Traditionally, a key part of the marketing role has been to go out and find new customers.
Then we bombard them with advertising until eventually they agree to see one of our sales staff (if that’s the way our business model works) or directly make a purchase.
It’s hard work – for marketers and sales staff – and often has limited success.
Wouldn’t it be easier if, instead of searching for customers, you turned things around so that customers search for you?
That’s the basis of ‘inbound marketing’.
The idea, in a nutshell, is to give potential customers helpful information that is relevant to their current progress through the ‘buying journey’.
If they are just starting out they may be doing some basic research.
If they know what they want (or think they do) they may be looking for a supplier.
If they have already made a purchase (from you or a competitor) they might be seeking advice on how best to use what they have bought.
At each stage of this journey from vague interest to satisfied customer, people are looking for different information. Good inbound marketing provides them with the information that draws them in.
Through newsletters, social media, blogs and your website you give them what they are looking for. Gradually you advance the ‘conversation’ to the point where you can make a sale.
Of course, just providing information is not enough.
There will always be competition not just for customers’ money but for that equally valuable commodity – their attention.
They must be able to find your information.
Activities such as search engine optimisation (SEO) are therefore vital.
Happily, if you provide useful information, search engines (like customers) will seek you out.
Marketing automation can help to make inbound marketing effective and efficient. But it cannot do the whole job for you. At the heart of good inbound marketing is an understanding of potential customers and their needs at each stage in their journey.
And, of course, you need the skills to set up and manage the automation as well as to provide the content that is central to the process.
So, maybe inbound marketing is easier than selling.
But you won’t be surprised to hear that it is still hard work, requiring skill and application.
But then, you never expected business to be easy, did you?