There’s a Reason Everyone is Talking About Content Marketing. It works.
There’s a reason inbound marketing is all the rage these days, and why marketing technology is allegedly “eating” ad tech. Inbound marketing works.
So what is inbound marketing, exactly? Hubspot defines it like this:
Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.
So, essentially, you’re bringing consumers to your site by offering them content that solves their problems, then building a relationship with them by offering them more of the information they want and need. It’s a great concept, and it definitely works. Delivering the right content to the right customer at the right time is a perfect way to move leads along the path to purchase.
Even better, inbound marketing platforms like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua and others make smart use of website and CRM data, so that content can be personalized. They actually facilitate that efficient, relevant content delivery.
No outbound? Really?
But there’s a problem with Hubspot’s definition of inbound marketing. Do you see it? It’s in those first 5-10 words, wherein it essentially dismisses outbound marketing entirely. I believe very firmly that writing off outbound marketing is a huge mistake.
First of all, let’s make this clear: Digital advertising works, and with programmatic, it’s getting more effective every day. The influx of data to the ad tech space has made it easier to accurately target audiences with relevant messages on any device, whether it’s the computer on their desk or the mobile phone in their pocket. Advertisers can reach their own customers, as well as prospects who could well be their next customers.
Programmatic also makes advertising more cost-effective. When digital ads only reach the customers they’re meant to reach, there are fewer wasted impressions. That generally means a higher ROI for campaigns.
And if you needed more proof that digital advertising works, just look at the numbers. The IAB reports the industry has grown to nearly $60 Billion after six consecutive years of growth. Not bad, considering the industry’s only been around for 20 years!
I’m not really sure why inbound marketers are so dismissive of outbound programs, but focusing on content alone seems narrow-minded to the point of near-ignorance. There’s a lot to be gained from digital advertising, regardless of how small the budget may be. And while there are fewer outbound marketers who dismiss the value of inbound, they may not realize how huge the benefits can be from a robust content program.
So, rather than running inbound campaigns exclusively – or digital advertising campaigns exclusively – why not balance the two? Why not allow the prospects who have just engaged with your owned content to now see your related ads as they continue their research across the web? On the flip side, consider offering helpful content to prospect who have engaged with your ads but not taken any action. The one-two punch of paid and owned media can be incredibly powerful! Those who are just beginning to invest in marketing can start with both: creating keyword-rich, engaging content, then supporting it with well-targeted, creative ads.
Wondering how it all comes together? Consider, for example, the journey of a new car seeker. If you’re an advertiser targeting this audience, you may have ads reaching her with stunning shots of the compact SUV your company offers. Your shopper may have clicked on these ads and may have even gone to your site to price the car, but she’s still not come in for the test drive – possibly because there’s some specific features she wants. Now, what if you have content on that specific feature? If your article or video on “the critical importance of side-curtain airbags in compact SUVs” or “constantly updated maps in GPS” comes up in her Google search, it may be the needle-mover you’ve needed. Moreover, if you keep producing great content even after conversion, you have the opportunity to build long-term loyalty and customers for life.
From another perspective, your prospect may have watched your video or read your article last week, but this is the week she’s scheduling those test drives – so thank goodness your ads are surfacing as she’s browsing the headlines this morning.
Strike a Balance
It’s also important to remember that in this age of data-driven advertising, personalization has become ubiquitous. Ads are one-to-one, targeted carefully to each user. You and a friend reading the same article or watching the same video will generally not see the same ads.
Content, on the other hand, casts a wider net. It can speak to a much broader audience, and optimized well, it can do this very effectively at virtually no cost.
Using data from both inbound and outbound marketing, marketers can build powerful programs that span the bridge between the two disciplines. Use customer and analytics data to create the content you know customers need. Build profiles based on those customers, then put third-party data to work to reach more of them with targeted advertising. Then, leverage the analytics data from your ad campaigns to determine the next key topics for your content program.
The push and pull of a balanced inbound/outbound marketing program can drive incredible results. So don’t write off one or the other: incorporate both to build campaigns that are sure meet both customer needs and company aspirations.