When our company rebranded from a marketing company to a media company a few years back, we did so because we felt the message was more important than the spin – but we also felt that we could better serve our clients by helping them build and communicate a program (seedstock producers) or communicate member services (nonprofits) rather than pushing a product out right before a bull sale or a membership drive.
In effect, what we were doing is shifting from traditional outbound marketing to more effective inbound marketing. While these may just sound like buzzwords, they actually are clearly defined and very different marketing paths that are both designed to increase demand for a product or service and gain customers and/or members. So what is inbound marketing and how does it work? (Outbound marketing will be addressed in a later blog.)
Inbound marketing is defined by Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbound_marketing) as a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization and branding. Inbound marketing flips the relationship between buyer and seller and works to pull the buyer “in” rather than push the product “out.” The upside of inbound marketing is that it improves the buyer’s experience so that they learn about you, your product and your offering, and then come to you to make a purchase.
Inbound marketing is used by nonprofits but the perspective is a bit different. The product is a membership or all the member services, and the buyer is the member.
You can blame the shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing on the internet. Before the internet, buyers relied on print advertisements, catalogs, posters, direct mail, and even (gasp!) phone calls and personal visits by the seller to market their products. The internet shifted all this. Now, buyers can extensively research products and services from their location, at their own pace, in their own time and without pressure, so that once they have decided on the product they want to buy and from whom, they are more in control of the purchasing process and getting what they want.
Production agriculture and nonprofits have stayed on the outbound marketing path, even while the shift to inbound marketing has taken off in other industries at the speed of light. Outbound marketing still has its place and is a great complement to inbound marketing but, given the effectiveness of inbound marketing and the shift in the buyer’s experience, maybe it’s time you jumped into the inbound pool. Research shows that inbound marketing is more effective than traditional outbound marketing, with a higher return on investment (ROI) and, frankly, is how younger consumers make purchases.
So how do you make that step, leap or shift? You still want to clearly identify your target audience – Who are you trying to reach and where do they exist? Once you know that, you’ll need to build the tools that speak to your target audience and allow them to find you, learn about you, and build buyer confidence, engagement and excitement in your product or service. Everything you do should be with the intent to help the buyer find the solution they are looking for with YOU.
Never has a website been more important than it is now and in the future. When someone wants to find a company that sells anything from soup to nuts, they look it up on the internet. If you do not have a website or some other form of digital presence, potential buyers/members simply cannot find you – and that’s missed opportunity. Your website does not have to be complicated or huge, but is does need to well built, easy to access and contain content that will allow your company to be found.
It’s very important that your website content remains current. Keeping your site current requires effort on your part, but is necessary and will reward you with more business, more inquiries and better search engine results. Consider it a simple housekeeping chore and make time to keep your site current.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is also vital in your inbound efforts. SEO is the process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. Basically, it is writing and creating content that search engines will not only recognize but will prioritize so that prospects can find you. SEO can be a fairly complicated and involved process but can reap great rewards. Some form of SEO should be budgeted into your website creation/maintenance.
After that, inbound marketing is a function of consistent and regular online engagement with potential and current customers. Blogs, social media, eblasts, videos, podcasts and the like are all forms of digital presences that can garner additional exposure and engagement by your prospects. As you enter into these arenas, make sure you are communicating a consistent, well-branded and thoughtful message and that you monitor responses and activity so that you can engage with customers and drive them to a call-to-action (CTA).
Inbound marketing – like all marketing – can be time consuming and costly. When compared to the time and money on lost potential customers and lost opportunity – it is time and money well spent.
BluePrint Media can help you develop an effective inbound marketing program. Click here to get started.
Lisa has been involved in agriculture, communications, non-profits and publishing her entire life. Raised on a commercial and seedstock cattle operation in northern Arizona, she came to Colorado for college and never left, raising her family there. Her diverse experiences lead to capabilities in management, communications, design, administration and marketing. Learn more about Lisa.