There are two problems with the concept of inbound marketing. First of all the word ‘inbound’ is disturbingly similar to rebound, and secondly, inbound marketing can result in people becoming trapped on a one way street with nowhere to go.
To be fair, inbound marketing is crucial, and I’ve written a great deal about not only why it is important, but how to work on increasing the effectiveness of your inbound traffic marketing. Without traffic heading from external sources to your website or online resource, you’re not going to get very far.
But if you start to focus almost exclusively on how to drive more traffic to your website then you could find that not only are you ending up with something that’s more like a form of rebound marketing, but you could have lost site of the fact that you’re on a one way street that is also a dead end, leaving you staring at a brick wall wondering where it all went wrong. And you won’t even be able to blame Apple’s mapping app.
Let’s think of inbound marketing as being that one way street for a minute. A one way street on its own is utterly pointless. For a one way street to have been built, and for it to continue to exist and be maintained two things also need to exist at the very least: there need to be ways in to the one way street at one end, and there needs to be somewhere to go at the other end.
Your website marketing is the same. Your inbound marketing needs to include a number of different sources or routes through which visitors may travel in order to arrive where you want them to, and you need to provide a range of destinations for the variety of people who take the time to travel down the path you have engineered.
Unfortunately too many people ignore either one or both of these requirements, and some even seem oblivious to both. A one way street with no entry points, no exit points, and nothing to do in the street itself is not a one way street. It’s not even a dead end. It’s an empty space just waiting for the right time for developers to come in, raise it to the ground and create something new where the old crumbled into oblivion.
Inbound Marketing – Identifying Your Entry Points
Imagine that you have a high street shop which has the potential to have its main front entrance on one side or the other, with each side of the shop opening onto a different street. How would you choose which side of the shop your front would be? Roll a dice? Suck it and see? No, you’d spend some time identifying which street is the busiest, and which side most of those people more likely to be interested in your shop will be walking along.
This same degree of market research should apply to your website. Inbound marketing needs to draw people in from somewhere, but how do you choose where? Do you randomly choose a social media platform and see what you get? Hey, let’s go for…. (waggles finger randomly over a sheet of notes before jabbing it down somewhere).. Twitter!
Alternatively you might look at guest blogging, or article marketing, Squidoo Lens building, Quora or Hub Pages. The list goes on, there are now so many possible routes in to your site from a myriad of sources.
You could look at how much traffic each generates. The figures for Twitter for example may look enticing, and people may comment that it works for them. But that’s no reason why it might work for you.
To take our high street shop for example. Perhaps on one side of the shop the street opens on to a road packed full of fashion stores, shoes shops and boutiques. On the other side there are galleries, museums, a library and a coffee shop. Now which side is best? If you’re selling cosmetics you might consider the former, if books, the latter.
This is also true for inbound marketing. Choosing an avenue simply because there are plenty of people there and it’s worked for other businesses is the worst way of choosing how to focus your inbound marketing.
And make no mistake, you must focus. Spreading yourself thinly across a whole bank of social media platforms and marketing platforms will inevitably reduce the effectiveness of each. Your investment in a particular route needs to be fully justifiable.
Identifying Your Exit Points
Back to that high street shop. You’ve decided which side your main entrance is going to be. The next thing is to think about what will be in the windows, and what products will be on display for those people coming into your shop.
If you sell books, and your bookshop is sandwiched between mobile phone stores, perfume boutiques and fashion outlets, having your children’s books at the front might not be a wise tactic. You’ll probably go for the more popular fiction novels such as Fifty Shades, selected autobiographies and books on fashion, shopping and such like.
On the other hand if the street your shop opens onto includes a toy shop and a children’s clothing store then having your children’s books on display at the front is a good choice.
Inbound marketing needs to have the same approach incorporated into your overall strategy. Once you have thought about who your specific market is, and which avenue they are most likely to come through to your site, you then need to think about how the products or services on your site are displayed and presented to them.
So if your website is selling stationery, and you’ve spent some time expounding the need to think about data security on your Twitter profile, it’s going to be less effective if those people who click on your links and head to your site are presented with pretty fountain pens for ladies, novelty rubbers and pink notebooks for students. Instead you’d be more likely to have greater success if those people who come to your site through that particular route are presented immediately with products such as document shredders and laptop locks.
How To Control The Flow Of Traffic Effectively
It shouldn’t be overlooked that from the search engines’ point of view, this kind of consistency is looked upon much more favourably. If your inbound links come from somewhere that has information on a particular niche market, and point to somewhere with information on that same niche area, the weight of those links is going to be greater than if every link just points lazily at the main home page.
Of course, you don’t need to have every inbound route focussing on the same area, and indeed I don’t think you should. Perhaps your Twitter marketing focuses more on trendy stationery items (to continue our example) whereas you may have a Squidoo Lens which concentrates on the serious aspect of data security. Each of these is like the front door to a shop, positioned with care to attract just the right sort of people, and then directing them conveniently and easily to just the right products for them.
Inbound marketing should not just be about the traffic, or the numbers, but about the entire journey your prospective customers are going to take. Otherwise the journey they’ll take will be to your competitors’ sites. For which they probably won’t have time to even thank you.