Small businesses are fantastic, but often, they fail to transition with evolving digital trends… and that means outdated digital strategies. With tech startups aside, many small businesses have owners and marketers who understand how business used to be done, so I want to bridge the gap from old to new. Think of this as a digital spring cleaning!
For many B2B companies, old-school marketing is preferred because it was proven to work. Over the past couple years, though, many of these companies are feeling the pressure to change, but they don’t know how.
The first thing to understand about traditional marketing is that much of it is considered Outbound Marketing—initiating conversation and sending your message out to an audience. Think of outbound marketing as you holding a megaphone and yelling at people who may or may not care. Examples of this are radio/TV commercials, brochures, print ads, trade shows, email blasts, etc. And, this worked before consumers had social media and could create their own filter bubbles.
Many of the “old” digital strategies used outbound marketing models—one-way dialogue promoting your message as if people were interested. Not surprisingly, users didn’t respond, and as time progressed, it became even easier for users to allude you. Eventually, you noticed your digital presence plateaued, and you begin to question social media’s validity or ability to generate leads. Am I giving you anxiety yet?
A lot of the larger brands began adding organic value to their communities in a practice called Inbound Marketing—initially coined in 2005 by HubSpot founder Brian Halligan (see his diagram of this practice below). This technique draws customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization. For those in the marketing world, you may or may not be familiar with this term, but you’ve definitely used the tactics.
Knowing what outbound and inbound marketing are, how do you pivot your old marketing strategy to one that can succeed in 2017?
Here are six steps to help you fearlessly take on a marketing revamp:
1. Define clear, measurable goals
This is implied, but it’s a critical first step. If you’re trying to pivot your existing marketing strategy, you need to develop goals that marry business objectives with customer needs. Shift your mindset to one of “value-added.” Be as specific as you would be with outbound marketing—and depending on the goal, it could be the same for outbound and inbound (like raising awareness, for example).
An inbound marketing goal should always be measurable and attainable. An example of an inbound marketing goal would be “Obtain 500 leads from Facebook in the next six months.” Ideally, you could narrow even further about whom you expect those leads to be. With a targeted goal in mind, you can cater content to that demographic and create value, which I will cover later.
2. Understand your audience AND their needs
Marketers are successful when they understand their demographic, but in an inbound world, you need to understand your audiences’ needs. The best way to uncover your customers’ needs is to ask. What are their goals? What are their biggest challenges? Why do you need our product? How do you learn about new information for your job? Once you understand your audiences’ needs, you can develop a customer journey and persona.
This will be a lot of upfront work, but it lays the necessary groundwork for your inbound strategy. If you are migrating from an outbound marketing strategy, this is the first major step in understanding psychographics of your audience and focusing content on adding value where you can be an authority.
3. Set yourself up for success
This step is all about being discovered—where will your audience see your content? There are some standard strategies you can use to accomplish this. However, the more specific you can be about how your audience gathers information, the more impactful this step will be.
First, almost everyone uses Google to gather information, so be sure to boost your SEO and Google Adwords (if you want to take that route). Second, join your audience on social media and engage with their content. The platforms you join will be based on your interviews that you had earlier.
4. Prepare for and take care of your leads
Once you set yourself up for success, you need to acquire and retain your leads to eventually create customers then advocates. To do this, you need to strategize how you plan to capture a visitor once they find your content. This could be leading them to a landing page where they can download a whitepaper. It could be a call to action like a newsletter subscription button. If you look at the HubSpot graphic above, this step is “Convert.”
Converting your visitors to leads is tricky, no doubt. But the big step is taking care of your lead. It may be tempting to immediately try and spam them into buying your service or product, but this is an art. You need to maintain contact and continue adding value. However, the value you add here will be different from before. Earlier, you were providing value to your general topic and their general pain points. Now, you can demonstrate your product or explain how your services are different. It’s important to be respectful of your customer’s personal space. It’s like dating, if you act desperate, they won’t want to be around you.
5. Create a great customer experience
This is the fun part—creating a great customer experience. I advocate for creating an emotional customer experience, but there are many ways to delight customers. To read my opinion on an emotional customer experience, read my Medium article “The Paradox of the Emotional Customer Experience and the Bottom Line”
You should always be improving your customer’s experience. This could be improving your software UX, enhancing existing customer service (*cough cough* every airline ever), or sending relevant articles to your existing clients. Most likely, you will need to set up a way to gather data about what your customers need. Setting up a customer survey or social listening platform would be great tactics to use here.
6. Analyze and adjust
Finally, you’ve completed every step along the way. Time to take all the data you’ve acquired and put it to work. Look at your customer experience and analyze if there are drop offs or issues. The wonderful thing about data is it presents an opportunity to experimentation. If something doesn’t work, fix it. If you have tactics that are amazing, see if you can optimize them. What’s amazing is, once you get the ball rolling, you will be able to swiftly make changes whenever you need to.
And that’s it. If you follow these steps, you will be an inbound marketing guru!