The digital marketing landscape keeps changing, but inbound marketing is an increasingly effective tool for connecting with your audiences. Gina Patterson and Amanda Tower sit down to recap key highlights from their inbound and content marketing community education workshop earlier this year.
Watch the video or read the key takeaways below for some tips, best practices, and strategies around inbound and content marketing.
As technology has evolved with the rise of the Internet and smart devices, marketing has also shifted from traditional to digital strategies. There’s no doubt that understanding the new digital marketing landscape can be challenging. The number of online channels and the types of promotional tactics available keeps expanding and changing, and it’s not always clear where you should focus your efforts.
At Meld Marketing, digital and content marketing specialists Gina Patterson and Amanda Tower cut through the noise to provide clarity and offer innovative strategies to help clients achieve their marketing goals. In a recent video, Tower and Patterson sat down to discuss content marketing tips and share tactics for successfully promoting brands across multiple web channels. Below you’ll find key takeaways from their conversation.
The difference between traditional marketing and inbound marketing
According to Tower and Patterson, traditional outbound marketing allows marketers to push their brand messaging to viewers through outlets like billboards and commercials. In contrast, inbound marketing, also known as content marketing, is more of a two-way conversation that takes place via digital platforms such as web content and social media.
While traditional outbound marketing is focused on finding and converting customers, inbound marketing allows customers to find you—whether that’s through a blog, Facebook post, or YouTube video.
The concrete benefits of inbound marketing
Inbound marketing can help you increase brand awareness so more people know who you are and the products and services you offer. Creating content that answers your target audience’s questions is a great way to generate traffic and leads to your website, and it also provides really good no-strings-attached value that helps move customers through the decision-making process.
Inbound marketing can also help establish your authority and expertise. When people come to your website and find high-quality, relevant content, they will see you as an expert in your field. Once they are ready to make a buying decision, they’re more likely to come back to you as a trusted resource.
Components of inbound marketing
With many different components to leverage along the way, inbound marketing can be complex. From a high level, it’s important to keep personas and the buyer’s journey in mind. You’ll also need to create a content strategy for your website, landing pages, and social media accounts. Last but not least, it’s also useful to track web analytics to measure your progress and make use of marketing automation as well.
How to use social media as a marketing tool
Social media can be a fun medium full of memes and eye-catching images, but it’s also a useful tool for connecting with customers. Social media gives customers a convenient place to ask questions, and the brand can respond and have a real back-and-forth conversation. One key piece of advice to keep in mind is to strive for authenticity and be approachable on social media, so consumers feel like they can really engage with you.
Don’t forget about the paid side of social media either. Even though people can sometimes feel squeamish about paid social media, it’s important, according to Patterson. Due to algorithm changes, organic social media has very low reach (less than three percent of people see an organic post). Promoting your posts not only helps you engage new audiences, but it also helps you connect with people who already liked your page and want to see your content anyway.
Social media can also give customers an opportunity to ‘champion’ your brand and share their positive experiences with others. To encourage the right kind of buzz, you can reach out to satisfied customers and ask them to leave a review, for example.
Different types of content marketing to explore
“Although social media and website content tend to get a lot of attention, there are other out-of-the-box ideas people don’t think about,” Tower points out. These include videos, webinars, eBooks, and live streaming events on Facebook or Instagram.
Not sure what topics to focus on for these types of content? Meld Marketing often recommends clients start out by answering the questions customers are commonly asking. This will allow you to provide valuable content your target audience is eager to consume.
Best practices for landing pages
Another big part of content marketing is landing pages—where people can fill out a form to download a piece of content like a white paper or sign up for a newsletter, for example. Patterson and Tower often come across landing pages that have way too much information and just end up overwhelming readers.
It’s important to step back and think about the goal of the page, what you want the call to action to be, and who the audience is. Don’t put too many links on the page. Instead, keep readers focused on the primary message and next step.
Staying ahead of the curve
From landing pages and blog posts to videos and more, navigating the ever-changing world of digital marketing takes know-how and skill, but the results are worth the effort. Inbound marketing and social media can help you accomplish critical goals such as increasing brand awareness, building an effective sales funnel, and fostering a positive customer experience—and who doesn’t want that?
Want to learn more about content marketing? Check out our blog post on content calendars (5 Ways Content Calendars Make Content Marketing Easier). Still hungry for more? We’d love to learn more about your organization and discuss how Inbound and Content Marketing can help you achieve your marketing goals—reach out and let’s talk!
Amanda: Hey guys, I’m Amanda Tower, senior creative content specialist at Meld Marketing.
Gina: And I’m Gina Patterson. I also work at Meld Marketing as a digital marketing strategist.
Amanda: We are here to talk about inbound marketing today. So back in January, Gina and I hosted an inbound marketing workshop, and we have some tips and insights that we wanted to share from that workshop. So first and foremost, what is inbound marketing?
