If you’ve done any amount of research into marketing your small business, you’ve likely come across the term “inbound marketing” at one point or another. But what exactly is inbound marketing – and is it right for you?
Inbound marketing is a highly valuable form of digital marketing that we believe should be part of any small business’ marketing strategy. In today’s blog post, we’ll go over exactly what inbound is, why you should be taking a largely inbound approach to your marketing and how you can get started.
What is inbound?
Back before Google, social media and blog posts, the way people could find out about businesses were pretty limited. You had ads on billboards, radio and TV as well as in newspapers. Additionally, you could find out about products and services through word of mouth or the yellow pages. Marketing was mostly limited to these avenues.
The term “inbound marketing” was coined by marketing software company Hubspot back in the mid-2000s to talk about a new form of digital marketing that was starting to gain traction due to the rise of social media, review sites and smartphones.
Thanks to these developments, consumers started to become more empowered and informed than ever before. Now, your potential customers can scour Google for companies near them offering the services they need at the best possible price, read online reviews to find the best products and ask their friends, family and colleagues for recommendations via social media.
Inbound marketing is all about attracting these empowered consumers to your business in a way that is more about them than it is about you. This means running search engine optimisation (SEO) campaigns that help your website rank in search results for search terms relevant to your business. It means informative blog posts that educate your leads so they can make an informed purchase and a social media presence that entertains and answers questions posed by followers.
But perhaps the best way to hone in on what exactly inbound means is to take a look at it in relation to its antonym, outbound marketing.
Inbound vs outbound marketing
The difference between inbound and outbound marketing is best described as a pull versus a push, or a magnet versus a megaphone. While inbound is all about attracting your ideal customers to your business through marketing materials designed to appeal to them, outbound marketing shouts about how great you are from the rooftops to anyone who walks by.
While the latter might not sound too bad, it’s viewed as annoying by many people. After all, outbound marketing can’t get very targeted in its reach, meaning that your ideal customers are far from the only ones exposed to your marketing materials. This leads to a higher cost per acquisition for your campaigns and could even make some people actively dislike your brand.
Outbound marketing hasn’t lost all its credibility in the digital age, though, as can be seen with award-winning TV campaigns that everyone is talking about and the fact that many companies still get a good return on investment from banner ads. However, relying on just outbound marketing can be expensive for small businesses and won’t generate new sales leads as effectively as combining these efforts with inbound tactics.
Benefits of inbound marketing
In contrast to outbound marketing, with inbound, you can get extremely granular with who you target, meaning your message is seen by those most likely to convert as long as you have a solid understanding of your target audience and how to speak to them. This also means that inbound marketing campaigns often have a lower cost per acquisition.
While the upfront costs of hiring an expert copywriter to craft inbound content or an SEO expert to improve your visibility on search engines can be high, you could, in theory, do all this yourself at least to begin with. What’s more, the effects of these marketing activities will keep bringing new leads to your website for a long time, whereas outbound marketing campaigns like cold calling or banner ads will only generate new leads for as long as you’re actively running the campaigns.
Another positive impact of inbound marketing is that it builds your brand in an authentic way that will help nurture your customers into active promoters of your business. You could go the extra mile with things like an email newsletter offering expert insights into your niche and social media assistants who answer both positive and negative posts on social media in a friendly and helpful manner.
How to get started with inbound marketing
A strong inbound marketing strategy combines a number of digital marketing activities that support one another. If you start a blog and post keyword-optimised articles on a regular basis, this will boost your domain authority, supporting your SEO efforts. Blog posts can also be used to support content creation for other inbound methods like marketing emails, social media posts and whitepapers.
Paid search ads also fall under the umbrella of inbound marketing because they target people who are showing an active interest in solutions you can offer. After all, with paid search, you can show ads in Google search results for relevant keywords you’ve added to your campaign. Paid search will support your organic SEO efforts by getting more traffic from search engines onto your site faster.
Running a blog, publishing social media updates, sending out email newsletters, setting up and optimising paid search campaigns and building your brand through SEO all take up a lot of time. That’s why you need to prioritise channels you think will be most useful and relevant to your ideal customers. Additionally, enlisting the help of expert digital marketers can be hugely helpful. If you’re not quite ready to hire more staff or outsource your marketing, take a look at some handy inbound tools below.
Our recommended inbound marketing tools
Using some smart inbound marketing tools can make setting up and running your inbound marketing campaigns much easier and makes measuring their success more straightforward.
When it comes to finding relevant keywords to add to your SEO and paid search strategies, you can use tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush and BuzzSumo to find out what your ideal customers are searching for and reading about online.
Meanwhile, Hubspot can help you optimise and automate your email marketing. They also offer an easy to understand blogging platform and landing page creator complete with analytics that help you pinpoint how your audience is interacting with your content. Finally, social media planning tool Hootsuite lets you easily post updates on all your accounts and monitor industry trends and your competitors.