Inbound marketing: Another flash in the plan or the real deal?

Man yelling loudly

Heard about how inbound marketing is replacing the more traditional, outbound forms of marketing but can’t figure out what it means for your small business? Here’s a look at how this new, modern form of marketing brings leads closer to sales.

In the world of social media it appears that there is a new phrase invented everyday that we’ve got to try and figure out.

The term ‘Inbound Marketing‘ has been around since 2006 and was coined by the founder of Hubspot, Brian Halligan, to describe a new business methodology that focuses on attracting potential customers to your product and services by offering useful information when they are searching for solutions, as opposed to broadcasting generic images and jingles when people aren’t paying attention.

The role of marketing is to bring leads closer to sales. If we look at all the current forms of marketing and advertising available for businesses today to share a message with prospective customers, there are six major channels:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Print
  • Direct mail

We are bombarded by advertising messages every day, but we also have access to easy ways to tune out general mass communications. By using a hard-drive to record our television programs we can skip the annoying ads. With caller ID we can choose not to accept any phone calls from people we don’t know, and thanks to rising iPad sales we can now read our favourite newspapers and magazines from all around the world at a fraction of the price. The pressure of getting advertising right has never been so important. If we can now download American Vogue in Australia, how will adverts be targeted to our region?

Savvy customers we are searching for products and services online when they are ready. We’re read blogs by experts and asking our friends and family via social media platforms what they recommend. Good old word of mouth is very much alive and well thanks to Twitter and Facebook.

The new focus for marketers today is to think ‘attract’ instead of ‘push’, think about using a magnet and not a sledge hammer.

Inbound versus outbound marketing

It isn’t necessary to stop all your outbound marketing activities overnight, for many industries print and TV advertising still work really well. The job for the marketing team is to analyse what traditional methods are not working for your business and transfer the budget from there to online marketing platforms. Find out where your market is spending time and listen to what they are saying. For example if you’re selling a product for mothers, have a look at the mothers networking groups online, their blogs, Facebook pages and observe what people are saying.

The one thing most companies must do as a matter of priority is to install a blog (with an RSS feed) on their website, and start sharing blog posts about their products and services from a feature versus benefit point of view. The key thing to remember (which is the scariest to do!) is to stop selling and start sharing useful information – and then people will buy from you if they feel yours is the right solution for them.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about how to implement each of the components necessary to create a successful inbound marketing strategy for your business. If you have a question about inbound marketing, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

  • Thanks Clodagh – Awesome topic. A super exciting area with so much opportunity for small businesses!

    This really is a paradaigm shift for the more traditionally-educated marketers… But you need only stack up the longer term ROI of inbound strategies like content, SEO, SEM and social to see that the quality and qualification of the inbound leads that you invest ‘netting’ in your sales/marketing funnel are converting better and worth a pretty penny more than the leads generated by the more conventional ‘casting into targeted areas’ methods.

    • Thanks Thomas – so pleased you liked the topic – yes it is an exciting time for small businesses to embrace inbound marketing with confidence.

  • Thanks Clodagh,

    I agree with much of the article, and will only add that this like all methods, should start with the targeted buyer and how they research/consume information. If you dealing with a population that isn’t primarily online (ok they are fewer and fewer) then traditional methods could still be best for them.

    For now, there’s still a place for many of the traditional marketing channels, just like there’s a place for some outdoor ads. The difference is the mix will continue to shift to the digital space and inbound methods that are better positioned to how consumers are now researching their potential purchases.

    • Thank you Shade – yes absolutely online marketing is not for everyone. Thats where researching your target market and finding out where they spend time is the key to getting the best result.
      Traditional marketing still works for many industries.