Inbound Marketing in 2021
Inbound marketing is based on attraction. Instead of broadcasting general content that is characteristic of outbound marketing, inbound marketing is based on drawing in prospects based on their interests.
It’s a more natural form of marketing that aims to captivate attention through content that aligns with customers’ needs and interests.
Inbound marketing attracts the most interested and relevant customers to you. When a customer interacts with your content they usually give permission to receive more informational material, allowing you to nurture your prospects along their journey, and further down your marketing funnel.
Inbound marketing should take your buyer’s journey into account, providing content and information that is relevant for each stage of the customer’s interest in your product or service. Although a customer may not be ready to commit to buying from you just yet, with more information they can be swayed.
Below we list some of the most common inbound marketing strategies.
Types of Inbound Marketing
The Cornerstone of Inbound Marketing: Content
Content marketing is the core of inbound marketing: designing valuable and relevant content with a specific target audience in mind. The point is to push would-be customers further into their buyer’s journey.
Content marketing is fairly cost effective. There are two main cost factors: creation and distribution.
In terms of creation, if you’re not a natural at developing content yourself, outsourcing is always an option with freelancers — or even as an internship opportunity for students. Your largest cost with content marketing may be finding someone to actually write or produce the content for you.
But just because you build it does not necessarily mean your customers will come. As content marketing expert Ross Simmonds likes to say, “Content is no longer king. Content distribution is king.”
While so-called “organic” distribution across platforms like your website, social accounts, and email newsletter remains fairly cheap, organic reach will only take you so far.
Many professional content marketers recommend an 80/20 split — but perhaps not in the way you’d expect. 80% of your time and budget should be spent promoting your content, compared to 20% creating it. As social networks become increasingly pay-to-play it may be necessary to set aside hard dollars for promotion.
Types of Content
The most common types of content companies utilize are:
Blogs are a great way to drive traffic to your site. Not only do they demonstrate your company’s expertise on a topic, but they increase your credibility. Blog posts don’t necessarily have to be directly related to your product or service, but they should focus on topics within your industry — that your audience will find interesting.
The best-performing blog posts will also captivate interest from amplifiers in adjacent markets, as they’re more likely to be promoted and increase the size of your audience.
Videos and or Podcasts
As tried-and-true as blog posts are, not everyone is a reader. That’s where video and podcasts come into play. A video is a great way to get the same information out, but in a visual format.
Our suggestion is to keep your videos fast-paced and on the shorter side — a good rule of thumb (unless you’re producing a full-length webinar) would be to keep marketing videos to around three-to-five minutes. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with too much information and you don’t want to bore them. A long video will likely lose interest.
Podcasts allow your audience to digest information while doing other things, like commuting to work or while working out.
Videos and podcasts come with the added benefit of distribution via the platform to which you upload them, such as YouTube or Spotify.
And another advantage of recording either a video or a podcast is that the transcript of those efforts can also become a written “blog post” to host on your website, usually with the podcast or video embedded at the top of the post.
Embedded YouTube videos and podcasts allow you to “triple-dip” in terms of promotion — on YouTube or the podcasting platform, on your own website, and in Google search results.
eBooks and Reports
Longer formatted content will likely only draw your most interested prospects. The benefit of this format is that you have more space to discuss topics in depth and use more sophisticated terms. If your report is valuable enough, you may be able to use it to collect contact information from interested prospects — turning an anonymous visitor into a Marketing Qualified Lead.
This is the type of content that a returning customer might derive value from, or someone further along the sales cycle.
Building credibility is essential for any company to be successful in their marketing and sales efforts. Tailoring your content and doing buyer research is a good starting point, but it’s not enough. Many companies make broad claims about their wonder product/wonder service, but the problem is that those claims are one-sided.
Of course you think your product/service is amazing! So how do you convince customers that it actually is?
What better way to do it than to share stories from actual customers? User-generated content is content that is related to your brand and product or service, but that doesn’t come from an official representative of your company.
Let’s look at some examples.
- Customer Stories:
Most commonly you see customer stories as videos, blog posts, or downloadable PDFs. These stories usually are dramatized and show the customer undergoing a challenge of sorts.
The customer then explains how your product or service helped them get through this challenge and what they achieved through partnering with your company.
These customer stories help your company connect to other prospects because they are hearing positive feedback from a real person who they can relate to.
This makes your product more believable and your audience may be more likely to buy from you.
While review spam and fake reviews are on the rise, at least when it comes to local businesses, 79% of consumers trust third-party reviews as much as personal recommendations. A positive review carries so much weight because the company has no control of what the customer writes. Positive experiences can’t be artificially highlighted and negative experiences can’t be artificially minimized.
If a customer leaves a good review this information is perceived to be genuine and true. If your company can compile and showcase these positive reviews a customer is more likely to engage with you in hopes of obtaining a similar positive experience.
- Case Studies:
Case studies focus on results and large changes in outcome. A good example from the B2C world would be the before and after snapshots shown in acne product commercials.
B2B examples might showcase the expenses a company incurred before implementing a particular solution, and the amount saved by doing so. Or the performance of a particular business unit prior to utilizing a product compared to performance after.
The best case studies lay out the initial problem or circumstances of a customer, and then discuss the positive changes that occurred once this customer acquired their product.
Content Marketing Resources
Copyblogger is a great source to look at if you’re unsure of where to begin when it comes to content marketing. They offer blogs, podcasts, and tutorials on all different types of content creation as well as their own hub for freelance content creators.
The Content Marketing Institute unsurprisingly produces all kinds of great content about content marketing strategy and tactics.
And Ross Simmonds has a wonderfully comprehensive but digestible look at content marketing, particularly for B2B companies.
Hootsuite offers a comprehensive guide to designing user-generated content on social media platforms. They discuss best practices and provide an abundance of examples to use as references.