A Note On Inbound Marketing: Use It.

The Internet, no shock to any of us, is an incredibly useful tool in the world of marketing. However, in my opinion, what makes it so incredible is the diversity in the ways that it can be used: traditional marketing, promotions, ecommerce, and inbound marketing, which is becoming increasingly effective as outbound marketing continues to flood consumers. Inbound marketing in the words of Marketo is, “The process of helping potential customers find your company-often before they are even looking to make a purchase-and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.” While I like the definition that Marketo has provided here, I think the large emphasis of inbound marketing is noted in the very first sentence of that statement, “The process of helping potential customers find your company.” Inbound marketing is all about creating engaging content, on multiple online mediums, that encourages customers to seek out your organization. Organizations can take this knowledge of marketing clutter, combine it with the ideas of inbound marketing, and use it as a starting point for creating content that aims to engage and allows consumers the opportunity to learn about organizations on their own terms.

The article “Inbound” that is written by Marketo, does a very thorough job of introducing inbound marketing and the idea that it brings to the table; creating interesting and engaging content that can be found and shared. While there was a lot of useful information presented in Marketo’s e-book about inbound marketing, I wanted to hit on three key takeaways/tips that organizations could use to enhance their marketing efforts via the incorporation of effective inbound marketing:

“You must create content that begs to be shared, that educates, and inspires. In other words, you must offer content that is not promotional in nature.”
Inbound marketing is an extremely useful concept that organizations can use to break through the clutter and put into action by creating content that seeks to inform and engage, but not promote. One of the first topics that Marketo hits on in their inbound marketing e-book is the idea that content is the “foundation of inbound marketing,” and this couldn’t be more accurate. Inbound marketing is useful to organizations if and only if the new content engages readers and makes prospective customers want to learn about their business. Marketo puts it very well when they say, “At its core, inbound marketing is about creating interesting, informative, and even entertaining content.” I think the application of this lesson, for marketers in particular, is the statement about creating content that, “is not promotional in nature.” As consumers, we can all relate to the bombardment of promotions and traditional marketing that we are faced with everyday, however it is very refreshing to come across content that does not try and sell a product in any way. Inbound marketing is not about the selling aspects. It is purely about informing/engagement and letting consumers find your brand, and organizations should use it as a reliever from the flood of promotions. By producing content that is not promotional in nature, organizations will, ideally, resonate with consumers better, and provide them with content that they might actually be interested in; thus producing potential leads. As a business, if you are seeking to connect with your customers on a higher level, try out this strategy. You may be surprised at how well consumers respond to marketing that is not being forced upon them.

“Inbound marketing done in isolation doesn’t lead to success.”
Another very key aspect of this e-book that Marketo presents is the idea that inbound marketing on its own does not work, and that it must be integrated with other marketing efforts in order to be successful. Marketo presents this idea of the marketing multiplier where they say, “To make inbound marketing work for you, you need three other essential ingredients in addition to your inbound marketing programs.” Those three other ingredients are some sort of “outbound marketing strategy,” a “corporate communications strategy,” and a “nurturing or marketing automation strategy.” While those seem like some fairly intimidating words, they mean something simple in application; organizations must combine traditional advertising and software applications with their new inbound inspired content if they want it to be successful. Creating a marketing plan that incorporates all three “ingredients” will improve an organizations business because it will allow them to generate leads, via inbound, but then capitalize on those leads and turn them into sales, via traditional and software. So while inbound marketing is a great tool for generating interest, to actually make it effective some further work needs to be done.

“Marketing automation helps you deliver relevant information over time to keep leads interested, engaged, and educated until they’ve made that decision”
Marketing automation is another key tool that is presented by Marketo, and I wanted to emphasize it within this discussion because it is a technological aid that can help marketer’s foster leads into conversions. Marketo defines marketing automation as, “the use of technology to manage and automate the process of converting prospective customers into actual buyers.” As discussed previously, it is not enough to simply engage in inbound marketing. Marketers must then “nurture” those leads in order to turn them into actual sales. Marketing automation helps organizations with this task by providing the technology to, “deliver relevant information over time to keep leads interested, engaged, and educated.” In addition, according to the Marketo e-book, marketing automation can be applied in organizations to help raise open and click rates via emails and other information that better align with consumer’s interests. This will be useful to organizations because it will allow them to produce content that people actually want to read, and avoid the type of content that people aren’t receptive too. It can also shorten sales cycles and allow conversions to be made quicker, and provide information to sales teams about what content is being viewed frequently. Those two factors are important because it is important for the sales team to be in the loop, and decreasing sales cycle time will increase efficiency. By combining these marketing automation tools with marketing content that seeks to engage customers, organizations can take their business to a whole new level.

HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0
This Harvard Business Case about HubSpot, introduces the founders of HubSpot, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It also explores how they discovered HubSpot, inbound marketing topics, HubSpot’s marketplace/customers, and most importantly the HubSpot product. Founders of HubSpot, Brian and Shah, had similar opinions about outbound marketing as the ones discussed above. They believed that consumers, “have not invited you into their home, and they certainly do not happen to enjoy being interrupted.” They also believe the solution to this issue was utilzing blogs, social media, and other various online marketing mediums to produce/share interesting content in an effort to engage customers and have them come to you. In order to support their inbound marketing ideas, the duo founded HubSpot and created a, “web-based software product that was a complete inbound marketing system.” They have one product that is more oriented towards small businesses, and one for more in depth marketing needs. The following bullets will explain some of the various aspects of the product and the application of each:

  • Somewhat familiar to all of us in digital marketing, the HubSpot software contains lead tracking and intelligence analytics to track the pieces of content that customers are “interacting with the most.” This feature is very applicable to marketers and organizations, because it allows them to analyze the strength of the inbound marketing content that they developed and see if it is generating engagement and traffic. For example, if someone on the marketing team wrote a blog about a charitable event that the company was participating in, and via “intelligence analytics” the marketing team could see that that piece of content generated a lot of views, they could then apply that knowledge and write about more charity/volunteering events in the future because the consumers were interested in that type of content. With the analytics aspect of HubSpot, organizations can come to understand what content people want to view, and by attracting traffic the hope is that some of the leads could be capitalized on and turned into conversions. Intelligence analytics also offers several other informational reports.
  • HubSpot offers a, “content management system (CMS), software that made creating and editing online content easy.” Included in this are templates that make designing websites and blogs easier and more “search-engine friendly.” Marketers and organizations can take advantage of HubSpot’s content management system and put it to use by creating new websites and blogs based off the templates that are centered around the idea of inbound marketing and bringing customers to them. Another way that organizations could utilize this tool is by utilizing the software to create a blog or website, if they haven’t yet done so, that focuses on inbound marketing and generating content for people to find. In other words, organizations could use the software to take a new approach towards their online marketing efforts.
  • HubSpot’s inbound marketing software offers, “tools designed to help customers make their published content more visible on the Internet.” These tools include an SEO grader and a link grader. The SEO grader, grades firms content “based on its likelihood to be included early in the search results.” This SEO grader that HubSpot software offers is clearly a huge tool that marketers can use to discover the quality of their inbound marketing content, based on where it would pop up in a search engine result. Going back to the charity event example, if an organization published that content and the SEO grader determined that it was not likely to pop up high in the search results, marketers might want to consider writing about something else or approaching that story from another angle. In addition to the SEO grader, HubSpot also offers a “keyword grader” that gives information about what words are being used that are “relevant to the companies business.” Marketers could utilize this tool by discovering the keywords used to search their business and incorporating these words into the content that they are generating; hopefully boosting where they land on search engine results.

After thinking about all of the tools that HubSpot offers to marketers, and the great advantages that inbound marketing brings to the table, I went in search of an organization that was actually applying inbound marketing techniques. I came across an article about Dell and how they have become a, “force to be reckoned with in the computer sales market, and it has done so, in large part, through savvy inbound marketing practices.” Above I discussed the importance of engaging customers, and Dell is doing just that by making themselves prominent on several social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. In addition to that they are also blogging and writing a newsletter that seeks to gain “knowledge.” They are “asking their customers questions and also encouraging them to click ‘like’ on its posts.” What I like about Dell is that they are utilizing several online marketing mediums for their inbound marketing strategy. They are making content available on many platforms, and in my opinion, this is a great technique because it increases their chance of being found. To learn more about Dell and how they are utilizing inbound marketing, click here.

All Quotes and Stats came from the following Links:
Inbound ebook by Marketo
Harvard Business School Case on HubSpot (must be purchased at this link)
Dell Article

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