The term Marketing was first coined in the late 18th century. Commerce has been an integral part of human history and evolved in many different ways. Images of crowded and bustling market places, with vendors selling their wares to effervescent people trying to strike a bargain, have featured in films and printed in books. There have always been contrary views on when exactly marketing began. What is marketing? There are various schools of thought which define marketing in different ways. To simplify it, marketing is the process where prospective customers are made aware of the existence or presence of a particular product and the customer based on their need would procure the product.
It was perceived for a long time that it is the customer who needs goods & products, and it is they who will come looking for the sellers. This perception or attitude proved to be contrary to the then-popular belief. The earlier approach was imposing the products on customers rather than understanding their actual needs.
This was eventually replaced with building a long-term relationship with the customers by starting to understand their requirements. The emergence of Newspapers, Magazines, Posters, and Billboards started a marketing revolution.
A simple activity of buying and selling transitioned over the years into a multi-billion-dollar industry and eventually shaped into Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing.
What is Outbound Marketing?
Outbound Marketing can be termed as any type of marketing that reaches out to the customers through advertising and one-to-one in-person contact. It is through these channels that customer leads are generated based on their requirement.
These leads are subsequently converted to sales by the sales representative. Until the emergence of the internet in the 20th Century, Outbound Marketing used the following methods to engage customers.
- Cold calling
- Newspaper and Magazines advertising
- Press releases
- Tv / Radio Spots or advertisements
Outbound Marketing had to keep reinventing its strategies regularly due to high competition. To negate competition there had to be an infusion of fresh ideas while keeping the budgetary constraints in mind. Outbound Marketing is also called push marketing and has been perceived to be obtrusive.
In Outbound Marketing the customer relationship is purely attention-grabbing rather than value. While there may be pros and cons associated with Outbound marketing, the fact remains that it has stayed relevant to date.
Changing Scenario and Emergence of Inbound Marketing
The change in scenario happened with the widespread accessibility of the internet which changed the landscape permanently. The first search engine was launched in the 1990s. This was just the beginning of a sea change in perceptions & style of functioning of industries worldwide.
The subsequent arrival of social media with LinkedIn in 2002, Facebook in 2004, and Twitter in 2006 revolutionized media & advertising. Such means of advanced communication which was hitherto unheard of captured & swayed the world.
There was a frenzy whereby everyone wanted to be a part of this revolution in communication. The time was ripe for a revolution in Marketing & thus Inbound marketing which until now had not been taken that seriously began to be explored as a viable & cost-effective way of Marketing.
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Preference for Inbound Marketing over Outbound Marketing
The prime objective of any business is calling for interest in their goods & services. This is normally done through numerous mediums or marketing techniques. However, after a while, many of these techniques like email blasts, SMS marketing, etc became intrusive and no longer appealed to the customers the way they used to.
This kind of interruption marketing as it is known as had lost its sheen and was no longer welcome with customers. The modern customer is intelligent, well-informed, and knows exactly what he wants. With a change in perceptions and requirements of customers, Inbound Marketing began to be preferred due to the flexibility and personalization options that were made available to the customers.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing which is also known as pull marketing works by earning people’s attention & not by buying it. In the competitive world where a customer is spoilt for choice or confused it helps them to decide by connecting with them with useful & relevant content.
It’s a marketing strategy that utilizes various forms of pull marketing namely blogs, content writing/marketing, events, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), Webinars, and many more to attract customers and generate business. Inbounding clients with customization and personalization has become a unique marketing strategy.
It needs lots of planning to implement projects. There has to be the right mix of content creators, marketers & public relations, or media managers. The creative team has to be on top of their game and should be well equipped with all the requisite resources needed to generate great content.
It is a long process, as it takes time to establish a brand. However once established with valuable inbound content, the benefits are immense.
Strategy the Key to Inbound Marketing
The main objective is to generate creative content which is made discoverable to customers. The generated interest should be sustained by engaging with the customers. The interest should be converted to business and culminate into a partnership. To achieve this, it is important to understand the buyer’s persona.
What is a buyer’s persona? It’s a characterization of the ideal customer to whom you want to promote your products. These are purely fabricated people who are made to represent your brand’s targeted customers. This persona of the buyer may span across a wide spectrum comprising age, sex, social status, etc.
With the penetration of the internet globally the reach out to the type of customer who can be targeted is boundless. Each potential customer or buyer may have their preferences, tastes & goals. It is therefore imperative to know the buyer’s persona which will enable you to focus on the right type of content to attract the ideal customer.
This will go a long way in helping build your brand. It is to remember that Inbound Marketing is a magnet that pulls customers by using all the advanced communication tools and provides them not only various value-added services but an overall experience. Precise inbound strategies in marketing add value to the customer.
