How to Use Inbound Marketing to Get Better Clients
Content is the fuel that drives creative business.
My husband enjoys spending time on the water in his boat with a fishing pole in his hand. It’s a combination, I think, of the quiet time away from our home and the challenge of enticing a certain type of fish into his net. He never keeps them… but enjoys catching them, admiring them, and then setting them free to swim away.
I’m not super interested in fishing, but I am interested in him. That’s how I’ve learned a thing or two about the art and science of summer fishing in Michigan over the past 20 years or so.
I’ve realized that fishing is actually pretty similar to inbound marketing. Just like fishing, inbound marketing is all about the quality and appropriate nature of the lure and consistency in getting the lure into the water where the fish can notice and follow it. If you master lure selection and casting, the likelihood of landing a prize catch improves dramatically.
Inbound marketing is a system of creating high-quality content (posts, videos, podcasts) that are appropriate for your audience and putting them in front of potential clients as a lure you hope they will follow to your business.
Make inbound marketing easy by defining a niche.
I’ve read numerous articles and books about how to define a niche. Most focus on the how… but few spend more than a few words explaining the why of niche marketing. The simple reason is this → marketing to a niche is infinitely easier than marketing to a general audience.
Let’s go back to fishing for a moment, okay? My husband typically likes to fish for largemouth bass. I’m not sure why… I think it’s just a preference based on the various species of fish that populate lakes in our part of Michigan. For purposes of this discussion, the largemouth bass can be considered his niche market.
Focusing on a single species makes everything easier for him. He can narrow his lure choices to those that are most interesting to his preferred type of fish. The lake selection is easier, too. No largies? No reason to fish there. Most importantly, he has studied the behavior of his preferred catch and knows exactly where and how to cast to get the best results. This,my friends, is the true value of defining a niche.
Niche selection simplifies inbound marketing by:
- Limiting the types of content to those that are most effective for your niche.
- Guiding the selection of platforms for publication based on the behavior of your niche.
- Narrowing the topics of interest by aligning them with the needs of your niche.
What should you consider when selecting a niche? That’s outside the scope of this article… but there are a lot of great marketing books out there that speak to this. I suggest taking my husband’s common sense approach. What kinds of clients are already attracted to your business? Which do you enjoy the most? Use these as clues to help you define your niche.
Study the behavior of your audience to identify needs.
Phil (my husband) is successful because he understands the behavior of largemouth bass. He knows where they are most likely to hang out in the lake and the best times of day (and year) to get them to bite on his lure. He looks at the weather report to determine things like sunshine and atmospheric pressure and he plans his fishing adventures accordingly. He knows how the weather affects target fish, and he adjusts his methods to anticipate their behavior.
Inbound marketing is dependent upon your ability to anticipate the behavior of your target audience. What do people in your niche need at any given time? What questions do they ask? What answers are they looking for? What problems are they solving?
Most of us go to a search engine with questions. That’s why great content (the lures in any inbound marketing system) is best aligned with a question of some kind. The blog posts and articles I write (my preferred lure) are positioned to come up in a search for a keyword or topic of interest to my audience. You’re reading this post because you either (a) already follow my business or (b) have a question about inbound marketing or marketing in general.
If video content was my preferred lure, I would position my videos to come up in a search within YouTube or Vimeo. My goal would be to understand how people use those platforms to search out information and I would give my content the titles and tags needed to help my audience find my stuff.
Study audience behavior to understand:
- What your people are searching for online.
- Where they are searching (social platforms, search engines).
- How they use and share the information they find.
Give your audience carefully crafted, attractive content. Position that content on platforms they use to get information. Give them a clear next step or call to action to draw them to your business.
Use great content to power inbound marketing.
Let’s take a moment here to talk about quality content and what makes the stuff you create effective for inbound marketing. Surprisingly, you may find that quality doesn’t have the same meaning as you might have anticipated.
Quality doesn’t necessarily mean professionally created and worthy of awards and recognition. Sure, it’s great if the sound quality of your podcast is good or the lighting for your video isn’t horribly off. Typos and spelling errors are a little distracting in an article like this one. But, that’s not what makes your content effective.
Quality inbound marketing content is – first and foremost – helpful and valuable to your audience. You can take a quick video with your phone and post it online with amazing results if it meets a real need for your people. You can write an article that is a bit raw and true to your heart – but not polished – and get all kinds of leads for your business.
Great content is helpful, valuable, and engaging. It shares information or challenges ideas or inspires action. The quality of your ideas and your expression of them is what makes it great… not your mastery of the format.
Publish consistently to drive results.
This point is pretty simple to understand. You have to publish content consistently if you want people to respond to it. Throwing out a blog post once in a while or putting up a video when you have a few minutes of free time just isn’t going to get you results.
People build trust with brands they see consistently over time. You have to show up regularly to get noticed and build relationships with potential clients. Commit to consistency or don’t bother at all.
Sure, it’s difficult to publish regularly. I get it… and sometimes I step away for a bit, too. But, I’ve learned the hard way that search engines like Google reward consistency and penalize those brands who take a more casual approach. You need to stay in the game if you want to get results.
Fishing takes time and practice. So does inbound marketing.
My husband learned to fish during camping trips with his father as a boy. Over the next 40+ years, he dedicated himself to going out on the lake regularly. He practiced his technique and studied his craft. He is a better fisherman now than he was as a child. That’s how this stuff works.
Inbound marketing takes time, too. You learn about the behavior of your audience by noticing which topics and types of content get engagement and which fall flat. You get faster and better at producing content the more you do it… writing faster, recording with fewer takes, editing with skill and speed.
Most importantly, your audience builds knowledge of your brand as they consume your stuff over time. They get to know you… and they start to trust you. They look for your content in their newsfeed and share it with their friends. With time, your inbound marketing system reaches a tipping point where leads flow in consistently and regularly. This is the reward… and it’s well worth the effort.
Michelle Hunter Creative provides custom marketing strategy and copywriting services for creative entrepreneurs who want to create a greater impact in the world. Looking for a marketing strategy in alignment with your values? Let’s talk.