Ryan's experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
Over the last decade or so, a consumer revolution has been taking place. In previous generations, information was in the hands of the salesman. And information is power. To make an educated buying decision, you had to find a salesman you trusted to give you the information required. This left consumers open for high-pressure sales tactics, pushing one product over the other regardless of value to the consumer.
Then, the internet came, as did content marketing and site reviews. Suddenly, consumers could read what other consumers thought about products they had purchased. Information on quality is readily available to any potential buyer, thus consumers have learned to bypass the salesman and get their information from the internet.
When a car buyer pulls onto the lot, more than likely they have the Kelly Blue Book app on their phone. They know the potential problems of the model they are looking at, and they know exactly how much it should cost. The same can be said across all industries and niches.
Consumers have won the revolution, and they are now in power. Companies who want to experience long-term success now must cater to this new consumerism or they will go elsewhere. If you do not have customers you do not have a business.
How to Know If Inbound Will Work
As a result of the momentous shift in the buying habits of modern consumers, there had to be an alteration in traditional marketing. With the price of conventional marketing increasing in price and effectiveness declining, companies had to make a decision.
This is why smart companies have traded the large budgets of traditional marketing for the benefit of a long-term inbound marketing strategy. The companies who do it well are benefiting immensely.
Inbound enables the impossible. The impossible is a small company having a reach that is larger than their geographical location. Inbound puts businesses both large and small, on the same marketing playing field.
We often get asked the question, “Will inbound really work for my business?”
It is my genuine opinion that inbound marketing will work for any business in any industry. Because at the core of inbound is connecting the needs of people with a viable solution. When you meet the needs of people, people will meet the needs of your business. But, your business could be so unique that inbound just wouldn't work for you. But if you're reading this article, it means you're trying to figure out if inbound is a good fit.
4 Factors of Inbound Marketing Success
1. How well do you know your customers?
Knowing the customers who are interested in your product is critical to being effective with inbound. The fundamentals of any inbound strategy start with detailed personas. It is the glue that will keep your content focused and together.
Also, knowing your customers will influence the type of content that you produce and help you in content creation. You may have the right product for the right people, but effectively reaching those people who need your product is the objective.
2. How do your customers educate themselves?
For a moment don't think as the CEO of your company but instead try to view your company through the lens of a potential customer. Let's face it, we live in an era where people devote more time on Google, Facebook, YouTube, and cell phones than actual face-to-face communication. So more likely than not your potential customers are going to the web to check out solutions to their problems.
Before starting their investigation on Google, they may not have even known your company or your competitors existed. They start their exploration by looking for a solution to their problem. And if your company is providing the solution to their problem, the opportunity to turn those visitors into solid leads, then into customers, increases exponentially.
For instance, if I'm broke, I won't search Google for "Money Instructional Video by Dave Ramsey." But I will search for things like this:
- How to get out of debt?
- Tips for making a budget.
- How do I control my spending?
My problem is, I’m broke. I need answers on how to control what money I do have to help make my situation better. By figuring out and understanding how people are looking for their needs to be met will become the catalyst for a strong marketing strategy.
3. Are you willing to be transparent and honest?
For centuries, companies have guarded their "secret sauce" for fear of their competitors. But, unless you are Coke or Pepsi, or maybe McDonalds, your competitors don't care. If you're going to adopt inbound as a marketing strategy to your company and be known as a loyal and honest business, that will require being honest and transparent with people. That means not overselling your company just to make a quick buck knowing it might not be what your customer actually needs. By overselling or withholding information that a potential customer really needs to know about your product you are hurting that customer by providing them a service or product they don't need. As a result, you have hurt yourself. You’ve ruined your credibility with them and everyone they know.
I’m confident you’re at least generally aware of the shady mechanics or untrustworthy plumbers that work in your city. Ever thought about it? Word spreads. Quickly. You don't want to be known as THAT business owner.
With that said, the content you create should be geared towards educating your customers. It should never be "salesy" or manipulative. It should help your customers make the decision that is most advantageous for THEM, not for you.
Trust us, this is not an area where you can afford to have even a hairline fracture because it can hurt your credibility and your reputation for years and even decades. Especially now with the ability to review on Google and Yelp, you might be surprised how one bad comment could jade someone else’s view of your company.
Honesty is always the best policy. Even if that means this time you lose their business. However, you’ll build trust and cause them to come back to you when your company suits their needs.
Here are some things smart companies are sharing with their customers:
- Accurate Pricing Information. (No “hidden” additives)
- Any Potential Problems to Expect
- Quality Information
- Competitor Recommendations (And no, that’s not a typo)
This will help in establishing trust with your potential customers by letting them know that you're more interested in them, in doing so, you give them every opportunity to find a solution to their problems. If you're not willing to share something with your customers because you're worried they may go somewhere else, please, go reread this section because you might've missed it. Anything you hold back is information you are keeping from your customers.
Your website should be 100% focused on your customers, not your competitors, not your coworkers, and not others in your industry.
Also, by showing other competitors you're showing trust in the quality of your own product as well.
4. Are you ready to commit to a new way of marketing?
We've seen a lot of companies get excited about the potential of inbound marketing, only to get burned out on the work it requires. They end up dropping it and going back to business as usual.
Rome wasn't built in a day, or The Great Pyramids, or the Eiffel Tower. Inbound marketing takes investment and time. We’ve already explained how traditional marketing isn't producing the ROI it used to and is costing companies more money than ever imaginable. Inbound marketing isn’t a get rich quick scheme for your business. It is truly is an investment. You're investing in the lives of potential customers and in doing so your business will grow.
Just like any investment it takes time. Millionaires do not become millionaires by investing for one month, but years. They worked their whole lives for wealth and the reward it pays is handsome. So, dive into the deep end. Don't stay in the shallow waters of traditional marketing. Go where the people are.
Please realize, you're not adopting this blogging, emailing, and content marketing push for a campaign or two. It's the new way you do business for the next decade. If you're ready to make that shift, your customers will thank you for it.
If, while concluding this article, you realized what was presented doesn't match the values and goals for your company, inbound is not a good fit for you. If you’re interested in retaining the same market reach you’ve always had, don’t waste your time. If you’re not going to consistently produce content that will add value to your customers, stop before you start. If you’re not willing to be honest and transparent with consumers (you might need professional counseling), inbound won’t work for you.
In fact, I've changed my mind. There are companies that inbound won't work for - those who aren't ready to adopt the inbound marketing philosophy of business. Those who are more concerned with their company than their customers will never fully realize the potential of inbound marketing.
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