Gina: The principle of it is attracting customers to you. Think about that as kind of like the basic bottom line of it.
Amanda: So how does inbound marketing differ from more traditional outbound marketing, for example, any billboard that someone might see driving down the road, or a commercial that somebody sees on TV? But who watches commercials nowadays, anyway?
Gina: Traditional marketing includes the two examples that you just mentioned, billboards, as well as commercials. So it is really that pushing of the message from companies to different viewers, or anyone just driving down the street. But inbound marketing is more of a two-way conversation. There’s a big focus on content and social media and a plethora of other things. But it’s just making sure that inbound marketing is allowing customers to find you, versus you finding customers. So really, what ends up happening is sales and marketing kind of work together a little bit more than they did, historically.
Amanda: Got it.
Gina: Thinking, you know, a little bit more about inbound, what are some of the more concrete benefits of inbound marketing?
Amanda: There’s a lot of benefits to inbound marketing. First and foremost, just getting your brand awareness out there. So making people aware of your brand, just having visibility to who you are and the products and services that you offer. It also helps you build relationships with your audiences. So when people can trust you as that authority, when they can come to your website and see really great content, it really helps to build that relationship with you. It also positions you as an expert. When you have that content out there, again, people are seeing it — they’re seeing that you’re an expert in your field. When they are ready to make that decision, not necessarily just doing their research, but they’re ready to come back to you because they know that you’re the expert in your field.
Gina: So they kind of answer the questions that I have.
Amanda: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It can also help you to generate traffic and leads to your website. So when somebody goes to Google, and they have a very specific question that they’re asking, the idea is that with the content on your website, they can go and they can click on it, and they can learn more. They can get, like you just mentioned, they can get their questions answered. They can know exactly what it is that they want to find and what they’re looking for. It also helps to move customers through their decision-making phase. So when we’re thinking about kind of that sales funnel, or the marketing funnel, starting out in the awareness phase, just that baseline awareness of your brand, and moving them all the way through the decision-making process. When they’re ready to pull the trigger, when they’re ready to buy, it helps to get them through that, depending on your industry. For example, if you’re a real estate agent, you might have a lot of steps throughout your buyer’s journey. So getting somebody primed to move through that decision-making process is different than if, for example, maybe you’re selling a bicycle. There might be fewer steps involved in that process.
Gina: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, in the next year or so, I will be looking at buying my first home. So I want to do all my research and learn, you know, as much as I can. Like you said, if I was going to go buy a bike, I might just say, “What’s the best one?” and go buy that bike, but a home is a much bigger investment.
Amanda: Yeah, that’s a really good point. And then finally, it’s just providing really good, no-strings-attached value. So if you’re somebody who’s looking to buy a home, and you’re wondering — how much of a down payment should I put on my home, for example, or what types of things should I consider and how should I narrow down my search — you might go to a blog post, or start searching on the internet on Google, and find this type of content. So it all kind of goes back to that. So when we’re thinking about inbound marketing too, there’s really important components to call out. There’s personas and the buyer’s journey. So like we talked about, going through that awareness to the decision-making phase. There’s also social media. And we talk about content strategy, landing pages, and then also just a website. That’s one of the primary things that people think about when they are thinking about marketing. Do you have a good website, and are you driving traffic to your website? And then finally, analytics and automation. Those are also very important components as well. Going back to social media, what are some of the ways that you can use social media to move people through the funnel? I know when people think about social media, they think all of these great memes and pictures of things, but it can really be used as a tool. Can you talk more about that?
Gina: Yeah. So like you said, social media is a fun place. And it really, you know, lends itself nicely to be that two-way conversation, like I talked about previously with some of the differences, because, a brand can post something out there. And the potential customer might ask a question about the product. And then the brand can kind of respond back in that way. So it really is, like I said, that two-way conversation. And social media is really great, because it can be used in a lot of different parts of the marketing funnel. So we think about awareness, and trying to let people know about the company, so putting out a video or just a content post. But the key to that is really making sure you’re thinking about what audiences make sense for what product you’re trying to push out there. So being authentic is really, really important for someone’s first interaction online with your brand. They want to feel like they can approach you and ask those questions that they want to ask so they can learn more.
Amanda: Especially when there’s so much content on social, we as consumers, everybody can feel when that content seems inauthentic. So just kind of having that balance there.
Gina: Yeah, absolutely. And I like those brands that, you know, feel more personal to me and really connect with my need. So that’s really the goal there. And then if we think about moving down the marketing funnel into intent and consideration, so maybe, you know, a company has a newsletter, and they want to push out their newsletter for people to subscribe. So obviously, these people already know about the company. They wouldn’t just sign up for a newsletter of a company they’ve never heard of. So letting them know in a social media post, what are the three top benefits of this newsletter, what are they going to get out of it, and then when they click through that, they can sign up, and then, you know, the company then has their contact information to be able to send a newsletter. Something that I don’t want to forget to talk about either is the paid side of social media, which I feel like some people can maybe feel a little bit icky about. But it is really important, especially because organic social media, with all the algorithm changes, has such a low reach. Actually, less than 3% of people see an organic post that’s out there. It’s important to not only promote the post to audiences that might be interested in it, but to people who already like your page, because you know that they want to see your content anyway. So just letting them get what they want from you.
