Inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on getting found by customers, and building a relationship with those customers over time. Ultimately it creates lasting trust between customers and brands, giving brands permission to communicate with an interested and engaged audience. It becomes a highly effective sales channel (sometimes without mentioning sales at all). Usefulness comes first and sales follow.
The foundation of inbound marketing is content. Useful, engaging, interesting content. Content that fills a target audience need and is relevant to the brand. Inbound marketing content is usually hosted within social media - like blogs and forums - and produced by online community managers and marketers who understand the balance between community building and selling.
“We need a social media strategy”
I challenge this statement whenever I hear it. Forget your brand’s Twitter profile and Facebook page for a moment. Social media is more about content than it is about people. The 500 million people on facebook are sharing more than 30 billion pieces of content each month. 30 BILLION! Facebook’s currency is shares, Twitter’s is links, and without content to share or link to your social media strategy is under-baked. Sure, you could link and share other people’s content, but you’ll do better (and create an asset) if you build an owned media platform using social channels.
While we’re talking social activity, here’s a point about ROI: your social media goals should be meaningful business goals with potential revenue. Not followers; members. Not re-tweets or likes; subscriptions. To get beyond re-tweets and likes and build a tribe around your brand you’ll need a content platform packed full of awesome. (Social media takes on a different meaning if you’re pursuing social business, but most brands are pursuing social media in the context of marketing).
Foot Locker’s excellent Sneakerpedia and General Mills’ Tablespoon are the result of inbound marketing strategies centered around content. Social media and social networks are factors, of course, but both of these executions are driven by understanding the needs of a target audience and providing useful content solutions. Passionate sneakerheads love to catalog and share their sneaker collections. Grocery shoppers need cooking ideas. Foot Locker and General Mills solved these problems with useful solutions for the community, by the community, powered by brands. Over time, these platforms collect data about the preferences of engaged, interested people, and become powerful channels for targeted sales. Imagine telling passionate, loyal groups of fans about products and services you know they’ll love.
Selling with permission, not interruption, is smart digital marketing.