Making the case for inbound marketing

Digital media has changed the way businesses promote themselves. It is no longer enough to throw money at a glossy TV or print ad campaign because, quite simply, people don't have to listen anymore.

Internet TV and radio, On Demand and catch-up services have made it easier than ever to avoid that expensive advert of yours. Print publications too are suffering from declining readerships due to the popularity of digital publications and outlets.

Even if you are savvy enough to move your advertising online, ad-blocking software and spam filters have become increasingly sophisticated and increasingly popular.  What's more, online readerships are smaller and more fragmented due to the wealth of competing websites available.

Rather than interrupting someone's user experience, modern marketing must instead become a part of it. This requires listening rather than expecting people to listen.

That's where inbound marketing comes in. The term was coined to provide a name for the range of new media techniques designed to earn the attention of customers rather than demanding it. This includes Search Engine Optimisation, social media networks, social content such as blogs videos and solicited email marketing campaigns.

It is vital to make use of inbound marketing techniques going forward if businesses want to stay relevant. However, many businesses are still hesitant about modern marketing methods.

ROI

One of the main objections businesses have to inbound marketing is the Return on Investment. Traditional marketing is easier to measure - run a campaign for X amount of money, get Y new customers.  The big difference is that inbound marketing is geared towards long-term goals. Cultivating a social media presence and optimising your web presence are ongoing activities. This means the benefits are not always felt immediately but months down the line.

The long term nature of inbound marketing activity, combined with the variety of different channels and metrics it offers, can make success harder to measure. However, this does not mean it's impossible. A good agency will be able to demonstrate the return on investment of social media, SEO and other inbound marketing activities.

While businesses may prefer the easier wins of traditional marketing, the simple fact is these wins aren't so easy anymore.  Traditional print and TV have smaller audiences and have to compete with countless online outlets. This means while the ROI of traditional marketing may feel more tangible, it is only going to get smaller and less significant.

Lack of understanding

Because it is free to set up a Facebook account and send an email, there is a belief that inbound marketing is free - or at least cheap.

What's more, the wealth of early adopter success stories has made many think it's easy to create an awesome social media presence or SEO strategy. Many businesses start a Facebook page, post unstrategic updates and then wonder why they aren't getting any engagement.

Inbound marketing is not free or easy. It is not a one-off investment but and ongoing commitment. Many businesses aren't prepared to make a large investment into activities that don't deliver the immediate results.

There is a need to address the misconception that inbound marketing should work the same way as traditional marketing. Rather than focusing on short term success, inbound marketing is concerned with developing a level of trust and familiarity with the customer. This more meaningful connection will endure longer than the sales connection made through advertising, paving the way for future business.

The way audiences consume marketing has changed and hence the way businesses need to market themselves has changed too. The quicker businesses embrace this, the sooner they can reap the benefits.