Inbound marketing has always been vital to small businesses, as it’s one of the few tools they can use to level the playing field with larger competitors who can afford to dominate the traditional outbound marketing channels.
With organic search driving anywhere from 40 to 75% of all Web-based business depending on your industry, inbound marketing has become of primary importance to every business that has an internet presence, big or small.
The trouble with inbound marketing is that the days of cheats, hacks and shortcuts are gone. Dubious techniques like keyword stuffing, link exchanges and spun content would at one time allow a business (with little in the way of hesitation) to quickly shoulder their way to the top of search engine rankings using garbage content that could be churned out quickly and for pennies on the dollar.
Google’s various animal-themed updates (such as Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) put a swift end to the majority of the practices that allowed subpar content to vault to the top of the heap. Competitors like Bing have been steadily catching up by rolling out their own similar efforts.
Quality content that is genuinely informative and engaging (and is thus something that readers genuinely want to share) is now what rules the inbound marketing space. But quality content takes time and expense to produce. And without a coherent overall marketing strategy in place, all of the high-quality blog posts in the world won’t do anything to help your business!
Genuinely useful and informative writing needs to be paired with a more traditional marketing approach — identifying your customer, understanding their problems and presenting solutions. Having skilled writers on hand is one part of the equation, but having skilled marketers who understand your customers and can direct your content strategy appropriately is the equally crucial other part.
So, given all that, how do you turn quality inbound marketing material into viable leads? The tips listed below should get you on your way.
Focus on Existing Customer Problems Rather Than Stock Solutions
Businesses tend to focus on setting out a varied breadbasket of services or products in anticipation of the needs of their clients. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this approach only reaches clients who have already done their research and know what they’re looking for. At this point, they’re shopping and comparing you to every other similar competitor.
That’s fine if you have a significant advantage over your competitors. But what if you were able to reach the client right after they had experienced their problem, but before they had hashed out what exactly they should do about it?
When potential customers are searching for solutions, they are looking for the sort of informative and genuine inbound marketing material that you should be producing! The inbound marketing does not even necessarily need to discuss your company’s products or services at this stage.
The goal here is to build trust and to position yourself as a relevant authority by helping the customer work through their problem. An introduction of products or services can come after a positive relationship has been established.
Describing the ways in which you solve a problem for a prospect positions you in a unique space with them. You’ve established a relationship even before they get to the crowded marketplace where everyone else is touting the same products and services that you are offering.
Address The Customer In A Personal Way
This tip ties into the previous advice about not focusing too heavily on advertising services and trying to shout down your competitors. When you pour all of your effort into the final stages of the customer’s decision, you’re not only reaching them at the most competitive possible phase, but you’re also forced into a space where you have to present yourself as just another company boasting about your product in an impersonal and one-directional way.
Starting an early conversation with the customer gives you the space in which to make a personal connection. That personal touch goes a long way toward retention and loyalty — for example, studies conducted by the former White House Office of Consumer Affairs have found among other things that loyal customers are worth 10 times their initial purchase over their lifetime and that the cost of acquiring a new customer is six to seven times greater than the cost of retaining an existing one!
Focus Only On Relevant Channels
When first venturing into the online space with a business, there’s usually an instinct to get involved in some way with every possible channel of communication so as not to miss one single lead. Trying to manage too many outlets and channels can actually have an even worse effect than not communicating enough, however; you sink time and money into a bunch of marketing efforts that end up generating nothing in the way of quality leads!
Content used for inbound marketing purposes will generally be posted once to a website, blog or social media site; posting it in more than one location can hurt your SEO effort. Of course, you can then share it via social media. But you have to consider that users of social media view it as a platform for conversation, and if all you do is share links to articles they will quickly lose interest.
Each platform has to be managed properly for it to be a useful lead-generating tool, which means an expense of time and money. It is wise to pare out platforms that don’t really serve an audience that is also served by your business — for example, if you have a business model centered on seniors, don’t bother with Instagram. The more resource-intensive the platform you are considering, the more rigorously it should be screened; things like video, infographics and webinars take even more in the way of time and resources to produce than quality written articles and posts do!
Quality Content + Quality Marketing = Quality Lead Generation
You need quality content produced by native speakers of English who have something interesting to say about the problems your customer base faces. That’s a given. But you can’t just toss articles at the wall and hope they stick, nor can you simply boast about how much better your product or service is than what the competition is offering if you hope to be a leader in your niche. Inbound marketing has to be seen as a personal conversation that begins with the customer first becoming aware of a problem and beginning to plumb the depths of the internet for an answer.