What does any business or organization want most from their website? Conversion… turning a visitor into a fan, client, member, etc.

What do you need to get conversions? Traffic!

Do you simply want hordes of anyone and everyone coming to your website? Probably not. You want qualified traffic.

So, SEO (search engine optimization) right? Yes. But there is so much more to it.

Enter inbound marketing. What is it exactly? According to HubSpot, the company who coined the term, inbound marketing is…

“The best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.” – http://www.hubspot.com/inbound-marketing

In the past when we wanted to turn a stranger into a client or fan, we helped them with something. This still applies today.

Inbound marketing is about attraction rather than promotion.

Qualified traffic is directed to your website because your website is a useful resource for those people. I think SEO expert and Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin put it best in a recent interview…

“I just really like inbound marketing because I get really tired of saying SEO and social media and content marketing and email and CRO and branding and PR and all the other things you can do on the web to earn traffic and attention that don’t directly cost money.” – http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/insights-from-rand-fishkin-inbound-ama

In other words, inbound marketing is an all-encompassing term that refers to all efforts involved in attracting qualified traffic to your website.

To me though, I think Jay Baer is on to something more in tune with where marketing is headed. In his book, Youtility, he details how companies, large and small, are using marketing to be a hero to their target audience.

Think about that for a second, marketing that makes your potential clients love you. The tagline from the book is brilliant – “why SMART MARKETING is about HELP not HYPE.”

Youtility - why SMART MARKETING is about HELP not HYPE - by Jay Baer

I was talking to Ann Handley, co-author of Content Rules, about an upcoming seminar I was giving on Content Marketing. I asked her if she had to sum up her book in one sentence, what would it be?

Her answer was just as brilliant as Jay’s book tagline…

“What marketing will my customer THANK me for?” – Ann Handley

Welcome to the information age. Marketing is no longer just advertising. Marketing today is about usefulness.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, it means that good marketing takes hard work. There is no way to throw money at this problem and hope it goes away. It will take money, but more than that, it will take time and passion!

In a recent post by Gini Dietrich of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago based PR and Communications Firm, she lamented about the new paradigm in today’s marketing…

“Sure, a communications firm can take the bull by the horns and do most of the work, but we still need your involvement at a very high level.” – Gini Dietrich

At a minimum, an effective inbound marketing plan includes the following:

  • Knowing your target audience and what they want and need from you… your buyer personas
  • A well designed and easy to use website with lots of great information your clients want and need
  • A plan to keep that website full of great content – blog, video, podcasts, case studies, eBooks, webinars, and so forth
  • A plan for sharing and promoting that content through social media, SEO, and the fans you’ve created through Youtility marketing
  • A way to track and measure all of this – using Google Analytics at a minimum or something like HubSpot or Marketo

Go even further: fully explore and implement the concepts from Jay’s book. Youtility is about being there for the client when they don’t expect as well as when they do expect it.

You need to listen to your audience on multiple channels so you can be there in their time of need. Marketing today is more like proactive customer service on the channels where your clients are spending their time:

  • Mobile, tablets?
  • Social media, which channels?
  • Your blog?
  • Email?
  • Phone?

Listen on the client’s preferred channel, even if it is different from yours.

Another view on this I would recommend comes from Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston in their book Marketing in the Round. The premise being that companies today need to eliminate the silos in their organizational structure. Marketing is no longer a department. Marketing is a companywide mission.

Marketing in the Round

You can no longer dump money on the marketing department and say “get us leads.” It’s bigger than that. Every individual in each department could and probably will connect with your target audience in some way.

Is your messaging consistent? Are your marketing goals clear to all who work for you? Are you involved? This is the new era of marketing and communications.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.