Are you like most small and medium-sized businesses and just a little overwhelmed by all the talk about the internet, SEO (search engine optimization), content marketing, social media, analytics…the list goes on and on; in fact, it seems to be growing all the time, it is! You’re not alone. Most SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are focused on their core business activities, as they should be, and find it difficult to get involved and engaged with all the “new stuff” that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. The bad news is, it is growing by leaps and bounds, and if you’re ignoring it, you’re falling behind…your competition? The good news is that the web represents the greatest business development opportunity in many decades. The fact is that if your business is not taking advantage of what the internet has to offer concerning growing your business, you are missing out on this opportunity. More good news, a comprehensive inbound marketing program can transform your website into a lead generation machine and valuable corporate asset in a relatively short period of time. Let’s talk a little more about this.
First, it’s important to understand the difference between conventional outbound marketing approaches and the new inbound marketing option. Outbound marketing, sometimes thought of as interruption-based advertising, includes conventional media like TV, radio, print, cold call telemarketing, even trade shows to an extent, among others. These shotgun approach ad vehicles have performed very well for decades, but over the last 10 to 15 years, and particularly in the last 5, they have become less effective, costing more and more to achieve the same results as they used to. Very frustrating to a business when you want to achieve more with less, not the other way around! Why is this?
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There are two main reasons—first, the impact of technology on these older media. There was a time not too long ago when we all had televisions, and we watched our favorite programs when they were on…not anymore! We have digital video recorders, and so we record our program faves and watch them when WE want to…and we fast forward through the commercials! And what about our radio programming? Satellite radio, commercial-free, now delivers the specific programming and music that WE want to hear. Do you have a Caller ID? At work, at home, on your cell phone? This technology has really thwarted the ability of businesses to access the decision-makers they need to speak with so that they can “get the order.” What about your news and information sources? How many blogs or forums about your industry do you read now? As for news, a paper can’t keep up with the pace of the internet for the release of news stories; if you want timely news, it’s on the internet. More and more, we are put in control of the information and entertainment we access, and when we access it… commercial free. These new technologies allow us to control our information access points and shut off the advertising noise.
The second big factor is the internet. Oh ya, that internet thing... The web has changed the fundamental relationship between a buyer and a seller. Big statement. Do you agree? Think about it. In the “good ol’ days,” your prospects contacted you because they had questions about a problem they needed a solution for, and so began the steps of the sale, and you controlled the flow of information. Today, your prospect has the internet available and, at the touch of the fingers, literally, can find out most of the answers to the questions they have about whatever challenge it is they’re trying to resolve. They don’t need to contact a solution provider until they’ve short-listed the vendor possibilities… are you on the shortlist? Not if they haven’t been able to find the answers to THEIR questions in their research online! This is where inbound marketing comes into play.
So, how does inbound marketing differ? It’s a methodology that invites your target audience to visit and engage with your website in ways that mirror a real-world experience; it’s ‘permission’ based marketing. It marries or integrates SEO and analytics with content creation, social media, landing page development, and lead nurturing in a manner that you can replicate time and time again to get the results you’re looking for. The idea is to create the content that answers your prospects questions, offer them opportunities to engage further with you and thus become a leader, and then nurture that lead with further relevant information that supports the prospects buying cycle so that when they are ready to buy, you’re not just shortlisted; you’re the vendor of choice! Please understand me; inbound marketing requires work, but it’s not complicated work. In fact, for a lot of the SME sector that’s usually intensely passionate about what they do, it’s fun and exciting to open this door of opportunity fully.
Many organizations become revitalized as their business begins to grow again in the most cost-effective way they’ve ever experienced employing inbound marketing best practices. Your team is motivated by the measurable results they see daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual. Sales processes are automated and streamlined, saving your business time and money. Again, I caution you, inbound marketing is not an event; it’s a process, and so it requires time and effort, but if you want to transform your website and internet presence into a powerful business tool, it will be the best investment your company has ever made. Is your company ready for inbound marketing? I hope so!