When you think of traditional, old-school marketing, what comes to mind? Sending out pamphlets in the mail, running television and radio advertisements, putting up billboards by the highway and other such techniques? Those are known as outbound marketing, and they have been made largely obsolete by the power of the Internet.
Oh, outbound marketing still has a place, but it’s expensive and has low returns. Communication with outbound marketing is strictly one-way. There’s no sales interaction, no previous interest, just a message and the hope that the people you reach will remember your contact information and look you up later.
Contrast this with inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is two-way communication between you and your users. You put out information and your users find you, through search, social media, referrals and other lead generation sources.
Inbound marketing is a process with several steps.
1. Turn strangers into visitors by attracting them through various channels and media.
2. Turn visitors into leads by enticing them with calls to action on your landing pages.
3. Turn leads into customers by closing the deal with two-way conversation.
4. Turn customers into testimonials by exceeding their expectations and encouraging them to refer more strangers.
So what channels are considered in bound marketing, and how can you leverage them for your business?
Telling a business to use a blog is old news by now, but it’s still highly valuable advice. Your blog is one of the most potent inbound marketing channels you have. It’s a space you can control completely, where you can showcase your opinions, insight and information for the public. Every page on your blog is a route a user can find to enter your inbound marketing funnel. The more pages you have, the more chances a user will find their way to your site – assuming those pages are valuable enough to keep their attention. The moment quality drops, those pages may as well be rubber, you’ll see so many bounces.
Social media plays off having a blog and a solid base of content, but it’s also a microcosm in and of itself. Your blog is valuable, but it’s still often passive. A social media profile is a place where your potential users can immediately ask a question and reasonably expect a quick answer. Every time this happens, it’s an opening for a sales hook. Different social networks cater to different audiences, so picking the right ones is essential for leveraging it as an inbound marketing channel.
SEO, and with it organic search, is another way your marketing plays off the existence of your website. Unlike social networking, however, this one can’t stand on its own. SEO is the art of optimizing your existing content to show up in search engines. Know your audience, know your products and know how people search for what they want to find. Once you know all of that, you can tailor your content to guarantee your content will show up when the user searches, thus bringing them into your funnel.
Page optimization is similar to search engine optimization, with an eye towards the user experience. Your goal with optimizing a page is to make it as easy as possible for a new reader to come in, see your content, see your call to action and slip down the funnel to your product pages, where ideally they will convert. In reality this often requires several repeat visits, high quality content, ideal products, low pricing and all the other means of attracting a user, but it’s all boiled down to one thing; making it as easy as possible for the user to convert.
A call to action can take many forms, from text to graphics to video annotations. At the core, they’re all the same thing; a subtle or not-so-subtle encouragement for the user to perform some action you want them to perform. Maybe it’s following your Facebook page, maybe it’s signing up for your newsletter or maybe it’s buying your product; the outcome is the same. You’re using your most persuasive language to get users to bend to your will.
Your landing page, technically, is any page the user lands on after finding your site. In the case of organic traffic, you have no control; it’s whatever page shows up in search. For other marketing channels, like advertisements, social media posts and other links, you have complete control over the first thing a user sees when they click. You can optimize your landing pages, then, for the best conversion rates.
Several of the previous entries on this list center around getting users to register for your mailing list. This mailing list is a potent database of contact information for users who were at one point interested enough in your business and product to want to know more. You can leverage this information to reach these people again, whether it’s with targeted ads, personal emails or some other form of contact.
When a user signs up for your mailing list, you have an immediate opportunity to thank them and send a drip-fed specialized new contact email campaign to encourage them to buy your product. The typical process is to teach them about the problem your product fixes, and why that problem is a problem for them. Only at the end do you reveal that you have the solution to that problem.
Once a user is convinced to buy your product, you have successfully completed the transaction. There’s nothing more for you to do. Or is there? In fact, users expect ongoing support and satisfaction with the products they buy. If the product you ship is sub-par, they will call you out on it. Too many such negative reviews form a roadblock in your sales funnel, keeping other users from converting. It’s your responsibility to make sure you exceed their expectations with the quality of the product or service you sold them.
In the instance that your product does not perform, is broken or the user needs help using it, customer service comes in. The idea of “making things right” with your customers is the core to customer service. Build a reputation for making sure your product is supported, and you’ll gain the goodwill of your users. Rather than a stumbling block of negative reviews, you’ll convert buyers into walking advertisements for your brand.