The advent of the Internet has dramatically transformed the way we read, communicate, listen to music, watch TV, inform ourselves, travel, shop, participate in politics.
The epochal web based revolutions could not leave marketing unscathed either . In fact, even in our sector the strength of the Net has unleashed its shock wave leveling the playing field and overturning the traditional rules.
Index of topics covered
- How advertising has changed since the advent of the Internet
- But what exactly is Inbound Marketing?
- The slow transformation of the SEO specialist into Inbound Marketer
- The essential tools of content marketing
- The new paradigm of non-interrupting (but permissive) marketing
- Attract (qualified visitors) with Inbound Marketing
- Convert (visitors to leads)
- Close (turn into customers)
- Delight (from client to spontaneous promoter)
- Segmentation of the funnel and monitoring of results
- From personal experience I can say that Inbound is a winner
How advertising has changed since the advent of the Internet
Before the Internet, to advertise a brand or a product, the recipe was simple: we invested in television and / or radio campaigns, bought pages of newspapers or glossy magazines, took part in trade fairs, and telemarketing.
Guerrilla marketing actions had already been conceived and theorized in the 1980s but their effectiveness was limited within the narrow confines allowed by technology and low cost campaigns spread very slowly and cumbersome. The rule was as follows: to be effective you generally had to have large budgets to gain exposure.
The good news is that today a good brain able to create interesting content and able to exploit the structure and mechanisms of the Net, can be equally and more effective (think of the ” viral ” phenomenon and all the literature that originated to explain its logic) of millionaire campaigns.
The bad news is that with the barriers to entry being lowered, competition is fierce and it is increasingly difficult to succeed. In order to emerge in the mare magnum of the web , a relatively new sector of marketing has developed (in the US since 2006) of marketing: inbound marketing , which seeks to exploit the characteristics of the Web and the peculiarities of the way of acting to its advantage. of its huge audience of users.
But what exactly is Inbound Marketing?
We must refer to the definition given by those who coined the term that is the English software house HubSpot which, in the 2017 inbound status report, explains (more or less verbatim):
Inbound marketing consists of a series of marketing techniques and strategies whose purpose is to attract important prospects and customers in the direction of a business and its products.
Inbound marketing is acquiring more and more ground (compared to classic advertising channels) as it favors the ways in which customers make their purchasing choices: consumers in fact use the internet to acquire information on products and services that best respond to their own need.
The inbound marketers offer their customers information and useful tools to attract new prospects to your website, and at the same time interact and develop relationships with these potential customers. In summary, the fundamental principles on which inbound marketing relies are the following:
- The permission marketing . The customer must not be interrupted, but must be attracted. We must ensure that our potential customer finds us in the virtual places where he gets information, has fun, buys etc;
- The content, be it textual, photographic, video, etc. Is the main tool for first lead generation and for the acquisition of customers and the creation of a stable link with them ( content marketing );
- The Website is at the heart of the whole process
It is clear that we are dealing with a marketing 2.0 of the pull type rather than push, and that, compared to advertising passages and telemarketing campaigns for example, it has the following advantages:
- Low costs (even if creating quality content in certain areas may not be so cheap);
- Profiled and interested customers who request information on the products and services offered;
- Ability to create a stable link with its prospects and customers (lifecycle marketing).
The concept is clear and simple, the difficult thing is how to succeed, because to be found where the customer is looking, you need to know and master the logic of the Net.
The slow transformation of the SEO specialist into Inbound Marketer
As long as the Internet, for web users, was equivalent to Google, SEO was the only concern of the inbound marketer while the content was inserted into the site and / or blog . If you published a text, a video, an interesting photo, respecting the rules of SEO and attacking the long-tail in an intelligent way, the game was done.
Of course, then you needed a site capable of converting, with the right call to action, you had to have the customer subscribe to your newsletter to nourish the relationship, but at this point the marketer’s work was essentially finished and the success or failure of the product or of service depended on its intrinsic qualities . The advent of social media has reshuffled the cards on the table.
If there are still people who associate the Internet with Google, many others associate it with Facebook (and maybe tomorrow they will associate it with Twitter, Youtube or Google Plus). Think of your parents who would probably never use Big G for a purchase but who go to Facebook to find friends or make new ones.
For this reason, the good marketer cannot neglect social networks: doing so would significantly reduce the effectiveness of one’s marketing mix and leave to the competition all that audience of users who use social networks as a privileged, if not unique, access channel to the Web.
As we specified in the SEO course held at Ninja Academy , strategy is fundamental in marketing and inbound is no exception. Also in this case, in order to develop a winning inbound marketing strategy, it is necessary to know and master the tools and channels of distribution available.