Impact of Search Engine Optimization – SEO
As the name implies SEO is all about searching for optimum results. The search yields the best results for people looking out for products or services, in search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc. Prospective customers are attracted more to those results which have better visibility, thereby resulting in getting more customers to the business.
There is a technicality which is involved in SEO whereby search engines use bots, which search from one website to another gathering information and indexing them like a book. The search results are given after consideration of various factors the main ones being keywords and content quality. There is an array Of SEO tools available which are either free or paid, which can be used to streamline research.
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Types of SEOs- Organic and Inorganic
- Organic SEO
Organic SEO refers to ways and means used to get a high result or ranking on search engine results. Search results are based on keyword queries. It is the best way to rank a website in search engine research pages (SERPs) without paying for it. If the content is rich and keyword centric it does not require any paid promotions to feature in the search results.
Some good practices in building an Organic SEO are as follows: –
1. Keyword stuffing: – Is a process whereby a website is loaded with keywords to improve the rankings on the search pages. The idea behind the recurrence of the keyword is to create an impact on the customer.
However, it is to be noted that unnecessary repetition of words, Irrelevant or out-of-context words end up spoiling the overall experience thereby creating a negative impact on the customer. While there are contrasting views on the topic of Keyword density ratio, moderation should be exercised towards the same.
2. Backlinking: – This is One of the standard SEO techniques which help websites help increase their rankings and traffic on different search engines. In simple words, a backlink is when another external website links to your website at someplace in their published content. This could be either be on a blog post or any other page of the website.
A few tips that can be used to generate backlinks are: –
- Inclusion of Call to Action-CTAs either in your blog post, e-book or infographic. CTAs go a long way in spreading the word around and help in increasing website traffic.
- The success of every business depends on its Networking. With platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, it becomes easy to reach out to prospective customers, thereby increasing website traffic.
- Writing guest posts will showcase your expertise amplify your image and go a long way in establishing your credentials.
3. On-site optimization: – This is about everything on your website that can be manipulated or changed. This can be optimizing web pages for specific keywords to improve overall performance and traffic. Onsite SEO is simplifying your website for making it easier for search engines to find it.
- Inorganic SEO
Inorganic SEO is about paying money to get visibility and rankings on top of the search pages. These are paid-per-click (PPC) advertisements where website owners pay charges to have their website shown at the top of search engine results.
These are very expensive and can be afforded only by big businesses who want to stay ahead of the competition. It yields good and fast results initially, but in the long run, its effect begins to diminish.
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What are the Benefits of Inbound Marketing?
- Cost Reduction
Traditional marketing or Outbound marketing uses a publicity blitz to attract customers. The expenses incurred in this publicity done through expensive advertising campaigns, Billboards and Hoardings, TV and Radio spots are eventually passed indirectly to the customer.
Against this Inbound marketing is more precise. It is more customer-centric and finalizes strategies based on the nature of the requirement of the client. Moreover, the infrastructure required is only the Internet, which is cost-effective and has the widest reach.
Thus, adding a blog to a website or having a Twitter account is much more economical than the cost incurred for something like a billboard advertising campaign. While visuals and graphics are popular means of advertisement having mass appeal, blogs and articles have a far-reaching impact.
Decision-making is based more on reading articles about the company, its background, and products than an advertisement. According to HubSpot, it leads cost 62% less than outbound leads, which is a significant cost saving.
- Attracts Qualified Leads
Due to its personalized nature, it can attract qualified prospective customers who can be good leads. The traction gained by content, data, and projections spikes the customer curiosity which leads to a higher likelihood that they will get in touch to get more information.
A well-designed website with a good layout, and with smartly designed calls to action will surely intrigue the customers and pull them to the website to learn more about the services being offered. Good blogs with substantial content spread the word and initiate contacts either directly or through referrals.
Organizing webinars or creating product videos and uploading them to the website too are good ways to attract customers. According to HubSpot, it generates 54% more leads than paid marketing tactics.
- Builds Brand Value
Brand building involves offering uniqueness for the content being delivered and the pricing vis-à-vis competition.
- The first stage in the process is attracting and engaging the customers with interesting social media content.
- The second stage is understanding the customer’s needs and satisfying the same by providing content tailored to suit their requirement. This can be done by bringing in exclusivity in the form of webinars, videos or e-books, or any other methods that will draw the customer.
- The third stage is to convert the customer interest and close the deal. This can be achieved after carefully analyzing the customer needs as shown in the second stage and pitching according to the customer’s requirement.
- The fourth stage is to gain the loyalty of the enthused customer by continuing to add value to the partnership. The customer needs to be pampered by providing sound advice and guidance. Once the customer is convinced about the brand and its services the recommendations and referrals will automatically start flowing in.
