Inbound marketing explained for the simple man

Aug 16, 2016

Death_to_stock_photography_Wake_Up_2If your content is consistently valuable, potential clients might give up their personal information to have it, and chose your firm over others when it’s time to close the deal. Are you lost in marketing jargon about inbound marketing, content marketing, thought leadership, and converting leads? Here’s a no-nonsense explanation of inbound marketing and where I think this concept is going: To first understand inbound marketing, you have to understand outbound marketing. Outbound marketing relies on “old-fashioned” tactics like buying ads, buying mail lists, cold calling, and mass-emailing direct promotions of products/services. Outbound marketing is a billboard on the highway that says: “Use my firm because it is the best!” Inbound marketing works in a more subtle way: First, a firm creates something valuable. This is called “content.” The key to creating valuable content is putting yourself in your clients’ shoes and understanding what interests them. Some examples include a fascinating article on a person your audience wants to know, a presentation of research that might help your clients do their jobs better, or a white paper on a new approach used to tackle a project. No matter what you create, you have to be able to effectively get it out into a public space where your potential clients can find it. Inbound marketing usually relies on internet based methods. This piece of content has to be so appreciated and so valuable that not only will your potential clients like it, they will also pass it on to others they think might be interested. Content sharing happens when a news or industry website picks up your content and re-publishes it, social media posting, liking, sharing, and retweeting, or simply by forwarding an email. Inbound marketing really works when this content is not only virally shared, but so incredibly wonderful that people are willing to give up something for it – their personal information. By hiding parts of this content behind forms, or dazzling them with something so interesting right from the start that they are willing to give you their information in the hopes of receiving something similar in the future, you can effectively begin to collect names and addresses of people who have a much higher likelihood to use your firm than others. From this point, firms should now have a growing list of potentially interested clients coming to them, but the work isn’t over. All these potential clients have to be followed up with and, ideally, consistently impressed with more content. From this point on, much like outbound marketing, firms have to close the deal, and do the job. Make something cool, put it on the internet, collect information from people who are interested in it, give them more, get them to share it, collect new information, follow up, and repeat over and over. Inbound marketing really isn’t that difficult. So where do firms in the A/E industry go wrong with inbound marketing?
  1. Not following up. Once you start finding out who is interested in you, you have to follow up, and follow up in the right way. It’s unlikely that a random person who was forwarded an email is going to immediately call you looking to give you work. They will need more exposure over time. Continue to impress them with more useful content (see #1).
  2. Not understanding what is “valuable” content. For this to work, your firm has to create something useful. A press release on a new hire is not valuable content. I’m not recommending you don’t ever send these out, but they won’t work as the cornerstone of your inbound marketing campaign.
  3. Not closing the deal. At some point, you need to have someone good who can sell your work.
While the term “inbound marketing” may be long gone five years from now, the idea that you want to find ways to draw potential clients to your firm is not something that is going to go away anytime soon. So give it a try, you don’t have much to lose. Christina Zweig is Zweig Group’s director of research and marketing. Contact her at

This article is from issue 1156 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.