The Marketing Automation industry is evolving continuously. Many digital marketers are using marketing automation tools to automate lead nurturing. But if you want to expand your business, you also need to continuously add new leads to your database. Traditional lead sources are tradeshows or lead programs with magazines. Those are definitely useful, but the number of leads is low and the cost per lead is high. It may be attractive to shift more budget to generating leads via your company’s website. And that’s where Inbound Marketing comes in.
“Isn’t that Search Marketing?”
Yes, I feel that Inbound Marketing is sort-of a rebranding of Search Marketing. But Inbound Marketing focuses primarily on organic search, not pay-per-click (like AdWords). I’ve personally often used Google AdWords to drive traffic to websites: it’s instantanious and you can fine-tune campaigns to target a specific audience. But it can quickly get expensive. Search Engine Optimization may be a more cost-effective alternative.
Search Engine Optimization focuses on getting your site in the natural search results. That takes a lot of work upfront, but will result in ‘free’ traffic in the future. SEO has not exactly been a science: you have to optimize your site’s structure and content, and you ask other sites to link to you. Both activities have traditionally either been done manually in-house, or outsourced to an agency.
Inbound Marketing is more than just SEO. It also includes Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), blogging, creation of high-quality content, and website conversion optimization. In short: everything to make sure that prospects find you, rather than you trying to find your prospects with ‘outbound’ marketing.
Inbound Marketing Automation
Marketing Automation vendors have done very little to automate Inbound Marketing activities. Their main focus has been on nurturing and scoring your existing leads. Lately, most vendors have added features to monitor anonymous traffic your site (the most recent announcements: Pardot, Marketo, Eloqua). But that doesn’t help with getting more visitors to your site.
There are software vendors that focus only on Inbound Marketing or SEO automation. Hubspot – an early Inbound Marketing evangelist – is one of them, and so are Enquisite, Raven and SEOMoz (probably I’m forgetting at least a dozen vendors, so feel free to leave a comment). Those tools are promising, but not mainstream yet.
What Does it Do for You?
The Inbound Marketing Automation tools have a lot of useful features, such as:
- Keyword research: find out which keywords to optimize for
- Rank tracking (or SERP tracking): monitor your site’s rank for those keywords
- Competitor rank tracking: monitor competitor’s rank for those keywords
- Link building: get high-quality links back to your site
- Website quality checking: structure your website properly (title, description, URL & headings)
- Social Media monitoring: see who writes about your company or your areas of expertise
- Project management: work together with a team of people
- ROI reporting: see which activities result in new leads
There are many tools that do one particular thing, such as rank tracking. But there are also integrated tool suites, like Hubspot and Raven. Those include extensive project management and reporting features. Actually, I’ve found they are a real time-saver when you do Inbound Marketing: before using these tools, I found myself copying data in and out of spreadsheets. That took at least 25% of my time. Now I’ve virtually eliminated the use of spreadsheets.
Message for Marketing Automation Vendors
The current Marketing Automation vendors are solving only part of the online marketing problem: lead management. Few offer Inbound Marketing features. In my opinion, they will have to offer at least some Inbound Marketing features before the end of the year. This will differentiate them, and will allow them to increase the revenue per customer. The company that is furthest along with this, is not a Marketing Automation company. It is Hubspot: they’re quietly adding Lead Management features to their Inbound Marketing suite. So Marketing Automation vendors: you’d better hurry!
If you want get cheaper leads by improving your Inbound Marketing, don’t expect a Marketing Automation system to take care of that. Either work with an SEO agency, or read a book on SEO and use one of the integrated Inbound Marketing tools. Marketing Automation systems have many benefits, but they are especially useful if you already have a decent amount of leads in your database.
Request: I could write many more posts about Inbound Marketing, so please let me know what you want me to write about! Leave a comment or email me.