What Does Inbound Marketing Really Mean?

Inbound is magneticIt’s common knowledge that search engine optimization, social media, content marketing, and other earned media is all inbound marketing. But what is inbound marketing really? Turns out, it’s much more than just a term that was coined to include these different techniques for communicating with customers. Inbound marketing isn’t just a buzzword: it’s a term that describes the way customer-company interaction is changing, and it’s here to¬†stay.

A Departure From The Old Model

Before this evolution in marketing, the only way to communicate with your audience was to essentially purchase their time. That was the model of the commercial: people had to sit through it because they had no choice. They might have no interest in what was being promoted, but if they wanted to reach the next segment in the TV show, listen to the next part of the radio broadcast, or reach their destination (past numerous street ads and bus banner), ads were a necessary hurdle. In this age, almost anything that got regular visibility was turned into a glorified banner. This even extended to people, some of whom got tattoos or wore body paint in support of brands.

The old model wasn’t very effective. You didn’t have much assurance that you’d be connecting to an audience that cared what you had to say. You can’t target very effectively when you’re putting an ad on the side of a bus in New York City; that bus is almost guaranteed to travel on every route in the city over the duration of your campaign’s run. TV and radio can be targeted slightly more effectively because you can select stations based on audience, but you can’t subtarget beyond that. The bottom line? It wasn’t a particularly effective strategy for businesses to begin with, and over time the worldwide audience began to actively tune these ads out. That’s where we stand today.

The Rise Of Inbound

Inbound marketing works on the exact opposite concept from the old model. Rather than pushing your product to people who may or may not be interested, it involves attracting people who are already looking for what you have to offer. Inbound marketing is all about empowering people who want to connect with you and make purchases. That’s why search engine optimization is such an important element: Google and Bing are often the first resource that a potential customer will use to research products and services in your industry. If they don’t find you quickly and early, they’re going to find your competitor and choose their service.

Social media is another important element for the same reason. It provides engagement with your product on your customer’s terms, but it adds another factor: social sharing. Recommendations from friends are still very powerful. Seeing that a friend likes a product or service makes it more likely that they’ll explore it themselves, or that they’ll eventually select to buy from your company. In addition to passive approval, social media also enables active sharing through posts about your business.

Inbound marketing is quickly emerging as the dominant force in marketing, but its evolution is hardly complete. The cutting edge of marketing involves discovering new ways to connect with customers, serving them hyper-targeted and relevant content that they really want to see. CM did a video that explains the differences:

In the end, inbound marketing is a win-win. Your potential customers see only what really interests them, reducing the frustration and boredom that can exist with traditional ads. And you get to reach an audience that is already looking for what you offer, qualified far beyond what existed in traditional marketing.

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