Inbound Marketing – What is it, Can Anyone Do It, and Case Studies
Posted on January 25, 2016
First of all – what is Inbound Marketing?
- Inbound marketing is a term for any type of marketing that your company does that gets customers to reach out to you instead of you reaching out to get them.
- You earn the attention and business of leads by creating juicy content that draws them in and is right there at exactly the moment when they go looking for it – such as free e-books, great tips and advice, active blogs, links to valuable information, white papers, podcasts, SEO marketing, newsletters, etc.
- When successful, your clients will love to interact with you on social media sites, look forward to e-mails from you, and happily click through your ads because they know you offer exactly what they’re looking for.
This is in sharp contrast to outbound marketing, or interruption marketing, whereby you push your products in front of your leads’ faces without knowing whether they want it or not. Outbound marketing relies on paid mass market advertising (TV, radio, and print ads), cold calls, spam, and telemarketing.
Since over 70% of us active on the internet and social media sites these days, it’s no wonder that we largely ignore mass advertising and click the ‘unsubscribe’ button on every single marketing e-mail. As consumers, we are getting savvier to the ways of big advertising companies, and we are just saying NO.
And companies are starting to adapt to take heed. This is where IM comes in. Since 2006, when a Boston company called HubSpot began using the term inbound marketing and building a business around it, many companies all over the world, big and small, mass market and niche, have focused on switching their marketing efforts to inbound marketing.
Here’s Wordstream’s very useful graphic on the differences between Inbound and Outbound Marketing:
What are the Main Advantages of IM?
- It levels the playing field between massive companies and small businesses, because a small business is not competing with the multi-million dollar mass advertising budgets of the big companies, it is competing on quality of content alone.
- IM is more precise than OM – because you know who your leads are and are creating juicy content that you know they will want, you are not wasting your advertising efforts on a wide audience where 99% of people will just ignore you.
- IM is more measurable than OM – using web analytics, you can test and trial content again and again until you get it to match exactly what your customers are searching for, instead of carpet bombing a wide audience with one-size-fits-all marketing and then trying to figure out what part of it actually worked when a lead comes in.
PPC – Is it Inbound or Outbound Marketing?
There’s been a bit of controversy over this one, actually. On the one hand, PPC is paid advertising, and could be seen as a traditional form of outbound marketing. But recently, advocates within the IM industry have settled on the view that PPC is inbound advertising if you use it in a way that allows customers to reach out to you, rather than shoving the ad in their faces.
To illustrate, a little case study, featuring – well, me! As I was researching facts for this article, I visited approximately twenty websites featuring stories about IM. Later on, I switched over to my Facebook page to give my brain a little break – and guess what I found in my feed? This ad right here:
That’s right – Moz, one of the biggest authorities on inbound marketing, detected that I was searching the Internet for articles on IM, and it fed a PPC ad right into my Facebook feed. This is a great example of how a business can track what I am currently searching for on the Internet (probably using automated SEO and backlink analysis), and then serve me with an ad for something that they already know I am interested in. Because I am looking for this information, I am not annoyed by the ad, and indeed I click through to their site. Result!
Inbound Marketing for Small Businesses and Niche
Small companies often wonder if they can do inbound marketing and be as effective as big companies at it – and the answer is yes. IM levels the playing field between large and small companies, because you’re competing on quality of content you offer to leads and not advertising spend.
IM is not free, however, because you will still be assigning internal staffing and financial resources to cover it. If you are serious about doing it effectively, you will need to form a special IM team within your company and a small group of dedicated SEO and content writers.
With regards to budget, know that most companies spend 2-5% of sales revenues on IM each year, with the average being 2.5%. Therefore, if you have revenues of $5m a year, you need to budget $125,000 for IM. However, one industry expert advised companies with less than $5m in revenues per annum to spend between 7 and 8% on marketing in total if they really want to grow.
If you are a company providing niche products or services, then take comfort in knowing that IM is tailor made for you! No matter if you are providing breast augmentation services or garden tools for left-handed people, IM will work for you because your pool of potential customers is small, and has very specific tastes, wants, and needs. The two case studies below will show you how some companies – whether big or small, or niche or not - used IM to their advantage.
Case Study 1: B2C IM
Chris and Sharon Pastore of Havertown, Pennsylvania, USA, founded a small, two-firm divorce law firm called Mainline Family Law Center. They realized that clients prefer to discreetly research divorce options on Google rather than asking friends, so they began to optimize their website for keywords their potential clients were using. Then, figuring out that none of their competitors were giving out useful information about how to divorce and separate peacefully, the couple started to add blog posts filled with content on how to do this. Interested traffic flooded in, and once there, the couple set up a landing page that signed prospects up to a free consultation with them, as below:
By using the top three IM tools available to small businesses without a lot of resources – smart use of SEO keywords on the website, fantastic blog content that filled a gap need, and a landing page that converted browsers to firm sales leads, the company achieved the following:
- A #1 rank for over twenty different keywords connected to divorce law
- A 30% quarterly growth in web traffic, and;
- A 30% growth in leads
Case Study 2: B2B IM
Palomar Technologies, based in California, supplies complex microelectronic and optoelectronic packaging systems to other businesses. The company had been doing well by attracting lots of traffic to their website, where they ran two very popular blogs, the Palomar Technologies Interconnection Blog and Wire Bonders’ Speak. But they couldn’t figure out how to convert the web traffic into useable leads. The company decided they needed to go further with their IM efforts, so they hired HubSpot to help them not only to attract wire bonding and contract assembly services visitors, but to also successfully convert traffic into sales leads. Together they built Palomar into the number one authority on their specific niche. Below are graphs showing the results from the IM investment:
With IM, Palomar Technologies achieved:
- A leap in leads from 22 a month to 50-60 a month
- A 20X growth in web traffic and leads
- An increase in unique visitors to the website from 100 in the month before they started, to 1,911 three months into the campaign.
A Recap of Steps towards Effective IM
Identify Your Target:
- Using backlink analysis, research on competitors, and testing of your own products, build a comprehensive picture of your customers, their demographic characteristics, the psychology behind their buying behavior, and their level of buying authority.
Identify Your Content:
- Determine what unique content you can offer that will fill a gap need for your customers, and use it to fill your blogs, social media, marketing message, PPC, etc. Constantly renew, add, and refresh your content. Remember your unique angle – you need to provide something of value to your customers that nobody else is providing – or just do it better.
- Make sure your domain name and content are rich in keywords your customers are searching for.
Automate Your Marketing:
- Use automated marketing software to convert browsers into firm leads by cultivating e-mail relationships with prospects, and automatically sorting out legitimate leads from leads not ready to buy just now and leads are not expected to move down the conversion tunnel.
Don’t forget conversion codes:
- Although building content is king, shipping code is essential too. Specifically, you need free tools that convert web traffic into highly motivated (to buy) leads. A good one is InsightSquared’s Sales Funnel which allows sales people to quickly diagnose the effectiveness of their sales funnel (see screenshot below), and using it can help you convert at up to twenty times more leads than if you don’t use it.
- Use social media (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest) to build your brand image and engage with customers, engage in imaginative e-mailing campaigns, and above all, blog fresh and enticing content that adds value to customers. Engage your customers and then listen carefully to what they want.
Landing Pages and Calls to Action:
- Move leads further down the conversion funnel by offering smartly-designed landing pages that sign them up for free trials, or calls to action that sign them up for free e-books to be delivered to their e-mail. This will be your main lead conversion opportunity, so invest time in doing it right!