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You may have heard the term “inbound marketing” bandied around recently. But what does it mean?

Traditional, or “outbound marketing”, involves sending out messages about your products or services to potential customers. Outbound marketing uses methods such as advertisements in newspapers, periodicals, radio, television, telemarketing and cold calling. The key characteristics of outbound marketing are an advert and an audience. You effectively push that advert in from of the audience.

But people are now becoming immune to this kind of marketing. Do you watch TV adverts and get a message about the product or company? Or, like me, switch off and ignore it? What do you do when you get a cold call about mobile phones or anything else? You probably find them irritating or down right annoying. I do.

Outbound marketing is becoming increasingly ineffective. So what can you do? Enter inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing involves interacting with potential customers, helping them either directly or by providing them information about your field of business. The idea is that you demonstrate your expertise to potential customers in order to gain their confidence and trust in you, as opposed to interrupting them to push adverts in front of them.

How can you do this? You can attend events that potential customers also attend; networking meetings, chambers of commerce meetings. You can give talks at these events. Post articles about your business on your website. Start a blog and post information, tips and news about your field of business. Use social media to send out messages about these articles and blog posts. Use social media to interact with people and provide advice.

The important this is that you are giving people information not pushing advertising messages in front of them. So when you meet people at networking events, don’t blatantly try to promote your business. Talk about the other people. Ask them about their businesses, their problems and challenges, and try to give them advice. When you post on your blog, don’t post direct sales messages. Post “how to” information.

If you get it right, then people will see you as an expert in your field and will naturally turn to you when they are in the market for specific products or services.

Inbound marketing won’t necessarily work for every type of business. Consultants, solicitors, financial advisors, and other businesses that provide services, are the types of businesses that will benefit directly from it. Businesses that sell products, especially to consumers, will probably have to do a certain amount of advertising. But they can also get big dividends from the trust and confidence that inbound marketing can bring.

And what about the cost? Outbound marketing is usually expensive. The old joke “I’ve written books about advertising – cheque books” comes to mind. Inbound marketing usually costs a lot less – in monetary terms. But it does require more effort on your part.

The choice is yours.

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