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The Essential Tools of Content Marketing
The tools that you cannot do without when you have to apply a content strategy are the following:
- Press release
The list can be enriched to your liking … Of course these tools can (or rather must) be mixed with each other and I advise you to use the ones most dear to your audience and most suited to your skills, but above all those most in line with the goals you set yourself to achieve.
For example, if you try to “spin” the content on social media, a good photo or a good video is much more viral than a written post and will be more shared and commented on. If, on the other hand, you want to give information or express an opinion, a text post will always be the preferred medium, perhaps better if enriched with a nice infographic that summarizes it, makes its meaning more understandable and makes it more “viral” and captivating.
Once the meaning of content marketing tools has been clarified, the means by which to spread content remain to be known: SEO and Social Media. Those who follow our blog know that SEO is our workhorse. Surely, also for the activity of inbound marketing, the massive and effective presence in the first places on search engines is the most effective tool to attract new contacts (lead generation).
I will not dwell on the value of SEO and the importance of SEO in building brand reputation, referring to the posts published on Ninja Marketing. I just want to remind you that, also for the purposes of inbound marketing: a) the long tail aggression strategy and b) the “Occupation” of the SERPs we talked about in the course, will certainly bring abundant results in terms of visits and contacts while at the same time taking away space and visibility from your competitors.
As for the social field, it is only by way of example that I mention the names:
The only suggestions : since it is difficult to be actively present on all social media, choose the ones that are more in line with the tastes of your target, and take care of those in which you are present.
The New Paradigm of Non-Interrupting (But Permissive) Marketing
Apart from the excessive emphasis on the verb to love (which could also translate as to appreciate if it were not for the little heart that appears on the chosen image), I fully subscribe to the rest of the assumption. Content is king ( content is king ), but I would add, taking into account the basic rules of SEO and social media marketing to ensure that the content, in addition to being valid and interesting, is Google friendly (which does not mean writing for search engines but write taking into account the rules “imposed” by search engines) and social friendly : that is, you are in the right place, at the right time.
Being where they come looking for you is a fundamental prerequisite for being found by the right audience: when they have “found you” your nurturing and customer segmentation work must begin . Once arrived at your site, the visitor has entered the funnel , in the funnel from which he should exit as a loyal customer if you have worked well and if the product / service is valid and has the right quality / price ratio.
In fact, always quoting the American software house “by aligning the content you publish with the interests of your customers you will naturally attract interested traffic (literally inboud ) that you can convert and delight over time”.
Let’s now try to deepen how the lifelong cycle works, which is the plus of the inbound methodology compared to an SEO, social media, Content Marketing and traditional mail marketing activity conducted without a plan and with methods more or less left to chance (without metrics and benchmarks for measuring ROI or for roughly evaluating the effectiveness of what you are doing).
HubSpot always clarifies with an illustrative graph the functioning of the method, segmenting the process with 4 key verbs to which as many phases correspond:
- To attract
- Close (turn into customers)
Attract (qualified visitors) with Inbound Marketing
Bring the right people (called buyers) to the site, i.e. those interested in our business. As a good 2.0 marketer I am not interested in visits but only qualified visits .
For any strategy to increase the audience it is assumed that attracting constitutes the logical and chronological prius of the procedure. The wider the entrance to the funnel, the more opportunities I will have.
To succeed, in order to bring visitors to the site, you need to be visible on search engines : not only do you need to be well positioned, with a massive presence in long tail keywords, but you also need to show interesting and relevant titles and descriptions. , rich snippet, social signals that entice the customer to click on our page.
The same aim must be achieved through Facebook, Linkedin, Google plus (so on and so forth) and the blog, with the publication of useful and interesting content respecting the best practices of these means. Once attracted to the site in the manner described, a sine qua non for a good inbound job is that our pages are structured to entice you to read the published content. That is, we need a good structure of the pages of the site (a good design) capable of ensuring a good user experience useful at the same time for our purposes.
Convert (visitors to leads)
This is the phase of fundamental importance on which all the inbound scaffolding rests. In fact, always quoting Hubspot “once visitors have arrived at your site, the next step is to convert visitors into leads by collecting their personal information. At least they need to leave you the email address. Personal information is the web marketer’s most valuable commodity ”.
In the SEO course held at the Ninja Academy, we have repeatedly reiterated how to be a complete SEO one must study a strategy to turn strangers into customers . The same assumption applies to inbound marketing (of which SEO is one of the pillars).
The key to succeeding in this delicate task, according to the software house, is the profiling of the customer who leaves his data in exchange for the content we provide. The winning idea behind inbound is to treat your audience differently, through intelligent content management, depending on the stage of the funnel in which it is located.
