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So What’s The Best Small Business Marketing Method For Today’s Digital Environment?

Almost everyone knows (but it is possible you’re hearing this now for the first time) that since 2006 inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for small businesses looking to grow leads, and convert customers via online methods.  By small I’m not just referring to the mom and pop stores.  I typically consider any company doing under $10 million annually to be in the small business category.

When I started my first agency 14 years ago we focused on old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads.  But today’s inbound marketing techniques focus on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be.

Inbound marketing is effective because it quickly allows your small business to align the content you publish with your customer’s interests.  The byproduct of aligned content is organic inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.

online-marketing-strategy

Understand the Graph Above

Along the top are the four actions (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight) that all of your marketing must perform in order to obtain visitors, leads, and customers. Now look along the bottom under each of the four areas.  You’ll see the tools you need to use these actions. (Note the tools are listed under the action where they first come into play, but that’s not the only place they’re applicable! Several tools, like email, can be essential in several stages of the methodology.)

Attract

Now you can’t just go all willy-nilly and attract any old type traffic to your website.  You’ve got to work hard to draw the right type of traffic.  What you want are people who are most likely to become leads, and, ultimately, happy customers…right? So who are the “right” people?

Before you can attract the “right” type of traffic you first need to determine what your ideal customer looks like. To do this you need to work on building buyer personas.

Put simply a buyer persona is a broad picture of what your customers are really like, inside and out. Personas encompass the goals, challenges, pain points, common objections to products and services, as well as personal and demographic information shared among all members of that particular customer type. Your personas are the people around whom your whole business is built.

Persona development is particularly important to the small business because without it you’ll attract traffic to your website that you either won’t be able to close or just won’t want (been there done that).

Here’s a list of very important tools you’ll use to attract the right users to your site:

  • Blogging– Inbound marketing starts with blogging. Frequent and regular blogging is the single best way to attract new visitors to your website. In order to get found by the right prospective customers, you must create educational content that speaks to them and answers their questions.  Short on blogging ideas?
  • Social Media– You must share remarkable content and valuable information on the social web, engage with your prospects, and put a human face on your brand. Interact on the networks where your ideal buyers spend their time.  Your ideal buyers might not be on Twitter so you don’t have to be there.  If they are on Linkedin then spend your social media wheels there.
  • SEO– Your customers begin their buying process online, usually by using a search engine to find something they have questions about. So you need to make sure you’re appearing prominently when they search. To get there, you need to carefully, analytically pick keywords, optimize your pages, create content, and build links around the terms your ideal buyers are searching for.  Google Trends is an excellent tool to help determine the actual terms and phrases people are using to find your industry’s products and services.
  • Pages– It won’t happen overnight but you can optimize your website to appeal to and speak with your ideal buyers. Slowly transform your website into a beacon of helpful content to entice the right strangers to visit your pages.

Convert

Once you’ve got visitors to your site, the next step is to convert those visitors into leads by gathering their contact information. At the very least, you’ll need their email addresses. Contact information is the most valuable currency there is to the online marketer. In order for your visitors to offer up that currency willingly, you need to offer them something in return. That “payment” comes in the form of content, like ebooks, whitepapers, or tip sheets — whatever information would be interesting and valuable to each of your personas.

Some of the most important tools in converting visitors to leads include:

  • Calls-to-Action– buttons or links that encourage your visitors to take action, like “Download a Whitepaper” or “Attend a Webinar.” If you don’t have enough calls-to-action or your calls-to-action aren’t enticing enough, you won’t generate any leads.
  • Landing Pages– When a website visitor clicks on a call-to-action, they should then be sent to a landing page. A landing page is where the offer in the call-to-action is fulfilled, and where the prospect submits information that your sales team can use to begin a conversation with them. When website visitors fill out forms on landing pages, they typically become leads.
  • Forms– In order for visitors to become leads, they must fill out a form and submit their information. Optimize your form to make this step of the conversion process as easy as possible.
  • Contacts– Keep track of the leads you’re converting in a centralized marketing database. Having all your data in one place helps you make sense out of every interaction you’ve had with your contacts — be it through email, a landing page, social media, or otherwise — and how to optimize your future interactions to more effectively attract, convert, close, and delight your buyer personas.

Close

You’re on the right track. You’ve attracted the right visitors and converted the right leads, but now you need to transform those leads into customers. How can you most effectively accomplish this feat? Certain marketing tools can be used at this stage to make sure you’re closing the right leads at the right times.

Closing tools include:

  • Lead Scoring- You’ve got contacts in your system, but how do you know which ones are ready to speak to your sales team? Using a numerical representation of the sales-readiness of a lead takes the guesswork out of the process.
  • Email- What do you do if a visitor clicks on your call to action, fills out a landing page, or downloads your whitepaper, but still isn’t ready to become a customer? A series of emails focused on useful, relevant content can build trust with a prospect and help them become more ready to buy.  Do you know the 6 types of emails you can send?
  • Marketing Automation- This process involves creating email marketing and lead nurturing tailored to the needs and lifecycle stage of each lead. For example, if a visitor downloaded a whitepaper on a certain topic from you in the past, you might want to send that lead a series of related emails. But if they follow you on Twitter and visited certain pages on your website, you might want to change the messaging to reflect those different interests.
  • Closed-loop Reporting- How do you know which marketing efforts are bringing in the best leads? Is your sales team effectively closing those best leads into customers? It’s possible to intergrate your CRM tools with marketing automation software to analyze just how well your marketing and sales teams are playing together.

Delight

Your goal as an Inbound marketer is to provide remarkable content to all of your visitors regardless of their life cycle stage…whether they be visitors, leads, or existing customers. Keep in mind that just because someone has already become your customer you shouldn’t forget about them. Inbound marketers continue to engage with, delight, and (hopefully) upsell their current customer base into happy promoters of the companies and products they love.  Also happy existing customers are an excellent resource for new leads.  You can use inbound methods to help your existing clients refer you to other companies for potential new business.

Tools used to delight customers include:

  • Smart Calls-to-Action- These present different users with offers that change based on buyer persona and lifecycle stage.
  • Social Media- Using various social platforms gives you the opportunity to provide real-time customer service.
  • Email and Marketing Automation- Providing your existing customers with remarkable content can help them achieve their own goals, as well as introduce new products and features that might be of interest to them.

The Inbound Methodology

The new Inbound Methodology covers each and every step taken, tool used, and lifecycle stage traveled through on the road from stranger to customer. It empowers marketers to attract visitors, convert leads, close customers, and delight promoters. The new methodology acknowledges that inbound marketing doesn’t just happen, you do it. And you do it using tools and applications that help you create and deliver content that will appeal to precisely the right people (your buyer personas) in the right places (channels) at just the right times (lifecycle stages).