“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Charles Darwin
Let me be clear. The revolution is here. We live and breathe it every day. I encounter people who embrace it fully and others who bury their heads in the sand and insist on doing what they’ve always done. This post is for those who know that the new normal is here to stay and for those who are willing to adapt accordingly.
“Inbound Marketing” as defined by Marketo is “the process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference, and ultimately, into leads and revenue.”
Not too long ago the sales and marketing game was very different. Televisions were in every home, the radio was in every car; both gave you the entertainment you wanted with some messaging you didn’t. TV, radio, magazine ads, phone books, cold calling and feet on the street; these were the primary outreach methods and the only way a prospect had to get detailed information about a new product.
Technology has changed, and so have buyer behaviors. Consumers are informed. Products and services are well researched. The garden-variety television set has been replaced by the ultra-light and easily portable tablet or laptop. Word of Mouth, touted as the holy grail of advertising, has been turned on its head by the likes of social media and SEO.
In fact, the CEB Marketing Research Council reports that, “On average (and with little variation among industries) customers will contact a sales rep when they independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.”
Here are some more stats that can affect your sales and marketing efforts (compliments of Marketing Profs):
- Millennials are more likely to do product research online than other generations.
- Some 89% of Millennials make corporate purchases (131% more likely than those older than 35).
- 58% of them have researched or purchased corporate goods on their tablets or mobile devices.
I had a conversation with a prospect today and she told me that she’s finally going to give social media a try. Strange as this sounds, she told me that she never had to change the way she marketed her business in the past. It always worked before and, she implied that it (social media and the internet in general) was in some way my fault and that she was now acquiescing to me. “You Millennials went and goofed it all up,” she joked. I was going to explain that I’m actually a Gen Xer, but it seemed a moot point. The internet is, in fact, my fault. Sorry.
In fairness, the woman I spoke with is really just a frustrated business owner trying to make sense of the tectonic shift that has happened in the last 15 years. Inbound Marketing is simple, but not easy. Starting on a fundamental level can be trying. Most business owners know that they need a web presence, but are not sure where to begin.
So let’s begin…
Your Website is Your Foundation
No exceptions. Even if someone meets you at a networking event and you pin down an appointment to do some business, they are going to check out your website. I would do it and so would you. If you don’t have a website, they may start to look for other mediums (LinkedIn, Twitter), but they’ll try to find a website first. If you don’t have one, that is Strike One. Trying to get into the inbound marketing game without a decent website that has a strong structure with an eye for conversions is like trying to play baseball with a football. It just doesn’t work, does it? An actionable website is essential to a sales and marketing machine. Need a refresh? Check out this website redesign checklist.
Search is Essential
I’ve been hearing the expression “SEO friendly” for years now. This gives the impression that having a searchable site is nice and probably a good idea. This is incorrect. It is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ it is a ‘must have.’ If your website is not searchable or findable, why have one at all? Sounds harsh, but this fact is too important to be euphemistic.
Have A Goal and a Plan to Reach it
Who are you trying to reach? Why is your product or service useful to them? Why do they want it? Knowing your target audience, not your entire audience but your target audience, is the best way to help them find your business online. They are looking for you. Help them! Help them with your services and products. Help them buy from you.
You can help potential customers find your company any number of ways, from sending out content rich email blasts to participating and posting content to industry social media groups to guest blogging and/or sending out press releases. Do research to find out where your target audience spends time in the digital space and engage with them there.
All of these activities are geared towards one thing – driving customers to your website, where they will be able to learn enough about the benefits of working with your company that they will want to reach out directly to learn more.
Content Is (still) King
Do you remember the movie “Field of Dreams”? I’m now proving I’m not a Millennial. The catch phrase of that flick was “If you build it they will come.” So many business owners believe this to be the case with websites. Sorry to break it to you, but this isn’t Iowa and you’re not Kevin Costner. With so many options for Google to choose from when a person types a keyword into the search engine, things really need to be done correctly. So, if you want to still reference “Field of Dreams,” try this lesser-known quote for your digital mantra: “Go the Distance.” Blog, blog blog! Write them often and write them well. Give your audience consumable information. If your mama raised you right, you never go to a party empty-handed. Offer something that is substantive and shareable. If you write a blog with real information that is helpful to your audience, you will generate leads. I promise.
Be the Hostess with the Mostess
If I sent out invitations to a party for Saturday night, and indicated what time to be there, how to dress and what would be served, you’d have a good idea of what to expect. But what if you got there and nothing was happening? No one greeted you at the door, no one offered you something to eat or drink, and no one interacted – it would be pretty weird, right? The same goes for your site. You’ve sent the invites (blog) and you’ve offered something to consume (ebook or premium content). Shouldn’t your guests expect some direction once they are on your homepage?
Once they get there, you also need to keep them interested. A site needs to be easy to navigate and easy to understand, and provide good, informative content that positions your company as an expert in the field. It also needs direction. When a visitor comes to your site, give them a road map to help them learn more and help them buy from you.
How does this help my business?
Once you’ve invited everyone to the party, how can you then turn those guests into viable leads for your business? The whole philosophy behind Inbound Marketing, i.e. marketing for the 21st century, is to generate organic leads. Once an interested party comes to your website, what do you do with them? Your website should not just be a brochure; it should act as a sales person for you. In exchange for your visitor’s email address, you offer premium valuable content. You now have permission to market to your visitor directly and with purpose. You can segment your leads into categories based on need and stage of the buying cycle.
Through segmentation, you can specify your marketing even more. Some leads are simply in the research phase and are just reading your blog. You can send them an email encouraging them to read another post of yours. This reminds me of shopping on amazon.com. Birds of a feather flock together. People who bought this widget also bought this widget.
Despite a variety of industries, many business owners have similar concerns. In our blog, some people may need inbound marketing advice, but also need website construction advice; so I include links to blog posts advising on website construction. If they’re ready to talk strategy, they may be further along in the sales cycle and I encourage them to download an ebook addressing their issues in a more granular way. If they’re convinced they need our service, we encourage them to contact us for a consult. This process is methodical and designed for our ideal customer.
Even that isn’t enough if a site is not built to capture leads. A strong site will have solid educational content for each stage in the buying cycle, compelling calls to action, and the analytics on the back end to capture, measure and distribute leads. Which brings me to my final point about marketing in the 21st century.
Analyze the data!
More than any other medium, the digital space has several opportunities to measure your efforts. Really measure with real actionable results. It’s fantastic and necessary. We live and die by analytics and you should as well. The days of buying air time for a commercial on TV or radio are dwindling. While I still believe those mediums can be effective, the ability to measure their impact is minimal. If you spend $300 for 60 seconds on the radio (not including production cost), it is impossible to say who heard it, if your best customers heard it and if they connected with its message. With the digital space, your message is sought! You can track when your prospects come to your site, with what content they interacted and for how long. You may not be able to read their minds, but it’s pretty close!
If your site doesn’t have Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools, stop reading now and install those tools to your website. If you do have them installed and you’re ready to take your analytics to the next level, give us a call. We can introduce you to some exceptional software that is nothing short of game changing.
The rules have changed. We didn’t change them, but we’ve adapted. We grew up without DVR, a phone in our pocket at all times, and the ability to access any piece of information you can think of in seconds. The secret sauce is not a secret. You can Google that right now if you so desire. When the game changes, behavior changes. If you want your message to be heard, you have to speak to the crowd, and the crowd is on the internet. Whether you choose to build your marketing machine internally, or outsource to an expert, the machine must be built or your business will suffer.