It's pretty clear that the old marketing methodology is on the decline. Ad-blocking software for websites is proliferating, making banner ads irrelevant; DVRs continue to be the go-to choice for people who want to eliminate TV ads (isn't that all of us?) The people have spoken: don't interrupt me--thank you.
But inbound marketing understands the new paradigm: buyers are more educated than ever and typically handle 75% of the research on their own, thereby diminishing the need for salespeople. "They research everything online first," says Mike Lieberman, chief inbound scientist at Square 2 Marketing, "and only reach out when they need that last bit of decision-making information like details on delivery, pricing or available discounts."
We asked Lieberman to school us on the ways that inbound marketing can help small and medium-sized businesses generate more leads--and close them.
1. Matches Today's Buyer Behavior Perfectly: "Inbound marketing allows you to delight your prospects by creating an immersive educational experience that perfectly matches how they want to buy," says Lieberman. "They visit your website and hear your stories that they emotionally connect with. They look around your site and find information designed to help them, so they download that information."
A well-designed inbound program will have the appropriate offer for their stage of the buyer journey. "High level educational info if they're in the awareness stage (top of the funnel), more specific information if they're in the consideration stage (middle of the funnel) and some of that very detailed pricing or delivery information if they're in the decision-making stage (bottom of the funnel)," says Lieberman. "The better you execute the content creation and delivery portion of your inbound marketing program, the more leads inbound drives into your business."
2. Uses Data To Self-Correct In Real-Time: Lieberman says that inbound marketing is the first methodology in the history of marketing to deliver real-time performance data on all aspects of your marketing. "This is game changing," he says. "Historically, as marketers we bought flights of ads or ran campaigns that typically spanned months, maybe longer. We had no idea how the campaigns were doing. If the salespeople were getting calls or maybe if the website traffic was going up, we could make some rough correlation to the advertising."
But there was no direct correlation, or attribution. "Sometimes the CEO's friend would say 'I saw your ad.' That always felt good, but never translated into revenue. Today inbound marketing gives us access to website traffic, conversion rates, leads generated, source data on where those visitors are coming from and which sources are producing the best leads."
3. Earns Instead of Rents a Prospect's Attention: According to Lieberman, inbound marketing breaks the old rental model--you no longer need a magazine to rent you their audience. You no longer need that trade show to rent you their attendees. You no longer need that TV show to rent you their viewers nor do you need that list company to rent you their households. The old model is dead.
"Today you earn a prospect's attention by creating a remarkable company with compelling stories and then being available when they search for you," he says, "or when they ask a friend on social media for a referral. When you earn someone's attention you bring them into your world, they agree to let you in and as long as you continue to respect that privilege, they will continue to listen to your stories. Break that respect with an ad and risk losing that prospect. This requires a whole new way to think about marketing. Inbound marketing gives you all the tools to not only rethink how you market your business, but it gives you the tools to execute that type of marketing."
4. Integrates Old School with New School: Can inbound marketing turn old-school advertising into measurable and quantifiable marketing? Lieberman says yes indeed. "Inbound marketing adds a lot of value to traditional marketing," he says. "Now you can add a dedicated URL with an educational offer to all your print ads and see immediately if people are reading the ads and interested in the offer. Now instead of showing up at trade shows and passing out stress balls, you create a special eBook available only at the show and you can sign up new leads right at the show--not people who like stress balls, but people who have a real interest in what you do.
5. Leverages Technology: Inbound differs from traditional marketing in that it requires a lot of what Lieberman calls "rinse and repeat." "Every month you have to blog, email, adjust the website, build landing pages, create new content, publish that content, connect with influencers, optimize conversions, test new theories, nurture prospects with emails, schedule webinars, and more," he says. Whew.
"This effort can be massive and there are tools like HubSpot, an inbound marketing and inbound sales optimization software that makes this repetitive, data driven, optimization effort easier. You need fewer people and you make more money."