So you’ve been hearing a lot about this whole ‘inbound marketing’ thing lately. And you’ve probably been sitting there, possibly taking a look through our very own Digital Marketing Guide (check it out here), nodding along and stroking your chin while secretly wondering what the heck is actually going on. What's the difference between inbound and outbound marketing? Right? Right.
When you googled ‘inbound marketing’ you probably got some super dry explanations like ‘the process of attracting the attention of prospects, via content creation, before they are even ready to buy’, or even worse ‘a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimisation’ (thanks Wikipedia for that one).
But what does that even mean!?
The best way to explain inbound marketing is by comparing it to traditional, outbound marketing. It might have a fancy name, but outbound advertising is something we’re all incredibly familiar with: TV and radio ads, flyers, catalogues, magazine and newspaper ads, billboards, cold calls, weekly newsletters, pop ups – all that attention grabby stuff. It’s basically a just a company using marketing tactics to desperately reach a consumer, any consumer.
And here’s the thing about outbound marketing: it’s damn expensive and pretty low yield. Think of how much ad space alone costs, let alone the costs involved in actually coming up with a decent campaign! Marketing budgets in outbound are requiring more and more money. Actually, if you really want to scare yourself, take a look at some of the stats over at WebpageFX, where they’ve broken down some of those expenses for you.
For all the big dollar expenditure and marketing campaigns, outbound advertising doesn’t really get the results. We’re really good at blocking it out, you see. We turn past ads or skip through them, we use adblockers, and during ad breaks we prefer to stare into the fridge, hoping for something better than mustard and parmesan cheese to appear. Outbound advertising washes over us like B.O on a crowded bus: it’s unpleasant, but if we just face the other way and try not to think about it, it’ll go away.
Inbound marketing is different: it doesn’t come to us, we go looking for it.
Inbound marketing is premised on creating an experience that is relevant and helpful to the customer – an experience that they’ve actually gone out of their way to find and engage with. Outbound advertising was all about interrupting what a person was doing, grabbing their attention for half a second and almost immediately getting mentally filtered into the ‘don’t give a shit’ pile.
Instead of annoying customers into noticing a company, inbound marketing gets them coming to the business by their own initiative, via channels like blogs, search engines, social media and even YouTube. It’s a two-way dialogue rather than a man shouting his opinions at you on the street corner. And the key thing is: inbound marketing is designed with an emphasis on solving the problems that customers might have, offering them advice and tips, answering questions and engaging in conversation.
When you're having trouble working out how to get the perfect loose waves for a first tinder date, you'll google it. Googling it will lead to youtube tutorials on just how to do it. Those youtube tutorials, either created or sponsored by a particular brand, are inbound marketing.
When she’s scrolling through pictures on her Instagram, jealous of her friends in exciting destinations overseas, she’ll see the hashtag #welltravelled and with a simple click she’ll be on the Hershel Supply Co’s Instagram, where the company is using the platform to bring together images of their products and images of the exciting places customers wear their products. Another form of inbound marketing and what's known as user-generated content.
When a University student is looking for a bit of personal and professional development, they'll head to the American Express blog to find out how to get ahead through posts about everything from productivity to leadership to finances. You guessed it, this is inbound marketing too.
Its been in front of you the whole time...
This less pushy approach builds trust in the mind of consumers: they'll no longer see your business as a cash-grubbing, out-for-itself money-maker, but as a company invested in their happiness. Not to mention, the shareability of inbound marketing is high: people love to repost and share content that appeals to them. Anything that makes them laugh or think, anything beautiful or random, anything that helps them or might help out a mate.
If they trust in the brand, consumers are more than happy to turn their lives, including their Facebook and Instagram feeds, into inbound marketing ad space. Their friends, clued on by someone they like and who’s opinion they respect, are in turn much more likely to click the link and be funnelled to the business. And of course, if the content is good enough, this ripple effect just keeps going. And guess what? You didn’t even have to fork out $300,000 for 30 seconds of TV ad time!
Inbound marketing has obvious financial and brand-personality benefits. The key is coming up with the inbound marketing strategy that works best for your brand.