It’s hard being a small business today. It takes commitment and continual effort to keep existing customers happy and, at the same time, to chase new prospects. The latter (chasing prospects) can be a mental, emotional, and financial drain on companies fighting for survival in today’s shifting, ultra-competitive economy. It seems like your business is in a place that seems impossible to grow beyond. You feel stuck in the thick mud of predictability and “same-ness.” It’s likely that every thing you’ve tried in the past that’s worked—cold calls, batch emails, word-of-mouth, outbound lead generation, etc.—has run its course. You have milked everything humanly possible out of your process and your people. And things are drying up—there’s no more paste to be squeezed out of the tube.
You need a better way. You need a new, effective lead generation tool that is both time-efficient and cost-effective. You need prospects and potential customers coming to you, as opposed to you chasing (er, stalking?) them.
You need an Inbound Marketing Plan.
Inbound Marketing is the essence of simplicity, in theory. It is the discipline of enticing customers to seek you out by providing them with information and content that they need and crave. This is the opposite, of course, to the old Outbound Marketing method: buying ads, buying phone lists, buying email databases, and essentially hoping and praying that people will give you the time of day. It’s absolute futility—and it depletes your businesses resources of time and money. Fret not, Inbound Marketing can right the ship. All you need to do is follow a few basic principles.
Steps To Building An Effective Inbound Marketing Plan:
Step 1: Know your customer base intimately.
This sounds obvious but customers change. Their needs change. How they receive information changes. Although no one knows you business better than you—what you offer, what you do well, what makes you unique—your business offering is only relevant insofar as it speaks to real customer needs. What you have to offer must find its counterpart in the customer’s mind. It must resonate.
Step 2: Give the people what they want—how they want it.
This presupposes Step 1 of course. It’s one thing to know your business and your customer. It is another thing altogether to hit them up with the right message, at the right time, in the right way. Customers have more choices than ever before—not the least of which is how they receive information. Technology has not only changed the game, it is evolving rapidly. It is critical that businesses implement a multi-channel Content Marketing plan that gets customers the information they want using the optimal Interactive Multi Media vehicle or Social Media channel.
Step 3: Your Content Marketing Plan needs to be ongoing.
Once you start, you can’t stop. It’s as simple as that. Your business needs to be hard-core addicted to pushing out new, relevant, authentic information to your customers on a daily basis—that means regular Blogs, Infographics, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn news, Video snippets, white papers, and so on and so on. And most importantly, all these information streams should lead back to your website or a specific landing page. You want customers to see you as an industry thought leader—possessing “stuff” they need—so that they will come to you.
Step 4: Fortify trust by keeping customers happy.
Inbound Marketing hinges on your ability to give people what they want. This is the tasty worm that will lure qualified prospects to you—prospects with a high probability of converting to sales. No question this is the trickiest part of the equation, getting them to bite. Once you have them on the hook however, you don’t want to let them off. Continue to reinforce your message through critical touch points—especially after they are a customer. Demonstrate that you aren’t simply in it for the sale, that your success is intimately bound with theirs. Reach out to them consistently, with relevant industry news and tips—news that is easy for them to share via Social Media. This will add a viral component to your Content Marketing strategy that is pure gold—with new customers, as well as Google.
The Inbound Marketing Payoff:
If you follow these 4 cost-effective steps, and deliver “the goods” at each stage, then you will not only have a steady stream of qualified leads and new customers—you will also turn these customers into advocates that can help you spread your “gospel,” and take your business to the next level. You will be less concerned about how you are going to capture new customers—and more focused on how to delight them and keep them coming back for more.