Cold calls or emails and professional advice just don’t mix. A far more effective and less intrusive way to gain new business is via inbound marketing. This strategy involves growing your online presence so that it spreads awareness of what you do, and so encourages and enables your audience to find you. As such, it can be ideally suited to a professional advice business.
Here’s our introduction to inbound marketing and how to make it work for you.
Inbound marketing is a way of drawing customers and clients to your business, by giving them something else that they want first, and then gradually ‘reeling them in’. Yes, it’s like fishing (but not phishing!). In this analogy, the ‘bait’ is the inspiring and/or informative content that you offer them free of charge, and the hook is the paid service that you offer. The other key difference, of course, is that when you make a ‘catch’ – convert a client – ideally both you and the client benefit.
So what is this ‘bait’ that you use to attract clients, and how do you use it? Well, perhaps you’ll provide answers to questions they have. Or maybe you’ll discuss noteworthy topics in the news that relate to your service, providing an expert and entertaining angle that draws an audience. You might engage directly with the public on social media, not ‘selling’ to them but simply raising awareness of your existence and your brand. Whether you engage, inform or entertain, or all three, inbound marketing is about putting your business at the front of potential clients’ minds, without the ‘hard sell’. So that when people do happen to need the kind of service you provide, yours is one of the first brands they think of.
Outbound marketing is probably the most familiar and traditional kind of marketing. The market trader shouting about their fresh strawberries – that’s outbound marketing. TV ads, print ads, cold callers, internet banners – they are all outbound marketing. Indeed, a lot of attempted inbound marketing often ends up being outbound in reality, because impatient marketers cannot resist slipping in a hard sell.
Over the past decade or so, outbound marketing has become less favoured, and people have grown conditioned to it and resistant to its methods. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a gentler approach that encourages clients to seek you out, through a process of give-and-take. Another way of looking at it is that you are ‘flirting’ with your target audience, catching each other’s eye to gauge the potential level of interest before ‘asking for a date’ (i.e. trying to make a sale).
Inbound marketing works by growing awareness of your business in a way that reaches your target audience. There are many ways to do this.
Let’s say you’re a financial adviser specialising in pension advice. Your core market is people aged 50 and over, who may be within five to 15 years of wanting to start drawing their pensions. One thing you might do is create helpful content (blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts etc.) that address some of the questions they may be asking, such as ‘How can I spot a pension scam?’ People searching on the internet for answers to this question or similar issues may then come across your content and remember you as a helpful source of information and guidance. Do this often enough and successfully enough, and you may become their go-to authority on pensions. Then, when they are finally ready for full pension advice (and your content should hopefully guide them on this too), you are the first person they think of.
This approach is used very successfully by Unbiased itself, such as through our content hub on Life’s Biggest Decisions. A high proportion of all the people who find professionals through Unbiased discover the site through its helpful content.
There are a number of ways to get your voice heard through inbound marketing.
Most inbound marketers will use a number of these channels to help create a rounded strategy that speaks to people at different stages of their research/buying journey. To find out what works for your company, it’s worthwhile getting stuck in with different methods and testing them to see how you can improve.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Unbiased uses all of the methods listed above, so you can benefit from them both directly and indirectly via your subscription plan.
As you research inbound marketing, you may see ‘the five principles’ or ‘SCOPE’ mentioned a lot. But what are they? These are the key components of a successful inbound marketing strategy, and they include:
Given that outbound marketing has a bit of a bad reputation, inbound marketing is seen as the more polite way of selling to potential clients. But that isn’t the only advantage. Here are a few others:
Inbound marketing may be sophisticated and effective, but there are some drawbacks:
If you don’t have a team on hand to carry out your inbound marketing, there are some tools that can do some of the heavy lifting for you. Hubspot, for example, brings a number of channels into one place, including blogs, social media and emails, helping you manage them and track performance. Google Analytics shows you how well content on your website is performing, so that you can improve it for SEO. And Hootsuite offers a way to schedule your social media posts, allowing you to plan in advance.
One of the most powerful tools for inbound marketing is an Unbiased plan. Unbiased conducts a huge range of inbound marketing activities to draw traffic to our site, which we then turn into client enquiries for you via our directory and matching tool.