To understand what inbound marketing is all about, we should step back and take a look at what constitutes outbound marketing – the way companies have been marketing their goods and services for centuries. Traditional outbound marketing involves buying advertising on various mediums. This could be magazines, television, radio, on the Web, through flyers – anywhere that sells advertising space.
In such cases, we are reaching out to prospective customers in the hopes they will buy our products or services.
Inbound marketing moves in the opposite direction. The goal of inbound marketing is to attract attention, help people learn something, create a community, build trust, develop loyalty to a brand, and with trust and loyalty, create sales.
This is why we use the phrase “words lead to sales” throughout the AlturaSolutions website.
Now that you have a better idea of what inbound marketing is, let’s take a closer look at how it is done. According to Hubspot and others in the industry, the key elements of inbound marketing are the following:
Content: This can be words, images, videos, podcasts, graphs, and other material on your company website that help educate a visitor.
Attract: While inbound marketing starts with content, it will do little if visitors cannot find it. That’s why all content placed on your site – as well as social media platforms – must be optimized for search engines. This can be as simple as adding what is called ALT Text to images and graphs to help search engines determine what the content is all about. Or, it can be much more complex such as placing throughout a blog post the keywords and phrases that people typically use when searching for a certain type of product or service.
Visits: With high-quality, search-engine-optimized content on your site, you can expect to see the number of visitors coming to your site increase. Before the inbound marketing program begins, you need to determine how many visitors are coming to your site. Then check the stats every three to four months. You need to give the program at least six months to see if it is working.
Convert: As the number of visitors to the site increases, the next step is to start converting. This means turning visitors into leads. There are a variety of ways to do this. For instance, at AlturaSolutions we offer an eBook at no charge. To get the free eBook, the visitors must fill out a form. Forms are a great way to find out who is visiting your site. They allow us to gather visitor information so we can contact these visitors in the future. Other ways to turn visitors into leads is to have calls to action at the end of a blog posting, inviting visitors to contact your company directly about a product or service. Adding these visitors to an e-newsletter can also be very powerful.
Close: As in all types of sales and marketing, the final step is the close. Along with personal outreach, this can involve any of the traditional sales techniques, but it can also involve continuing to provide information specifically to address the needs of these visitors. However it is performed, you have the lead, and now you need to turn the lead into a customer.
Tracking the Return on the Investment
Eventually you will want to see a return on your inbound marketing investment. As mentioned earlier, it is necessary to give the program at least six months to get its footing. After six months, you can see if it is paying off.
The following are the things to look for:
Web traffic. Remember to find out how many visitors the site had before the program began. Now see what the numbers are six months later. With my own site, I saw an increase in visitors in just three or four weeks. But give it six months to know whether that is just a spike in traffic or a real and steady increase in visitors.
Contacts. Along with more visitors, see if you are getting more contact information. How many are clicking on calls to action or filling out forms? These are your leads, and you want these numbers to steadily increase just like the web traffic.
Mentions: To help spread your content, you should also share it through LinkedIn and Twitter. Those are currently the best social media sites for B2B industries. Now, check how often your company is being mentioned. Setting up search-engine alerts is a simple way to do this, but there are much more sophisticated platforms that can also be used. You want to see the mentions increase along with the web traffic and the contacts.
Inbound traffic. As your content and social media efforts add visitors to your site, something very powerful begins to happen. The number of visitors to the site and the amount of time they spend visiting the site gets the attention of the search engines. This boosts your “site authority.” When this happens, your company will get higher rankings in the search engines, and with higher rankings come more visitors, more leads, and ultimately more sales.