The Brilliance of Inbound Marketing

It has been fun and challenging to discover and learn about the world of Google Analytics. Much of my enjoyment has come from knowing that I am gaining technical knowledge about a very specific and widely-used software program. This experience has been able to satisfy some of my desire to take a small break from the conceptual and dive into the technical. But now that I’ve had my break, let’s take a step back. Google Analytics is a small piece of a larger and relatively new marketing concept known as inbound marketing.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a rather new concept because the internet and web technology is relatively new. Web technology has introduced a whole new frontier of marketing possibilities and caused consumer culture to shift dramatically, as it has changed the way in which purchases are made. No longer do people need to rely on the carefully filtered messages of corporate promotional campaigns as their source of information. Today, people actively search to find “their own” information on products and services. This interconnected medium has also allowed consumers to create their own information by voicing their opinions and ideas about products and services to the world.

This shift has caused businesses to consider new ways of marketing to consumers. The term “inbound marketing” was coined by HubSpot’s co-founder Brian Halligan in 2005 and is defined by Marketo, a Marketing Automation Company, as:

“The process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.”

I like to think of inbound marketing as the concept of drawing customers to you instead of drawing yourself to your customers. It’s like the idea of pulling and pushing. Outbound marketing strategies focus on pushing concepts to consumers by forcing messages and corporate promotions into their lives. In contrast, companies that use inbound marketing strategies seek to pull consumers to them by creating valuable content that informs them, by making it easier for customers to find them, and by actively seeking to create and maintain relationships with customers. Blogs, videos, social media, white-pages, and forums allow companies to create valuable and interesting content and messages for their audiences, while programs like search engine optimization, web analytics software (i.e. Google Analytics), and social media management software make it possible for the continuous improvement of inbound marketing strategies. All of these pieces seek to actively draw in potential customers and nurture current customers.

Why is it important?

Inbound marketing is important now more than ever mostly because of the advent of information and web technology. Consumers live in a world of mass media in which their perceptual filters are constantly blocking out the noise. Making it easy for interested consumers to find you and for potentially interested customers to become invested, is an effective way of marketing because it seeks people when their shields are down.

HubSpot posted some interesting marketing statistics that highlight the value and importance of using inbound marketing strategies to effectively reach consumers in today’s world. One of these statistics demonstrates how consumers are searching for information like crazy.

“86% of consumers stated that using a search engine allowed them to learn something new or important that helped him/her increase his/her knowledge. (Pew Research Center, Search Engine Use 2012)”

If this many consumers are searching for information, even if it’s not necessarily with the intent to make a purchase, isn’t it obvious that providing interested consumers with relevant information about your product or service could astronomically increase opportunities for generating transactions? If nothing else, it can present consumers with valuable exposure to your product, which could possibly lead to purchases in the future.

An example of inbound marketing done right:

Even though I’m not a coffee drinker, Starbucks has done well at positively positioning itself in my mind. And apparently, I’m not the only one. Starbucks has used many successful marketing strategies to position itself and generate brand awareness, but one of their most effective means of doing so is through their use of inbound marketing strategies. They have reduced customer acquisition costs and effectively increased customer exposure to their offerings specifically through actively engaging with customers on social media websites. CEO Howard Shultz explains further:

“There probably [aren’t] very many companies in America that have created the capability and the discipline that we have with almost 40 million worldwide fans on Facebook, a leading company on Twitter and Foursquare, and what that has done, it has given us the ability to lower our cost of customer acquisition in terms of traditional advertising and build a more enduring, emotional relationship with our customers.”

Who would have thought that a coffee company could find success in posting on social media sites? I think Schultz underlined the root of their success when he mentions how their use of social media has allowed the company to “build a more enduring, emotional relationship with… customers.” Today, successful marketing is so much more than calculatedly making hard sells. Truly successful marketing actively seeks to create and nurture relationships with customers, fostering brand loyalty and lifetime commitments. If a coffee company can find success in using these techniques, why not any company?

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