Is Inbound Marketing really effective?
Digital marketing is nothing more than an extension of traditional marketing in a digital environment. It goes without saying that technology plays an essential role in the digital realm and that thanks to it audience behaviour becomes especially relevant and trackable. As is the case with its big brother, digital marketing is exciting and innovative territory where all the latest trends, gurus, and terminology can thrive. What a few years ago was responsive design, SEO, and permission marketing, today is UX, ASO, and Inbound Marketing. Rule number one: pay extra attention to the terms that you use. Online, just like in the real world, using incorrect or outdated terminology can work against you. With that in mind, is the concept of Inbound Marketing really clear and set in stone?
“Online, just like in the real world, using incorrect or outdated terminology can work against you”
Before we go on any further, and for those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of Inbound Marketing, let us summarise it as a comprehensive methodology used in digital marketing that was devised by the company Hubspot in 2007, and that encompasses several actions:
- Content creation based on digital copywriting techniques and keyword research
- Social media
- Customer Journey or the definition of the customer life cycle in relation to our brand
- Email and content automation
- Comprehensive management tools to coordinate all channels (such as Hubspot, Mautic or Marketo)
- Automated valuation of new leads based on their interactions with our content (lead scoring) and maintained valuation of their relationship with our brand (lead nurturing) to advance them down our defined customer journey and conversion funnel.
All the elements above work hand in hand to attract potential customers to our brand. Customers pass through a series of phases, each of which triggers specific content and formats to serve to the customers:
Having delved deeply into the various branches of Inbound Marketing and tested several platforms over the past few years, at INNN we have taken away some valuable conclusions on the realm of Inbound Marketing:
1. Inbound Marketing is clearly the successor of Permission Marketing. In his famous book, Seth Godin reflects on the shift in the advertising paradigm, a move from a persuasive "push" communication where we drag in potential customers to a more relational "pull" model in which we entice the customer to come to our brand. Inbound Marketing takes this concept and adds to it a wealth of digital content and automated CRM tools, email tools (such as Mailchimp), and web analytics tools to create a comprehensive suite that handles all steps in the customer acquisition process.
2. Inbound Marketing is more strategy and methodology than technology. Evidently, a comprehensive suite can be really useful to implement our ideas and actions, but not unless we have clearly defined our audiences, their buyer persona, interests, motivations, behaviours and problems (in a general sense as well as in relation to our product), and pieced together a strategy blending analytics, keyword research, KPI, channels, formats, and contents to serve our users. The tools that we use and how we use them should always come second to this.
3. Less is more. Once you enter the world of lead nurturing, it's very easy to start planning thousands of workflows and customer relationship flows which, whether done in an automated manner or manually, allow us to establish interactions for all types of scenarios and channels. Big mistake. You don't necessarily need to create complex sales qualifcations or overly complex segmentation. Having a digital ecosystem that spans across several channels (website, social media, newsletters, etc.) and in different languages puts us at risk of overly complicating our setup and preventing us from ever launching our campaign. Ideally we should start with fewer audiences, fewer states in our conversion funnel, and a much simpler ecosystem. With a simple CRM, a good spreadsheet and Mailchimp, we can launch in an instant so long as we've clearly defined our strategy, audiences, and objectives. From then on, to infinity and beyond.
4. Be careful with B2B. The big players of Inbound Marketing have been fine-tuning their methodology for some time, with projects that aren't so much directed towards people (such as consumers) but towards businesses (and the decision-makers in those businesses). In practice, Inbound Marketing always needs to adapt to your product, company, assets, and audiences, particularly if you sell products or services to businesses. No standard blueprints or one-size-fits-all discourses. Methodology needs to be a tool, never a limit. Enjoy everything that Inbound Marketing can do for your business, and don't ever limit yourself.
5. What about Inbound Marketing vs other avenues such as CPC campaigns? We don't believe for a second that an inbound strategy can replace other actions such as PR, web optimisations (branding, SEO, CRO), or paid options (advertising on social media, display campaigns, or traditional street advertising). In some cases, we need to boost contents with paid campaigns to better align our customer's journey down the conversion funnel with the launch cycle of specific products or services.
"In some cases, we need to boost contents with paid campaigns to better align our customer's journey down the conversion funnel."
6. Pay close attention to budgets. At INNN, we have invested a lot of time and resources into studying different approaches to Inbound Marketing and we know from experience the importance of measuring your resources and defining your objectives before investing in an inbound strategy (some tools for Inbound Marketing require the type of investment that many SMEs can't afford). It is possible to create a low-cost and highly sufficient ecosystem, especially right at the very beginning when launching an Inbound campaign. If you would like more information on this matter, don't hesitate to contact INNN.
7. Integration and coordination between platforms. Your decision as to which tools you will use must be informed by a series of key factors:
a) The complexity of your audiences, channels, languages, and KPIs. Don't forget that less is more.
b) Your current staff and financial resources... and predictions for the future.
c) The technical skills of your team. A system such a Mautic's is really cost-effective and has an API to integrate with various other platforms, but requires an internal or external team with a minimum level of knowledge and experience in development and programming.
To summarise, you should only integrate the tools (comprehensive suites or individual tools) and concept of Inbound Marketing into your marketing strategies if they complement the work that you are already undertaking (including paid options), rather than adding more work for your team and draining your wallet. Remember that you will always yield far greater results armed with a good spreadsheet and good knowledge of your clients rather than blindly diving into a series of tools and without a clear strategy in place, resulting in a loss of time, money, energy, and opportunities.
Good luck with your Inbound Marketing campaigns!