The most important part of your digital presence (and the one you have the most control over) is your website. Your website is your online home - a place you are not only comfortable living in but also a place you can be confident showing your customers.
I am often amazed by companies that are committed to inbound marketing but have not realized that their website will serve as the very foundation for their inbound efforts. In other words, if companies want to see the full potential of inbound marketing, they need to have a website that is inbound focused.
So what exactly is inbound anyway?
In 2005 HubSpot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, coined the term Inbound Marketing. Brian's basic philosophy is that the marketing tricks of the past are now less effective than ever. Mediums like commercials, direct mail, and cold calling are being tuned out by customers.
Inbound marketing’s goal is to earn the attention of customers by producing content that their customers care about. The company that is most helpful to customers (specifically online) will grow the most consistently over the long term.
Where To Start
Since your website is your most important digital marketing tool, it is important that it is a place you and your customers love. To build a website that your customer loves so much the want to come to your site is exactly what inbound is about. The first step to being able to do this is to answer a couple foundational questions:
Who is your customer? Your website needs to be centered around your customers' needs and motivations. They are the ones that determine whether or not your website is successful.
How does your product/service help them? Your customers are buying your product for selfish reasons. They are buying it because it makes their lives and their companies better. You must understand this so your website can articulate it.
The Features Of An Inbound Website
Once you know the answers to these questions you are much more likely to have success when you implement inbound features on your website. Some of the common ways you can build a website with value to customers are:
Have a blog that is producing content your customers and prospective customers care about. Your blog is one of the most important elements on your website when it comes to growing SEO value. Why would Google send people to your site if a lack of interest shows they don’t want to be there?
Create advanced content (whitepapers, checklists, ebooks, webinars) that your prospects believe is worth paying for with their email address. Even a free eBook has a cost. If you are requiring customers to fill out a form to get your content you better be sure that the benefit to them is well worth the cost of their email address.
Make it obvious what you want users to do on your website (buy, contact, download) and why they should do it. If its not obvious you aren't making life easy for your users. It doesn’t matter what great content you have if your customer doesn’t know how to find it. Plus, making life hard isn’t very inbound-y.
Make sure from looking at your homepage a first grader could explain how your product or service can help people. While I suspect most of your customers aren’t first graders, your messaging needs to be that clear and simple. To know and clearly convey this message is foundational to an inbound website. Cut through all the chatter out there.
Have a mix of evergreen (always relevant) and fresh, timely content. Give customers a reason to return to your website. You need to provide value today and additional value tomorrow to keep people coming back.
By itself, adding a blog, calls-to-action, forms, advanced content, and HubSpot’s tools to your site does not make it an inbound website. The most important thing to remember is that even if your site is “inbound prepared” it won’t get you the results you are hoping for unless your visitors find it valuable.