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Inbound marketing provides information, an improved customer experience and builds trust by offering potential customers information they value via company sponsored newsletters, blogs and entries on social media platforms.
Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott says that inbound marketing allows marketers to "earn their way" into a customer's awareness rather than invading their awareness through paid advertisements.
Compared with outbound marketing, inbound reverses the relationship between company and customer. In fact, while outbound marketing is going to push the product through various channels, inbound marketing creates awareness, attracts and helps new customers with channels like blogs, social media, etc.
With the rise of new technologies backed by the spreading internet, inbound marketing became one of the most effective ways to attract new customers. Since 2006 many companies understood that to be successful, content must be connected with customers' interests.
"Get found" is the first step to start an inbound cycle. A company's content must be visible to the right audience at the right time. This is a very long process that implies a long research and planning of contents.
The second step regards conversions of fans into prospects. It may seem a very easy process but it is not easy at all. This process is long and implies energies and time for the company.
The third and final step of the inbound cycle is "analyze". After letting the customer be aware of the product/service and after converting the fan into a prospect/lead, the company must analyze the data to understand what they have to change in the process to improve their results.
To work well, inbound marketing needs many tools that help the brand to be found and help the customer to learn useful things provided by the brand. Examples of these tools include blogs, SEO/SEM, and social media.
Blogging became very popular at the beginning of the 21st century and is a very useful way for the brand to create awareness and to attract new customers. Inbound Marketers use blogs not just to attract new customers but also to convert brand fans into prospects or leads, by creating unique and educational content.
SEO is a way to boost the visibility of a website or a webpage by structuring the page to rank higher in search results for the words and phrases that most accurately describe the page. It is an Internet marketing strategy that considers how search engines work and what people search for, in order to identify how to position the website and webpages to rank in search engines for the most valuable search terms. This marketing tool can be used in different ways:
Leading search engines use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. SEO is a fundamental tool in order to increase the number of backlinks or inbound links. It is not an appropriate strategy for every website, there are also other factors that are important to achieve success. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. It is important to know that search engine crawlers may look at a huge number of factors when they are crawling a site.
There are different ways to improve search engine visibility, but users can primarily improve visibility in one of two ways: structuring the site to be more closely aligned with the terms that their customers are searching for, and getting reputable websites to link back to their site to rank higher for those valuable search terms.
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, other marketing strategies can be more effective, but it is a factor to consider in order to boost visibility.
SEM is a form of web marketing which involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages, principally through paid advertising. SEM is strictly connected to SEO in regards to pay promotion and get found out in the first search page. There are some methods and metrics to optimize websites: Keyword research and analysis which ensure the site can be indexed in search engine, finding the more frequently typed words; Presence which means how many times a web page is indexed by search engines and how many backlinks does it get; Back end tools such as Web analytic tools and HTML validators; Whois tools that reveal the owners of various websites and can provide information related to copyright and trademark. SEM objective is to boost the visibility of a page, it can be done using the so-called "sponsorization". With the term "sponsorization" is intended a search engine company charging fees for the inclusion of a website in their results pages.
Social media is spread all over the world and are a huge opportunity for inbound marketing. They connect billions of people, who every day share different types of contents such as images, video, text and so on. But social media are not just a way to have some fun on the internet, they are a way for marketers to let information be reached from the right audience. With the right and unique contents, social publishing allows brands to engage new prospects converting them into customers.
To work well, inbound needs a very precise process that, if respected, provide to marketers a huge competitive advantage compared with outbound marketing. The process is composed by four main steps: attract, convert, close, and delight. These are not random steps but have to be used in sequence in order to obtain more visitors on sites, to speed up conversions and finally increase the number of leads and prospects.
One of the most important differences between outbound and inbound marketing is the fact that "if classical marketing is betting on those people, inbound is betting on that person". it means that companies using inbound marketing know perfectly which are the people they are talking with. They can do it through the buyer personas. The buyer personas are the identikit of our ideal customers. Only through them can a company know which is their ideal target and which channels they have to use to reach it. "Attract" does not mean attracting random people; companies want to attract the right people at the right time with the right contents. Building a company on the buyer personas, one can define which are the beliefs, pains, hobbies etc. of our customer and on their basis one can create the right contents to attract visitors on one's blog, social, Youtube channel etc.
After attracting the visitor on their website, for example, a company will be ready to convert him/her into prospect gathering his/her contact information. Emails are the most valuable information for an inbound marketer. The inbound marketer wants to attract the right visitor, so they will exchange a tutorial video, an ebook or something valuable for the customer so he/she will be glad to give his/her e-mail in return.
Now that we have the needed information we can stay in contact with our prospects. But now how to transform our prospects into customers? Some helpful tools are:
Email integrated with call-to-action
Call-to-actions are very useful to let customer complete an action that we like. With this powerful tool we can generate a positive cycle that generates value both for our customer and for us. Generating useful contents and sending it periodically to our prospect we can create awareness but also build trust and make our close-customer be ready to buy something.
Customer relation management systems are one of the most useful way to keep track of the various steps of our customer acquisition.Taking track of information regarding the customer, partner companies etc. it is possible to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person.
Smarketing is the mix of sales and marketing. Generally in big companies, they are two separated units but in inbound marketing, they are usually mixed to have complete and fully understandable informations between the two areas. With close-loop reports also sales and marketing departments know which is the right time to close a deal with the customer and above all know if the customer is ready to be acquired.
Through the process of nurturing, companies make the customer ready to be acquired.
