If you own a business and want it to succeed, you have to market it. That’s just Business Basics 101. Traditional marketing – direct mail, newspaper ads, t.v., radio, etc. – does the job, but it’s expensive and generally isn’t cost effective for small businesses. There are aspects of inbound marketing, however, that any business owner with a little time can do. – But why bother? What’s the value here?
That’s really the first question…
The Value of Inbound Marketing
It’s been our experience that business owners who mainly receive referrals have the hardest time seeing any value in inbound marketing. The philosophy seems to be, “I don’t need to market. My customers market for me.” Yet, when you ignore inbound marketing, you’re ignoring a distinctly profitable, mostly cost effective, generally highly effective method of building your business.
If you are so busy you don’t have room for more clients/customers and you don’t want to hire someone for the overflow, well, you might not need more leads. If more leads sound like a useful thing, inbound marketing is something you might want to look into.
More Qualified Leads
More leads, visitors, etc. don’t mean much if they aren’t qualified. For example, if you’re selling shoes, someone looking for pants that happens to land on your site is probably not going to be your target customer. You might be able to convert them, but it’ll be a lot harder than the person actually looking for shoes.
T.V.? Well, that’s great. Lots of people watch T.V. Yet, you have to consider why people are watching… because most of the time, it’s not to buy something. The Internet, on the other hand, is still in the growing process as an avenue for eCommerce sales. It’s the biggest mall in the world, and millions of people visit it every day.
According to eMarkerter.com, around 179 million people will use the Internet to research products, and approximately 83% of them will actually buy online. Those people could be searching for you…
To get the same kind of reach on T.V., it could cost you $2,000,000 and up (the Super Bowl brought in around 111 million people, with a $2.4 million cost for one 30-second ad!). Radio ads could cost as much, or more, than $20,000 for one month. Direct mail, even if it cost as little as three cents per person mailed, would be over $1,000,000.
On the other hand, for $20,000 in one month, you could have a whole slew of inbound marketing tools in place, and still have enough left over to treat yourself to a lot of lattes.
Inbound Marketing Tools
Inbound marketing tools all have a few things in common. They:
- Create interest
- Increase your level of authority (or, at least, whether people perceive you as authoritative)
- Help you build your brand
With that in mind, let’s get to the list, shall we?
Websites are a dime a dozen. I’m sure all of you have seen at least one that made you want to quit searching for things online. You can find a huge list of the worst websites for the past six years at Web Pages That Suck (be prepared… most designs really do suck).
Your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to make sure your site doesn’t end up on this list. Don’t make these design mistakes, and you’ll be partway there.
Do you have your products (or services) and information all mixed in together? –Or, did you spend a lot of thought on creating sections that make sense?
Think of your site as half library, half car parts store. I doubt that you would have your car parts sitting in front of the books, or the books sitting in front of the car parts. You’d have two sections – and so should your website.
Optimization does a lot for SERP ranking. However, ranking is not the only goal, and it’s not the only outcome. Optimization helps make sure your site seldom deviates from its topic. When you look at keywords, you’re looking at a long list of potential topics for you to write about and share with your visitors. When done right, SEO leaves no room for accidentally off topic content. Therefore, the site is a gold mine for people interested in that topic.
High Quality Blog
Blogs give people a reason to come to your site beyond the marketing. They also give a way to publicize your authority. A high quality blog (i.e. well written, interesting, topical) has a good chance to go viral, creating more publicity, more visits, and a wider reach.
There’s a lot of question about whether e-mail newsletters really work. They do, but you have to be aware of the steps to getting visitors to sign up. As an example, having one doesn’t do any good if you don’t offer it – and, you can’t just offer the newsletter in tiny print in a hidden corner of your site.
Do you offer white papers? If the content is good enough, you can request name and email before allowing the download. What about PDFs? Same, same. Have a blog? Most people don’t mind a short, sweet pop-up, inviting them to get the blog in their inbox (Erika Napoletano, aka Redhead Writing, has a good example). Big ones:
Printable information can be an excellent resource for individuals wanting to learn about your product, service, industry or industry news. They can also be an excellent tool for you to share what you know. If you have the ability to provide these items, don’t leave them out! Big ones:
- White papers
Yes, we brought out social media as an inbound marketing tool. Why? For the most part, it should fall in the realm of “passive” marketing. In other words, it’s not a place to pour your ads, discounts and company braggadocio. You can occasionally share this stuff, but the main point of social networking is to, well… network. The big ones:
Inbound Marketing Works, If You Work Inbound Marketing
We’ve gone all the way around the corner; we’re back to the start and the title of this article. None of this stuff works if you don’t use it.
- A good design only goes as far as the organization of the site
- An organized site only goes as far the product or service offered
- A blog only works if it has great content
- In marketing to a niche audience, content only goes so far as its relevance (or optimization)
- Great content does no good if no one sees it
- No one will see it if you don’t give them a way to see it
- Etc, etc, etc…
Use the tools available, but don’t ignore other marketing tools – like having at least one CTA (call-to-action) on every page, or making sure people can find the sign up for your newsletter. Be good to inbound marketing, and inbound marketing will be good to you.