What Inbound Marketing is all about

What Inbound Marketing is Really all About

In the mid-1990s, marketing sage Seth Godin coined a concept in customer lead generation that he called permission marketing. The best way to define it may be to describe its nemesis: interruption marketing.

We all know what that is:

  • Television commercials
  • Radio Spots
  • Direct mail
  • Billboards and signage

In short, all the stuff people spend loads of money on to promote their business. It’s also called outbound marketing, and it works in its grinding and predicable way.

By contrast, permission marketing leverages the Internet in a way the other cannot: it allows for immediate feedback from your prospect. This feedback creates the permission loop.

Inbound marketing takes that concept one step farther by entering the mind of your customer through search keywords, Web analytics, and form submission.

Build market share through language

Have you ever heard this advice: ‘If you want to make more money, ask your customers?’

Search queries are nothing more than customers asking questions. When search engines collect those questions — that is, keywords — they turn the classic marketing paradigm on its head. Instead of declaring your business and promoting it (outbound marketing), you reverse the strategy by matching your expertise to the expressed desires of the community (inbound marketing).

How could you uncover those desires? Through keyword analysis. Keyword analysis — language, my friends — is the key that unlocks the mind of your customer and uncovers your rightful share of the market.

A new way of seeing

In 2006, I worked with Karine Joly on my first Web redesign. Publisher of College Web Editor, Karine was an early advocate of Web site analysis in Higher Education, as was I. At that time, people in Higher Ed were stuffed with anecdotal notions of best Web practices. Thanks to analytics, I could counter those notions with real data.

In 2012, Karine published her definitive report “The State of Web and Social Media Analytics in Higher Education”. In it she noted the meager amount of time many of my competitors spent examining or reporting the data they collected. When I presented Karine’s observation to our Board of Trustees (along with a positive analysis of our own Web site’s performance) I could tell some people were beginning to see my duties in a new light.

Truth be told, so was I.

Form matters

I’m about to run afoul of how some people define inbound marketing. You may hear it described as the use of channels like social media and blogging to present infographics and white papers that encourages peer-to-peer sharing via thought leadership, brand journalism, and content marketing.

Before your take your head for a swim, please remember the whole process boils down to one thing: a form on your Web site.

The form creates the social contract that fuels inbound marketing. It is also the surest measure of your customer’s genuine interest and your eventual success. Everything you do as an inbound marketer supports the submission of a form.

The OLD Funnel (with Outbound Marketing)

I worked in Higher Ed — a bastion of traditional marketing — for ten years. When it came to sales, Higher Ed folks often talked about the Enrollment Funnel. Putting theory and jargon aside, the Funnel was simply a way to formulate the left-hand side of the college’s balance sheet.

Using the old ‘funnel’ method, you would start the sales cycle with $520,000 and 100,000 purchased prospect names. Given a respectable conversion rate of .4%, this boiled down to 400 students –provided you hit them enough times in enough ways with the right message.

How much did it cost to get those students? Let’s do the math:

100,000 prospects x .4% = 400 students
$520,000 / 400 = $1300 ROI

The NEW Escalator (with Inbound Marketing) 

Inbound marketing has is own representation — the Engagement Escalator. Every move up the Escalator comes from a customer’s affirmation they want what you’re offering — be it a white paper, an info graphic, a virtual tour, or an online registration to your next open house.

With a $90,000 budget, a goal of 200 students, and an average conversion rate of 15% (did I mention inbound marketing has a higher conversion rate?) I would need just 1350 leads.

1350 leads x 15% = 202 students
$90,000 / 202 = $445 ROI

Why is this important to you?

Done properly, inbound marketing can deliver half the amount of sales as outbound marketing for about one thirdthe costs. And that’s what inbound marketing is all about, Charlie Brown!