Traditional outbound marketing tactics like cold emailing, cold calling, trade shows and banner ads are not as effective as they once were. Consumers are constantly bombarded by marketers from all mediums and angles, so it requires a strategic, well-planned inbound campaign to capture the attention of your target audience and gain significant recognition.
What is inbound marketing?
The premise of inbound is really education. Those most likely to buy are the ones who see you as a reliable resource: educating them, helping them and coaching them.
Hubspot is the leader in this space and often "held responsible" for bringing this school of thought mainstream. They define inbound marketing as, "Sharing is caring and inbound is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more."
Inbound is kind of like creating marketing that isn't really marketing--it's creating marketing that people love! When you provide the right information, at the right time to the right individual, you're helping--not interrupting. People who are drawn to you on their own are going to be of higher quality than any other type of lead.
67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. This means that your online marketing is more important than ever. Buyers are relying less on sales reps to provide them with information and more on your content.
Using inbound marketing strategies to your advantage
One thing is for sure: inbound marketing will reign in 2016. Once you embrace this change, your small business can see unprecedented growth.
1. Customers have access to tons of information
Years ago, customers had to rely on sales reps to gain information about a company or a product. Now, all of that information is available with the click of a mouse. Outbound marketing techniques are no longer there first interaction with your brand or organization. Instead, by the time you reach them, they've likely already accumulated a wealth of information to help them build a solid idea of what the options and solutions are.
If you do a good job providing the solution your audience wants, they will be coming to you more aware of who you are, what you do, and what they want to accomplish with your help.
2. Inbound is cost effective
Inbound marketing is significantly cheaper than outbound marketing with a greater rate of return on your marketing investment (ROI). Since inbound marketing relies on the creation and distribution of great content, it’s not as imperative that you use paid methods of getting that content out there since e-mail lists, good SEO practices and access to social media platforms are free.
- Inbound Marketing yields 3 times more leads per dollar than traditional methods.
- Properly executed Inbound Marketing tactics are 10 times more effective for lead conversion compared to outbound methods.
- Inbound Marketing can result in doubling the average website conversion rate from 6% to 12%.
3. Build trust and loyalty
If you use inbound tactics, a potential customer's first introduction to you is by the channels that they have granted you permission to contact them though. If the customers see that you are creating useful content and are professional and knowledgeable, they will have more respect for you. Use inbound as an opportunity to prove that you're an expert.
And after that initial touch point, it's all about building a relationship--even after the sales transaction has been made. No one becomes a promoter out of thin air--so customer experience plays a key role here. The more contact you have with your customer base, the better chance you have to see what they want in real time. This gives you an authentic sense of what's working and what's not in your business--which is extremely valuable!
4. Stay relevant
It's imperative that you embrace channels such as social media, email and blogging to have an effective inbound strategy. As an active presence, as well as a valuable resource, customers will begin to trust you because you’re tuned into their interests.
5 steps small businesses can follow to get started with inbound marketing
Inbound marketing is a combination of tools, tactics and channels but it revolves primarily around content. Below are some ideal steps small businesses can take to fully embrace the inbound philosophy.
1. Start small; build an owned content space
I've seen success when businesses start with one department or one product. Start where you can make shifts relatively easily because there's autonomy. The idea is to avoid a major seismic wave across the organization in one fell swoop.
And if content is the key here, then creating a blog for one of your products or business units is the perfect way to begin building a social hub or platform for your company. Having a piece of owned space will allow you to bring people into a space in a more controlled manner.
A great business blog is created around and for your customers. If your audience responds better to visual stimuli, you should make sure of photography, video and infographics. Start creating original content that they love and they'll continue to come back for more.
2. Integrate your social profiles
The aim of successful social networking is to build a following and an active community around your brand using a combination of content creation and curation. Social networks are the perfect companion to use alongside blogs to build an engaged audience around a brand.
The key is to choosing the social network that works for your organization and your customers. There's no point in creating a flawless Facebook business page if the majority of your prospects hang out on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you don't have to be everywhere--and honestly, you can't. Instead, pick one to three platforms and do those really well.
3. Audience-focused SEO efforts
Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. (Whoa!) Search, along with email, is the most popular activity online and experts don't see that diminishing anytime soon.
I understand that as a small business you have limited resources, but why not invest in activity to get your website listed in organic search results that are of interest to people? It's certainly cheaper than paying for PPC advertising.
Good SEO is not about keyword stuffing--that's a black hat tactic. It's about ensuring that your website is designed with user experience in mind and allows visitors to successfully find the information they need/want to make an informed decision.
Your SEO aim is to be found in search results for specific keywords relating to your brand by developing an online presence that is content-rich, engaging and meaningful to your target market.
- 6 SEO predictions for 2016 [+ the ultimate SEO checklist infographic]
- 5 ways small businesses can compete with SEO giants
- 6 local tips for small business SEO success
4. Email marketing
Despite the rise in popularity of other inbound marketing tactics (we're looking at your social media!), the fact of the matter is, email remains one of the single most effective inbound marketing tools for small businesses.
As with each of the other forms we've discussed, email marketing is about creating a relationship with your prospects and customers by delivering valuable content--don't only sell things! Your goal is to send out relevant messages to a group of willing recipients on a consistent and regular basis.
To take it a step further, you can integrate social media with your email marketing strategy. For example, you should also include clear social share buttons to provide readers with an easy way to share your content. The less steps they have to take, the more likely they are to share the content that resonates with them the most.
5. Optimize your landing pages for higher conversion rates
A landing page is where your lead goes after they've clicked on your call-to-action. Whether it's a product page or a form fill-out to download your latest ebook, it's important that it's top notch. Unless you're into the idea of letting warm leads slip away into the deep web, never to return...
First, make sure the CTA itself is relevant. If you're "advertising" a new floral delivery service, don't send them to a landing page that provides information about gift baskets. Second, keep it focused to a singular action. If you offer up too many options, visitors could overwhelmed and leave without completing any of the desired next steps. Last, and very important, is design. Use images, videos, testimonials or other trust signals to help improve the conversation rate of your landing pages. Run A/B tests to decide on the best design elements for your pages.
Bonus: Analyze your results and repeat
There's no greater feeling for a marketer than hearing that sales is getting ready to close on a handful of inbound leads. Your landing pages are converting, folks are filling out forms on your website to gain access to your gated content and they're sharing your email content on social media! But, don't pop the champagne cork just yet--it's time to get down and dirty in the numbers.
Each month, I highly suggest analyzing and tracking: overall website traffic, traffic by source (organic, paid, social, website referrals), number of leads (broken into MQL and SQL), conversation rates on landing pages and page performance.
By using a combination of social media, search and email marketing, any small business, regardless of its product or service offering, can earn people’s interest and attract prospects on to its website by engaging them with valuable, helpful and interesting content.