What is Inbound Marketing and How is it Important to my Business?
You’ve worked hard on your online or brick and mortar business and feel prepared to offer consumers something they need, but how do you bridge the gap between those potential consumers and your high-quality content, products, or services? Inbound Marketing utilizes an understanding of how consumers actually use the Internet to seek information and make purchases, and applies this understanding to every element of content, advertising design, and overall marketing strategy.
Whether you have an established Internet image or are in the conceptual stages, working on your website, taking advantage of the Internet’s vast marketing resources can be a daunting task worthy of serious consideration, a perhaps the help of someone qualified. Even the web savvy can benefit from the professional assistance offered by an inbound marketing consultant. Ultimate Internet Image offers the advice and expertise you need to establish that ultimate Internet presence and build the consistent and convertible Internet traffic your business needs to survive and flourish.
How is Inbound Marketing Different?
In the past, if you wanted to sell a product or service, outbound advertising was your only real option. Expensive billboards, TV commercials, Yellow Page ads, trashy direct mail pieces, telephone prospecting, and radio spots where your only way of reaching consumers; and, this relationship was a one way street. There was usually no way to track how an ad was doing until the campaign was over, if then. How do you track a billboard ad? At least most of the ones you and I see every day! What happens to most direct mail? Straight from the mail box to “File 13,” the trash basket! When you received your last cold call, how long did it take for you to hang up? There are some marketing firms still engaged in this increasingly obsolete and incredibly ineffective method of marketing, outbound marketing, exclusively.
Ultimately, there must be a balance between inbound and outbound marketing; and, it must be trackable and the return on investment worth the risk. When all is said and done, all advertising has an element of risk. The task of a qualified inbound marketing consultant is to attempt to reduce or, whenever possible, eliminate risk.
Today, the consumer plays an important and active role in the buyer-seller relationship and marketing must reflect this transition. Consumers are identifying themselves, their interests, and their purchasing power, by way of search habits and Internet usage patterns, to anyone with the tools to listen. Your brick-and-mortar business or internet startup needs these tools and a savvy marketing consultant can and will provide them.
How Does Inbound Marketing Work and What are Some of the Key Components?
There are a number of ways to market products online. The Internet will enable you to reach potential clients, patients, and customers in a way outbound marketing cannot.
1. Search Engine Optimization or SEO – SEO is the method of organizing your web content to make it easier for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to “read” and rank. Search engines use “crawlers” (some call them “spiders” or “bots”), as well as other specialized software, to crawl your content in order to position your website pages on the appropriate search engine results pages (SERPs). By using the proper keywords and metadata, along with improving the website’s architecture, a previously obscure web site can improve its ranking across the Internet and improve overall visibility. This is the most cost-effective, long term strategy for building an online presence and, ultimately, you Internet image.
2. Social Media Marketing – Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Friendfeed, and LinkedIn (to name a few of thousands) have members in the tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions. Not only does social media reach more people (i.e., consumers of products and services) than any other medium, users of social media organize themselves into marketable niches (i.e., Tribes or congregations). A well constructed social media marketing strategy will reach more people faster than the slickest ad campaign ever devised, and for pennies…or “for free!” An understanding of how people interact on these sites will help you take advantage of the biggest lead generator in the world. Interestingly, like people, these social media platforms all have their distinct personalities; and, there are rules to adher to. Unless you want to be tagged as a spammer, certain death online, the message must be subtle and the focus of your strategy needs to be one of relationship building rather than overt selling. While difficult to track, the results can be impressive, provided the proper strategy is employed.
NOTE: Social media marketing is something of an oxymoron! You do not overtly or aggressively “market” online via social media. Anyone who suggests you should is not someone you want to work with. Being tagged a spammer, as mentioned elsewhere in this article, is the quickest and surest way to being tagged a spammer…and that is a social media death sentence! Keep in mind that the big companies and the “successes” they boast about online have more to do with brand recognition. The results are not about social media marketing strategy, we are comparing apples and oranges because most businesses do not have that sort of brand recognition and must therefore develop brand awareness before they can expect the kind of results the “big guns” derive from their social media marketing efforts.
3. Blogging – Building and maintaining relationships with clients and customers has always been one of the biggest challenges for businesses, and marketers, trying to build a brand and a business. One of the most neglected, most profitable groups of clients, customers, or consumers for any business is their current client base, people who have purchased their information, goods, or services before. A blog is one of the best ways to cultivate new prospects, keep in touch with current prospects, and engage current clients on an ongoing basis. Full featured blog themes provide online endeavors and brick and mortar businesses (i.e., offline businesses) an opportunity to interact prospects, clients, customers, and patients on an ongoing basis, creating previously unimaginable channels for user-feedback, long-term relationships, and even e-commerce.
NOTE: The static website is becoming increasingly obsolete, as well-informed businesses are moving towards full-featured websites and blogs to take ful advantage of the relationship building tools available to them through what Seth Godin and others are referring to as the “new media.” In other words, the static website is rapidly going extinct as Web 2.0 and the new media emerge.
4. Pay-Per-Click or PPC – PPC advertising provides traffic the old-fashioned way, by paying for it. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and many others will post your banners, ads, and other approved links and messages, charging you based on your campaign’s architecture and how effectively your ads generate clicks to your site (click thru rate) . Pay-Per-Click can also be very expensive, particularly if you don’t possess the know-how to convert user interest (traffic) into sales. PPC can be an incredibly effective method for generating traffic, leads, prospects, and sales but it must be focused and you must know what you are going…or it can get away from you fast. If you are a novice, you would be wise to spend some time getting a feel for this advertising method before jumping in or keep your daily budget (you are allowed to set a daily maximum spend) to a minimum until you have a sense fo what you are doing. The best case scenario is, of course, to hire a PPC specialist, sometimes referred to as an AdWords specialist, to run your campaign. Most full featured inbound marketing consulting firms will offer this service.
Only by balancing the elements and strategies above can you improve web traffic, and traffic to your business, online or offline; and, build new relationships, and establish a lasting, and ultimate, Internet Image for your business. The best strategy is always to use the experience of others whenever possible. Why reinvent the wheel? Find an inbound marketing consulting firm you have confidence in and allow them to get to know you and your business. In doing so, you will be on your way to what is known as The Ultimate Internet Image.
Don’t leave your business’ future to chance, get an in depth marketing assessment and then get traffic, leads, prospects, and sales!
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