The 8 Fundamentals for a Successful Inbound-Marketing Strategy
Nobody can know everything, but as an entrepreneur, you need to know the basics.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
An entrepreneur's responsibilities reach far and wide. You wear a number of hats on a day-to-day basis, none more important than marketing. To succeed, you must learn the strategies and practices that work best in 2014.
A deep understanding of inbound marketing best practices is vital to the growth and success of your business. No matter how busy you are, you simply can't ignore the importance of marketing your brand effectively. Take a look at the eight most important things every entrepreneur needs to know about inbound marketing.
1. The traditional marketing playbook is broken. Almost everyone - 91 percent, to be precise - has unsubscribed from email lists. Two-out-of-three people (68 percent) who record TV content do so to skip advertisements (Motorola, December 2012) and, according to DoubleClick, the average click-through rate on display ads is only 0.2 percent.
According to Brian Halligan, the CEO of Hubspot and author of the book Inbound Marketing: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online, the way modern consumers shop and make purchases has changed dramatically, and as such, businesses must adapt in order to survive.
In an interview, Halligan said, "The Internet has fundamentally changed how we live our lives, and as consumers, we now have more options than ever to tune out marketing that is annoying. Most entrepreneurs I know understand that based on their own experience, but when it comes to marketing their business, they default to the traditional marketing playbook because it's easy or because it's what everyone has always done for years. That's a huge mistake."
According to Halligan, you can no longer rent your way to consumer attention, you need to earn it. Instead of dreaming up new ways to interrupt your way into your prospects' lives, invest in ways to engage them meaningfully with an inbound experience.
"Dharmesh (Shah) and I wrote the inbound marketing book to give entrepreneurs actionable advice to attract, engage and delight their prospects, customers and leads," Halligan explained. "Inbound marketing focuses on the width of your brain, not the width of your wallet, and entrepreneurs have more remarkable ideas than anyone I know."
2. Your content must be remarkable enough to break through the clutter. Think about how many channels you have on your television, and how many websites and social media channels compete for your attention each day. The same is true for your customers. It's not enough to just produce content. Your content must educate, inspire or entertain your audience.
Don't talk about your brand non-stop or try to sell people too early or often in your content. Instead, try to spark interesting dialogue and discussion with your content. Doing so will pay off with attention and engagement.
3. Think of your website as a hub, not a megaphone. Far too many businesses think about their websites as broadcast channels for addressing a large group of people. Your website functions best when its content and design are built with a human touch. Instead of writing copy to impress your competitors, create copy and experiences an individual customer will love.
Don't scream through a megaphone at your customers. Design the entire end-to-end experience with individual humans in mind. Conversation trumps a broadcast message every time. Design your web experience accordingly.
4. Inbound includes content and code. Many entrepreneurs mistake massive volumes of content for an inbound strategy, forgetting that shipping code is indispensable as well. Specifically, free tools are powerful in converting web traffic into highly engaged leads.
For example, InsightSquared created Sales Funnel, a free tool that allows Salesforce users to quickly and efficiently diagnose their sales funnel. Leads that try Sales Funnel convert at a rate almost twenty times higher than leads that don't.
Free tools can transform your entire customer experience. Invest developer resources into your marketing efforts for the biggest impact possible.
5. Master the call to action. Think about how hard you work to get traffic to your site. Now think of what happens if a visitor comes to your site and doesn't know where to go or what to do next once they visit. You've just wasted all of your hard efforts!
Your call to action is a sign post showing your visitors where they should go next. If someone came to your blog first, you want to make it easy and seamless for them to subscribe to read similar articles. If a visitor comes from a co-marketing initiative with a partner, ensure the copy on the site is built specifically to appeal to someone who knows both your brands. Tailor the next step accordingly.
It's not enough to optimize your site for search. You have to optimize your site for action.
6. Get visual. The average attention span is just eight seconds, so even if you want to write a 10,000-word essay on your new product launch, chances are slim that your audience will get through it.
Creating remarkable visual content is a great way to cut through content clutter and stand out from the pack. If you don't have an army of designers at your disposal, use Canva or Visage to create simple and beautiful visuals, hire a young freelancer to pitch in or just put your iPhone to good use taking pictures of your space, your customers, your team and your product.
When it comes to content, a photo (or video) really is worth 1,000 words.
7. Inbound delivers higher ROI for your business. In a 2013 survey, American inbound marketers spending more than $25,000 per year saved an average of 13 percent in overall cost per lead ($36 versus $41 with outbound).
It's far more expensive to continue pouring money into paid channels that don't deliver returns than it is to invest in blogging and social media. Inbound marketing is good for your bottom line and your brand.
8. Hire wisely. If you're hiring an in-house marketer or an agency to help with your marketing efforts, you need a skill set that matches your strategy. Invest in people who are digitally savvy, highly analytical, have significant reach on the web and have experience creating remarkable content.
Today's marketing world requires companies to continually optimize. The team behind you must be well equipped, comfortable with the technology and have the tenacity to update your strategy and approach on a daily basis to meet your growth goals.
Successful inbound marketing is a science that requires a specific expertise and plenty of experience. Even if marketing isn't your cup of tea, it's important that you know and understand the basics. If you keep these tips in mind, you can rest assured that your business is practicing the latest and greatest inbound marketing techniques, and maximizing its growth potential.