There’s been a major shift in the world of marketing when it comes to targeting customers and generating leads. Long gone are the days when a few ads and pieces of direct mail were the magic formula needed to score new business.
Potential customers are now more important than ever and in this new world are placed firmly at the centre. In the past it was all about the ‘outbound’ - getting in front of potential customers however you could by interrupting their day with anything from an advert, to cold calling, direct mail and sales emails.
But now there is a new kid on the block – ‘inbound’ marketing – which has basically flipped the previous strategy on its head. This approach concentrates on encouraging potential customers to find and come to you, rather than casting a wide net to try and snare some.
Inbound techniques are developing fast, as new digital and social channels get more and more advanced. In the same way, outbound is getting trickier for a whole host of reasons, including new technologies that can act like extra gatekeepers and a mass shift away from printed media. Plus we’re all getting a bit savvier when it comes to making buying decisions and finding the best deals.
While there is still a place for the old school methods, the type of channels you use and in what combination will really depend on the service or product you want to push, and exactly who the target customer is. With all channels it remains important to monitor their effectiveness and adapt as you need to and as your company goals evolve.
Are you in or out?
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is about getting found by a customer. It can be done through any type of marketing activity, both on or offline, but lends itself particularly well to digital channels such as company blogs, videos, white papers, webinars and social media.
The secret of success when it comes to inbound marketing is creating and sharing high quality content that will be of interest to your target customers. And that means genuinely of interest, not something you want them to be interested in (i.e. your products, your services, you, you, you). The sales patter needs to be left at the door.
To get it right you need to keep it consistent and regular, so an audience can be built up over time. Mix up the format the content is delivered in to keep it interesting and make sure you are using the full circle of communications at your fingertips to get it out there as widely as possible - post, tweet, share and encourage all your colleagues to do the same.
Benefits of inbound
The key benefit of inbound marketing is that it will help you be far more targeted with your approaches, as by reading, liking and sharing your content, individuals are already highlighting themselves as warmer leads. The key is to grab these leads and use them.
Inbound is also a very cost-effective route to take. Depending on your industry, traditional routes of marketing such as advertising, cold call, sponsorship and attending trade shows, could prove a very time heavy and expensive exercise. With inbound there will still be costs and a time commitment needed, but it is unlikely to reach the same levels. The beauty of digital also means your content could stay around for ages – not have such a short impact time, like an ad or exhibition.
Taking it up a gear
IP tracking is one way you can take all the good work you’re doing with your inbound marketing and accelerate it even further. It works a bit like a caller ID log. When someone visits your website their IP address (the computer they’re using to access the internet) is logged. For individuals it won’t reveal much, but in the case of businesses it can lead to all the public information held about them. So those anonymous visitors are not anonymous anymore.
You’ve probably come across cookies when browsing the web yourself. They can be used to store a detailed picture of someone’s movements around a website – from the pages they visit to how long they spend there.
From a lead point of view this info could enable you to qualify them before you even pick up the phone. You can check they’re the right fit in terms of size and need for your product and service, and will have the budget for it. If you get really clever then you can even use the info to match the type of business, its size and location with the sales person most likely to be the best match.
IP tracking can also help with outbound marketing too. For example if you are spending budget on an advertising campaign, then IP tracking can help you measure its effectiveness. Are you seeing any increase in views from businesses within a certain sector or location that matches up with your ad’s target audience?
Making the most of it
So with the right tracking tools in place you could know who’s been on your site, what company they were from, what they looked at and for how long….the list of helpful info goes on. The more intel you get, the better and more targeted the inbound marketing content you can then create.
For example, what format of content is hitting the most buttons for your top target customers? Are videos proving a winner? Or is your advice-style blogs? And what topics have been getting the most views by your top target prospects? Look for patterns that can help strengthen your offering even more.
The beauty of any marketing like this that you do online is that there is now the possibility to track and measure it. If you’re gathering and using all this then it can help you to shape your activity moving forward, and those lead conversions won’t be far behind.
Workflow automation can help marketing teams nurture and score leads so they can provide the sales team with truely qualified prospects. Learn how in our guide - Workflow Automation Made Visible.