The process of creating value for the customers automatically starts building the brand value. Once established the sky is the limit for any brand.
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- Return on Investment (ROI)
Return on Investment in simple terms means the gains or profit received from investments made. In the marketing field ROI is used as a tool or benchmark used to gauge the efficiency of a marketing campaign. ROI from Inbound Marketing is undoubtedly higher than all other forms of marketing.
Calculating the estimated ROI on online engagements can be a challenging task, however in its case, the same can be tracked by web analytics platforms. Analysis of the right metrics and performance of simple calculations gives an idea of the ROI from Inbound marketing.
Few factors to be considered before calculating ROI: –
- Time: – Time taken for strategies to become leads and convert to sales.
- Budget: – Big budgets will enable more investments in strategies and thereby resulting in greater leads and conversion to sales. Small budgets contrary to this don’t give much scope to experiment and thereby diminish the returns.
- Clients: – Cost of client acquisition can include two components, namely money spent on personnel and marketing tools & money spent on promotional strategies. The client can either be a one-time client or a retainer client. Different formulas are used to calculate the ROI for each type of client.
Few Tips to Improve Return on Investments: –
Converting promising leads into customers: – The sales team needs to be able to identify what are the reasons for leads being converted on their website and use the same to encourage prospective customers to do the same.
Tracking of Engagement Metrics: – These metrics help in reconstructing the customer’s journey. Some pointers for using engagement metrics are as follows: –
- What is it about your website that has encouraged client conversion? It could be a catchy demo or landing page or a call to action which is visible and connects the users to the contact us page.
- What is the ratio of visitors who have got converted to leads?
- Bounce rate, whereby how many people land on the website home page and leave without taking any further action?
- Periodic audits of customer visits on the webpage, blog posts, and social media to ascertain which is more beneficial. Once identified work to make it much more engaging.
Frequently Asked Questions:-
1. What type of content creation is required?
It’s all about building a customer relationship. The main focus should be on identifying the pulse of the audience. Once you are in sync with the requirement, work towards creating suitable and relevant content. Visual content using attractive photographs, videos, Infographics create immediate impact. This needs to be backed up with adequate literature on the nature of write-ups and blogs. The impact of a well-written article or blog is long-term and goes way forward in building brand image. Having said that the content should be crisp and to the point to drive the point across.
2. When do I kickstart my campaign?
The first step is goal setting which is of paramount importance. It is crucial to know your objective and create a road map to reach there. Once the goal is set, work on the required tools to achieve the same. The success of any campaign depends on the depth of research done. It is important to understand the business, factors affecting the business, regulations, compliance, competition, customer preferences. This needs to be followed up with skilled staff, and robust support of Information & Technology (IT) Higher IT investments can reap greater benefits in the future.
3. Which is the most viable/effective platform to reach out to customers?
Visual outreach is the most effective way to reach out to customers. In the modern world where connectivity is a way of life & people hard-pressed for time, the most impactful medium is visuals. Platforms like Instagram get immediate attention. Building online communities through Facebook is also very effective. For a more personalized touch, emails are considered to be a viable option, periodic newsletters have a positive impact and build trust over a period of time. Presence on Twitter is another medium of garnering attention. Blog posts, Virtual events like Webinars, Feedback engagements also help in reaching out to the customers.
4. How do I know the effectiveness of my campaign?
- Jump in Traffic: The foremost indicator will be the jump in traffic to your website. If the website is appealing, people will spend more time viewing or reading the content. Monitoring the mobile traffic metrics to your website will help in understanding the number of users accessing your content via mobile devices or tablets.
- Time spent on the website: The time spent on your website will determine the effectiveness of your campaign. The average time spent and pages viewed per visit will give an idea of the way your campaign is performing.
- Conversion ratio: The conversion ratio of visitors to your website who have converted to customers or future leads is an important indicator. If the conversion rate is high, it will result in quality traffic and achieving greater business.
- Return on Investment: It’s the most basic and simplest parameter to know the effectiveness of any campaign. When the income generated exceeds the investment, the campaign can be considered a successful one.
While the benefits of Inbound marketing are boundless, constant reinventing methods need to be adopted. With the right research, metrics, and calculations the ROI can always be increased. Opting for Organic or Inorganic SEO is optional, with both having a common objective – increase your business. Content marketing will continue to grow exponentially due to the cost benefits it provides as compared to traditional marketing.
There is no denying that higher investments in Information & Technology will yield sure shot results, however, it is good to exercise caution and take small steps with proper research before incurring any capital expenditure. The arrival of Metaverse Marketing which is tipped to be the future of marketing will make the scenario more interesting. It promises to give the customers a whole different marketing experience. In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how Inbound Marketing will change, adapt and integrate with the introduction of such new technologies.