What is Inbound Marketing?

What The Heck is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of attracting people to your website who actually care about what you have to say. It’s about creating content that people are interested in consuming. It’s about admitting that the old way of marketing – interruptive advertising – just doesn’t work anymore.

What is Inbound Marketing

It’s marketing and selling your products with authenticity and transparency.

It’s what people want. 

You may have heard Inbound Marketing referred to by different names. Some people call it Content Marketing or SEO or Social Media. The truth is Inbound Marketing is all of these things and more. 

Inbound Marketing is a Puzzle

Inbound marketing is like a puzzle – but not because it’s confusing. It’s a puzzle in the sense that it’s made up of many pieces. Pieces that should not stand on their own, but when put together, make total sense. To truly succeed online, business need to have a comprehensive strategy inclusive of all the pieces in the puzzle. Assembling the pieces together into one, cohesive strategy is the key to marketing success.

Four Core Pillars of Inbound Marketing

In order for your Inbound Marketing program to be successful, it needs to deliver in four key areas:

Traffic Generation

Generating more traffic for a website is like a recipe: you will need the proper mix of ingredients but there’s no one single formula for success. Rather, it’s a set of strategies and supporting tools working together. Those strategies are Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Customer-Oriented Blogging and Social Media sharing. All three working together will ensure an adequate supply of targeted traffic to your site. 

Lead Generation

So you’ve optimized your content, your’re blogging regularly and you’re getting some content shared on social media. Great start. But just because you have traffic coming in, doesn’t mean you’re getting any leads.

This is where premium content, landing pages and great calls-to-action come into play.  

Lead generation is a tacit quid pro quo between the marketer and customer. You have to convince your potential customer that what they’re getting (information) is worth more than what they’re giving up (their name and email address). Giving away useful customer-focused, problem solving content in exchange for information is one of the best ways to do this.  The amount of information you ask of them is directly related to how valuable the content you’re giving away. The more valuable the info, the more information you can ask of them.  

Once you have their name and email address, you can begin the process of nurturing leads toward sales. 

Sales Conversion

Would you consider someone who Likes you on Facebook a lead? Would you consider someone who downloads your whitepaper a lead?

The truth is that not all “leads” are created equal. 

That’s why managing your leads realistically while taking the long term view is a key part of converting leads to sales. Lead nurturing and segmented email campaigns are your primary tools for converting your leads into sales over time. 

Analysis & Measurement

One of the great advantages of internet marketing is access to data. With the proper tools such as Hubspot or Google Analytics 5.0, you can track almost everything about your site visitors.

The reports you generate should tie directly back to the goals you’ve set for the business. Is your goal to increase site traffic? Is your goal to improve traffic from social networks? Is your goal to increase conversion of your existing site visitors? All of these can be reported on analyzed. 

Remember, data doesn’t lie. It doesn’t matter what your boss wants to do or what some article says you should do. If the data shows that you’re not meeting your goals, change tactics and try again. Your inbound marketing program should be a continuous process of testing, measuring and tweaking. 

Making the Leap to Inbound Marketing

If your business is looking to consistently and affordably generate leads over time without annoying your customers, Inbound Marketing is something you should look into.

Spark Inbound Marketing is a full service inbound marketing agency that can help you make the leap to Inbound Marketing. We don’t promise overnight success but we do promise a system that delivers results over time.

Drop us a line, we love to talk about this stuff!


Demonstrate Your Expertise With Content Marketing

Forget Claims of Excellence

Demonstrate Excellence with Content Marketing

Traditional media marketing was all about making claims of excellence.

Take a look at any TV or print advertisement: 

We’re have the best product in the whole-wide world….

4 out of 5 doctors recommend….

30 day money back guarantee….

All of these messages were trying to convince people that the reward was worth the risk of buying a product they knew very little about. 

The Web is Different

It wasn’t the marketers’ fault. They were limited by the technology of the time. The medium was the message.  That’s all there was. 

But that’s changed.

The web is a new medium. It’s not TV or a brochure or a billboard. It’s new.

  • It’s a publishing platform
  • It’s a content consumption platform 
  • It’s a sharing platform 
  • It’s an interactive platform 
  • It’s extremely accessible to everyone 
  • It’s extremely affordable to everyone 

All of these unique properties of the web give you a grand opportunity to reduce the risk people feel when considering your product. 

Show Them You Know

Instead of simply claiming your expertise, you can now demonstrate it. 

You’re good at your job. You know your field like the back of your hand. You’ve got war stories and battle scars.

Why not talk about it?

Client Success Stories

Do you have some great client success stories where you went the extra mile and got extraordinary results? Write up a client profile and put it on your web site. (change the names to protect the innocent)

Client Failure Stories

Do you have some unsuccessful client war stories? Write a profile on those as well. Why? It’s authentic. People aren’t naive. They know not every client experience is a good one.

Write an Opinion Piece

Do you have an opinion on an industry development? Write about it in your blog and encourage comments. 

Show Your Niche Expertise

Do have expertise in a particular niche of your industry? Write a white paper and allow people to download it.

