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Inbound Marketing – phenomenon or phenomenal?

Written by Robin Balmforth on 06 September 2012

Inbound marketing has become an increasingly hot topic over the last year – but is its exponential growth a phenomenal new way to promote your business – or is it just a phenomenon that’s going to dissapear as fast as it appeared?

The facts – DNA of inbound marketing 

What is inbound marketing? In summary, inbound marketing is the method of creating highly targeted, high quality content that grabs the attention of your prospective customer and builds their trust in your business – enough trust for them to part with their most valuable asset – contact information.

Arguably this isn’t a new concept. Richard W. Sears (co-founder of the US department store giant) used this method to develop a mail order catalogue business in the late 19th century. However, inbound marketing that utilises the very latest in online marketing tools and techniques is very new.

Fortunately, inbound builds on your overall marketing strategy. So, if you’ve already done some planning in defining your target market and understanding your customer’s needs you’re ready to start developing a content strategy.

The content that you create needs to be structured enough to: 

  • Attract traffic to your site
  • Convert your visitors to leads
  • Convert your leads to sales
  • Turn customers into repeat customers
  • Allow analysis for ongoing optimisation

The content that you create might include some of the following:

  • Blog articles
  • Guides
  • Social posts
  • Newsletters
  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars

This high quality content is then ready to be promoted via methods like email campaigns, SEO, inbound link building and social sharing.

All of this content is supported by a ‘hub’ – your website, which has the appropriate level of tracking in place to allow detailed analysis of campaigns (and a central repository for that all important data capture).

In a world where consumers are bombarded with traditional advertising that they can ignore or skip this high quality content is a killer weapon in your marketing armoury.

The main players – who’s who in the world of marketing automation? 

One option when creating, managing and analysing an inbound marketing campaign is automation via a software system. There are at least 20 companies who provide this software as a service on a monthly rental fee model. In order to illustrate the features and functionality on offer here’s a simple review of 3 of them; Hubspot, Marketo and Pardot:

Hubspot 

Summary: All in one Inbound Marketing Software. Company co-founders met in 2006 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hubspot now have over 6,000 customers and investors include Google Ventures and Salesforce.com. Hubspot is well suited to smaller enterprises.

Key proposition: ‘Hubspot brings your whole marketing world together in one powerful, integrated system.’

Overview: Hubspot provides a set of software tools that provide a single integrated interface to manage: search optimisation, blogging and social media, lead generation, lead management, email & automation and marketing analytics. 

Pricing: The entry point for Hubspot is the basic licence plan for up to 100 prospects. It costs $200 per month.

Pardot

Summary: Business to Business Marketing Automation. Co-founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007. Pardot have over 1,000 customers mainly consisting of medium sized enterprises.

Key proposition: ‘Pardot is a B2B marketing automation software provider that increases revenue and maximizes efficiency for companies with multi-touch sales cycles.’

Overview: Pardot provides lead management, email marketing, automated drip marketing and real-time sales alerts and is acclaimed for it’s lead scoring capability. It is particularly well suited to organisations dealing with B2B sales cycles that typically have a long timespan associated with them.

Pricing: The entry point for Pardot is the Professional Edition at $1,000 per month. The price plan allows for unlimited users and prospects.

Marketo 

Summary: Marketing Software. Co-founded in 2006 and headquartered in California. Marketo have over 1,500 customers and have attracted over $100 million in venture funding to date.

Key proposition: ‘Our marketing automation solutions help you generate more high-quality sales leads and win more business with less manual effort.’

Overview: Marketo is viewed as a strong solution for mid-market and enterprise level customers focussing on B2B sales.  It is very popular amongst technology companies. Features include lead management, lead nurturing, database management, territory assignment, social media integration, campaign management and analytics. Marketo’s main strength lies in its automated campaign builder.

Pricing: The entry point for Marketo is their Spark service that costs £796 per month for up to 10,000 leads.

Starter for 10 – develop your own inbound strategy 

This review of SAAS suppliers in the sector should provide a useful overview of price points. However, it may be more relevant to your business model or your customers to offer a solution that doesn’t tie in to monthly licence fees.

Most of the advantages in delivering inbound campaigns via these hosted services lie in their ‘dashboard’ style management interfaces and reporting and there’s no denying the benefits of that approach. However, if you have in-house expertise you might want to consider mixing up a few of the other emerging SAAS, open source and hosted services to achieve similar results:

Process Alternative Price
Target Market Research Google Keyword Research Tool Free
Search Optimisation Wordpress & Yoast Plugin Free
Blogging Wordpress Free
Social Media Management Hootsuite Free
Lead Management Wufoo From $15 per month
Email Marketing MailChimp Free (>2K subscribers)
Marketing Analytics Google Analytics Free


Conclusion

Inbound marketing is here to stay. It’s a phenomenal approach to marketing your business online. There are more and more automated services emerging to help your business embrace the methods at the right price point. What’s more the methods embraced by a solid inbound marketing campaign such as great content, social integration and increased engagement are exactly the way the web needs to evolve. I’m sure the Google engineers behind the penguin update would whole-heartedly agree.


Author bio: Robin Balmforth is a digital marketing consultant at rmb:digital - he has worked in the web design industry since 1999.

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