You’ve probably heard the term Inbound Marketing lately.
Inbound refers to the idea of attracting customers to your brand without interrupting them.
Outbound marketing would be the opposite where you interrupt people as they go about their normal lives.
An example of an outbound marketing strategy would be banner ads on popular websites or video ads before popular videos.
Inbound marketing would be creating a popular eBook or guide for people to find via a search engine or through social media sharing.
Now, interrupt probably makes outbound marketing seem too harsh. Outbound is all about balancing how involved you are with people as they go about their lives. We’ve all “discovered” products and services thanks to commercials.
Outbound works, but inbound is proving to have strong merit and it’s becoming the choice of businesses today.
If you’re curious about inbound marketing we’ve put together some information on how you can attract customers to your small business. It requires your time, but you won’t have to spend much money.
It’s the perfect small business marketing strategy.
We’re going to start with blogging even with the obvious bias based on what we do at Ghost Blog Writers.
We believe blogging is a great way to attract customers to your company.
Blogging gives you access to audiences that use search engines and social media. You also gain access to extended audiences of people. For example, when someone reads a post and really likes it they will directly refer the post to someone they know through email or face-to-face discussion.
But search and social are the two big ways to attract customers to your business. You write a great piece of content – not an easy task – and that piece ranks well on the search engines. The search engine audience finds your content and comes to your site. The relationship begins.
If your content does well in social media people will want to share it with their audience on their social channels because it makes them look smart for sharing such a great piece of content.
The one note about blogging is that you’ll probably create many more regular posts and a few great ones. Blogging is about the entire collection of posts you create over the long term. That collection is a huge asset that will attract customers for the lifetime of the blog.
It’s much different than a paid ad where the customers only come in if you keep the money rolling.
2. Social Media
We recommend starting with a blogging strategy before starting with a social media-only strategy. The reason is that with a blog you own the content and you have some control over how to present it to your customers.
With social media you’re creating content for the social media site. They own it. They control the platform and you’re just there to benefit them.
The trade off is that you get access to the audience they’ve built and there is some real value in that.
I’ve seen small businesses put effort into creating content for social media sites like the ones listed below and it’s allowed them to attract customers to their brands. It’s time intensive and can cost a little money, but it’s a great way to practice inbound marketing.
I’m actually find that LinkedIn is a great social media outlet for Ghost Blog Writers. The site is full of professionals in the workforce and that includes small business owners and managers – the focus customers for GBW.
By connecting with these folks I find that sharing articles with them over time builds a trust and if they are in need of blogging services they’ll come to GBW because we’ve built that trusting relationship.
LinkedIn is the facilitator of the connection and the blog content shared on LinkedIn builds the relationship to the point of sale.
On Twitter you only get 140 characters to share with your followers. There are tons of people sharing content on Twitter whether it’s short videos, photos or short snippets of their lives. That’s original Twitter content and it works great. Live updates are especially appealing to people whether it’s a reporter tweeting live from a football game or someone tweeting a photo of a meteor touching down in Siberia.
But sharing content from sources like blogs is also popular on Twitter. The site allows you to build an audience based on the content you share. And with that audience you can build a trust and attract customers.
I have a friend that works for a very small, very blue collar business. His strategy to attract customers was to create product videos for the machines his company manufactures and put them on Twitter.
The videos certainly didn’t get as big as Gangnam Style, but they did pretty well. They did so well in fact that his customers found the videos on YouTube by searching for keywords. They watched the videos. They pondered the purchase. They did more research and eventually they made a purchase.
Businesses advertise on Facebook and it seems to work just okay.
What does seem to work well on Facebook is when someone looks to make a real connection. Facebook was built on real connections in the real world – the people you already know. It’s grown a little beyond that, but that is where the roots are.
If you approach Facebook like you do if you’re actually making a friend you can have success attracting customers in the long run.
You wouldn’t ask someone to purchase something from you if they knew nothing about you and where just being introduced would you?
Take time to build relationships with people you meet on Facebook. It’s weird and it takes time, but in the long run it can work.
Your best way is to use the connections you already have – current customers. Get them to follow your business page on Facebook. Earn their trust and get them to share things with the people they know.
It’s just like word of mouth marketing in the offline world, which we’ll talk about later.
I always like to mention forums when discussing social media. Forums were kind of the original social networks along with chatrooms.
There are forums for everything online. You can find niche forums and start answering questions and even asking questions. See what people need and give away your knowledge.
Earn their trust and they’ll come to you seeking out your products and services.
And if you can’t find a forum for your industry then you have a great opportunity to start one of your own – one that is sponsored by your company.
Partnerships seem to be one of the best ways for small businesses to attract customers.
A typical partnership would be connecting with another business to work on a guide or video. You create the content in tandem and promote it to the audiences of both brands thus benefiting boy companies.
Companies are really taking advantage of online media for partnerships. You’re seeing more co-branded videos, podcasts, blog posts and all kinds of content. It’s all a way to bring audiences together to increase exposure for each party involved.
Sponsorships are a little like advertisements, but it’s more about giving your time and your brand to something or someone that has an audience. It can cost you money or it could not cost you anything up front.
I think of how professional golfers make much of their income on sponsorships. When someone is watching Tiger Woods they see that he uses Nike golf equipment. It’s not really an interruption like a traditional advertisement. It’s probably a gray area, but people see Tiger using the equipment and doing it well and they purchase the equipment.
Tiger built an audience with the way he can play and he’s selling the right to access that audience.
Small businesses need to get more creative if they want to sponsor something to attract new customers especially for no money.
Charity events is one way you have sponsor something to gain access to an audience. You could work with a blogger or someone that has a podcast to provide some kind of swap in services.
Look for someone that has an audience and see if they need your product or service. Or you could work out an affiliate relationship.
Affiliate relationships are a form of partnerships, but they’re worth mentioning on their own.
An affiliate relationship is one where you pay others to sell your product or service. Amazon has built a huge affiliate relationship with thousands of website owners throughout the web.
Affiliate relationships have been around for a long time. Door-to-door salesmen and really anyone that works for a percentage of a sale is an affiliate.
The method really has come into its own, though, with the Internet. Sites like Amazon can really track where customers are coming from and provide attribution to the appropriate source.
Amazon gives out between 4 and 10% for products, but others give as much as 50% or more for a sale.
If you can work out an affiliate program for your business it can turn your biggest supporters into your best salespeople.
And the great thing is you don’t have to pay anything until the money comes in.
Final Note: Word Of Mouth
The biggest inbound marketing strategy of all is word of mouth referrals. Many small businesses and many large businesses are built on the strength of word of mouth.
Referrals are more about your actual product and service than any form of marketing. If you do a good job and occasionally nudge your current clients you should get strong referral and word of mouth business.
That’s why it’s not mentioned as a strategy above. It should be a given that you’re trying to create a good product and service.