When I first started working in digital marketing, some customers would come to me, saying all they needed was a “brochure site,” or “virtual business card.”
I think they were trying to save my work (or more likely, save themselves money) but every single one of them that I was able to persuade otherwise took my advice to the bank.
Brochure sites are a dead-end street. Today’s customer expects to get actual value from whatever it is you put on the web. They want to use it to learn, schedule, book and transact with you.
This is done through inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is a way of earning your way into a customer’s awareness, instead of invading your way into their awareness through paid advertisements. Traditional marketing relied on things that were an interruption to the prospective client: advertisements, email lists, cold-calling, billboard advertisements, and direct mail. Modern inbound marketing uses magnetism to earn customer attention via:
- Organic search traffic
- Content marketing (a.k.a. providing the information you know they’re seeking)
- Social media marketing (or, being on their social media platform of choice
- Search engine optimization (also known as SEO. This is when they run a search and your product or service pops up first, or on the first page.)
- Opt-in forms
- An improved customer experience (yep, the good old-fashioned kind!)
- Trust/a shared vision (you earn this by doing all of the above)
Attract — Convert — Analyze — Repeat
Inbound marketing can help you get found, or attract more business through a search by meeting your client where they are. Your job after attracting them to your website is converting them into a paying customer. If you want to have a successful business, online or off, you can’t forget this. But when we’re so wrapped up in what we’re doing, it’s often hard to get out of the weeds and put ourselves in our customer’s shoes.
When I first started out, I used to do a lot of website maintenance. My clients would often call or email me and ask for small changes. At first, I’d oblige, even though it took me time and typically didn’t create any value for them.
Once I became more confident, I’d argue with them — and I wasn’t simply trying to save myself work. If we’d figured out how to make leads pour in from the website’s contact form and other channels, I’d ask why they wanted the new feature, photo or text update.
Unless they had data or a strong argument showing me that the change they wanted was going to lead to more clicks and conversions, I’d always be skeptical.
Once you get customers from your website who are asking to do business with you and paying for your goods and/or services, you must analyze what worked, and what didn’t. Where did they click? What was their behavior on the website? Did they fill out a contact form? Did they view a photo gallery? Which products did they click on?
I am constantly doing analysis for my clients, getting rid of what doesn’t work and adding more of what does. Knowing all of this information creates a continuous feedback loop that allows you to keep improving your business based on actual data, not guesses and personal preferences.
Web Development vs. Web Design vs. Web Marketing
The people who work on your website are getting quite specialized indeed. Gone are the days of the solo “webmaster,” the one person who was the be-all-end-all for your online presence. It’s important to understand the different roles, whether you’re DIYing a website or hiring someone to help you with yours.
Web Development is technical. How do I get to appear on the page where I want to appear? These folks are scientists and technologists. They know the code that makes things work behind the scenes. A good web developer should be able to answer questions like:
- How do I get that photo to appear larger on the page?
- How do I change all my fonts across the board on my website?
- Can I link an app or payment service to my website?
- How can users set up a subscription, make a transaction or make a purchase?
Web Design has more to do with the look and feel of your website. These folks are creators and artists. A good web designer should be able to answer questions like:
- Does this photo work with this graphic?
- Are my colors in harmony?
- What font should I choose?
- Will the website connect with my target customer, and inspire them on an emotional level?
Web Marketing is all about getting business results for clients. Here we are using metrics to understand what an ideal client or “user” is thinking and wants to do next. A good web marketer will be able to answer these questions:
- Am I getting traffic to the website? Why or why not?
- When people arrive at the website, where do they go first? What is the result?
- Do I have clear calls to action, and products that resonate with my buyer?
- How long will a user stay on my site? Can I get them to stay longer, educate them further, or convince them to buy?
When you hire each one of these people or all three of them, be sure to identify your goals and reasons for doing so. Don’t try to put a round peg in a square hole! Make sure you leverage the strengths of your team and allow people to specialize in the areas they’re best in.
If you want to learn one of these roles in more depth, there are plenty of self-study courses out there. I would highly recommend having a good understanding of each of these if you’re planning to launch an online presence for yourself, or are hiring someone else to do it for you.
You’re Already Doing It
The formula to acquire customers in today’s hyper-connected online and offline communication ecosystem can be summarized in six words: right audience, right channel, right time.
If you’re in business, you’re already doing inbound marketing — although you might not realize it! Here are some examples:
- Did anyone call?
- Did I get any emails?
- Did anyone visit my website?
- Where did they come from?
When there’s a surge in website traffic, contacts, phone calls or orders, knowing which email campaign, Google search term or Facebook post generated all the activity is key. Then you can add things like:
- A free guide directly related to your business
- Ask and answer frequent customer questions on your website
- An email opt-in (I use Mail Munch)
- Guest blogging (or posting on Medium)
These are just a few of the strategies to “meet customers where they are.” There are thousands more, and they should always be tailored to your specific customer profile’s wants, needs, desires, technology and platform of choice.
Inbound marketing gives you the power to learn about your prospective customers, then serve up exactly what they need at the precise point that they need it. This builds trust, reputation, and authority in your niche, which builds your brand.
About the Author
Hi there! I’m Amanda Jenkins, Creative Director at MarketIQ, a Multi-Business Owner, Digital Nomad, Yoga Instructor, and Mom. If this article resonated with you, please subscribe to my personal blog. You can also get to know me better on these social platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.