The day that marketers have dreaded for years is finally year: traditional advertising has officially bitten the proverbial dust. Gone are the days when commercials, promotional emails and direct mailings would bring in an avalanche of profits to a business. Now, traditional advertising has given way to customer-centric inbound marketing – and unless your business has embraced this new shift in advertising, you may struggle to grow your company.

So why did direct marketing take such a sudden nosedive – and how can you transition your reliance from traditional advertising to content marketing?

 

The Rise of Content Marketing

Content marketing – also referred to as “inbound marketing” – places emphasis on the experience of the customer, rather than the product that the company wants to sell. This emphasis on the experience and relationship between the customer and a business can be largely attributed to the burgeoning rise of social media.

Web 2.0 websites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are more than social platforms for friends; they’re opportunities for people to share their opinions on the businesses and products that matter to them. This willingness to actively participate with brands can be a marketer’s dream-come-true. In decades past, businesses used to invest six-figure budgets into market research to uncover their customers’ wants, needs and attitudes. Not only are today’s customers willing to tell businesses what they want, but they’re also eager to be associated with the branding experience.

In other words, it’s not about the product; it’s about how being associated with that product can change a person’s experience of his or her world. Customers of the mega-brand Apple, for example, aren’t purchasing products solely based on price, functionality and quality. They’re looking for the experience of owning and associating with an Apple product, and the esteem that comes with it.

That’s why it’s so critical for marketers to focus on providing highly valuable and relevant content to their clientele. By focusing on the needs of the customer – rather than product – marketers can turn inbound traffic into loyal clients who are eager to be associated with a particular brand.

How to Implement Inbound Marketing Strategies

The best inbound marketing strategies incorporate four distinct stages: attract leads, convert leads, close sales, and enhance customer longevity. While many argue that inbound marketing may not be as expensive to implement as, say, a traditional campaign with television ads, it’s worth noting that content marketing can take time and a great deal of patience to reap results. To ensure that your business is on the right track for inbound marketing success, consider taking the following steps:

  • Learn how to attract targeted traffic. Ultimately, content marketing is about attracting the people who are most likely to become customers. That’s why a successful inbound marketing campaign should start with customer-centric tools, like blogs and social media sites. This is where your customers will learn more about who you are as a business, including your role within a particular industry and how you approach the client experience.
  • Ensure that your blogs and sites are optimized with the right keywords. This can help you attract pre-qualified traffic that’s more likely to turn into leads. With regards to keywords, focus your campaign on keywords that are popular with your customers but aren’t highly competitive within your industry. This can help you find targeted traffic faster, as you won’t have to wait months or even years to see results from your SEO campaigns.
  • Convert the pre-qualified traffic that is circling around your blogs and social media sites. To do this, get to know what drives your customers’ purchasing decisions. What need does your product fulfill? How does your company contribute to giving a customer the experience he or she is looking for? When you know more about the buying habits, emotional needs, and attitudes of your ideal customers, you can design powerful calls-to-action, landing pages, and other sales-oriented tools.
  • Close a sale with a lead who hasn’t made a purchasing decision yet. For example, if a lead downloaded a case study from your website but hasn’t purchased from you, an email campaign that’s designed to get him or her to buy could be an effective tool. When closing a sale, it’s important to remember that you should send a lead information that’s as specific to his or her interests as possible. Don’t bombard the lead with promotional emails; instead, balance out a marketing campaign with one call-to-action email for every three content-rich messages.
  • Transform a single client into a lifelong loyal customer. Don’t just write off an email after he or she buys a product; instead, lure the customer to your brand with exclusive discounts, content-rich emails, and targeted marketing messages. Don’t forget to interact with these customers on your social media accounts; they can be an excellent source for glowing testimonials or critical feedback that can enhance your product’s functionality.

Business leaders who engage in content-heavy, customer-focused advertising campaigns are much more likely to attract loyal and valuable clients than those who stick to traditional marketing platforms. Invest your time and marketing know-how into a company blog or start commenting on your customers’ posts on your Facebook feed. These may seem like small steps in the grand scheme of inbound marketing, but they can pave the way for reaping considerable rewards for your company.