The post below was originally features on WorkIt Richmond, a weekly publication for business owners and managers in Central Virginia.
As social media matures and online tracking becomes more sophisticated, marketing budgets continue to shift towards inbound marketing channels. According to research done by Hubspot, businesses dominated by inbound marketing channels saw 62% lower cost per lead than firms that mostly do outbound marketing. As a result, more businesses are moving lead generation budgets from outbound channels to inbound channels.
Inbound Versus Outbound Marketing
Coined in 2005, inbound marketing is based on the concept of earning; earning trust, earning credibility, and building brand. It is marketing the prospect is anticipating, marketing that’s relevant, and marketing that’s personal to their interests and their desires. It is telling a story people have asked to hear. This why inbound marketing is also known as permission marketing (learn more about inbound marketing here.)
By comparison, outbound marketing is advertising done through forced channels. It isn’t about showing people what they’ve asked to see. It’s trying to wedge your message into an experience they’re already having. Appropriately enough, outbound marketing is also known as interruption marketing.
At the heart of inbound marketing is content. Content comes in many forms including blogs, podcasts, video, opt-in email marketing, whitepapers, SEO, social media, guest blogging, and other forms of content marketing.
Outbound marketing takes on very different forms. These include cold-calling, purchased email lists, press releases, TV and radio commercials, and other forms of traditional advertising.
Relative to inbound marketing, outbound marketing is easy to do. If you have money to spend, you can easily launch an outbound marketing campaign.
Inbound marketing is much more challenging. Because it is a process of building trust and reputation, it can’t simply be purchased. It takes time and effort. If inbound marketing is like a marriage, outbound marketing is a quick fling. Can you see the difference?
In order to produce content that accomplishes the goals of a successful inbound marketing campaign, you must:
1) Produce the best content you are capable of producing
“Content is king” is not a new concept. Unfortunately, too many have interpreted this to mean a deluge of weak, formulaic content stuffed with keywords. As a result, sites become bloated with content that would never convince even the most trustworthy person you are an authority on the subject. The goal is to build trust and credibility. This is done by quality, not quantity.
2) Become a comprehensive source on your topic
A subject matter expert should be able to answer any question thrown at them on the topic with conviction and without hesitation. They should go several steps further by providing additional advice, insight, and recommendations to demonstrate their depth and breadth of knowledge.
3) Be able to predict future trends or developments
When one of our clients sees an industry newsletter predicting the “next big thing” in web design and we implemented that one “thing” for him several months ago, it makes us look really good. Being on record for predicting a future trend that becomes true is tremendous for your credibility. Every expert on a subject matter should be able to do this to some degree.
4) Give up the secret sauce
We are living in the information age and knowledge is the currency. If your goal is to stand out amongst the crowd, you won’t be successful peddling watered-down advice. I challenge you to go beyond the status quo and offer something people have never seen before. Stop worrying about feeding the competition, because if you don’t, someone eventually will. Do you want to be the pioneer or a follower?
Sharing Your Content
The content you ultimately produce should come in many forms to reach the largest audience possible. Your website should be the first priority. All great content should be housed here in some form. The wealth of content accessible on your site will send a powerful message to site visitors. It will also tell the search engines that you are an authority on the topic.
Next, seek opportunities to publish on websites besides your own. This builds credibility and broadens your digital footprint. For example, every two weeks I’m given the opportunity to share my knowledge with the WorkIt Richmond community. Not only does my content (hopefully) add value to those reading it, it helps my personal credibility. It’s a win-win.
Finally, keep finding ways to give back to your existing customer base. Send out whitepapers, industry statistics, and other helpful information. Each time you do, you are reminding your followers that you are a great resource on the topic. By earning their trust and building your credibility, you will be the obvious choice to turn to when a need arises.
So quit having one-night stands and start dating your prospects. Like any meaningful relationship, it will take time and hard work, but ultimately, the payoff will be much more meaningful.
As Chief Marketing Officer of WebStrategies, Inc., Chris helps small businesses reach and connect with more customers online. He is the chief strategist for search engine marketing campaigns and the lead analyst for web analytics and website usability testing. Find Chris on Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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