Welcome to the brave new world of the socially engaged and connected consumer. Inbound Marketing 2.0 fully acknowledges the customer is in control. It takes the approach of pulling prospects to you instead of chasing after them.
It’s all about permission-based marketing and not old school interruption-based marketing. Interruption-based marketing is dead. Think about it; VCRs, TIVO, caller ID, do-not-call lists, opt-out lists, voice mail, and SPAM filters all exist because people are time-starved and hate being interrupted.
When was the last time you bought something from someone who cold called you at home during dinnertime? I would venture to say never.
The true power of Inbound Marketing comes from how it leverages trust, transparency, word of mouth and the collective wisdom of crowds. However, Inbound Marketing is hard and takes time. It is detailed and highly technical work. Getting found by prospects and customers on the internet requires the expertise of someone with the technical knowhow of an engineer, the marketing skills of a direct marketing expert and the social media skills of a Hollywood agent.
The foundation of all Inbound Marketing begins with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website. Some Inbound Marketers will strongly disagree and say that content and publishing a blog is the foundation. I will disagree and say that SEO optimization is the real goal. I view content via a blog as a tactical tool that can be optimized for SEO. I say this because not all sites can easily use blog content to drive traffic. For example, an e-commerce site with a product catalog of thousands of items would get very little SEO benefit from creating blog content. Why? You would need thousands of blog pages optimized for the product keywords. There are approaches that are more effective and efficient. I’m also leery of pushing blog content as a foundation because of volume of blog posts necessary to drive traffic. Recently published data from Hubspot indicates you need to have 70 plus pages of blog content before you see a significant surge in SEO traffic. Blog content creation requires a massive commitment of time and resources and may not be appropriate for some companies. For the large e-commerce site, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising via Google AdWords would be the foundation of their Inbound Marketing. A blog would have very limited impact on SEO in this situation.
The bottom line is that customers need to be able to find businesses on the web using search terms that make sense to them. Websites are now the focal point for all interactions with your prospects and customers. Today, websites and search engines have replaced the yellow pages and directories as the primary way customers find a business. Local search has become so important that Google has made that one of its core offerings. Type a business name into Google on a PC or smart phone and you now get a map showing the location of the business, a link to the website and driving directions. Try to make a yellow page ad do that.
For well-informed businesses today, the focus of all marketing should be towards pulling customers and prospects to their website and creating multiple ways for them to engage with their company on the website. For example, if you own a local pizza shop; customers should be able to see your tweets on your site and sign up for Twitter notification of two-for-one pizza specials on Friday. If you run Outbound Marketing programs such as radio or print ads, be sure to direct the audience to your website and/or social media channels.
The next priority for businesses is to establish multiple channels and touchpoints with customers. The general idea is to make your website sticky and give prospects and customers a reason to come back. If your target market consists of regular YouTube viewers, you may want to create a YouTube channel and create content to engage viewers. If your target market uses mobile apps like Yelp or Foursquare and you can benefit from reviews and crowd wisdom, you may want to create a presence there. If you can create compelling blog content, put the effort into writing a blog. If you can regularly tweet interesting micro blog content, build out a Twitter page. If your customer base is on Linkedin or Facebook, put up a corporate fan page. Publish content regularly to these sites. If customers like to interact via chat over the web, install a platform like LivePerson. If you want to build a private community around your audience, consider white label social networking sites such as Ning.
Truly perceptive companies also leverage permission-based email as a way of establishing rapport and dialog with customers. It’s also a great way to close the loop. They use marketing automation systems like Eloqua, Marketo and Pardot to build an intelligent dialog with customers. They structure conversations based on information they have collected on their website usage, social media quotes and more. Marketing automation becomes the hub which ties all of the various components of Inbound Marketing together.
The Inbound Marketing 2.0 Guiding Principles: