Inbound marketing is the next step in online evolution, if you listen to the marketing gurus and advertising diviners. Traditional marketing, like TV ads, magazine spreads, and radio spots, to say nothing of pop-up windows, are all things that the viewing public has grown used to. The public blocks these message out, or changes the channel, and the message the company is trying to deliver becomes a bunch of white noise if it’s even heard at all.
By contrast, inbound marketing doesn’t even look like marketing. A company makes some videos, produces a comic strip, or writes a blog that gives an audience something it values. People enjoy it, become fans of it, and in their minds associate that content with the company who makes it. That association creates a relationship, ducking under the audience’s defences and earning their good will so that when they do need to buy something you sell, they’re more likely to go to you than they are to one of your competitors who doesn’t write a weekly movie review blog, or release a bi-weekly gardening tips video.
Inbound marketing isn’t as easy as it sounds, though, which is why it’s important to keep the following dos and don’ts in mind.
#1: Do Give Your Audience Value
Value is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to inbound marketing, and for good reason. It’s not just that you’re giving your audience something free of charge, it’s that you’re giving them something free that they want, and which adds to their lives. It’s like giving away free merchandise to your audience; the more useful the item is in their everyday life, and the more value it gives them, the more positively the recipient feels with regard to the company. A free pen is useful, but doesn’t add a lot of value to someone’s life. A free thumb drive, by contrast, might garner a lot more loyalty.
#2: Don’t Make It All About You
One of the biggest missteps you can make when it comes to inbound marketing is to put the spotlight squarely on yourself, and on your company. It’s important to remember that the content you’re creating needs to be focused on your audience, and on their needs; you’re there for them, not the other way around. While you should include a call to action in every post or video, make sure you keep a tight focus on what you’re doing to help your audience. They’ll appreciate that, and keep coming back.
#3: Do Market Your Content
While it might sound like the film Inception, you have to market your marketing to ensure it’s getting seen. It’s not enough to write a clever blog full of useful information that will win hearts and minds among your potential customers, because if no one reads it then it might as well not exist. So, in addition to creating the content, you need to do your best to spread it around. That means posting on social media, using online bookmarking sites like Stumble Upon and Digg, as well as gaining a presence on forum communities, and networking with other creators to help get your signal boosted. The more people who see your content, the more effective it will be in the long-term.
#4: Don’t Expect Immediate Results
What makes inbound marketing different from most forms of traditional marketing is that it’s a long-term investment. For example, if a business runs a new ad in a local publication, especially if the ad comes with a special discount, the expectation is that there will be an immediate uptick as people see the ad, and come into the store to make purchases at the short-term, lower price. Inbound marketing takes longer than that, but also has a more permanent effect. It could take months, or even years, of producing content before you find your audience. However, once you find them and grow them, their loyalty to the brand you’ve created is ironclad. So be patient, and give the seeds you’re planting time to grow.
#5: Do Keep A Tight Focus
When you create your inbound marketing plan, you need to plant your flag on a project, and decide what falls inside its borders. For example, if you’re a movie theatre, then a movie review blog is a natural fit. You should, however, focus a little more tightly. You might decide, in this instance, that your blog will only review movies that are currently playing, which will help drive people to your theatre in order to see them. If that’s the sort of focus, and goal, you have for your content, don’t throw in random posts that act as distractions. Discussions of classic movies, a retrospective on a certain director’s work, etc. might all be interesting, but you need to work it into your focus in order to make it relevant.
#6: Don’t Ignore Your Schedule
Your schedule is up to you when it comes to your inbound marketing content, but you need to stick to it once you’ve established it. Additionally, it’s better to post less in the beginning, and to post more as you grow in popularity, than to do it the other way around. If you start off making one blog post a week, or one video update a month, and then you double that frequency as your audience grows, you look like you’re growing. If you start off posting content at a breakneck pace, but then have to slow down, you look like you bit off more than you could chew. So think about what creating your content entails, and plan for it accordingly.