If you work in marketing, chances are good that at some point in your career you’ve had the idea that nobody is listening to your messages. You’re just being paranoid, you tell yourself. But if you’re only using traditional marketing channels, and targeting prospects under 40, chances are good that you’re not being paranoid. Nobody’s listening.
For decades, SMBs have been chasing outbound marketing strategies: they send out messages, cross their fingers and hope for a palpable hit. The problem is that most customers don’t want to be marketed. They unsubscribe from mailing lists because of excessive messages. They withhold their cell phone numbers, or provide “junk” email addresses they seldom check. They keep their phone numbers on do-not-call lists and use apps to block calls. And then there’s direct mail, which may as well be called that because it goes directly into the trashcan.
A lot of the marketing problems that SMBs face today can be overcome by building a solid inbound marketing strategy, however. What’s inbound marketing? Think of it like fishing; you create some juicy worms, put them on lines, distribute them in the lake where the fish are located, and wait for the fish to bite. In other words, prospects come to you, seeking value and a two-way marketing relationship rather than the imprecise one-way bludgeoning they get from outbound marketing.
“Inbound marketing is about getting found in all the places buyers go to self-educate, including search and social channels,” according to market research firm, Gartner. “Companies that don’t get found, or are outside the conversations buyers are having on the social web about them and their industry, may not make the shortlist.”
Following are some of the most critical ways an inbound strategy can help solve your SMB’s marketing challenges.
Inbound Marketing Improves Your Social Marketing
If you’ve been building your social strategies from the company out, you may have noticed lackluster responses. Following an inbound marketing strategy means using social media to find out who your customers are and where they congregate, and building a compelling outpost in that place.
Customers use social media to begin their buying process, and if you don’t have a strong presence where customers are, they’re not going to find you. Once you find your niche, a social media presence will grow organically: 71 percent of customers who have had a positive experience with you via social media are likely to recommend your company to others, according to research conducted by Ambassador. This helps you build an army of promoters (or “fans”) of your brand on social media who engage in influence marketing on your behalf.
While large companies can hire a sexy Manhattan agency staffed with 20-somethings who breathe social media, SMBs don’t have this luxury. Before you begin an inbound social marketing strategy, it’s important you have a good marketing automation solution in place that integrates with channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (and, ideally, your CRM database) so you can manage your social marketing strategies right from your main marketing and sales platform.
Inbound Interest from Prospects Helps Steer Content
Inbound campaigns, as mentioned before, is all about content. While most SMBs have had a bit of experience in producing content, they may feel they’re doing it in the dark. You already know what interests you, but it’s what interests your customers that counts. There may be a little trial-and-error, but a robust inbound strategy will allow you to determine which content works best to attract the most interest.
Your ideal content might be “how to” blogs or YouTube videos, photos on Instagram, white papers, chat boards or webinars. What’s going to help it work is that inbound campaigns are based on permission: by engaging with you, prospects are giving you permission to approach them and blatantly letting you know what it is they need and want. Once you’ve build up your content library as part of your strategy, it will make it easier to master search engine optimization. You can ensure the right keywords are in the right place at the right frequency, you have the right mix of internal and external links, and you’re including tagged images to increase your search presence further.
It Keeps Your Web Site Fresh
Your web site is likely going to serve as Grand Central Station for your inbound efforts. Much of your content will link to it (or be physically present on it), so you need to ensure that your landing pages are compelling, up-to-date and relevant.
Agile CRM provides a very simple drag and drop visual designer for the easy creation of landing pages so marketers can create landing pages on their own and update the regularly. Users can choose themes and customize them, preview the landing pages (to ensure they work in a mobile environment) and even embed forms to collect the contact information of people who visit your web site.
It Helps You Quantify Campaigns Better
Inbound marketing is almost entirely rooted in the digital realm, which means it’s easier to track, analyze and report on with the right marketing automation solution. Whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook, email responses or your own web site, you can easily qualify and quantify your marketing efforts and justify your return on investment.
Agile CRM’s social suite allows users to monitor social media feeds, track your contacts’ social activity and interact with leads via the social channels of their choice. Integration with the core CRM means marketers don’t have to chase down individual social channels (or individuals themselves), but they can pull social media posts and profiles onto contact pages for complete contact data and better aggregation of the data needed to track the overall effectiveness of a campaign (or a product or service).
Embarking on an inbound marketing campaign is going to feel a bit scary for most established marketers. You’re used to playing the rat catcher, and suddenly you’re expected to be the Pied Piper. If it helps, condition yourself to think less like a marketer and more like your customers. From here, it will be easier to build the two-way relationships and conversations necessary to marketing success today and leave behind the “whack them over the head and hope for the best” approach of decades past.