Limited reach
How does Inbound Marketing work?
When someone wants to purchase a certain product or service, they will search online – the search engine will not only show them the names of companies or stores from where they can buy the product, but could also display blog posts or Ebooks (.pdfs) that are relevant. For example – let’s say X is looking to buy an apartment in a certain area, and so they type that into the search box; Google will throw up different types of results: Builders websites, real estate agencies, as well as blogs on say what to look for in an apartment, or how to apply for housing loans – all of which are useful from the point of view of the purchaser. They are definitely going to be happy with information they get, especially with regard to financial advice and so on.
Inbound marketers believe that for each product there is a specific type of customer – in some cases, this could be more than one. Based on that, they create buyer personas – it may take some research. Let’s say your company sells higher end Smartphones. Your typical buyer is likely to be a) a successful professional or rich businessperson in their 30s or 40s, or b) a millennial with rich parents. The professional is more likely to use LinkedIn and Facebook for social media, more likely to read email newsletters, etc; the millennial on the other hand, may prefer watching videos, and be active on Instagram. So as a marketer, you will need strategies to target both these buyer personas. This way, you don’t waste money by launching a marketing campaign that millions will see but only a handful may buy – that is not cost effective at all!
Advantages and Benefits of Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is an interactive, two-way communication, where the business and its customers can actually talk to one another; this is especially seen on social media, or review sites. Customers post feedback about products, and the marketer can respond to them.
Inbound marketing method allows you to tap into new markets and target specific demographics – giving you a higher ROI. You can also reach more number of people much quicker.
Inbound marketing is more transparent and honest, and you can find out what your audience and customers think about you in real time. Inbound marketing lets you target your desired audience only, getting you more qualified leads – that is, people who are highly likely to convert into customers.