Why Small Businesses Should Consider Inbound Marketing in 2014
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
The New Year is a time when many small business owners think about innovative ways to promote their businesses. For entrepreneurs who want to reach potential buyers directly, inbound marketing should be a top priority in 2014.
Today’s consumers have tremendous power, thanks to the Internet. With a few keystrokes, people can research products, read reviews, comparison shop and make educated decisions without ever meeting a sales rep or setting foot in a store. People no longer want to be “sold to” and have little patience for intrusive, one-way advertising that doesn’t feel authentic.
“Customers want to know a brand is trustworthy,” says Kristy Totin, content marketing manager at Teknicks, a leading online marketing agency based in New Jersey. “They gravitate to brands that make their lives easier and have little to no tolerance for bad user experiences.”
An estimated 60% of businesses now employ inbound as part of their overall marketing strategies and that trend is expected to dominate the SEO world throughout 2014. So, if you’re still focused on the “hard sell,” it’s time you ditched your current marketing plan and consider inbound marketing.
What is inbound marketing? Simply put, inbound marketing is about providing valuable content to consumers through blogs, podcasts, video, E-books, email newsletters, white papers, webinars, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing.
“Inbound puts the customer at the center and aligns content with the buying cycle to deliver information at every stage,” says Totin.
Consumers are tuning in to content. Seventy percent of consumers admit they would rather get to know a brand through articles instead of ads, and 68% said they had spent time reading content from a brand they were interested in, according to the Content Marketing Association.
“Customers aren’t responding to traditional advertising. Inbound marketing has created a shift,” says Melinda Emerson, a leading U.S. small business expert known as the SmallBizLady. “It’s a war for customers out here. The way to beat out the big guys is to be a valuable resource to your customers. Inbound marketing is about attracting your clients to you, instead of cold calling.”
Emerson would know. She has successfully used inbound marketing to boost her business and online reputation. As an author, speaker, entrepreneur and small business coach based in Philadelphia, Pa, Emerson reaches 1.5 million small business owners weekly through her blog, weekly smallbizchat on Twitter, and her weekly New York Times column.
In contrast, many small business owners already are using inbound marketing strategies without knowing it, but companies that test their strategies are 75% more likely to show ROI from inbound marketing, according to HubSpot, an inbound marketing software platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.
Still need more convincing? Well, consider this: It’s estimated that on the whole, inbound marketing brings in 54% more leads than outbound or traditional marketing.
Nevertheless, before you jump on the inbound marketing bandwagon, here are some ideas you should consider to help get you moving in the right direction:
Start with strategic planning
“Analyze your current marketing strategy and develop a well-thought-out road map as the foundation for your inbound marketing strategy,” says Totin. “Know your customers inside and out and assemble a plan to attract prospects with quality content.”
Plan your content strategy
“Think about how you will get new content in front of people and determine the best use of your time whether that’s writing articles, creating E-books or white papers or creating podcasts interviews,” says Emerson.
“Determine who are your customers and how you want your customers to be communicated to,” she said. “It’s about listening to where your best target customers are spending time online. You want to position yourself as a source of quality content.”
Create an editorial calendar
“Think through what benefits your company could offer to meet the needs of your target market,” Totin said.
Set a budget for content creation
Determine which online outlets are best for promoting your products – including free and fee-based online marketing platforms – and make sure these outlets can be used without breaking the bank.
A final piece of advice: Start small.
“You don’t need to take on a huge project straight from the get-go, but you can instead wade in and grow your inbound efforts when the results show it’s worth it,” said Totin.