One of the more common pitfalls of a marketing strategy is being too vague. Driving consumer engagement and spreading brand awareness are valid goals, but do little to inform what concrete action you should be taking in the present. With that said, it may be of value to understand the specifics of two favoured strategies of the moment: inbound marketing and content marketing. Both hold content at their heart, but assume slightly different stances in the distribution of that content and overall engagement of the consumer. Understanding the nuances of the two practices could shed light on how you can flesh out and expand upon your own marketing strategy. Read ahead to find out more.
Put simply, inbound marketing places the consumer first. It is about urging the consumer to engage with your business by offering them real value. A company employing an inbound marketing seeks to become a voice in its community, a trusted supplier of information and portal for ideas. The reverse scenario is the Wolf of Wall Street, the loud peddler that singles you out and persuades you to make a purchase. In these cases, the customer is often taken out of their comfort zone deliberately to weaken their defences and render them more vulnerable to persuasive techniques.
With inbound marketing, if you don’t have anything of value to offer a consumer, you create something. There is no haranguing, no clickbait assault to manipulate buyers into fast-tracking their consumer journey. This kind of natural relationship with consumers may take longer to build, but it’s also built to last, as it’s founded on genuine good will between you and the buyer.
Inbound marketing techniques
Content is a crucial component of inbound marketing, but it’s not the only component. To be properly and successfully applied, inbound marketing has to stretch across your entire business ethos, so that consumers finding you from every angle are greeted with the same friendly face. Here are some of the main techniques to draw upon.
1. Free trials, discounts and giveaways
Is there an easier way to jumpstart consumer relationships than offering something for nothing? Companies that do this are banking on the consumer finding their product or service valuable, and so returning in the future. Consumers understand this wager and are further persuaded by the company’s conviction that the product/service itself will be enough to earn a repeat visit.
2. Smart pop-ups
Smart pop-ups are often discounts and offers, but they can be other kinds of valuable information. If you’re holding an autumn sale or have newly released content, you can use pop-ups to convert users that might otherwise exit without leaving so much as a trace.
Newsletters can be done well and they can be done very badly, but they remain a respectable marketing strategy in 2021. Pick the crème de la crème of your content pool, assemble it into the most sleekest visual packaging you can muster and ship it out — if successful, it can earn you enduring customer attention.
4. Customer interviews
Part of knowing your target audience is talking to them. You can theorise all year long about what the demographic looks like, who your ideal customer is and how they take their coffee, but you won’t know how they’re really engaging with you until you ask. Conducting interviews, whether by survey or online chat, will fill in gaps and flesh out your understanding of how consumers feel about you.
5. Longer-form content with visuals
Long-form content gets 3 times as many social media shares. For people to consider the writing of sufficient worth to show their friends, articles have to be researched and thought-through. Spamming short pieces may get you passing clicks, but a post that delves into a subject in an almost journalistic fashion has a much higher chance of circulating in the social spheres. What’s more, in keeping with the ethos of consumer-centric marketing, relevant, non-stock visuals add an intrigue dimension that further stimulates the reader.
Content marketing is a subbranch of inbound marketing. More and more, online marketers are considering valuable content, not keyword-laden spam, as the best way to grow a consumer base. This fits within the inbound ethos, so it’s understandable that the two terms are used interchangeably.
Content marketing is a simpler practice, and consists solely in the creation and distribution of content deemed to be valuable to its target readership. While simple in theory, the process of developing said content from unremarkable essays into full-fledged articles that readers hungrily devour will require many hours of work with no clear finish-line. It is a continual practice that must be diligently pursued to reap any tangible reward.
Unlike inbound marketing, which takes a personal, targeted approach, content marketing assumes a wide, general audience. It has to be somewhat limited in focus so as to appeal to a specific group or demographic, but can’t be so limited as to lose any widespread appeal. The goal is to create a network of content and distribute it through popular channels so that within the online sphere you have a series of articles, videos and infographics that converts without you having to lift a finger.
There is no shortage of buzzwords to get acquainted with in the marketing world. These terms come and go, with some fading rapidly into obscurity and others rising to become long-lasting trends. Who is to say how the landscape of online marketing will look in 5-10 years’ time? One thing that seems likely is that the consumer will increasingly be placed at the centre of businesses’ strategies. Ross Pike of web design agency Koreti Ltd comments, ‘The buying power of consumers today is quite astonishing compared to how it was years ago. With such a plethora of competition, the strangleholds and monopolies once in place have now diminished to a few select industries, and consumers on the whole make much more personal decisions in their purchases.’ If you want to thrive in the new age of commerce, you’d better be liked by consumers, or else a friendlier face will come along to scoop up their business. Inbound marketing and content marketing are two components of this larger trend, and they may be sticking around for quite some time.