Since rational, automated management (i.e. software) is the very product Hubspot sells, of course the emphasis is a bit heightened. But the concept is valid in itself regardless of the use of a management software. In fact, in the real market, among our potential customers, there are those looking for information on the product or service, those who are ready to buy, those who compare prices, those who want to inform about assistance, those who ask for advice on how to best use the product after purchase etc.
Giving everyone the right tailor made information is the strategy that can be successful. What are the tools to ensure that the customer is encouraged to leave his personal data?
- a) The calls to action whose purpose is to solicit the visitor’s action and direct him to the landing pages.
- b) The landing page or pages where the visitor gets what is promised in exchange of your personal data (articles, videos, e-books, webinars).
- c) The forms , i.e. the forms to be filled in with personal data. If the customer leaves his personal details, the conversion phase was successful because the visitor became a lead or prospect, that is, a potential customer.
- d) An efficient database to manage all available information.
Close (turn into customers)
This is the phase in which it is monetized , the vital one for any business. If with all our efforts we fail to bring home the contract it means that we are not good marketers, or that we do not have a good sales force, or that there are problems in the product or service we offer.
Also in this segment of the procedure, the differentiated customer management bears fruit. To support sales, the good marketer must send the right emails to prospects , must interface with the sellers by giving useful information about the customer, in order to provide all the support necessary to bring home the results .
Delight (from client to spontaneous promoter)
Continue to interact with the customer even after they have purchased our product / service. It is a phase that companies neglect but which, if well structured, is very important, especially for the spread of word of mouth, of buzz around the brand.
The ideal is that our customers become promoters of our company. What’s better than a satisfied customer? Trip advisor, Ebay, and numerous other giants focus their businesses on customer reviews: imagine what it can mean to have a spontaneous evangelist ! The relationship with the customer must therefore be cultivated over time.
In addition, by doing so you can always suggest sales of additional goods or services, and you can use email and social networks to provide an excellent real time customer service.
It is therefore worthwhile to continue the inbound activity also in the after sales.
Segmentation of the funnel and monitoring of results
More than the technical and mechanized management (however useful) of the methodology described, the most interesting and replicable data is the logic followed. The segmentation of the procedure, among other things, allows the possibility of measuring the results achieved (whether they are visits, prospects, contracts) in every single phase of the funnel.
It often happens that in the social media and SEO fields, agencies neglect to report on their activities or just give useless data for the customer, of the series “we have reached this position for this keyword, we have x incoming links, we have 10,000 fans “(Maybe bought). How does this translate in terms of visits, time spent on the site, leads, acquisition of sensitive data for our business and useful information for the conclusion of contracts and sales ?
Fortunately, these will soon be the questions that professionals in the sector will have to answer rightly, as the customer is increasingly attentive to the return of every penny spent . At the moment, as we can deduce from the careful reading of the 2017 Inbound report , the most important qualitative difference that emerges between European and American inbound marketers is found in the phase of measuring the results.
Colleagues from overseas are much more mature from this point of view. Constantly monitoring performance is also essential for the fine-tuning work required in any marketing strategy. Even if I don’t use specific software, I remember like the Google Analytics tools , free and accessible to all web masters, they can provide invaluable suggestions.
From personal experience I can say that Inbound is a winner
At the end of the post, allow me some brief general reflections. The web is flooded with conflicting stances regarding inbound marketing: we find inveterate supporters and bitter detractors. From personal experience I can assert that, even if done without specific software, the Inbound methodology is winning
Thanks to a good SEO strategy and social media for the dissemination of content, accompanied by careful management of the newsletters, small companies have managed to become reference brands for their niches and have managed to increase contacts, turnover and profitability. Surely for companies that do not have large resources inbound is a very useful tool. Thanks to Inbound Marketing we have managed to become a leader in a particularly competitive automotive niche and to reach the overseas market.
And we have helped small and medium-sized enterprises and multinationals to increase contacts, opportunities and turnover. Surely for companies that do not have large resources inbound is a very useful tool.
For realities that have the most important budgets available, inbound strategies certainly have their value and their effectiveness, but they must be one of the tools of the marketing mix. To build or strengthen their brand awareness and become a leader at a national and international level, even vertical travel, real estate and online shopping search portals rightly use television and radio commercials, newspaper and magazine pages.
In fact, one of the fundamental objectives of any marketer must be to do branding. Paradoxically, as I said and wrote, the work of SEO ends when there is no longer a need for SEO because customers are looking for (and finding) our products and services and not those of our competitors (if I have to buy an Ipad I will not search on Google “tablet” but “Ipad”).
Furthermore, in a prudent marketing mix strategy, at reasonable costs, I would not even exclude sector fairs because they are real places where the right meetings are made and there is the possibility of networking , where the state of the art is found. of its own area and in which the right audience is gathered (it is the same concept used for inbound marketing but in the physical world).