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StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article

What Is Inbound Marketing, and Why Is Everyone Doing It?

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales ArticleFinding new customers is one of the primary challenges facing businesses. While many businesses rely on traditional outbound marketing strategies to find new leads, this can be costly and even ineffective. For most businesses, paid advertising and cold calling alone are no longer enough to attract customers. Consumer expectations have changed with the advent of the Internet, and many will need a better reason than a catchy jingle or a slick logo to become your customer.

Inbound marketing has emerged as an attractive complement to traditional advertising strategies. Whereas outbound marketing requires your business to cast a wide net to catch a few good leads, with an inbound strategy, you can lure potential customers who are already actively searching for the services you offer. This can increase the quality of your leads, lowering the customer acquisition cost and increasing the ROI of your marketing efforts.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategy in which a business creates high-quality content to attract potential customers and to build its brand. It is a holistic online marketing strategy that nurtures leads at every stage of the “buyer’s journey,” which models the decisions process a buyer persona goes through before making a purchase.

During the Awareness stage, the prospect tries to find out information about a problem they are experiencing. Next comes the Consideration stage, when they begin thinking about possible solutions. By the time the prospect has reached the Decision stage, they are interested in buying a specific product or service, and want to learn more about it.

With an inbound strategy, you can position your website as an attractive destination with useful information that can help potential customers make a purchase decision. The self-selection process this strategy implies means that potential leads are likely to be of relatively high-quality and receptive to your efforts to nurture them into customers. With an effective inbound marketing strategy, you can expand your market and turn new customers into dedicated promoters of your brand.

1. Defining Your Target Audience

Your marketing efforts should be tailored to your business’s buyer persona. This is a research-based model of your typical customer, which may include their information about their socioeconomic status, psychology, and consumption patterns.

To identify your buyer personas, try to find trends in your customer’s careers, buying habits, or the way they found your business. Interview a wide range of customers, including those who were satisfied and dissatisfied with your product. You gain further insight about your company by interviewing current leads, referrals they may have, and people who don’t know about your company.

2. Attracting New Visitors

Once you have your buyer personas, you’ll be able to create content which addresses their pain points and educates them about relevant subject matter. Blogging is one of the best ways to accomplish this, and the more high-quality content you create, the more authority you can have with potential customers.

Use search-engine optimization techniques to make it easy for prospects to find your content. You can promote your blog posts on social media, which can bring in more prospects as they are shared. The more you blog, the more important you can be to your buyer personas, and the more likely they will be to buy your products or services in the future.

3. Converting Visitors to Leads

Once your content starts bringing in visitors, it’s important to collect their contact information to convert them to leads.

An effective way to do this is through relevant content offers and opt-ins. Visitors can gain access to these once they fill out a form that includes their e-mail, phone number, social media account, or any other way you might want to contact them. Once you’re in touch, you can maintain their interest with further content offers and even start a dialogue.

4. Automated Nurturing

Email marketing is important for staying top of mind with your prospects. Once you have their contact information, you can provide them with content and communications that nurture them along the buyer’s journey. This makes it easy for you to communicate with them, and to make offers which appeal to them, such as a webinar or a teleconference.

By keeping track of what other offers they sign up for, you’ll know which content to offer in order to convert them from a lead into a customer.

5. Delighting Customers

Inbound marketing allows you to turn your customers into brand evangelists. You can keep their interest after they have made their purchase by providing them with a steady stream of useful content which addresses their current needs and builds off your previous work. Ultimately, by keeping former customers engaged with your business, you can increase the ROI of your marketing efforts and make it more likely that they will return as a customer. They may even refer others to your business.

Inbound marketing allows you to build your company while advertising it. The content and relationships you create can provide a steady stream of revenue. There’s no better way to use today’s technology to build a strong brand and a loyal customer base.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article

ShaDrena Simon in an inbound marketing expert and digital strategist at Yokel Local, an inbound marketing agency that helps businesses grow with confidence.

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article

The Marketing Strategy: What You REALLY Need To Know

Your business thrives on how effective its marketing strategy is. Marketing is a concept that can almost consume a business that hasn’t got its strategy in order. Most businesses place a vast proportion of their budget towards marketing and its various sub-categories. A lot of small businesses don’t have this luxury. So, if you are a small business, are there any tricks that the bigger companies use that can be implemented without having to squirrel away a third of the year’s budget?

