Brian Halligan’s HubSpot Inbound Marketing article compares marketing strategies to the
hunting game between lions and elephants. In the past, lions headed into the jungle to track down the elephants. Now, lions are realizing that the elephants will come to them if they stick near an important resource like a community watering hole. This allegory represents the shift in marketing strategies from outbound marketing to inbound marketing.
When Brands do the Chasing
Outbound marketing is exhausting and expensive for a brand or company. With outbound marketing, a brand is forced to sift through a population of largely uninterested consumers to find the few potential customers who are actually in need of the product or service being offered. Think of the most common outbound marketing strategy: cold calling. If your business offers discount shoes to consumers, outbound marketing through the telephone would require you to open a phone book and start making calls. Out of thousands of cold calls, you may stumble across a handful of interested consumers. The calls you made to the uninterested, however, were a waste of your time. Outbound marketing is like fishing in the dark; sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you’re just groping at nothingness.
Considering the Inbound Strategy
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a more sophisticated and savvy way to market your products and services to the population. With inbound marketing, you intentionally set up your brand as an authority and a trusted resource for the products and services you are selling. When an interested consumer starts searching for a solution, your inbound marketing strategies will bump you to the front of their personal radar. Think of a brand like Starbucks. Starbucks has established itself as one of the leading coffee providers in the world. When consumers think of coffee, they automatically think of Starbucks. Starbucks doesn’t have to cold call potential customers and ask if they are interested in purchasing a product. Instead, when consumers need coffee, they seek out Starbucks to provide what is needed.
Inbound Marketing Requires Patience
Inbound marketing may seem like the easy marketing road, but many businesses hesitate to invest in these strategies because they take quite a long time to develop and become profitable. Inbound marketing requires patience and a great deal of time. Your consistent efforts will return no rewards for several years. Once your brand is established through inbound marketing, however, the marketing responsibilities become much lighter and more manageable.
The Meta Data Factor
The meta data of your website is the “behind the scenes” content that lets search engines like Google know what your site is about. If this content is not carefully chosen and supported by the other content on your site, Google algorithms will become confused, and your site will not be featured predominantly in the search results rankings.
Your meta data should be rich in natural keywords that correspond to search strings created by consumers who are interested in your products. If, for example, your brand deals with holistic wellness, the meta data for your website should include commonly searched phrases and words that deal with holistic wellness and its many subcategories. You want your website to be viewed by search engine algorithms as an authoritative and informative source for interested consumers. It is important to note that search engines do NOT use meta data like meta descriptions and meta keywords for the ranking process. Rather view these tags as a way to further substantiate and strengthen your message to the consumer.
The Content Factor
The meta data on your site is not the only thing that dictates your perceived clout as an industry leader. The content you post on your website is the most important inbound marketing strategy you can adopt. Unless you are consistently posting informative and interesting content that corresponds to your industry, consumers who are searching for your products and services will never find their way naturally to your website.
Captivate and Hold Attention
It’s not enough, however, to simply captivate the attention of consumers who are already interested in and searching for your brand’s products and services. Consumers today have very short attention spans. For example, a consumer may be interested in purchasing a new area rug. When he has decided to buy a rug, he begins by Googling “cheap area rugs” and reading the search results page for hits. He will likely click on three to five search result listings in the space of about five minutes before landing on a page that holds his attention. It’s impossible to nail down exactly why consumers make a split-second negative decision about a webpage before moving on to the next search result listing, but the aesthetics and content likely play an enormous role.
If your website looks cheap, consumers are going to assume that your content, information, and products are equally cheap. Customers are becoming very adept at evaluating the merit of websites based on a few instantaneously evaluated factors. Improve the aesthetic appearance of your website, clean up the home page, choose stylish and sophisticated fonts, and create an attractive and modern logo, and you’ll improve the chances of keeping customers on your website after they find you.
The content on your website needs to work with the aesthetics to keep customers browsing. The goal of the content on your site is to guide consumers through the conversion funnel. At the top of this “funnel” is where consumers land when they reach your page through a search engine. The top of the funnel is wider to accommodate a large number of consumers. Very few of these consumers will sink to the bottom of the funnel and make a purchase, but your responsibility as a brand is to help lead them to a purchase decision.
Inbound marketing can draw thousands of consumers to your website: consumers who are already interested in the products and services you are providing. Instead of mass-marketing products to a large population of disinterested consumers, you can establish your brand as an industry leader and product expert. Then, you can simply watch as consumers are drawn to your web presence because of your authority and perceived expert status. Inbound marketing requires patience and time, but it has the potential to be one of the most effective marketing strategies you will ever use.