Inbound marketing is all about creating and maintaining relationships with current and potential customers by using platforms such as social media, blogs, podcasts and more. Outbound marketing involves sending emails (which often feel like spam, especially to those of us who hate checking their inbox), and has become less and less effective as the digital world has changed. As Hubspot put it, “Instead of spending your whole day interrupting people and hoping they pay attention, try setting up a blog and writing interesting content, so that people want to hear what you have to say and come find you when they’re interested in your products.” Inbound marketing helps customers engage and learn about a brand or product more effectively than just old-fashioned email or advertising.
According to Hubspot, the three skills needed to maximize inbound marketing are:
- Writing compelling content that attracts customers to the business
- Distributing this content in a way that it can be easily discovered by potential customers (via search)
- Attract and engage a community of customers who not only engage with the product, but tell others about it too (so much of a brand is word of mouth, and facilitating that is so huge)
Now, when you Google ‘inbound marketing’, Hubspot is the first thing that comes up. They offer a complete inbound marketing software, that includes content design, “exposure optimization” (greater visibility online), and lead tracking and intelligence (Analytics! Whoop!). Obviously the company that essentially created the concept of inbound marketing offers the best software/knowledge about it. Marketo, Hubspot’s big competitor, offers a similar business model, but emphasize the importance of combining multiple inbound marketing platforms with traditional outbound methods as well. Marketo discusses the importance of differentiating one’s business from “the crowd”, by using their “Inbound Marketing Multiplier” method, which contains:
- An outbound marketing strategy (some combination of inbound and outbound)
- A corporate communications strategy (i.e. branding, product launches, etc.)
- A “nurturing or marketing automation strategy” (which converts prospective customers into actual ones)
Overall, Marketo and Hubspot are strikingly similar, and I think Marketo seems to discuss inbound marketing in a lot more interesting and compelling way than Hubspot manages to. Their fatal flaw? SEO for their own business: when you Google “inbound marketing”, you have to scroll through two pages before even seeing any mention of Marketo.
Now, I know we haven’t really discussed Hootsuite in class very much yet, but I think they’re all about inbound marketing (obviously, they are a social media company). And conveniently enough, they published an awesome article yesterday on Twitter about using Instagram more effectively that I was all about. Instagram is absolutely my favorite social media site, and I know so many businesses that have used it in a way that’s been very engaging for me. My favorite trend Hootsuite discussed in the article is branded hashtags: “the hashtags are aligned with the overall brand instead of the product, and Instagrammers are encouraged to tag their photos whether the product is featured or not”. It’s about customer engagement with more than just the product, but with the actual brand and creating a specific lifestyle to support it. Hootsuite mentioned Herschel Supply Co. (who make very hip, cool backpacks), and their #welltravelled campaign. Everlane, a luxury online clothing company focused on transparency and simplicity that I could talk about for days, has their #FromThePeople campaign, which encourages their customers to show off their duds and furthers the brand’s emphasis on simplicity and minimalism in everyday life.
Blogging and Pinterest are also both huge ways for companies to engage with their customer base (Especially clothing companies. Did I mention I like clothes?). As pointed out by Hootsuite in another article, companies like Etsy and Nordstrom have millions of followers on Pinterest. Pinterest is essentially word of net in picture form, which makes inbound marketing even easier. And the blogs! So many awesome, interesting blogs. Everlane has one, but a blog I absolutely love and follow religiously is the one belonging to Madewell: not only is it a plug for their products, but it also shares various weekly articles on books, music, and interior decorating that fit with the brand’s lifestyle.
These are businesses I shop with regularly, and I can tell you they not only use inbound marketing (my personal preference), but outbound as well. All utilize various social media sites, many have blogs, and all send me emails I (usually) don’t read. Inbound marketing has helped them establish their unique brands, and create engaging relationships with current customers (me!) and potential ones (people like you, maybe, who I babbled about them to). Inbound marketing is easy, current, and doesn’t fill up my inbox with annoying emails I’ll never read.