For example, if the visitor fills a form to download an ebook on a certain site, the company knows that their prospect is interested in the subject treated in the ebook. After collecting this information, they are ready to "nurture" their future probable customer with a series of emails, videos etc. connected with the subject he/she is interested in.
After attracting the fan, converting him into prospect, and letting him buy something from the company, the company has to keep in touch with their customer, continuing providing good and valuable contents with the hope of doing some upselling.
Inbound marketing takes in account two main aspects of the 21st century's consumption: the selectivity and the increasing media consumption. If at the beginning of the 20th century the terms consumption started to be associated with "pleasure, enjoyment, and freedom" so that consumption became "an end in its own right", during the end of 21st century's first decade, as the consumption pattern is increasing in rapidity, overwhelming consumers, these are learning how to isolate themselves from all the advertising noise, in practice tuning out traditional marketing methods and selecting the right moments and places to connect with brands. Consumption in this era has become selective. Indeed, through research online, consumers are starting to make more and more informed decisions. For this reason, standing out from the contemporary advertising Pangea and building brand loyalty has become more challenging and getting in touch with consumers in a relevant way is essential. The analysis of how consumers use media is crucial in relation to inbound marketing. Users are surfing the Internet via multiple devices more than ever preferring mobile ones to the traditional computer or laptop. In addition the increasingly fast daily routine requires from the part of consumers to surf on internet while doing a number of other things. This leads to shorter attention spans, more stimulus, more interactions, and in turns more content competition for businesses. Not only work or school-related pieces of information are sought online but consumers become internet surfers also, or even mainly, for entertainment purposes. This leads to the trend of offering useful and amusing information on companies' websites or social media accounts.
In a relatively little timespan, postmodern society (mainly the western society) has become an "information technology constituted environment" where, in turns, production and consumption have become more indistinguishable. Approaching 2020 the production of content is no longer exclusive competence of media or companies. A user-produced or at least led content scenario is more realistic. It is an environment where the user is no longer a consumer but a contributor, an environment characterized by forms of citizen journalism and content creation led by the user. This involves that the content creation or construction in the WWW knowledge-intensive environment is a participatory mode both productive and consumptive and the involved parts are both users and producers of knowledge at the same time. These means for sure more competition between contents. It is in this respect that the identification of online influencers and establishing with them a relationship is one key point of inbound marketing to make the best of the digital world and deploy better its opportunities. The participation of consumers in the creation of media content is not the only pushing factor. The inclination of consumers to look forward to increasingly more information can be recognized as another lever for inbound marketing. Consumers are hungry for knowledge and are willing to look for them through all the possible way. This is due mostly to the fact that consumers in the 2010s are quite cautioned and pay more attention to their purchase. Moreover, a feeling of mistrust in advertising is common among today's consumers making them searching for information by themselves. Inbound marketing has caught this new trend and puts lots of emphasis in the effort of making information available on the market.
In the late 19th century and through the 20th century the productivity capacity visibly grew, accompanied by an increase in intensity of consumption. It was in this moment that the consumer started to be considered as able to make decisions and exercise choice to achieve his / her own interest on the market. In a "society of individualized consumers", consumer choice was associated with freedom. But it must be also pointed out that consumers exercise their decisional power on the market subject to a variety of influences, such as, among other things, marketing strategies. The range of things in respect of which consumer choice is exercised are largely prearranged and the consumers' resources to make a free and informed choice are, for lots of them, significantly limited in financial and time terms. This is a fundamental assumption of inbound marketing, which values most of all the fact to enable companies and company-related information to be easily found by consumers. The development and deployment of information technology has enabled consumers to exercise a certain degree of influence. In this context consumer becomes more involved in determining the specification of products on the market. However, this is not a radical change of the economic system's logic. In facts this is a development that can be still ascribed to "the necessity of continuing to innovate in a competitive economic marketplace in order to generate increasing consumer interest and sales, reduce staffing costs, and raise turnover". Approaching the end of the 20th century, the emphasis has been placed no longer on product and sales but on the consumers, which can be defined as marketing approach. It has been recognized that consumers are not clueless and their desires are not false, but they are not autonomous and are "heavily conditioned at several levels by shared group dynamics and experiences". In the 21st century, "as consumers have grown accustomed to the employment of familiar designs, layouts, and display techniques", trying to catch their attention and subsequently arousing their interest through advertising and marketing have become more challenging. This requires new marketing methods to be found and developed. 2010s' consumer has radically changed from the one of even some years ago, and what was effective and influential in a relative recent past is not necessarily so today. Today's consumer is more easily influenced by peers in his/her social network and shared experiences than by an aggressive advertising campaign. The consumer of the 21st century "is informed, time-compressed, and difficult to impress", and can be only influenced by what he / her takes for relevant and informative. Consumers "don't want to have products pushed at them", but are willing to search for them if they are enabled to. "Relevance and information attributes" have become to be felt as "key missing ingredients from most ... ads". Inbound marketing recognizes this feeling. Consumers feel the need for more information and they have started to look for it from every media device they have, above all Internet. Websites, social media, blogs, etc. are making the purchasing process more and more social. The consumer no longer follows or trusts the information showed in an ad. Indeed, consumers trust more their peers' comments, friends' opinions, and experiences. Starting a conversation with them is becoming of paramount importance in this scenario. Traditional marketing services industry is being redefined through the action of more nimble and tech savvy marketing agencies that integrate digital services into traditional methods.
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