If you build it they will come. This is the philosophy of inbound marketing. For decades, marketers relentlessly chased down customers, but over the past ten years there has been a shift; today, more brands are seeing the value in letting customers come to them.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that customers are wary of ads. Rarely do ads provide inherent value to an online customer’s experience; the purpose of an ad is to drive conversions, not inform or entertain. It’s also increasingly difficult for brands to ensure ad views as mobile-ad blocking has increased 90% year-over-year. But just because customers aren’t opening their smartphones and desktops in hopes of seeing brand ads, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t looking to engage with brands in some capacity. Inbound marketing allows brands to connect with potential customers through content creation, rather than advertising placements. Inbound practices include blogs, bylined articles, social media content and video. Unlike PPC campaigns, marketing dollars are typically not allotted to inbound content; rather the content is created with target audiences and keywords in mind to better reach and attract consumers searching for specific information on the web. Other than the cost of employing teams to implement content creation, inbound marketing is significantly less costly than outbound campaigns. Essentially inbound marketing is the practice of creating valuable content, distributing it into the digital ether, and, ultimately, letting customers find that content and come to you.
Over the past several years’ brand marketers have focused more of their efforts on developing robust inbound practices. Consumers just aren’t interested in ads; many ad formats (especially banners) are viewed as intrusive and unhelpful. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are especially turned off by traditional advertisements; younger generations want brands to talk with them, not at them. Furthermore, the attention spans of online users are shrinking. Web users are bombarded by content across multiple screens all day long.
The average consumer’s attention span is 8 seconds, which is shorter than a goldfish’s concentration capacity. This means your traditional ad has just 8 seconds to grab their attention before they scroll past. And if your ad is viewed as obtrusive, generic or, irrelevant, then you should assume customers won’t linger beyond the eight second average.Furthermore, ads don’t paint a vivid enough picture of a brand or product’s values. Today’s customers are increasingly concerned with authenticity and transparency; they want to know the story behind a product and the mission behind a brand – and outbound campaigns rarely satisfy these needs.
Focus on Authentic Content
The driving force behind many brands’ inbound content strategies is discoverability; they pad their content with high performing keywords and push out blogs and articles based on what’s performing well among their competitors. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating discoverability and keywords into content - in fact, any brand would be remiss not to - however, creating content just for the sake of creating content will not necessarily lead to long-term value. 68% of online buyers dedicate significant time o reading content published by a brand they are interested in, but if a brand posts generic, thoughtless, or irrelevent content potential buyers will see through it immediately. Online audiences are so accustomed to consuming countless articles and pieces of social content on a daily basis that they’ve become deft distinguishers are value; they can spot click-bait and generic articles immediately. The brands that lead with authenticity, and use inbound marketing as a chance to show their unique voices are the ones that create content that actually resonates with audiences.
Build Your Community Through Inbound Content
More than ever, audiences want to feel connected to a brand. They’re not satisfied with simply purchasing a product; they want to hear stories from the people who built the product and anecdotes from other audience members. Highlighting community members breathes life into marketing; it transforms brands from corporate entities into an organization comprised of humans. More brands are realizing that the most effective way to build communities is to bring community members front and center. From social media takeovers to transformation and success stories, brand across verticals are starting to give their customers a voice.
When you invest in quality inbound marketing initiatives, you’re playing the long game. You may not see immediate spikes in sales, but you will build awareness and connection with potential customers. Inbound content, when produced with a quality and customer-first mentality, also has the potential to increase consumers’ respect for your knowledge, experience, and dedication to customer - all of which are three attributes that outbound marketing rarely achieves.