Become an Industry Information Source

Do you keep up on industry news? Share the links on your blog or a social network. Become a source of information for your niche.

Authenticity Works

People want authenticity. Show them that you’re good at your job. Show them your company has great experience. Show them your battle scars. Demonstrate your expertise.

Show them and they will come. Just tell them and they’ll ignore you.

 


Content Marketing at Spark

Are you looking to demonstrate your expertise with content marketing? Do you have questions? Spark has answers. Give us a call and we’ll talk.


The #1 Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Business Blog

Stop Talking About Yourself

We see so many business blogs talking about themselves, their products, their next big release or the hiring of that big executive.  

The truth is that your customers don’t really care about those things. 

They care about themselves.

So if you do one thing to improve your corporate blog, do this:  

Resist the urge to talk about yourself and start talking about your customers and how to solve their problems. 

But That’s What I Do All Day…

I know that solving customers’ problems is what your company already does. That’s why businesses are formed in the first place. right?  No customers, no business. 

But we’re talking about marketing communication here. Just because you know in your heart that your company is amazing at solving customer problems, doesn’t mean that they know. 

The Medium is Still the Message

In 1964, Marshall Mcluhan famously said, “The Medium is the Message”‘. He was referring to how the advent of different media itself has had profound impacts on culture, business and society at large.  

Back in Mcluhan’s time, marketing messaging was more difficult.   Buying media was expensive and kind of a big deal. You had to make the most of it. 

But the web age has changed the medium and therefore the message. 

Unlike TV, radio or print, the web now allows us to communicate endlessly for very little cost. 

Yet we are constantly amazed at how many companies still treat their web site as a precious brochure! It’s not. 

Bits are practically free. Go nuts!

Talk about how to solve your customers’ problems in minute detail. Every nuance and angle should be explored. Ask them questions. Share industry news stories.

Connect with them like it’s a cocktail party, not a speech. 

It’s The Customers’ Cocktail Party Now

Back in McCluhan’s day, if you wanted to learn about products and services you had to suffer through sales pitches, trade shows and advertising.  It was the media’s world and you were just living in it. You had no choice. 

Now you do. 

In a world of instant information and limitless choice, customers have the freedom to quickly explore a hundred different options before making one. 

Now the relationship is more like a cocktail party. And just like in a cocktail party, don’t talk about yourself too much. It’s boring. 

Hitting the back button on your browser is the modern day equivalent of looking over someone’s shoulder. 

So if you’re going to use your blog to sell something, don’t talk about yourself.

Ready to Play WIIFY-ball?

Next time you’re surfing the net, stop for a minute and listen to that little voice inside your head saying,  

“Why am I reading this web site?”

Is this web site worth my valuable time?

How is this site benefiting me?”

This is known in the Inbound Marketing industry as WIIFY – What’s In It For You.  Actually I prefer WIIFM – What’s In It For Me.

But the acronym’s not as catchy.

Whatever device you use to remember it, the point is the same.  

Use your business blog to talk about your customers because they’re thinking about themselves, not you or your company.

Do that and you’ll be miles ahead of the competition. 

 


Business Blog Consulting at Spark

At Spark, we advise our clients on business blogging all the time. If you’d like to get in on the conversation, drop us a line and we’ll get started.


30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #24 – Be a Guest Blogger

Marketing Tip #24: Be a Guest Blogger

Our last marketing tip was to bring in outsiders to write articles for your blog. Today, we suggest that you become a guest blogger for a relevant blog in your industry. To do so, you’ll first want to find blogs that cover topics related to your company’s products or services. Follow these blogs for a while to get a feel for the type of content the blog owner might be looking for. Leave thoughtful comments that will engage the blog owner or at least being to make your name known.

When you’re comfortable, contact the blogger with an article topic you’d like to submit to their blog. You’ll want to ask to have your name, company name, and website linked back (preferably with a keyword rich text link) to your site.

The benefits of being a guest blogger are many. Writing articles on other blogs gives you exposure to new audiences, builds quality links to your website, and adds to your overall credibility and thought-leadership.

Give it a try!


30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #23 – Bring in a Guest Blogger

Marketing Tip #23: Bring In a Guest Blogger

If you have a blog you no doubt understand the challenges of continually producing fresh content and maintaining an active presence in the blogosphere. Here’s a tip for giving fresh, relevant content to your audience and gaining new benefits for yourself: recruit guest bloggers to write content for your blog.

When you give other bloggers or industry experts a chance to publish an article on your blog, you’re giving them exposure to your audience and a link back to their website or blog. In return, you’ll benefit from keeping your blog fresh and interesting, and also potentially gaining exposure from your guest’s audience since most people who write articles like to share those articles with their followers.

It’s a win-win. Give it a try!


30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #20 – Write Search Engine Friendly Titles

Marketing Tip #20: Make Your Titles Search Engine Friendly

Here’s a simple tip that is guaranteed to improve your results in the search engines:  When writing titles (or headlines) for your online articles, be sure to incorporate a keyword phrase into the title of the article.  The keyword phrase you choose should be relevant to your products and services and should be terms your prospects are likely to use when searching for solutions to the types of problems you solve.

