It’s been said that inbound marketing and startups are a match made in heaven, and it’s hard to find a reason to disagree. Inbound marketing, as opposed to outbound marketing, is all about earning the attention of your prospective customers. While outbound marketing sends out brochures, unsolicited phone calls and metaphorically (or literally) goes door to door, inbound marketing attracts customers’ attention by establishing its authority and trustworthiness.
One obvious difference between the two is that outbound marketing tends to cost more and entails soliciting countless individuals hoping you find one who is interested in what you offer. But if someone finds your beekeeping website through inbound marketing, you can be assured that they already have an established interested in beekeeping. At the same time, inbound marketing offers virtually free traffic from blogs, SEO, email, infographics, social networks, podcasts, referrals, bookmarking, forums, videos and so on.
Starting Up With Inbound Marketing
Of course, in order to be found by consumers looking for your services, you must have an online presence. That’s why inbound marketing begins with content marketing. If you want people to trust your website and return on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll need to provide quality, free content. This means writing interesting and engaging blogs, creating amusing images and videos and interacting with your readership as much as possible. While outbound marketing grabs the attention of a consumer, inbound marketing earns that attention by building relationships with individuals, informing them and ultimately offering them solutions to problems that you pointed out to them.
The beauty of the inbound marketing approach is that creating quality content leads to a snowball effect—because your content is liked and shared online, your page ranking on Google improves and your content becomes more accessible to even more people. This means that while the going is slow at the beginning, eventually you can anticipate relatively sustained or even explosive growth depending on the quality of your content.
So When Do You Sell?
The sales portion of inbound marketing occurs in what is often described as a sales funnel. At the beginning of the sales funnel, you have traffic that you’ve wrangled to your website by providing share-worthy content. As you continue to provide that content, your readership moves further into the sales funnel as you build a trusting relationship with them. Once your readership is enamored with you and your services, you can offer a variety of opt-in services (like a newsletter) which can help push those who have demonstrated interest in the services you offer toward making a purchase. This allows you to give light sales pitches to those who are ready to make a purchase while avoiding a sales tone in your general content that might otherwise undermine the trustworthiness of your content.
In Four Steps
To summarize, inbound marketing can be broken down into four steps:
The first step is to discover marketing paths for which you would like to develop content, like beekeeping supplies and information.
The second step is to test that niche by developing content for it and determining if it is as viable as you had hoped. While you can’t expect overnight success, if you’re unable to garner any interest after a few weeks of trying, you may consider switching to a new niche before you invest too much time on a bridge to nowhere.
Next, measure your progress. You won’t know how well you’re doing unless you take the time to analyze your bounce rate, average time spent on the site, etc. This also gives you valuable clues about the quality of your content relative to your audience.
Last but not least, repeat this process. Develop more of the type of content that worked and throw out projects that aren’t going anywhere. Inbound marketing won’t promise you overnight success, but it will promise you an affordable, sustainable and powerful alternative to many traditional marketing options.
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