I’ve been learning a lot more about inbound marketing lately, and it’s really captured my interest. We’re all familiar with traditional marketing strategies that push messages out to consumers, often interrupting them in the middle of something else (such as watching TV or reading a magazine), and therefore only gaining their attention for a short time. If outbound marketing is a push, than inbound can be thought of as a pull. Alex Rascanu highlights this difference as he describes how inbound marketing “earns the attention of customers rather than buying it, makes the company/ product/ idea easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing relevant and interesting content.”
Inbound marketing is used to attract visitors to your site, where they can be converted into leads, customers, and eventually brand advocates. The key to attracting these consumers in the first place is content marketing. This means providing consumers with free content in exchange for their time and attention. This content can be blog posts, podcasts, videos, webinars, whitepapers, eBooks, infographics or guides. No matter which option(s) you choose, promoting your brand should always appear secondary to providing real value for consumers either through entertainment or education. For instance, a blog filled with useful tips and advice can make your business stand out as a resource within your industry, and is far more valuable to consumers than a series of posts plugging your products. The Home Depot has recently created a series of how-to gardening videos for spring, and while they feature products available through the retailer, the focus is really on helping viewers make the most of their outdoor space.
While consumers continue to find new ways to tune out traditional marketing, producing great content will make them want to listen to what you have to say. Identifying your target audience and learning their wants and needs are crucial to determining what type of content you will create. Targeting increases the likeness that the people consuming your content will be interested in your product or service. The KISSmetrics guides that I’ve consulted for this post are great examples of content that speaks to a specific target audience of marketers, and has drawn me back their site again and again. Not everyone who accesses your content will become a customer, but every time someone visits your blog, watches a video, or downloads a whitepaper it’s another chance for them to deepen their relationship with your brand and potentially become a buyer.
A great way to expand the reach of your content is through guest blogging. Writing content for another blog helps you to position yourself – and your company – as an authority within your industry. It can also gain exposure and build backlinks for your website (I discussed the importance of link building for SEO in a previous post). Just like the content you produce for your own blog, the guest post should be useful and relevant to the audience, not purely self-promotion. However, your author bio should mention your business and provide links to other pages, such as your website or blog. You can also invite other people to be guests on your own company blog to ensure a steady stream of fresh content.
So what benefits can you expect to get out of a content marketing strategy?
- Increase the conversations happening about your brand online. People are more inclined to share content rather than websites, and while someone might share a link to your site once, a single customer can share multiple links to different pieces of your content over time.
- Consumers won’t purchase a product if they don’t understand its value, or the need it will fulfill. Through your content you can educate consumers about the benefit of your product or show them how to use it, helping to move them forward through the buying process.
- Search engine optimization: engines will index your new blog content, and the more posts you have the more pages there are to potentially reach a consumer through search. SEO can help your business gain more search engine traffic.
- You can also increase the number of visitors to your website as YouTube, podcasts, and blogs can all become potential traffic sources.
- Advertisements come and go, but your content can stay on your website as long as you want it to. Organizing and archiving your content into categories such as “Most Popular” or “How-To” will make it easy for consumers to look through older posts and find what they need. Your content will become an asset that can provide value to customers over a long period of time.
As trust in traditional advertising continues to fall and brands look for new ways to reach and engage consumers, content marketing is certainly worth some consideration.