This is a guest post by Debra C. Andrews, President and Founder of Marketri LLC, a full-service B2B marketing firm based in Doylestown, PA and The Marketing Eye's associate in the US.
Print ads, television commercials, e-mail newsletters, pop-up banners, billboards, radio ads - businesses and their dwindling budgets are growing weary of fighting for market share. Potential buyers are tired of being interrupted in both their professional and personal lives and are finding methods to block those unwanted messages. The old way of "pushing your message out far and wide" - otherwise known as "Outbound Marketing" - is no longer able to hold its own. So how are companies today, especially those in the crowded middle market with limited marketing resources, able to engage prospects and win new customers? There's a simple answer - pull them in through "Inbound Marketing."
As opposed to pushing messages out about your company and its products and services, Inbound Marketing tactics pull potential customers towards your business by providing and distributing interesting, thought-provoking and value-added information and advice online. Now, instead of directly "selling" to prospects, your company delivers content that makes your audience more intelligent and better equipped to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. As a valuable resource to this pool of potential buyers, they will choose products and services when the timing is right. You have earned their trust and their business.
There are five key components to developing an effective Inbound Marketing programme, which are listed below:
According to HubSpot, an Internet marketing company that coined the phrase, "Inbound Marketing," your Web site has to remain the central hub of your inbound marketing. The company encourages professionals to think of their online marketing like a bicycle wheel. Each of the spokes represents a different online marketing tactic: SEO, content marketing, social media and so forth. All of those tactics connect back to your main Web site, the hub of your wheel. Keeping this in mind, step one is getting your Web site in tip-top shape.
Blogging is a highly-effective way of sharing your knowledge about a particular subject online. If your business has a fairly current Web site, a blog can typically be incorporated into the Web site structure without much problem. Another option is to launch a blog under a separate domain name using popular and inexpensive online software like WordPress, Blogger (owned by Google) or TypePad, and hyperlink it back to your main Web site.
As far as marketing priorities, design is nice but "content is king." Use your Blog to educate your customers and prospects. The more your audience trusts you and the information provided to them, the better your chances of earning their business. Please remember that a Blog is not a podium for your business to hard-sell its products or services. Also, keep in mind that, according to BlogPulse, there are 152 million Blogs. Your content needs to provide a unique perspective and be truly thought-provoking to gain a following.
There are many different aspects of SEO - on-page and off-page, organic and search. Without getting into the highly-technical and subjective approaches to SEO, we recommend focusing on keywords. According to "Social Marketing to the Business Customer," keywords are the Holy Grail of online marketing. Once you learn what words and phrases your customers use and where they use them, you can seek out and engage the people you want to reach. Check Google Analytics to see what keyword phrases people are using and keeping people on your Web site or Blog. Use Google Insights for Search to find out which phrases are searched for most. Armed with this information, include these keywords in your online content.
LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube are all popular platforms that facilitate building communities and sharing information through online networks. People and businesses "connect" with, "like," and "follow" others who they know, like and trust. They are interested in what you have to say and you have earned their permission to communicate. Business-related social media connections don't view your messages as an intrusion as long as you continue to provide valuable, non self-serving insight. Use these platforms to further the reach of your Blog posts and drive traffic back to the main hub - your Web site.
Inbound Marketing programmes are long-term investments. Unlike an ad which is viewed "once and done," your blog posts and keyword rich content will keep working for your business well into the future. If you build your programme slowly and do it right, your business can count on "pulling" in new customers!
Infographic content by Blue Glass. Full infographic can be found here.