Using How-To Guides for Inbound Marketing

Written by Jeff Cole on July 1, 2017

Blog abstract vector illustration for inbound marketing

It’s funny to think about, but how-to guides are one of the most basic forms of human written communication. Since the first map scratched in the dirt with sticks we have been writing instructions for each other on how to manage everything from cooking to architecture. For companies striving for that cutting edge of marketing technology, it can be tempting to neglect the humble how-to article, but this would be rejecting a powerful promotional tool. Why have we been writing how-tos for so long? Because people are interested. They want to know the procedural knowledge collected by others in order to seek their own independent solutions. For this reason, keeping a fair number of interesting industry how-to’s in your company blog can act as inbound marketing lures for customers who need exactly what you provide.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Back before the internet and search engines, you had to take your advertising out to the customer. This was the age of newspaper ads, road signs, and enormous billboards intruding into the lives of potential clients with as large and colorful a message as possible. Now, people are constantly seeking their own information and choosing from lists of companies for every search engine result. If you want to stand out, instead of staking out bold signs you need interesting and SEO configured content that will catch your users exactly when they are most interested. Inbound marketing is the act of drawing customers in with content they’re seeking rather than pushing marketing outward toward them (ie: outbound marketing).

Finding Interested Clients

So how do you know what customers are interested in and how to appeal to that? The answer is what they search for. Users are much more likely to need your services when they are searching for keywords that relate to what you sell. This means that your services are on their mind and they are looking for more information. To catch them with inbound marketing content, simply provide articles hosted on your website about related topics. For instance, if you build fences and expect people who need fences to be researching fencing materials, you can guide them to your site by writing a helpful series of articles comparing the various ways to build with the different materials your company offers. At the end of each article, politely let them know that your services are available to help them put up a fence of their favored material.

Promoting Industry Knowledge

One of the best ways to use inbound marketing is by sharing a few how-to tricks of the trade. People love to learn new things and are constantly investigating the deeper aspects of industries that have recently crossed their paths. When you provide some insider insight into how it works to be an electrician, for instance, then people who have been experiencing lighting problems will look up your tips. Even if they know they will hire a professional, they will still curiously scroll through detailed instructions, becoming more assured that you are a professional who knows what they’re doing and increasing the chance that you will be the electrician they call. Posting industry knowledge is also a great way to build your reputation among your contemporaries. Especially if you have written a guide that provides the solution to something they are currently struggling with.

People Prefer to DIY

When something goes wrong in the home, office, or online, people want to fix it for themselves first. Most have had the experience of calling in for help only to find the solution to be very simple and want to avoid the unnecessary expense of calling a professional if they can implement a solution. This means that when something breaks, people are likely to look up the DIY way to handle it first. When this happens, your how-to blogs could be at the top of their search page offering a clearly-written step-by-step guide on how to fix the problems they are facing.

When It Gets Sticky

Unlike product-focused articles, the how-to’s draw in potential customers at a much earlier stage in their customer journeys, before they’ve even decided they need your services. This means that when a situation gets out of hand or your customers decide that the task is beyond their level of skill, your page is the one open on their screens. If your blog was helpful and friendly, whether or not the client successfully tackled the how-to task, they are much more likely to realize that you want to help them and click over to your services page directly from the how-to article. This cycle effectively completes the inbound marketing goal turning blog posts into happy customer conversions.

When the DIY is Successful

There is always a good chance that the searching potential client is actually a fairly skilled and confident DIY practitioner and successfully uses your guide to fix their problem, but this isn’t a lost work opportunity! Instead, you have just gained a point of credibility and brand reputation in the mind of a skilled individual. Because your information was good, they will come back to your site for more DIY advice in the future and tell their friends about using you as a resource. This spreads your influence as a brand provides authority positioning, and means that if ever these capable DIY-ers do get in over their heads, you will be the experts they call.

Inbound marketing is a simple concept with hundreds of different applications, often shaped by your business, industry, and unique customer base. If you provide skilled maintenance and repair services, from plumbing to web hosting, and want to make the most of your inbound marketing blog, remember to throw in a few helpful how-tos.