The Secret Trigger to Inbound Marketing

by Chris Arlen on May 18, 2011

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The Secret Trigger to Inbound MarketingGet familiar with the difference between outbound and inbound marketing. You don’t need to become an expert but a little knowledge is needed with tight marketing budgets.

While both outbound and inbound marketing have their merits, inbound is recognized as the more effective for its low cost per lead and its engaging relationships with buyers. Engaging buyers before they buy puts sellers in positions of influence. Ask any salesperson and they’ll tell you they’d rather be talking to buyers early and often to position themselves for when the buying opportunity arises. Inbound marketing can do that.

It can also deliver the holy sales grail – buyers who contact sellers. Buyers coming to sellers who are pre-qualified, ready to buy, and see the seller as their leading solution provider. Sellers wouldn’t have to beat the bushes to make quota – they’d just open up to the fire hose and take orders.

Like anything new, inbound marketing is a new discipline to learn, and even more work to sustain. New and strenuous. That’s not bad when considering its effectiveness and low cost.

Inbound in More Detail

Inbound marketing is about developing a relationship first, and then enabling buyers to engage sellers. Although relationships from inbound marketing can occur quickly for simple inexpensive online purchases, it takes more time for larger, complex sales. Large sale relationships often require many online interactions before buyers are willing to actively engage sellers.

Here are three categories that comprise inbound marketing (content, social media, search).

Content First: Insight for Eyeballs

Examples: Blogs, videos, ebooks, white papers, etc.

Content is key to inbound marketing. It must be valuable to buyers, who then give permission to be contacted again in the future. This permission based marketing requires content first before buyers opt-in.

Publishing content has become much easier for sellers through technology such as content management systems (blogs), email subscription services, YouTube, Google Docs and Presentations, etc.

After the initial learning curve to publish content, the real burden of inbound marketing comes from creating high value content continually. If you don’t have content how are you going to keep buyers engaged?

Social Media

Examples: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Social media are web-based and mobile applications that turn communication into interactive dialogue.They enable buyer-seller conversations that build better relationships, lead to better buys, and more sales.

As social media is the hyper-hyped darling of the moment, many marketers feel inadequate because they’re not fully linked in, twittering, friending, liking or YouTubing.

In the facility service market, contractors are slowly figuring out what their social media goals are and which social media to use. Contractors (sellers) will eventually get over this hurdle, and once they do they’ll be able to:

* Better understand buyers’ pains that need fixing & improvements buyers want to make

* More easily get access to buyers who have engaged with them through social media (hey, it’s easy to get introduced virtually)

* Put a human face/personality to their service business as buyers see sellers’ interactions as individuals (seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it?) – think Facebook page with contractors’ employees posting successes & news that buyers can see

In social media, the seller’s strategy is indirect, they must avoid the Pavlovian desire to sell because it sticks out like a sore and avoidable thumb. Instead, sellers’ social media goal is to build buyer relationships, which is done through:

  • Sharing content (sellers or others that are relevant)
  • Answering buyers’ questions
  • Providing buyers’ information & insight (education)
  • Keeping buyers aware of industry trends & advances
  • Becoming a resource worthy of buyers’ attention

Search: Yo, I’m here!

Examples: Keyword searches using Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

Buyers are searching for insight, Googling for answers. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) gets sellers’ content found in buyers’ organic searches.

Search is about keywords (surprise). Ideally, sellers optimize their keywords’ position in online content to end up one of the top 3 results on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Research into Google Organic Click Through Rates shows that as much as 70% of clicks come from positions #1 and #2. Below the fold (content not visible without scrolling down)? Might as well forget about being found.

Keywords used early in titles and headings, and frequently in content near the front helps optimize search results. The hard part here is the knowledge to define and refine keywords, and their placement in online content.

While content should be optimized for search engines, it still is meant for humans. Overly manipulated content for keywords hurts the very reason sellers provide content in the first place – to build a relationship with buyers.

As you can see in SEO, content is still king but it requires some specialized knowledge and effort for optimization.