Think Of The Image And The Brand

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

With any advertising campaign, the talk is generally geared towards two things, the image and the brand. The image is what you are presenting to the world via signs, symbols, and text. The brand is, in essence, the personality. There is a very subtle difference in the two words, but important enough for you to need to differentiate. Communication is how you get your business identity and image out there, which is why you need to be aware of semiotics.

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. Imagery is the image: text, signs, and symbols. This also includes language, gestures, clothing, and the list goes on. In terms of your marketing approach, you need to take into account how you are communicating your business brand via your imagery. This is something where a lot of small businesses fall into murky waters because they either don’t invest the time or finances into their imagery. You can smell a primitive company from a mile off because their images are not mature and, more importantly, do not sync well into their business brand. The two sides to semiotics are the signifier, which is the material presenting the image: an object, words, a picture, etc. The other side is the signified, and this the meaning interpreted by the target, which is your consumer or recipient of the image/ad/billboard/communication. Going for the right message in your ad campaign will communicate your business brand as it was intended. Now, all this may sound complex, but every marketing campaign thrives on the undercurrent of semiotics, it just isn’t communicated in these terms.

The next approach to your marketing strategy is to work on the brand. The image is part of the brand, and the brand is part of the company.  To work on what your company “is” you need to get to the crux of what your company stands for i.e. the ethos or mentality behind the brand. Much like the actor who needs to “get into character” to understand what the character wants, which drives the actions of the story; you need to understand your needs as a company. Ask yourself, why you are selling these products? What are these products communicating to people about your business? By aligning product with business image, this is how you start to get a clearer idea of your target market, which then links into your marketing plan. The image and the brand are two important facets of your marketing that you cannot afford to cut down on.

How Do You Control This Image?

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article
Photo courtesy of Pexels

Understanding your identity is the first part of controlling the image you put out there. It’s the equivalent to the writer finding their voice. The creative similes are being used because it is the essence of being as creative as you possibly can that will get you ahead in the game. Controlling your image is something that you need to do. If you are a small business, taking the time to go over the image before you put it on your website, or place it on a billboard is not normally a luxury you can make time for. But it is integral to how you communicate yourself in the wider public sphere. You need to vet the image and understand it, using semiotics as a yardstick so you can make sure the image you need to communicate is the correct one, and is not open for misinterpretation.

There are ways to cultivate a holistic view of your business, and that is dependent on the products that you put out there. Not just the actual products you are peddling, but the supplementary products that every business uses now, which is done typically via the internet. These can include podcasts, smartphone apps, webisodes, YouTube clips, and promotional gifts, which is a cute little way to promote your company. The Dynamic Gift website home page has a range of promotional gifts and display items that can put your business logo on things like keyrings, marquees, and lanyards. These types of companies are especially useful in trade show environments when you need to stand out or give your company a bit more personality.

It is tempting to go for every avenue so you can hedge your bets, but it is the corporate equivalent of spreading yourself thin. Much like the ad campaigns where you are unsure of the target market to gear yourself towards, the key is to nominate two or three areas where you can maintain immense focus. By going for every area and giving 25% dedication to each one is obviously not as effective as giving 100% on two or three. Each advertising method has its own benefits. For example, a podcast is a format for slow burners and dedicated listeners, ideal for a business that has a very limited range of products. But it is a subtle game to play, and by controlling your image at every turn, not only is it more attainable by only doing it through a few channels, it makes your job as its leader much easier.

The brand, image, and method of communicating the business are all integral pieces to your marketing campaign. The moment you understand what your “voice” is as a business, the other aspects will start to fall into place, and the building blocks that you have been working towards as a small company will finally begin to materialize and make sense. This is a methodical and time-consuming process, but it is one that is completely essential to building up your customer base through marketing.

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article

Revealed: The Ultimate Brand Strategy

Coming up with a good brand strategy can sometimes feel impossible for small business owners. If you’ve never done it before, how will you know if you’re on the right path? In this piece, we will look at the framework of the ultimate brand strategy. If you follow the guidelines set out for you, then your business will be on the right path, and you will soon see your brand grow.

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article
Photo courtesy of NYPhotographic.com via The Blue Diamond Gallery

Don’t Stray Off Track

A problem many businesses have is they’re inconsistent with their branding efforts. They’ll do things that don’t really relate to their business and have no purpose at all. There’s no point doing something if it doesn’t aid your brand and help it in some way or another. You must remain on track and keep doing things that align with your company image and promote your brand the right way.

