Need to figure out whether inbound marketing fits in your marketing mix? Here’s some inbound marketing advice for small businesses.
Inbound marketing is a term coined and evangelized by the founders of HubSpot (a company that develops and markets inbound marketing software) that refers to strategic use of content in lead generation and sales.
The concept is simple — businesses should use blogs, video, podcasts, guides, ebooks and other types of content to attract new customers. Proponents of inbound marketing claim that this is an easier, cheaper, and more effective way of getting business.
Inbound marketing is usually contrasted with outbound marketing or traditional marketing that consists of buying TV and radio advertising, direct mail campaigns, and other forms of offline marketing. Traditional marketing is seen by inbound marketers as expensive, ineffective and difficult to measure.
Today inbound marketing has become ubiquitous and many small businesses are allocating more and more of their marketing budgets towards inbound marketing initiatives.
Are there better ways to spend your hard earned small business marketing dollars?
Inbound Marketing Advice for Small Business
While content marketing shouldn’t be neglected it should take a backseat to a number of strategic business and marketing strategies and methods.
Focusing on customer experience, referral marketing, increasing brand awareness would all be better choices for spending marketing dollars for most small businesses.
Because those strategies executed at the same level of competence simply produce a better return on investment in most markets.
There Is Only One Gary Vaynerchuk
Some inbound marketing affectionados will point out that doing content marketing right will propel you to stardom. Gary Vaynerchuk did it — so can you.
This is the first misconception. Practically all small businesses will miss the mark on creating remarkable content and in the process they will waste valuable time and money.
Most small businesses are simply not capable of creating content that will make anyone think twice about sharing it.
At the end of the day — how many wine vloggers do you know?
Inbound Marketing Is Not Free
Producing content, tweeting, blogging and running inbound marketing campaigns costs money or time. Let’s not forget the training costs, opportunity costs and the cost of tools.
Inbound marketing tools are relatively expensive.
Yearly costs of using the market leading inbound marketing platform like Hubspot for a somewhat established business start at more than $12,000 per year. However, this platform is powerful and its list of features includes everything from keyword suggestions and social media monitoring to landing page creation tools and email lead nurturing.
But it creates no content.
Great content can make a big impact on your bottom line, but this can come at a substantial cost. Creating comprehensive guides, impactful infographics, producing video and other types of remarkable content can cost thousands of dollars.
If you are like most small business owners content creation is not among your core competencies, and as a result you might find yourself in a situation where you are investing a lot of resources without acceptable returns.
Sometimes Inbound Marketing Is A Waste Of Resources
Content should always be a part of your marketing strategy. However there are markets where serious investments in content marketing make no sense. Local niche markets like office cleaning, civil engineering or corporate catering are simply not compatible with inbound marketing.
Understanding how your market behaves online and online can save you a fortune.
Customer Experience (Not Content) Is The One True King
Zappos didn’t become a billion dollar company because they were producing great content about shoes. They became a billion dollar company because they delivered amazing customer experience, and customers couldn’t resist telling their friends.
And what did Zappos use as the primary tool to amaze their customers? Telephone.
Instead of trying to minimize the number of calls they get (much like every other ecommerce business) Zappos embraced every phone call as an opportunity to create a personal connection with their customers. Zappos created an army of rabid fans, sales went through the roof, and they got acquired by Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to provide customer experience that beats expectations for your industry. Finding low cost ways to personalize, accelerate or personalize your customer experience will go a long way towards increased loyalty and improved profits.
A simple way to improve customer experience design would be to talk to your customers regularly about their experience with your business, identify “pain points” and eliminate those systematically.
Your website can be a useful tool for improving customer experience. This is where content comes into play. You can engineer your content to enhance customer experience just by interviewing your customers. This may result in higher conversion rates and lower customer acquisition costs.
Remember That You Customers Are Assets
Inbound marketing philosophy is centered around acquiring new customers using content. If fully adopted as a sole marketing strategy it would limit the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
Small businesses would benefit more by adopting a broader, more strategic approach to marketing that revolves around relationship building, customer experience, and integration of offline and online channels.
Before you make a heavy investment into inbound marketing make sure that:
- Your customer experience defies industry expectations
- You measure all important business and marketing metrics.
- You have a way of communicating with you customers long after they made their last purchase.
- Your referral strategy is effective and results are predictable.
- Your partnerships with complementary businesses produce results.
- You developed a customer centric culture obsessed by delivering value to customers
Should I Abandon Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing should be aligned with your overall marketing strategy as a major part of your online marketing. Content that’s useful to your targeted market can introduce new prospects to your brand but it can also help validate your company in the selection process. Great content can also help reshapes someone’s buying criteria, and compel them to pick up the phone and call you.
But heed this inbound marketing advice for small business: most small businesses can make a greater impact on their bottom lines focusing on other aspects of their marketing strategy before making a serious commitment to inbound marketing.
Inbound Marketing Photo via Shutterstock