For over half a millennia, from the time print marketing first appeared until the early 2000s, outbound marketing was all we knew. Advertising professionals first started using print to promote products and services in 1450. When consumers began complaining of spam, in 2003, inbound marketing appeared. The evolution of marketing is fascinating, and this is the best time in history to be working in the industry.

What Exactly is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing uses a combination of search engine, social media, and content creation tactics to draw prospects toward products, services, and causes. With consumers in a frenzy over avoiding ads at all costs (I personally don’t subscribe to cable and keep an ad blocker running in the background of my browser, and this is what I do to make a living), inbound is the only approach that ensures you will reach your audience. But, it’s not as easy to implement as some people assume.

The problems that come into play with inbound marketing strategies seem to be enhanced by the fact that our traditional marketing paradigm still encompasses outbound tactics like television, print, and radio ads. It’s only been 14 years since inbound first appeared – we’re still at the tail end of this paradigm shift from, “tell them why they need the product,” to, “let the audience decide what they want.” It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the rewards are plentiful.

Inbound marketing works so well because it’s more authentic and useful for consumers. The whole point of this approach is to appeal to people in a human way while generating traffic, collecting leads, and organically developing relationships with customers. It’s the most effective approach because consumers feel like they are in control from start to finish without any trickery.

Though you are no longer expected to trick people into buying your products and services, you still need a well-developed inbound marketing strategy. No campaign is without issues. According to the current State of Inbound[1], these are the most common problems with this type of modern marketing funnel, followed by tips to help you solve each.

Are You Generating Enough Traffic and Leads?

If this is something that you struggle with, you’re in the same boat as more than half of your competition. The State of Inbound report says that 65% of marketers find traffic and lead generation is their greatest challenge[1]. Finding enough website visitors and getting them to sign up for your email list or make a purchase is a major hurdle to cross. But, it can be done.

To generate plenty of traffic, you have to be clever, and you have to be relevant. Like all other facets of an inbound marketing strategy, traffic and lead generation is primarily powered by SEO, social media, and content creation. What I see all too often is a strategy that focuses solely on one or two of the list items or doesn’t have a holistic view of the inbound funnel. Here are some tips to generate more traffic and collect more leads.

  • Think outside the box. If your free ebook strategy is working as a lead magnet, then keep it. But, is it really what your target audience wants? For example, if you sell yoga products, a gated instructional video on Kundalini breathing techniques might be a more engaging alternative.
  • Conduct A/B testing. You remember the scientific method from grammar school — your marketing tactics need a similar approach if you want to know which ones are the most effective. Isolate your outreach techniques, buttons, calls to action, content (Do your listicles attract more visitors from Facebook than how-to posts?), and page element colors to test them against alternatives that might attract and convert more visitors.
  • Build relationships with influencers. Your prospects, leads, and customers aren’t the only people you need to build strong rapport with. An industry leader with an established following is worth more than gold. Don’t limit yourself to the most famous people in your industry, either; micro-influencers can also have a profound impact on your website traffic and conversion while they seem to generate the highest engagement rate on social media.
  • Be authentic. I can’t say this enough: the reason content marketing works so well is because it provides genuine value to your audience. People hate spam, lies, and manipulation. So, be honest and transparent in all of your content efforts.
  • Be insanely helpful. In your relationships with influencers and prospects alike, being helpful to others will ultimately help you. It’s like the concept of tithing – give 10% to continue receiving. Actively include outreach efforts beyond, “Would you like to publish this blog post I wrote?” in your plan. Make a list of people who you can lend a hand to and then focus on what you can do to make their lives easier.
  • Pretend you’re not online. Many people are comfortable sharing topics online that they would be ashamed to share in person. If you’re one of those people, stop. Create and share content on behalf of your business that you would be comfortable sharing with someone standing right in front of you.

How to Prove the ROI of Marketing Activities

43% of inbound marketers struggle to prove the ROI of their marketing activities[1]. This is a tricky issue to tackle, especially when it comes to content, because of abundant variables. The more variables in your strategy, the more complex measurement tools you need. These are some of my favorites:

  • Hubspot – If you haven’t tried this tool for sales, marketing, and customer relationship management, you can pop your head in for free to check out the dashboard. You will see that the options are nearly unlimited. You can create content (landing pages, forms, emails, etc.) and track your website traffic for sophisticated insights. You haven’t stepped into the world of content marketing until you’ve seen what this can do.
  • Google Analytics – In order to effectively track website visitors, whether or not you use Hubspot, this is a critical tool. Gain insights about customer demographics, pageviews, bounce rates, and more. Once you learn to navigate the back end, you will have nearly everything you need to cross-reference your costs with your content efforts.
  • Shopify – Not only does shopify have outstanding, inexpensive themes for eCommerce websites, but their analytics dashboard is invaluable for online sales. Track finance, sales, customer, acquisition, behavior, and custom reports from your website dashboard.
  • Backlink Checker – Running a search, from time to time, to see how many other pages link back to specific pages on your site can be a key performance indicator. The more sites linking to your content, the more valuable the content.

In combination with one another and your bookkeeping system, the above tools will provide you with what you need to effectively track ROI for most online efforts.

Conclusion

In the age of inbound disruption, there are many hurdles you will face. As you pioneer into the new era of marketing, be prepared to face the most common problems with your inbound funnel: generating ample traffic and leads and proving the ROI of your content marketing. Be authentic, clever, and create true rapport with influencers and micro-influencers to build a following. Use cutting-edge tools to track your content efforts. With this advice, take your first steps on the road to inbound success.

About the Author: Ashley Kimler is currently part of the rockstar SEO team at Heroic Search in Tulsa. She has a decade of marketing experience with various companies, both on and offline, including her own. Follow @ashleykimler on Twitter to see what she and her team share next.