By Phill Thompson, Marketing Strategist, OmniStudio, Inc.
Digital marketing is constantly changing, and to keep pace we’re always researching trends and noting best practices.
“Inbound marketing,” a relatively new marketing approach, is gaining popularity because it is cost effective, efficient, and mutually beneficial to organizations and their audiences. It is about drawing people in through quality content and multi-channel engagement, and moving them steadily closer to the actions you want them to take—such as volunteering, donating, advocating, or attending events.
An inbound case study
An example of a successful inbound marketer is The Nature Conservancy (TNC). With over 1,000,000 members, this nonprofit organization has offices in 35 countries and chapter offices in all 50 states. TNC’s mission is simple, but very important: they protect the land and water on which life depends. They use many channels to bring in new members, and inbound tactics permeate their communications strategy.
We looked at their digital efforts to see how:
- They interact with their key audiences
- They consistently earn high engagement rates and return on investment
- Their tactics can be applied to every organization’s communications strategy
What drew me in
TNC drew me in because of my love of nature and my interest in social media strategy. Recently while kayaking on the Potomac River, I took a picture of a blue heron, tagged it with #Potomac, and uploaded it to Twitter. Shortly thereafter, someone from TNC’s chapter offices re-tweeted my photo with the message below:
What is TNC obviously doing well here?
- “Listening” for key words (e.g., #Potomac)
- Finding potential enthusiasts like me
- Taking opportunities to reach out and move people closer to their organization (i.e., targeting precisely)
Their blog content led me to spend extra time on the TNC website—reading, clicking links, and learning about their cause. Well-placed calls-to-action (CTAs), like the one below, also prompted me to sign up for their e-News.
Other CTAs, like the ones below, invited me to take additional actions. At every step, I could tell how seriously they take user experience design and audience participation:
In response to my sign-up, TNC sent me a well-crafted, automated email that spelled out other ways I could learn more and contribute.
I spoke with Amy Ganderson, their director of digital engagement, and learned that they are doing exactly what inbound marketers are meant to do, i.e., “go wherever their audience is.”
The main points are to:
- Invite people to participate
- Serve up the right content at the right time
- Meet your audience where they are
Sometimes simply responding to a tweet can pay off.
TNC’s Social Media Strategy
Amy said they aim to “build a lot of staff interest, give them the keys to drive the car, and encourage them to make it their own.” They use a wide array of channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and although all of them garner huge followings, Facebook is their top performer.
Their numerous Twitter accounts cater to local needs and interests. The account below is robust, highly active, and well-planned:
TNC also uses innovative approaches to social media. They introduced a campaign with WeChat to bring in $5 for everyone who signs up and follows them through the app.
They also have an impressive LinkedIn page. Linkedin cited it as one of the best company pages of 2014, which afforded them free publicity and placed them in the ranks of other well-known and successful brands:
The Nature Conservancy website is a lead-building machine. They bring people in through social channels, but keep them involved through excellent content and a cause that resonates.
TNC’s strategy is a great example of what all organizations can and should do to invite engagement among their audiences and drive success toward vital goals:
- Integrate channels harmoniously with the website
- Use digital channels to make personal connections
- Point your audience in the right direction
- Effectively place CTAs
- Inspire people to take part in your cause
- Keep people informed and involved
- Use striking images and great content
Inbound Tools Are Already There
The principles of inbound marketing are incredibly simple: it is about drawing your audience in, generating interest, and developing relationships that move your organization forward. Inbound tools are not terribly expensive or difficult to learn, and they are highly adaptable, which makes them great for every organization.
But, inbound takes careful planning and an understanding of how the moving parts come together. You need to formulate a thorough communications strategy, commit to creating content, and get to know your audience well.
Reach out to me if you would like to know more about how we can help you incorporate inbound marketing practices into your communications strategy.