Traditional marketing is all about fighting for the attention of potential customers. In essence we do what we can to break into their lives and make them see our brands, services, and products. This is primarily done through advertising in publications, radio, TV, and on websites.
Often, in an attempt to get the most out of each dollar spent, the focus of the advertising is not on a person but rather on a target audience. If the campaign is successful then a few people from the target audience will think of our services or products when they find themselves in a situation that requires it.
Inbound marketing uses a different philosophy. Instead of trying to interrupt the lives of target audiences with our marketing message, inbound marketing focuses on attracting qualified prospects. This is done through the design and distribution of content and materials that are relevant, useful and address the problems that the person or business has. Rather than being a message that interrupts the prospect’s life, it is information that the prospect is actively searching for through Internet search engines like Google, blogs, and social media platforms such as Facebook. For some time now, marketers have known that the shape of the sales funnel has changed. The widest part of the funnel is no longer at the top. The Internet has given customers convenient access to a far larger plethora of solutions. Today customers start their search for a solution by checking out the brands they have been exposed to and then, instead of streamlining the options, they search for all the other alternative options that are available online. It is at this stage that the content designed by inbound marketers kicks into play. The inbound marketer is attracting the prospect by providing the useful information that they are looking for in the place that they are looking.
Inbound marketing consists of four stages: attract, convert, close and delight. Each stage has to be used in sequence. The “attract” stage in inbound marketing is very specific about who it targets. The idea is to attract the right person, at the right time, using the right content.
Once the correct person has been attracted, the next step, “convert”, becomes a lot easier. A person turns into a prospect when the person willingly provides his or her email address in return for some content.
The “close” stage is concerned with the conversion of the prospect into a customer and can be done through the use of emails with Call-To-Actions, CRMs that enable the better client relationship tracking, and nurturing through better targeted communications and content.
Finally after the prospects have become customers it is important to continue engaging with them. Since the phrase was coined by Brian Halligan in 1999 inbound marketing has matured from a dark art used by startups and agencies into a well established marketing method used by companies of all sizes. It is especially well suited to the changed shape of the marketing funnel that has been caused by the Internet.
Fundamental to its success is the creation of excellent content and that requires excellent research, analysis, copy writing, and design. Businesses that embark on inbound marketing campaigns without high quality content seriously risk damaging their brand.