By Samuel Scott
No one likes annoying ads.
More and more Internet surfers are using tools such as AdBlock to prevent advertisements from appearing on the websites they visit. Nearly 90% of TV viewers who use digital-recording tools skip through the ads. Facebook ads have a 0.48% click-through rate on average across all sectors – and that lackluster result is on a platform on which advertisers can target ads to people who already “like” them and what they offer.
How many people watch the rest of a YouTube advertisement when the option to click to skip the ad appears after a few seconds? How many LinkedIn or Twitter users tune out anyone who makes a direct-sale pitch out of the blue? Ask yourself what you do in these circumstances.
In today’s digital world of low attention-spans, people want what they want – and they want it now. Direct-marketing “noise” or hard sales pitches are ignored, drowned out, or even reported as spam. So, what is the modern marketer to do?
The answer is to use “inbound marketing” – not the interruptive “outbound marketing” methods mentioned above. After all, customers coming from Google have greater lifetime value than those coming from “outbound” marketing sources. B2B businesses that publish blog posts generate many more qualified leads, and the use of social media results in a higher lead-to-close rate than the use of “interruptive” methods (source).
So, any company that wants to succeed today must incorporate inbound marketing into its culture (or hire an agency that does the same). Here are some ways to do exactly that.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a collection of best practices that pull Internet traffic towards a website naturally and organically rather than use paid advertising and direct sales to push people there. It is the online equivalent of using a carrot and not a stick through methods including:
- An SEO strategy to “get found” in search-engine results by people who are already searching for solutions to problems or for certain products and services
- A social-media marketing strategy to encourage fans and followers to spread the word about a company to their friends and family
- A content-marketing strategy to create items including videos, graphics, e-books, and blog posts that the target audience will like and then forward to similarly-interested people
Conversion optimization is the most-important part. Once the traffic arrives at a website through any of these methods, the ultimate goal is to “convert” the visitors towards a desired marketing or business goal via landing pages, sales pitches, and calls-to-action. Examples include: a website-form submission to become a B2B lead, a purchase of a consumer product in a B2C context, an e-mail list subscription, or a download of information to nudge the prospect towards making a future purchase. The specific inbound-marketing strategy and conversion goals will depend on a company’s overall business plan.
How to Live and Breathe Inbound Marketing
1. Educate ALL employees. Marketing is no longer a function of only the Marketing department. All teams and staffers – regardless of their departments and “official” functions – can and should contribute to the promotion of the company. Have everyone review Hubspot’s inbound-marketing classes and pass the free certification program:
2. Get everyone active on social media. Once employees know how to use social media to promote a company organically, then they will know how to push out news, blog posts, videos, and graphics in effective ways. Since nearly everyone has social-media accounts, everyone today can effectively be involved in public relations – and not just the official PR department.
3. Encourage feedback and ideas. The essence of inbound marketing is the promotion of online content. Every department can be a source of inspiration for content:
- Sales may encounter common questions from current and prospective customers. These questions can be turned into blog posts that will “get found” by people who enter the queries into Google, and then they will see the post and possibly click to go to the company website. Sales should tell Marketing such content ideas.
- IT may recognize that the company is producing a revolutionary piece of software that would interest other developers from a technical standpoint. Marketing could then produce a white paper that showcases the technological concepts behind the product or service (without giving away any proprietary information, of course). IT should tell Marketing such content ideas.
- Finance may have found an ingenious way to fund the start-up in these difficult economic times. The CEO or CFO could then host and promote a webinar that would highlight the fundraising strategy in a way that would interest venture capitalists and other start-ups. Finance should tell Marketing such content ideas.
And these are only three examples.
4. Create a positive culture. The hard part is to encourage all parts of a company to become involved in inbound marketing. Sales, IT, and Finance often say that it’s “not our job.” To address this common mentality, the key is to create a corporate family – and mean it.
If I know that my brother needs something, I will help him without him even needing to ask. Ask yourself this question: Do your employees share and promote your company and content on social media without their managers needing to ask? If the answer is “no,” then you do not have an inbound-marketing culture.
Of course, we know that it is difficult. We work with many start-ups and companies in the United States, Israel, Europe, and elsewhere, and we are familiar with the difficulties that face both employers and employees in this economy.
Start-ups are under enormous pressure to break even or obtain investment before the cash flow runs out, and large companies must increase profits and surpass stockholder expectations every quarter – employee-satisfaction is all-too-often ignored. Employees, for their part, often feel – accurately or not – that they are underpaid and undervalued when ten people are available to take their jobs in this high-unemployment economy. To help to address these issues, a change in overall culture is needed so that everyone becomes a stakeholder.
Hubspot and Moz are two start-ups that have obviously taken inbound-marketing culture among their staffs to heart. Hubspot incorporates these principles:
Moz uses what it calls TAGFEE. It involves being:
- Transparent and Authentic
Companies that want to use inbound marketing successfully will often need to adopt the same practices in their internal culture.
5. Turn all employees into ambassadors. The key is to educate and inspire your employees so that staffers in all departments will help your inbound-marketing efforts – for the benefit of both the company and everyone who works at the company:
- Inspire people to generate content ideas
- Motivate staff members to spread company news and content on social media on their own
- Gain the benefit of increased SEO backlinks and search-engine rankings along with greater social-media followings and mentions
- Maximize traffic to your website through these methods with the goal of “converting” the visitors to your desired business and marketing goals
Employees are assets that can contribute more than just direct labor. In today’s inbound-marketing world, your digitally-connected people are crucial – without them, you will be left to rely on old, ineffective advertising methods.
So, how will you inspire your staff?
Samuel Scott is Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader for The Cline Group. You see more of his thoughts on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare, and Quora. His personal website is here.