The New Rules for Inbound Marketing

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As marketers, we all know that word-of-mouth advertising represents the “Holy Grail” of promotions.  When your business is so universally known and well-regarded that you no longer need to invest significant amounts of capital in acquiring new clients, you’re able to free up both time and money that can be better allocated towards your company’s core services and future growth.

In “business speak,” word-of-mouth advertising is what’s known as “inbound marketing.”  Essentially, instead of focusing your marketing efforts on attracting prospects one by one – using “outbound marketing” techniques like cold calling, media buys and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – you build valuable content and resources that bring these prospects to you.

But don’t let the simplicity of this system fool you into thinking that performing good inbound marketing will be easy!  As they say, if it really were as easy as it sounds, everyone would be doing it.

If you aren’t afraid of a little hard work and are interested in the value of marketing systems that drive qualified leads over and over again, check out the following new rules for inbound marketing!

1 – Viral Content Must Go Above and Beyond

In the online world, “viral content” – that is, content that’s good enough to be shared person-to-person without your direct involvement – represents the ultimate in inbound marketing.  Of course, saying that viral content is valuable is one thing – achieving it is another battle entirely!

At this point in most articles recommending the pursuit of viral content, the author would tell you to “provide value” and “listen to your market.”  Well, I’m going to tell you that that’s not enough anymore…

There’s tons of good content online – heck, there’s tons of “outstanding” content online.  Conduct a Google search for just about any question you can think of, and you’ll probably encounter at least a few articles that provide the information you’re looking for – some of which do so in notable and extraordinary ways.  For this reason, simply providing valuable content isn’t good enough.

Instead, you’ve got to go the extra mile to get your inbound marketing campaigns noticed in this environment, which means making sure that your viral content meets all of the following criteria:

  • It needs to solve a “hot button,” pressing issue facing your audience.  Would you be more likely download and share a free report titled, “The 27 Best Healthy Recipes” or one called “The 27 Best Healthy Recipes That’ll Get You Out of Your Fat Pants and Back on The Beach”?  Know the issues that your audience is facing, as well as how to engage their hopes, fears and dreams with your inbound marketing materials.
  • It needs to be well-produced.  If you’re delivering an ebook, white paper or other downloadable file, hire a graphic designer to make it presentable.  If you’re creating videos for your inbound marketing campaigns, take the extra time to set up decent lighting and a professional-looking background.  First impressions matter, so make sure your viral content has the visual appeal necessary to encourage social sharing.
  • It needs to be quickly consumable.  Internet users have notoriously short attention spans, so the benefits of any viral content you deliver must be easily identifiable for your campaigns to be perceived as effective.  Even if you want to give away more in-depth content, try pairing a longer product with a “Fast Start” companion guide to help readers get to the point faster.

Producing content of this caliber isn’t easy, but if you’re willing to make the investment, you’ll see substantially better results from your inbound marketing campaigns.

2 – SEO Matters

Once you’ve built your inbound marketing deliverables, the next step is getting them in the hands of your prospects.

Unfortunately, too many marketers take an “If you build it, they will come,” approach to inbound marketing.  It can be incredibly tempting to rationalize the idea that people will automatically be attracted to the resources you’ve created when you’ve sunk dozens of hours or more into building them in the first place!

But really, nothing could be further from the truth.  If you’re an established brand with an existing following, this might be the case – but chances are if you’re already a highly-regarded authority figure within your industry, you aren’t reading articles like this one on how to attract new prospects through inbound marketing…

The solution is to build your inbound marketing content using solid SEO best practices to increase the likelihood that your resources will attract attention in the natural search results pages.  This means drafting your content around well-targeted keywords, integrating it into your website in a way that’s consistent with optimized site architecture techniques and building high-value backlinks to the inbound marketing resources you deliver.

Take our recipes ebook example from earlier…  Before creating your giveaway and releasing it to the world, take the time to conduct the necessary keyword research to ensure you’re targeting the most effective phrases online.  For example, suppose you initially plan to launch the book under the title “27 Best Healthy Recipes,” but then find that the phrase “cheap healthy recipes” gets substantially more traffic than the phrase “best healthy recipes.”

By incorporating the results of your SEO research into your inbound marketing campaign content – in addition to following the guidelines listed in Rule #2 – you’ll position your content to generate extra exposure in the search engines, sending even more traffic to your website.

3– Social Media isn’t a “Paint By Numbers” Tool

In addition to generating traffic via natural search results page optimization, most experts will tell you that to succeed with viral marketing; you need to promote your content on social media websites.  Some of these “experts” will even give you a step-by-step list to follow in order to maximize the impact of your social networking campaigns.

But here’s the problem with this line of thinking…

Different groups interact in entirely different ways on different social media websites.  And unfortunately, what works in one niche may not be directly applicable to another.  For this reason, following the same “social networking success blueprint,” across industries won’t produce nearly the same results when it comes to promoting your viral content as you’ll achieve by building a complete, substantive presence on your chosen social site.

  • Find the sites where your prospects are most active.  Plenty of people will tell you that you must be market your business on Facebook or Twitter, but if your target audience isn’t active on these sites, why waste your time?  Instead, take the time to find the specific social networks, forums or message boards on which your desired site visitors are active and then set up camp on these particular social sites.
  • Participate regularly.  If you want to use social networking websites to drive your inbound marketing campaigns, you absolutely must maintain a regular presence on your chosen sites.  Popping in once in a while to share a marketing message will come across as disingenuous, so make an effort to drop in at least once a day to participate with your audience members.
  • Be engaging and authentic.  Instead of thinking of yourself as a marketer, behave on social networking sites as if you were just another member of the community.  Connect with other members, comment on your day, share interesting links you’ve found on other sites – just be sure to share something beyond promotional content for your own website.

Yes, it will take time to build the kind of social media presence necessary to encourage the sharing of your viral media content.  However, when it comes to the ultimate success of your inbound marketing campaigns, you should find the results well worth these efforts.


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