There are two parts to running a successful business.
The first is the one entrepreneurs initially spend the most time thinking about; it’s the running of the actual business (ie. taking care of accounts payable, manufacturing products and managing staff). The second is the one entrepreneurs usually spend the most time avoiding – and that is marketing.
Put simply, if you don’t have customers you don’t have a business. Marketing is how you let prospects know you exist to begin with. But how to market your business? That’s another story!
Marketing Your Business in 2016
Until recently, companies of all sizes have invested heavily in what experts call “outbound marketing.” That is, marketing being pushed out into the periphery of prospects, often through paid means.
Think advertising through television, radio and print; email blasts to purchased lists; internal cold calling and trade show appearances. While some online marketing agencies would have you believe outbound marketing is dead, that’s simply not the case – outbound efforts can be extremely effective when paired with a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign.
With that said, it IS time to prioritize inbound! Here are our 5 marketing tips for 2016 to get you started:
Embrace Content Marketing
Content marketing and inbound marketing are essentially one in the same – developing relationships with prospects over time by answering their questions through quality content.
Online content can take many forms: White papers, blog articles, infographics and social posts are just some examples. According to the Content Marketing Institute, a whopping 80 percent of decision-makers prefer to get company information through a series of articles, compared to an ad. If that’s the case, why has it taken so many companies this long to get serious about allocating a content marketing budget?
Our best guess is that the “trial and error” element can be intimidating. Put simply, your content is only as effective as how well you know your prospects. As a general rule of thumb, your content should either be one or some combination of informational, educational or entertaining. An experienced content strategist can take you through the process of planning unique materials that meet prospects at each stage of the Buyer's Journey.
Creatively Use Video
People like watching video – plain and simple. The reason being? It most vividly engages the senses when compared to other content mediums.
According to The Guardian, video will soon account for 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic. If you’re wondering who exactly is watching all these videos, that would mostly be Millennials; almost three-quarters of the group admit to never being without their phones. What are they doing on their phones? Watching videos! Perhaps, more than any other generation, Millennials prioritize being entertained.
And why wouldn’t they? A large portion of 18-to-34-year-olds grew up with computers and other electronic devices. While it’s true, some businesses are more conducive than others to video strategy (ie. restaurants, real estate agencies, product-based companies), everyone can find a way to use video. Website welcome pages, consultation Q&As, office space introductions – the sky's the limit.
Be Mobile Friendly
Again, people are doing a lot on their phones these days: Checking email, shopping for clothes and yes, researching businesses like yours. Which is why it’s more important than ever to make sure your content materials are mobile friendly.
According to a recent Google report, 61 percent of customers will LEAVE a site if it’s not mobile friendly. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How does our Website look on mobile devices?
- Are our emails optimized for reading across all devices?
- How can we take advantage of mobile marketing features (ie. push notifications, check-ins)?
Successfully address just one of these questions, and you’ll be ahead of 90 percent of the competition
Prioritize Online Reviews
Although much has changed in the way we physically make purchase decisions, very little has changed in the way we mentally make purchases. Put simply, word of mouth still matters. A recommendation from a family member, friend, or even an acquaintance, carries more clout than lines recited by anonymous actors on television. So, how does such “social proof” translate online?
Customer reviews! Surprisingly, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Thus, you would be wise to make leaving online reviews for your business as easy as possible. Besides listing your company on local search directories, consider including a review section (or testimonials) on your Website.
The caveat? Customers are more likely to comment on bad experiences than good ones. Commit to monitoring your review sites regularly and reaching out to any dissatisfied customers as soon as possible. In some cases, you may even be able to get negative reviews retracted.
Employ Well-Done Design
This is especially important if you’re in a service-based industry. In general, products have long been easier to sell thanks to their obvious visibility.
It’s a known fact that prospects imagine themselves interacting with products and services before purchase. Think about it: You're at the grocery store shopping for ingredients to grill hamburgers. You didn’t bring a list. So, you’re going off memory and visual cues.
As your roll past the mayonnaise aisle, you notice a nicely designed “new” chipotle-mayo. “Hmm, that looks good,” you think. You begin to imagine what it would taste like on your burger… And that will be $4.95 please!
If you run a service-based business, you’ll want to invoke that same sensory experience with good design: Source high-quality images for your Website and blog articles, choose attractive, legible typography and package your services like products.
Consistency Long-Term is Key
As you know, marketing is an ongoing endeavor. None of these tips need be applied overnight. Decide which one would make the biggest difference to YOUR business now and get started. We hope you've enjoyed our 5 tips for marketing your business in 2016.