Nowadays, using digital marketing to communicate with your audience, build your brand, or even start a company is the “new normal”.
Using digital marketing allows brands to use an “inbound” approach as opposed to an “outbound” approach to marketing, which is both easier and cheaper.
Let’s see what this means.
In outbound marketing, a business is trying to connect with its customers by communicating to the broadest audience possible, in the hope that some of the public will react, or respond to the commercial offer and purchase a product.
In inbound marketing, the opposite happens. A brand “seeds” content online or develops advertising campaigns that are directed towards a very specific niche. No matter how small a niche can be, on a global scale, that is still can be a very profitable target market to tackle.
This is why this latter approach is used at the “norm” as this niche-oriented strategy allows for much more targeted communications and lower costs.
This paradigm shift is allowed by the internet and the new marketing opportunities it provides.
Having said this, marketing and communication can still be daunting, as so many different tools and strategies can be employed to grow your brand or sell your products.
In this post, we’re going to provide a little clarification by listing 5 different levels of inbound communication your brand can use.
With no further ado, let’s dive into the topic.
#1 SEO: Organic Search Results
The first level of inbound marketing strategy is represented by search engine optimization. As you build your online presence, search engines will present your websites, or webpages based on the keywords they rank for to the users who look for information.
This first level of inbound marketing requires businesses to think about the keywords they want to rank for, as the selection of specific terms they will be associated with will put them in contact with a specific type of customer.
It’s usually a good idea to explore different types of keywords that would allow your website to connect to, in order to tackle specific issues and problems your customers may be dealing with. This way your business can be presented to the right audience and act as a solution to their challenges.
This is an area of digital marketing we address in depth in our blog, if you’d like to read more about the subject, here’s an article where we explore the subject in more depth.
#2 SEM: Advertised Search Engine Results
Building a strong base of organic, natural, traffic is always a good starting point for your business. At the same time, however, there are a few challenges that come with only adopting an organic approach.
Here are some of the most common issues:
- Organic content takes a long time to rank. On average it can take up to 8 months for your content to be correctly indexed in search engines, and this is a long time to wait for your business.
- Certain keywords are very difficult to rank for. Unless you target low-difficulty, low volume searches, it can be very difficult to even show up on the first page of search engines results. In order to increase your chances, you need to build a strong topic authority and that is, again, very time-consuming.
- Creating content can become very time-consuming and expensive. Assuming you want to go “all in” in content marketing, it can still be very expensive to build the content, making it seem as if, advertising is a more efficient approach to connecting to your public.
This is why using search engine advertising can still be a way to connect to specific user searches while showing up on top of search results.
Again, targeting certain keywords (the ones which display a high purchase intent) can be expensive, but at least with paid advertising, you can take time out of the equation, knowing that your customers will find out about your products as soon as you set up your ad campaign.
It may be helpful to mention, that organic results tend to perform for a longer amount of time, but if you’re launching a flash sale, then ads are ideally a better way to go.
If you’re looking to learn more on how to launch a successful ad campaign, in this post, we delve into the topic in further detail.
#3 Social Media Platforms
The third level of inbound marketing is connected to using social media platforms. This type of web presence is also connected to the concept of “earned media” or media that your brand does not fully control, but is still influential on online buyers.
Social media is considered a very persuasive media presence as it usually involves third-party opinions, which are often expressed in the form of upfront, unbiased, recommendations.
Social media is a space where customers go to experience what in jargon is called the “zero moment of truth” or validation of the brand’s promise before they commit to buying.
If your brand has social or emotional value, it is necessary for your brand to display these values through social media, as this can happen more easily by leveraging prior customers’ experiences.
#4 Performance Marketing
At this level, if your brand has a strong organic reach, a good advertising system in place, and a persuasive social media presence, then you’re all set for success.
The reason why we still have two more “levels” to address has to do with the new trends inbound marketing has been experiencing.
The first one refers to the principle of “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”.
According to this idea, in many cases, marketers are not always able to understand what level of the aspect of their marketing strategy is bringing in the best results. Likes, shares, and comments don’t easily relate to revenue and profits.
This is especially true in social media, where social media metrics are at times called “vanity metrics” as they don’t relate to business performance metrics.
At level 4, your company needs to go into a deep dive into data science and approach its strategies with quantitative tools.
You can use A/B testing, to test landing pages and blog post layouts, you can measure customer acquisition costs and compare them to customer lifetime value, and you can create advertising campaigns, based on target conversion rates.
There is much more that can be done, aside from our few examples, but the idea is that you can focus on measuring what works so that you can do more of what proves successful.
#5 Ethics and Cause-Related Marketing
Last but not least, here we are at level 5. At this level what is happening is that your brand is not only marketing a product but is associating its value proposition to a cause that is related to its sector or industry.
At this level, your company is going beyond traditional marketing strategies, and is aiming to be an example of change in the way business is conducted.
First and foremost you are displaying the utmost respectful practices in terms of those issues that are connected with grey hat marketing.
For instance, you are not exploiting your users’ data beyond the scope of your campaigns.
You are approaching sustainable practices in terms of your workforce and environmental footprint, you are being transparent about your business.
In some cases, you are even jeopardizing your own business interests in the pursuit of a social or environmental goal.
At this stage, you are not only measuring your profits, but you are also measuring the impact you are making in the world. If you’d like to read more on how to measure your Social Return on Investment, here’s an article where we discuss this in more detail.
This is still a form of inbound marketing, as customers who feel close to your mission, values and causes will be naturally drawn to you, as they will feel that their “shopping votes” are well spent on a business that is aiming to bring change to the world, in a sector they deem important.
If you’d like to read more on cause-related marketing, here’s an article that can help.
Great! Now that we’ve touched upon all 5 levels, it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve seen the 5 levels of inbound marketing your brand can leverage. By building upon each level your brand can fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet to reach your customers persuasively and inexpensively.
If you’d like to read more on the topic, here’s a book we recommend reading on the most effective strategies to build an inbound marketing approach for your business: They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today's Digital Consumer.
Moreover, don’t hesitate to check out our blog where we’re providing a wealth of material on marketing and communication in the creative industries.
If you're interested in learning more about Content Marketing, don't hesitate to take a look at our course "Content Marketing for Creative Rockstars". Our short and to-the-point, online class covers a wide range of topics spanning from developing blog posts capable of driving profitable traffic to strategies for getting strong conversion rates on your landing pages. Here's a link to the course, if you use the discount code BLOG20 you can access a 20% discount. Enjoy!