Inbound Marketing 101

Inbound marketing turns the advertising / customer relationship on its head. By reversing the funnel from the broadcast model that touches many but connects to few, inbound marketing seeks to engage interested parties at any stage of the customer cycle and help move them further along in the buying journey.

Permission granted by the prospect to receive a marketing message is the most important aspect of a solid inbound marketing plan. Seth Godin popularized the phrase permission marketing in a book of the same name in which he described the rise of a new information marketing model facilitated by digital communication.

Permission Filters

In a world where consumers have so much information broadcast at them, they seek ways to filter the noise they do not want to hear. Twenty-first century tools like DVRs allow television viewers to skip over advertisements. Phone subscribers request to be on the Do Not Call list.

However, most people grant marketing permission to a select few brands they trust to provide value. Inbound marketing seeks to build these trust relationships by connecting with consumers when they are willing to hear the message.

Permanent Internet Real Estate

Inbound marketing would not be possible as it exists today without the social web. Digital information can be stored for pennies per month allowing new prospects to find a webpage for years after it first appeared online. Websites with dedicated inbound marketing plans can build up years of posts, each one a trail back to the original site.

Search engines attempt to sift through all the information available online to find the best results for information seekers. Part of the challenge when creating content lies in targeting keywords and phrases customers are likely to enter as search queries at different points in the buying cycle. Once branded “SEO” for search engine optimization, inbound marketing techniques seek to present content in a manner that lets search engines find it for interested searchers.

Getting Permission to Call Back

Bringing prospects to a website is just the first step in a well-executed inbound marketing funnel. A site should entice the next level of permission from each new contact.

Visitors first give permission when they click on a link and agree to give their attention to the landing page content. The next level of permission usually involves a subscription, either to an email list, a blog feed or a social network. At this point, the prospect is agreeing to receive regular updates that will strengthen a bond with the brand. The better the content offered, the more likely it is that visitors will buy in to this next level of consent.

A marketer’s ability to hone in on how to be of value to a prospect is the quality that sets successful inbound marketing strategies apart from spam machines. It may take several emails and blog posts over weeks or months to move a prospect all the way from curious to the point of purchase. A successful content marketing stream keeps it interesting for the prospect for as long as it takes.

If the content does not add value over the time it takes to convert, if the message becomes one others try to suppress, then the noise will only create more ill will than it sells. Spam is in the eye of the beholder.

Measurement Lets You Perfect Your Delivery

Today’s online tools allow webmasters to measure the steps visitors take on a website. Using tracking software like Google Analytics, they can see what encourages action in a visitor and what falls flat. A company can monitor its bounce rate against traffic sources to see whether it might be better to split audiences with separate landing pages and then measure, test and perfect. Email autoresponder software will signal when subscribers smell spam.

Testing different versions of a web page helps refine the presentation until it best suits the inbound marketing goals. Small changes add up to big improvements on conversions when combined over time.

Finally, with a long-term inbound marketing plan, a company establishes the authority to keep speaking to a core audience, up-selling and reselling to them time and again. People trust the familiar voice that has delivered proven solutions they originally consented to learn more about at the beginning of the inbound marketing relationship.

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready

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