Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now It's "Inbound Marketing?"

I’ve found myself several times lately explaining (with an exaggerated air of patience) that now many people are referring to “Inbound Marketing.” I hear the term frequently, although Hubspot whose blog has that title, might like to lay claim to inventing it. In any event; they have a good post that gives their definition. Mine is simple. It’s necessary to get your message OUT to your target audience—wherever they are these days, and use those messages to bring people to your website to do whatever you want them to do there.

Is Inbound Marketing the new marketing paradigm? It well may be. Take a look at this chart from Hubspot. They characterize the outbound side as a sledge hammer, the inbound side as a magnet, and that a great communications metaphor. Look at that chart from a business perspective. Everything until you get to email (the only digital entry, you’ll notice) is expensive — some of it terribly expensive. On the inbound side, much is low in direct costs, although not low in expenditure of time. The exception on the inbound side is SEO. A lot of visibility is free—think tagging your blog posts. Some is relatively low cost; with PPC ads you only pay for the clicks you get. Website (and maybe blog) optimization can be quite expensive, primarily because it takes a professional to do real SEO. But note that there are other routes to visibility, a broader term. And in terms of email, it’s really outbound/inbound. Email links bring people to your site to take action.

I was also struck by Jeremiah Owyang’s recent post on organizing for social media. His hub-and-spoke concept was reminiscent of my metrics conceptualization, although in a different content.

So put these concepts together and what do you get? My concept of inbound marketing!

The spokes are meant to be categorizations, not a complete description of what’s out there. Take social networks, for example. I didn’t have room for MySpace, LinkedIn and many other popular socnets, so I just settled for “etc.” There are a lot of “etcs” in other categories also.

The strategy imperative is clear. No business can sit back and wait for customers to come. Without at least search visibility, they won’t. Firms have to get their message out to where potential customers are—remember the quote about teens and newspapers yesterday? These short messages have to be appealing enough to entice people to the website (or a blog can be a hub also) for additional information that will incite them to the desired action.

All of that shouts STRATEGY!!! None of this is going to happen by accident. If you’re still at the “we should have a Facebook page” stage, back off and develop an Inbound Marketing strategy that fits your target audience and your marketing objectives.

It will be time well spent!

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