The inbound marketing method was birthed over ten years ago. That may come as a shock to many of us here in Europe. Since then, tens of thousands of companies, especially in North America, have latched on to this principle and have increased contacts, leads and sales as a result. Need proof? You can find countless case studies of inbound marketing success here.
The question remains though, does it really work in Europe... in Switzerland... in Basel? Just because something is working in the US doesn't necessarily ensure success across the globe. Who can forget the catastrophic failure of Wal-Mart in the EU? Europeans are just different. The culture is different, the people are different, the attitudes are different... and that's what makes it such a wonderful place!
You might be surprised to hear it, but since 2013, inbound marketing has been growing just as quickly in Europe as in the US. Year over year, European companies have been allocating more marketing budget toward inbound marketing efforts.
SO, the simple answer to whether inbound marketing works here in the Basel area is YES! However, inbound marketing doesn't work inside a vacuum. That is to say, simply starting a blog doesn't mean you'll have prospects breaking down your doors. This is precisely how the term "inbound marketing" is misued, and why the validity can still be questioned. Those people who still question inbound marketing are simply putting it into a smaller box, and don't fully understand what inbound marketing is in 2017.
Inbound vs. Outbound
Where the line between inbound and outbound marketing actually is in 2017 can admittedly be a bit of a gray area. Since its inception in 2006, the channels inbound marketing uses may have changed to include more traditional approaches, but the method remains the same. So what exactly is the difference?
In short, inbound marketing can be likened to allowing the customer to knock on your door, rather than you knocking on theirs. How the customer finds their way to your door is where the lines between inbound and outbound can get blurred.
In the beginning, being found by your customer was a bit easier. Creating great content to answer your customers' questions and making sure that content was optimized for search engines and hosted ON YOUR WEBSITE was more or less all that was needed. As more and more companies jockeyed for the desired "above the fold" positions it became apparent that things would need to change.
Since then, we have seen:
- multiple Google algorithm updates
- more and more people are turning to their mobile devices for search
- Google snippet results allow users to find the answers they need without even clicking through on a search result
These are just a few examples of how online marketing has needed to evolve in recent years.
Inbound marketing in 2017
Similarly, the inbound method has been forced to evolve. Ensuring that your content offer is being seen by your target market is by far the most difficult piece of the inbound marketing puzzle. The "if you build it, they will come" method has grown up, allowing some of the old outbound channels (like paid ads) to modernize and mesh with the inbound methodology.
For example, using Facebook Ads to promote a content offer may be the best way to get in front of your target market. This is no less inbound marketing than sharing a blog article on social media accept that you are aiding its chances of being seen by the right group of people.
To use our door knocking analogy from earlier, you're still waiting for them to knock... the only difference is you've built your house in their neighborhood.
As in most areas of online marketing, the rules are constantly being updated. Here are a few to keep in mind for now.
Rules for inbound marketing in 2017
- Know your target market and go where they are. Buyer Personas are a great way to get started. Get your free Buyer Persona template here.
- If your content is not better, or offering something different than what is already available, don't create it.
- Make content as hyper-specialized as possible. Generalized content only makes it harder to be found.
- Be an expert in your field always, and be an influencer when you can.
- Don't be afraid to pay for promotion, and don't assume you won't need to.
- Be ready to put money into video marketing and promotion.
- Think outside the box for creative ways to engage your audience.
- Work closely with sales. Don't forget, generating leads is only part of the puzzle.
- Commit to solving your customers' needs, even if it means breaking the inbound marketing rules.
Do you have other rules you are following in your inbound marketing campaigns? List them in a comment below!
And while you are here, download our FREE Buyer Persona Guide to learn how to create buyer personas for your own company.