A good example of a brand straying off track will revolve around their social media output. Social media content plays such a huge role in defining and reinforcing your brand. There are countless companies that might post content that doesn’t really fit their brand image, they just do it because the content is popular on social media. For example, let’s say a specific event is happening and there are lots of memes floating around social media and getting high engagements. If your company is branded as very modern and fun, with a history of posting funny memes to build your brand, then posting a new meme will make sense. It reinforces your image and serves a positive purpose. On the flip side, if you’ve never posted a meme before and your business isn’t built around being funny, then it won’t help you in any way. It will confuse consumers, as they’ll have though your business was branded in one way, and now you’re throwing a huge curveball.

Before you post any content or create any adverts, ensure they align with your brand image. If they don’t, you’ll create consumer confusion and end up with a brand that’s hard for anyone to identify with. So, take extra care and ensure you never stray off track.

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article
Photo courtesy of Joe The Goat Farmer via flickr

Make Sure Your Employees Are Involved

The key to a great brand strategy is to ensure your employees are involved as much as they possibly can be. Why? Because with their help you can grow your brand and make your strategy more effective than ever before. They have to represent your brand and understand how they should communicate with your customers and other consumers.

As an example, let’s say you’ve worked hard to build a very professional and serious brand. In which case, you’d want your social media team to respond professionally to any interactions with consumers, to help build keep up with your brand image. Likewise, imagine you’ve built a brand that’s meant to be fun and very laid back. Now, if a customer called your service line or walked into your office/store, they’d expect to be met with relaxed and friendly staff. So, if your employees are all moody and uptight, then it doesn’t represent your specific brand image. Teach your staff the importance of following brand values and ensure they know what your brand is about. This is something you should think about when hiring people, make sure they know the image your company is creating, and that they’re on board with it.

You can also use your staff as a way to promote your brand. If you give them branded clothing or uniforms, then they’ll wear it to and from work. As such, other people will see them in your branded gear, and your brand will grow. You can also create branded products like these Dynamic Gift USBs and give them to your employees. Now, say they’re in a coffee shop doing some work on a laptop, they’ll have your branded USB sticking out of their computer. Again, it helps to broadcast your brand and increase brand recognition. Don’t underestimate the power of your employees!

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Find a Way to Connect with Your Customers

A key part of a great brand strategy if figuring out how to connect with your customers on a deeper level. The best brands in the business will really connect with their target customer base, and it makes them feel more connected to the brand. Forging a deep emotional connection can help influence a consumer’s choice when looking for different products/services on the market. It makes them feel like they should choose you because there’s a connection there.

Ultimately, you have to make your customers feel like they belong. Make them feel like your business is just like them, and all the other customers are similar to them too. What this does is create a community around your brand. It also helps you build a loyal customer base! One idea that’s very popular is to create forums for your business. Give your customers a place to get together and chat about your products or whatever else they want. This helps them connect with you and each other.

This is arguably the hardest step in the branding process, but also one of the most effective. If you get your customers relating to you on an emotional level, then they’ll be in your back pocket for life. You’ll be their ‘go to’ brand if they ever need to buy a product/service that you offer. This is why it’s so important you have a clearly defined target market before you begin your brand strategy. You must define who your business is aimed at, or you’ll never be able to connect with them emotionally.

Branding is a huge part of every company’s marketing strategy. You must create a brand that people can relate to, and then focus on moving this brand forward and growing it. The key things to think about are consistency, employee involvement, and connecting with your customers. If you consider all of the information in this guide, then your brand strategy will be moving in the right direction.

Molly Jacobson

Three Reasons Why Your Marketing Strategy Is Failing

It can feel pretty defeating when you’ve put your oh-so-valuable time and energy into planning and executing a marketing plan, only to barely see a difference in your bottom line. It makes you want to throw in the towel and give up on this seemingly useless time-sucking endeavor that every business publication keeps promising is your silver bullet. Well, guess what – you’re not alone.

According to a report by SBI Research, it’s estimated that as many as 71% of marketers are falling short of their revenue targets by adopting the wrong marketing strategies. That’s right, not only are you not alone, but you’re in the majority! So, let’s put our past marketing grievances aside for a moment and determine what went wrong.


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About the Author

Molly JacobsonMolly Jacobson is the owner and founder of Jacobson Strategy, empowering small businesses to grow their brands with the strategy, support and expertise of online marketing coaching. For more information, visit www.jacobsonstrategy.com.