For example, let’s say you are a payroll provider and you’ve just written an article that you hope will rank #1 in Google for the phrase, “Choosing the Right Payroll Provider”, you’ll want to use that exact phrase in the title of your article.  This is just one simple way to improve the chances of your article appearing higher in the search engines.  Of course, there is much more to it but if you do nothing else, at least you’ll have a better chance.

It’s just a simple tip for a simply wet Monday (it’s raining like cats and dogs in California this week!).

For more tips on raking high in the search engines, download our free SEO Guide: “5 Things You Absolutely MUST Get About SEO”.


30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #14 – Find Bloggers

Marketing Tip #14: Find Bloggers Who Are Writing About Your Topic

Finding out what leaders in your industry are blogging about keeps you abreast of trends and competition. To find appropriate blogs, go to Google blog search and enter topics or keywords that are relevant to your business.  Also check the blog search engine, Technorati.

Once you find a blog that interests you, subscribe to the RSS feed, and read new blog posts as they arise. When you see an article that is relevant to your business, leave a well-thought-out comment. Why? First, the author of the blog will notice and appreciate your comment and may visit your web site (or blog) to find out more about you. This may also lead to the author mentioning you in a future blog with a link to your site. Secondly, commenting on a blog gives you new relevant traffic. A reader may appreciate your comment , and  click on your website to learn more.

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30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #6 – Write a Blog Post

Marketing Tip #6: Write a Blog Post – Today!

Remember Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote: “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

Your goal should be to publish a blog post at least once a week.  If you haven’t done so this week, do it today!  The best way to attract new customers to your website is through fresh, relevant content that addresses the needs, wants, and desires of your prospects.  Make it fun, interesting, unique, and above all – make it happen.

Having trouble keeping up?  Ask about our blog writing service.


30 Marketing Tips in 30 Days: Tip #5 – Start a Business Blog

Marketing Tip #5: Start a Business Blog

Business blogs — like the one you’re reading now — offer many advantages to companies pursuing an inbound marketing approach. Done right, a business blog can position your company as a thought leader, boost your search engine rankings on important keywords, and turn interested prospects into sales leads.

The trick is, you can’t just build a blog and let it sit.  You’ve got to write, publish, share, promote, write, publish, share, promote, and keep that process going!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when starting your business blog:

  • Host your blog on your own domain.
  • Design your blog to match your brand and your existing website. It should feel seamless.
  • Let visitors subscribe to receive automatic email updates of your latest blog posts. (This enables your blog to serve dual purpose as a newsletter, if you’d like.)
  • Find blog article topics through keyword research, Google Alerts, from conversations with customers, and from inside your organization.
  • Establish a consistent production schedule, and try to stick to it.
  • Assign a blog “owner” inside or outside the organization to keep the blog publishing on track.
  • Connect your blog to your social media profiles where you can share your latest posts and/or have them fed directly to your profile pages.

Certainly there is much more we can say about business blogs but we think you get the idea.  When thinking about 2011, put a business blog in your plans!

Need help? Explore our blog design services.


What are Business Blogs Good for Anyway?

You’ve probably noticed that more and more businesses are hosting business blogs on their websites. Do these blogs serve a purpose? Can a business blog, for a non-marketing/communications business, really boost sales, or is a business blog simply the next online marketing fad?

Below we explain the purpose of business blogs and outline why this simple technique can help drive new traffic to your site and keep you connected with your current clients.

Learn how we can help you design and write a business blog.

Business blogs connect you with your customers.

Regardless of your business, your website serves the purpose of connecting your customers to you, and you to your customers, right? Ultimately, you have a website because you want to sell your products or services, and you’re most likely interested in reaching new customers, as well as having a forum to stay in touch with current customers, yes?

That’s where a blog comes in.

Blogs are a terrific way for you to control the dialogue, talk about your services, discuss new innovations and trends and bring a personal voice to your image. Business blogs allow customers to stay abreast on your industry information, and your clients will appreciate the advice and valuable information you’re offering.

Business blogs help drive new traffic to your site.

A surefire way to get picked up on Google and to boost your SEO presence, is to have other sites link to your own. A business blog offers a great linking tool—when you provide relevant information about your industry or products, and people read your posts, chances are, they’ll link to your site, or virally spread word about your blog’s information through social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook. Your interesting blog posts can therefore drive new traffic—potential customers—to your site, where they can learn about your services, in addition to reading your blog.

They give you credibility.

When you continuously provide valuable, usable, and relevant information—for free—to your current clients and future prospects, you raise your credibility. Showing that you are well-versed in your industry, proves you are a knowledgeable and trustworthy source. If customers have a question, they’ll know they can come to you for advice and guidance. You want your customers to trust you, and a business blog serves as a fantastic medium to build that trust.

Ultimately, a business blog is a perfect tool to proactively reach your customers and seek out new clients—it’s a simple, yet powerful solution.

Find out how we can help you start a business blog. We offer free consultations.