Short of alien abduction or living in a cave, you’ve probably noticed the shift in marketing in the past few years. Gone are the days of talking to your customers and prospects instead of talking with them. Inbound marketing makes you a magnet (and I need to give a shout-out to The Weidert Group for that comparison!) and allows you to attract business. It’s a pull, as opposed to a push.
It should come as no surprise, then, that inbound marketing has really revolutionized sales. While we could probably spend all day talking about the finer nuances of this shift, there are seven key points that I want to focus on today.
#1: It’s easier to be found.
Before inbound marketing, you placed ads and sent out mailers. You relied heavily upon word-of-mouth (which is still a great method) and hoped against hope that business would find you. With inbound, so much of what you do happens online. And if you’re optimizing your websites and content, as well as maintaining active social profiles, you will be found.
Will you still have to depend upon word-of-mouth? Definitely. But that’s wonderful! Should you still supplement your efforts? Sure. But establishing yourself online opens up so many more opportunities to be found.
#2: Inbound builds a relationship between the consumer and the business.
Social media plays an enormous role in inbound marketing, and one of the ways that it does that is by allowing the customer or prospect to be close to the business. That is, they can leave comments or other feedback via any number of social channels and can thus get to know what that business is all about in a way that just didn’t exist before.
Got a question about a product? Before, maybe you had to call an 800 number before 6 p.m. Now you can hop on Twitter, tweet your question to the company, and receive an answer in a matter of minutes. The more opportunities a person takes to interact and engage with your business, the stronger your relationship with them will be. (This, of course, assumes that you’re responding and generally rocking inbound marketing.)
#3: There is a focus on education.
Many people would say that content marketing is the corner stone of inbound. I’m one of those people. When you practice content marketing, you create resources that will educate your clients and prospects. Blogging for business is one really popular way of doing this. What inbound marketers realize is that people don’t want you to sell to them; they want you to teach them.
For example, if you’re a computer company, you might write blog posts or create videos and how-to guides that will teach people about computers in general – not just the ones you’re selling. There’s a time and a place for the sell, but with inbound, it’s more about education.
#4: Inbound encourages dialogue.
Because you’re putting content out there – be it through your business blog or social media, you’re inviting comments on that content. In fact, in many cases, you’re including a call-to-action that explicitly invites feedback and discussion.
This is not the one-way marketing of days of yore when someone might see your latest ad and comment, but you would never know. Inbound encourages conversation between customer and business.
#5: The funnel has changed.
Because of the heavy focus on social media that helps to define inbound, the sales funnel has changed to accommodate. Nowadays, you can move through each stage of that funnel almost entirely with social media. From brand exposure to lead conversion to the point of sale, nearly everything can be done on some kind of social channel.
#6: Monitor the conversation.
Social media tools make it simple for you to monitor the conversation about your brand. From a basic Twitter search or Google alert to more elaborate paid tools, you can listen in to what people are saying about you. This information can be invaluable when it comes to developing products and services, recognizing members of your team for an outstanding job, or providing friendly and helpful customer service.
Sure, you could find out what people were saying about you before, but it might not have always been so candid, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll hear a lot more of that conversation with social media.
#7: Inbound marketing helps to humanize businesses.
Prior to inbound marketing, it was difficult for brands to really show a lot of personality. They had static advertisements or brief television spots, but it was hard to know what they were really like. In other words, if XYZ Brand were a person, what kind of hobbies would he have? What kind of music would he listen to? What kinds of activities would he enjoy?
Thanks to inbound marketing, we can let our brand personalities shine. Customers like to see that they have something in common with the businesses they patronize. Don’t feel like you need to be all business all the time. Maybe you shared a really useful blog post on Facebook this morning, but now you’re listening to a killer Friday afternoon playlist on YouTube to get you through the last few hours of the work week. Think your followers might enjoy it? Why not share it with them? Let them know that behind the business, there are real people just like them.
There’s no denying that inbound marketing has made a profound impact on how we do business. How has it changed your business? Do you see more positive results using content marketing and social media? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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