Marketing for small businesses can be tricky, especially just starting out. Do it wrong and you can come across as a real pest! We’ve all gotten a call from a telemarketer during dinner or flooded with spam emails. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Using inbound marketing, your small business or nonprofit can avoid being that person — and even be the hero!
What do you mean “inbound marketing”?
Great question! To simplify, inbound marketing is a strategy that draws in people through information relevant to them in their situation. This marketing method uses different channels such as email, social media, and blogs to educate your audience and not sell to them before they are ready. Who likes a pushy salesperson? I know I don’t!
Inbound Marketing focuses on is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), segmented educational email marketing (not spam), social media, and blogging. When used properly, this method gives a company’s audience the information they need to make an educated purchase. Inbound marketing has been the most effective strategy since 2006, according to marketing masters at HubSpot.
The more awareness your company has on the internet, the easier it is for people to find. Once they find your website, you want them to be able to find more information on your site! This does three things:
- Gives them a reason to come back
- Provides more content for people to find
- Starts building trust
When you think about it, the inbound method is marketing in a way which encourages people come to you to find more information about your product or service.
How is inbound marketing different from traditional marketing?
Traditional marketing, or outbound marketing, seeks out new leads. Rather than help customers find information to draw them in when they are ready, you apply pressure to force them to be ready now — like it or not.
Have you gotten an unrequested phone call about a product or service you didn’t want? What about all that email that gets pushed into your spam box and maybe sometimes doesn’t even get filtered? Those are traditional marketing channels.
A few examples of outbound marketing techniques include:
- Mass email marketing campaigns
- Untargeted ads
- TV Commercials
This strategy does not include the educational component inbound has. Outbound Marketing isn’t concerned with helping customers, it’s concerned with helping your business.
Traditional marketing generally consists of buying lists of email addresses, not educating your audience on how to resolve their problem, and clamoring for attention — who can be the biggest and the loudest. Traditional marketing is becoming less effective.
Why has marketing changed?
On average, a person will be exposed to 2,000 traditional marketing advertisements every day. Not only is this a lot of information to shovel through, but annoyed people are inventing more and more ways to e out intrusive marketing like spam filters, ad blockers, and caller ID.
Another leading cause for the change is the growing popularity of the internet. Blogs and search engine use makes it much easier for consumers to educate themselves about purchases. They no longer have to rely on the salesperson or marketer information — they can seek it out themselves
People want the power to make their own decisions. Inbound marketing gives them that power.
How can I use inbound marketing to improve my business?
You’re full of a great questions! I love it! Keep them coming! While there are several different ways, I’m going to talk about three easy ways you as a small business owner or nonprofit member can get started. Those three are:
- Optimizing your website through search engine optimization,
- Segmenting your audience,
- And, finally, talk a bit about social media and blogging.
Let’s starting with search engine optimization!
Search Engine Optimization for Inbound Marketing
This fun little acronym — which again stands for Search Engine Optimization — is a scientific approach that helps bring traffic to your website. Because the Internet is so big and contains so much information, search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing design algorithms to sort the information they collect and serve it to
searchers when they submit a search. These algorithms are surprisingly complex and secretive.
“Secretive?” you ask. Oh, yes! Search providers don’t share all of the details of how their algorithms work. This is to avoid abuse of the system. The search engines want their search results to be relevant to the topic being searched. They don’t want “free aardvark” to be your first result when you searched for “Plane tickets to Cleveland”.
In fact, certain less than savory methods can result in your website being blacklisted (i.e., removed forever) from a search engine. It’s important you know what you’re doing (or hire a reputable professional). We’ll discuss this in more detail in an upcoming blog article!
That said, search engines aren’t totally silent. They do share important information. SEO professionals use also web analytics to track what’s effective. This information is made available for web designers and content creators — like Pure Light Studios — to help make websites with more relevant content.
What does this have to do with inbound marketing?
Relevancy. SEO is about creating relevant content and optimizing it for potential customers to find. Instead of bombarding customers with information when they aren’t interested (like a spam email), you’re making it available when they do a web search for a relevant product — naturally drawing them to your business.
Segmented Educational Emails
Not all marketing emails are created equal! There is spam email which is unsolicited emails that generally asks for something. It’s unwanted, intrusive, and annoying. That’s not the inbound way. Inbound marketing uses segmented educational emails. These emails are strategically designed to focus on the customer and provide for their needs.
What do you mean ‘segmented’?
Great question! Let’s break it down. By segmenting I mean, taking your email list and breaking it down into smaller groups based on their needs. There are many ways to segment your emails, but you will have to choose what best works for your company. Narrowing down audiences has a 100.95% higher click-through-rate than non-segmented strategies.
A few ways to segment your list is by their…
- By geographic area
- Sign-up time
- Preferences (give them the power to say how often they want to be emailed!)
Once you’ve segmented your list, it’s easier to create targeted emails which provide information relevant to that smaller group. Educating your prospects is a great way to start building a healthy trust relationship!You’re also giving them the power buyers want!
Using Social Media and Blogging to Build Your Brand
Social sharing channels and blogs are a great place build your credibility and get that grapevine going… or you can drive people away. To effectively utilize social media and blogging, you need to do your homework!
Just recently, I saw one company do it terribly wrong. They left a comment about how they “loved” my Instagram photos, would like to make me a “brand ambassador” for their product, and requested I message them. This was exciting! That account was for my pet blog, Tesla’s Dog House, and I had been thinking to look for a sponsor.
After a little back and forth, not only were they misusing the term “brand ambassador”, when I called them out they were very short with me. Not only that, they tried to act like I reached out to them! After a full day of pointing out their ineffective marketing techniques, they finally stopped. I woke up the next morning with a comment on another photo if mine from another account of theirs! This went on for a full week! Suffice it to say, I was pretty annoyed with this company by the end.
Be careful! On average a client a with a bad experience will tell 9 – 15 people (and maybe write about it in her blog post). The grapevine can work both ways. When people have a bad experience, they will share and bad news will be passed along about your brand. If a client has a good experience, good news will spread.
Social Media and blogging are cost effective ways to get more information out on the Internet regarding your brand. The more social media posts, the higher the chance prospects have to find your small business or nonprofit. Blog posts create new pages for your website and a higher chance they will find relevant information they need on your site.
When sharing on social media or blogging use inbound methods: Think customer-centric! Think education!
Should I use inbound marketing for my small business or nonprofit?
Small businesses have a better chance at competing with larger corporations using inbound marketing.
- Anyone can start a blog with little to no money
- You don’t have to pay rent for SEO, it’s possible to own your website!
- Social media allows for the grapevine effect to take place much quicker
- You can hire a professional that specializes in all areas
Thank you for asking so many great questions! To answer your question, I think inbound is a great method. I would definitely recommend trying it out!