NOTE: Pay Per Click (PPC) could be considered part of inbound’s search category. PPC are paid links that display near organic search results for selected keywords.

In essence buyers self-select those sellers that match their keywords. However, the emphasis is on converting visitors to sales immediately on a landing page, and not generally about building long term relationships.

Buyers’ Give Permission by Opting-In

Inbound marketing needs buyers permission first. That first step opting-in looks differently depending on the programs used. Here are some examples:

BLOGS: Subscribe to RSS feeds, or opt-in for email subscriptions (most services follow a double opt-in procedure and closely adhere to CANSPAM email laws)

SOCIAL MEDIA:

FACEBOOK: Like and/or Friend a company’s page or an individual seller

LINKEDIN: Connect to an individual and/or follow a company

TWITTER: Follow an individual or company

SEARCHES: Keyword searches act as self-selectors as buyers opt-in to sellers’ online content through their choice of keywords

With all the benefits of inbound marketing it’s fair to ask why bother with outbound marketing? What has outbound to offer that inbound doesn’t do, and do better and cheaper?

The necessity of outbound marketing becomes clear when a seller launches an inbound marketing program.

Launching Inbound Marketing

To launch inbound marketing sellers must first get buyers’ permission. Their opting-in is a seller’s primary conversion goal.  But how do you get their attention in the first place?

Imagine this. You’re a seller. You have great online content, not sales brochures but valuable information about what buyers should be doing, case studies, free assessments, etc. You’ve set up your social media accounts and email subscription services. You’ve dedicated resources, creative and editorial. You are ready.

But no buyers show up. They don’t know you’re out there. It’s as if you held a party and no one came.

And that’s the catch. When launching inbound marketing programs how do buyers know sellers are out there, online, ready and waiting to engage?

You forgot to send out the invitations to buyers. That’s the trigger that’s not being discussed online – the invitation part. You know once buyers notice sellers’ value they’ll opt-in and then everything is hunky dory. But until that happens, sellers and their value are invisible online.

So how do sellers first get buyers’ attention online?

Remember the invitations to your party mentioned earlier? Sellers must use outbound marketing to get those invitations to buyers. Outbound techniques are the secret trigger to inbound marketing.

Yup, that’s right. Traditional, outbound (interruption) marketing techniques must be used to make buyers aware, to gain their attention for that first online interaction – for that first buyer opt-in.

So outbound marketing has its place in the brave new world of inbound marketing. It’s at the beginning, at the launch of inbound programs. Sellers need outbound to raise their hands in the air and get noticed by buyers.

NOTE: Inbound marketing programs can be launched using search (SEO) only. However, getting sufficient numbers of buyers to opt-in can take a long time. Time which is often in short supply when sales are needed.

Using Outbound Marketing to Launch Inbound Programs

Multiple outbound techniques can be used to launch inbound programs. They all include a call to action that is not a sales pitch but a call to opt-in. Typically they include an incentive, a freemium (free premium) such as an ebook, research report, etc. For example:

* DIRECT MAIL promoting a contest or drawing with a gift as prize for buyers to sign up

* ADVERTISING: Print & online ads promoting a freemium, contest or drawing

* SPONSORSHIPS at tradeshows promoting free education seminars

* COLLATERAL pieces promoting the freebies for salespeople to leave behind

Summary

At the end of the day sellers are marketing (outbound) the opportunity to begin an interactive dialog with buyers (inbound). Through this conversation sellers have better relationships, greater buyer loyalty and better sales. But the beauty of inbound marketing can only begin with sellers raising their hands to get buyers’ attention and immediately converting that notice into buyers opting-in.

Simple, but hard. What’s worthwhile having that isn’t?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Stamoulis June 16, 2011 at 5:30 am

Inbound marketing is extremely effective if done correctly. As you mentioned, it’s about producing content to gain the trust of your target audience. It’s about joining the conversation rather than starting it.

Chris Arlen June 16, 2011 at 8:13 am

Nick, exactly. This is a great example of joining a conversation, as you comment here – which I love. Thank you.

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