Traditional marketing has benefited most marketers that have learnt to do things the right way. For decades we have all been at the mercy of marketers and their messages. Then came the invention of the DVR and ad blockers and marketers were then forced to think of other ways to reach out to their potential customers.
In the past few years, inbound marketing has created a new revolution in the way brands communicate with their customers. So what is Inbound marketing?
Before I get into that, let me give you some perspective; in the old days (when I mean old, I mean up until five years ago), marketers used to rely on cold-calling, email shots, mass SMS, and other methods of push marketing to reach out to their customers. This is essentially outbound marketing and finding success using this technique can be limited in today’s crowded marketplace. In fact these tactics are all marketer-centric and end up being interruptive and annoy prospects instead of appealing to them.
The DVR can pause and fast forward through commercials, caller ID can help you avoid cold-callers, and spam filters block unwanted emails from clogging your inbox. Nowadays, people use pop-up killers which are applications that kill pop-ups before they even appear on your PC or smartphones. This means that marketing messages are getting lost and do not reach their intended target audience ultimately costing marketers huge amounts of money.
Inbound marketing is a collective set of tactics used by marketers to lure consumers to their brands by providing engaging and helpful content to win the trust and confidence of the prospects before converting them to customers. It is a method that can include SEO, SEM, blogs, landing pages and much more. These are all customer-centric and do not interrupt his or her journey. The key is to have an integrated set of marketing touch-points that pull customers towards your brand and more importantly to have quality content that users are looking for.
Inbound marketing predicates the need for brands to get closer to their prospects by influencing them in a subtle way before converting them to buyers. To do this, brands needs to understand a host of things about their prospects like what they are looking for? What are their demographics? What information do they have already? What is their current state of mind? Getting to these prospects when they are in an important phase of the buying process i.e. “opinion building and fact finding” is crucial to converting them to customers.
Some of you who have done their Google Certification may find this familiar. This primarily identifies with ZMOT or Zero Moment Of Truth – a concept invented by Google a few years ago. It is a practice that teaches users of Google SEO and SEM to apply every day while they set up campaigns on Google.
Put simply, ZMOT is the time users spend researching products and services online. This can be via SEO, SEM, blogs, social media, product reviews on websites and more. This time that they spend doing this research is critically the time they form an opinion about a product or service that eventually pushes them to either buy a product or move away from it.
Here is a typical example. Let’s say Ahmed is looking to buy a new car and is making a switch from a normal sedan to a performance vehicle. He wants to know if he can have custom modifications done to his air intake system. As he has narrowed his search down to two brands, he looks up their websites, checks out their blogs, and looks at their local Facebook pages to see if he can find answers. He is now in his “opinion building and fact finding” phase. If one of those brands responds to his queries about modifying the air-intake giving him some really good tips and suggestions without even hinting at a sale, that is one part of inbound marketing done well. Keeping Ahmed happy with the information means that he will now trust that brand more than the one that did not respond to his query and may lean towards buying that particular brand of vehicle.
The main principles of inbound marketing are educating customers and building trust so that your brand maintains a top-of-mind retention. Marketers that are embracing inbound have a variety of techniques to master starting from SEO, blogs, social media, landing pages, analytics and more. But trust me, once you learn them, you will find new ways to generate leads, communicate with prospects and win customers. Stick around and next month we will look into inbound marketing even more and see how it can benefit your business.
Barry Rodrigues is Head of Marketing & Product Development at Future Communications and an associate advisor with the International Advisors Group in Kuwait. He has worked for industry leaders like Agility and National Aviation Services in various marketing capacities in addition to delivering marketing projects for the banking, hospitality and petrochemical verticals. For comments, please email Barry at [email protected].