Amanda: Yeah, they’ve already told you, essentially, that they want that relationship with you. So it’s just keeping that going.
Gina: Exactly, yeah, just making sure that that’s out there. And then finally, you know, the champion stage of social media, so the person signed up for the newsletter, they become a customer, and they’re super happy with their experience. So maybe it’s encouraging them to leave a positive review, and then commenting back on that review. Or, you know, it’s that person that’s championing your brand by sharing your posts or commenting back to other people that are just learning about it. There are lots of different ways that social media can kind of be used within inbound marketing.
Amanda: Absolutely. That’s the entire funnel.
Gina: Exactly. Obviously, content is hugely important with social media and what’s being pushed out there. So can you talk a little bit more about content.
Amanda: Yeah, so social content and website content are sometimes the primary modes of getting content out there that people think of, but there’s also more out-of-the-box ideas that people don’t always think about. So, for example, doing a podcast, doing a video, like what we’re doing right now, webinars, eBooks — those are all great examples of content that can be used to get your brand awareness out there, get your products and services out there as well, and just get people understanding who you are and what you do. Typically, where we recommend starting with our clients is just starting with a list of commonly asked questions that you get. That’s a great place to start. Because really, no matter your industry, you can go through and you can list out all of those questions that your customers are commonly asking. And you can structure your content around that. So maybe you’re doing a webinar on this question that you’re getting asked a ton. Maybe you even just do a blog post on that. Those are all great ways to utilize content and provide that valuable content that people are actually wanting to digest and wanting to know more about.
Gina: So thinking about social media in general made me think about things like Facebook Live or Instagram Live, or that sort of thing. Is that a good way to kind of get quick content out there?
Amanda: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we typically recommend that if you have a message that you’re really trying to communicate, if it’s really important, kind of driving that awareness and excitement around that Facebook Live or Instagram Live. So we’ve done that in the past with some of our clients, where we kind of build up that hype and that excitement toward the Facebook Live, especially if it’s a big event. Yeah, people really love that. They get really into that. So, yeah, that can absolutely be one of the best ways to get your content out there.
Gina: So I think, you know, another thing, like you said, with content in the website, that brings me to think about landing pages, which is another huge part of inbound marketing. So when we think about landing pages, there’s some best practices, obviously, that we need to follow in terms of who’s the audience. So I think a lot of times, there’s so much great information when it comes to those landing pages, where it’s like, I want to, you know, put all these awesome statistics and tell this great story and have so many things on there, but it can actually kind of be overwhelming to people. So our recommendation is to kind of step back a little bit and think about, okay, what is the goal of the page, what is that call to action, and then also, who is going to be reading the page. So thinking about that audience and making it a little bit more simple that way, and then not having a lot of links on the page. If people go to the landing page, and again, maybe it’s to encourage someone to sign up for a newsletter, maybe it’s highlighting the three benefits of the newsletter, a testimonial of someone who has already subscribed to the newsletter — because it builds that trust between the brand that is promoting the landing page, and the person who is thinking about signing up for that specific newsletter. And then once someone signs up for the newsletter, bringing them to that thank-you page with a sneak peek into the next issue or some blog posts that people might be able to click through and see the type of content that they’ll be receiving in their inbox.
Amanda: Yeah, I think you bring up a really good point about landing pages and just keeping people focused and knowing what it is that you want them to do. Because I’ve personally, and I’m sure you feel the same way, have been on a website before where there’s just so many messages coming at you. And it’s like, what am I supposed to do? Like, what is the primary message, the thing that I’m supposed to be recognizing? So I think having that simplified navigation structure is a really good idea.
Gina: Exactly. And not, you know, linking off to every single page on the website where, you know, something is mentioned, where there’s more information elsewhere, because then people can kind of get into their own sort of, you know, rabbit hole on your website. And then it’s like, wait, why did they even come to this page in the first place? So not only are they not doing what you want them to do, but they’re maybe going down a different path themselves.
Amanda: It’s a distraction age.
Gina: Yeah. All right. Well, I think that’s about all the time we have for today. I know we weren’t able to get to every single component of inbound marketing, but we’re super excited to announce one of our workshops later this year about SEO, or search engine optimization.
Amanda: I hear I may possibly be co-hosting.
Gina: Yeah, yeah. So if you want to hang out with Amanda, feel free to sign up for Meld Intel, our monthly newsletter where we promote events coming up. We also have industry insights, as well as client case studies and everything related to marketing. So go to meldmarketing.com and you can sign up there. But thanks again for joining us.
Amanda: Thanks for watching. Have a great day.