Around 10 years ago, “SEO” was the buzzword (or buzz initialism) when it came to selling marketing to businesses. When a bright-eyed, naive Charli Parkes walked into her first job in an agency 7 years ago, new clients said to her on multiple occasions, “I don’t understand what SEO is, but I’ve been told I need it.” As SEO and the digital marketing industry has matured, the term you might hear more often not as “something you need to look at” is inbound marketing.
While it’s true that inbound marketing can be a very effective approach that helps to attract and convert leads into customers, it’s not right for everyone. With that in mind – here are a few things you should consider when you ask yourself the question “is inbound marketing right for my business?”
What is inbound marketing?
We’ve definitely covered this on this blog before – but for thoroughness, let’s give a brief definition. Inbound marketing is an approach that’s been around in its most realised form since 2012. As grass roots marketers became more and more frustrated with the costs, risks and having to play the numbers around outbound marketing, they began to develop a methodology, largely built around the concepts of SEO, to draw customers to them, instead of the other way round. Combining SEO with content marketing and a hefty handful of conversion logic, inbound was born. Put simply, inbound marketing is the process of attracting your ideal customers to your website, having them engage with your content, converting them to leads, and then nurturing them into becoming customers.
It is not a short-term play
The first thing you need to know about inbound is that it’s not a get rich quick scheme. As a methodology it requires a lot of research and planning upfront, ongoing content production, testing, refining, and other time-intensive activities such as setting up nurture programmes to really succeed. This amount of effort needs to be sustained over a period of months, possibly even years, for you to start seeing a decent return. It is much more of a medium to long-term strategy, and for that reason many businesses, including some of our customers (on our advice) run a blended approach which doesn’t mean they are solely relying on inbound leads. I’m not making it sound particularly attractive, I know, but I’m a big fan of “you get out of things what you put into them” – and that definitely applies to inbound. The better your research and planning, the more content you write and the more unique and insightful it is, the better results you’ll get. That being said…
It doesn’t work for every business model
I’ve seen many an overly cheerful American from HubSpot or similar proclaim something along the lines of “you might be thinking that inbound isn’t for you, or you can’t write content for your industry. You’re wrong! You just need to find your niche.” Barf. While I do agree that content marketing can work for most businesses, the inbound model can’t. Some businesses’ core customer base just don’t hang out in the places where inbound needs them to be hanging out – search engines, social, etc. For other businesses, their product or service range is wide, complex and has a very long sales cycle, which again doesn’t make them a great candidate for inbound. Or the flipside could be true – their product is a very simple supply and demand type offering, for example a locksmith – so leads don’t necessarily need to be nurtured. Side note – if you’re a locksmith you’re better focusing on local SEO and maybe PPC. You can have that tip for free.
It helps you engage with the modern B2B buyer
The last point was decidedly negative against inbound, so I’m going to balance it out. The inbound marketing approach perfectly aligns itself with the modern consumer. The average B2B buyer is 57% through their purchasing decision before they engage with a sales rep, and you have around 12% of their mindshare as a supplier. With a powerful research tool at their fingertips at all times – the internet – your customers are free to peruse a whole load of solutions. You need to find a way to stay front of mind, and to position yourself as the true trusted advisor and the most perfectly placed solution out of the lot. Through producing the right content, which stems from doing thorough research about your ideal customer, you can engage them early on in the sales cycle and keep them engaged throughout, hopefully pushing up that percentage of mindshare a bit.
It’s an effective way to get warm leads
On a related note – with the right strategy and the right content driving it, meshing with the right business model, inbound can easily begin to generate leads at scale. Once you’ve got a content engine going with well-defined funnels and automated emails, you can nurture people into becoming qualified leads and engaging with your sales team, with very little “human” intervention in the early stages. An inbound lead which has been carefully nurtured and engaged with multiple touch points on your site is so much further down the buyer’s journey than a lead from a cold call (see previous section). And because you can drive everything with automated emails – once it’s set up, you can just let it run, monitoring and refining when you need to. It also gets around a number of potential data challenges, as people have to proffer their data to you to download certain content, at which point you can obtain consent.
Inbound marketing can help you transform the way you think about marketing and leads in your business – whether you go the whole hog or adopt a blended approach. If you’d like to talk more about whether inbound marketing is right for your business – get in touch.