During my time in the world of inbound marketing, I've gotten a sense of how small businesses who are comfortable with their marketing strategy are fearful of jumping from the familiar, short-term ROI ways of traditional marketing to the scary, long-term ROI ways of inbound marketing. At first I thought they were crazy nuts, and I suppose I still do. But now that it's grown on me more, I can see how that fear can actually be valid.
The Safety Net Illusion of Traditional Marketing
Before getting into inbound marketing or knowing anything about its awesomeness, I was scared of marketing. I admit it. The idea of annoying people with a continuous marketing message, tied to an equally annoying sales staff, made me quiver. I don't like being annoying or turning potential customers off. I like people, and I like it when they like me. I thrive on positive connections.
We are all human and we have our limits of how much marketing we can handle before we decide to tune it out. Once a potential customer has tuned out your marketing, is it even possible to reach them?
As marketers, we have this perceived notion that traditional marketing (or outbound marketing) is the best way to go because we can get quicker results and metrics on our campaigns. That's what our upper management wants, right? Immediate feedback and more info to repeat the annoying marketing campaign process? Of course they do!
The biggiest problem with this tyle of marketing though is the fact that it's not sustainable on its own. The only way to keep it moving is to continue to throw money at it. Once the funding stops, the marketing stops, and the potential reach of your efforts halts as quickly as it started. That's no way to go through life!
Don't get me wrong, short term ROI and traditional marketing have their place in business, but they aren't the only (or best) way to spend your time, focus and energy.
How Inbound Marketing Can Be More Cost Effective
Inbound marketing (also referred to as digital marketing, content marketing or permission marketing) gets rid of the idea of being disruptive to your target audience and replaces it with being helpful. Sure, this isn't going to give you an immediate boost or provide the instant ROI results that your business has come to expect. But if you give it the time and patience it requires, you could start seeing the impact of your efforts in as little as 6-12 months.
Now you're probably thinking: 6-12 MONTHS?!? I DON'T HAVE THE RESOURCES FOR THAT!
I understand that you are a small business and that time and energy is precious. As a small business myself, I am in the same boat, always looking for low cost marketing ideas to stretch my resources.
For example, I spend one day a week, usually Sundays, on marketing action items for Octave Media. The rest of the week is for my customers.
On that one day a week, I work on the following:
- Review social media interactions and reports, respond to any incoming messages or tweets, and schedule a new batch of messages to avoid having to manually post or tweet all week
- Work on drafts for future emails to customers and leads. Once ready, I can schedule them to go out when I feel is appropriate
- Spend time researching and writing blog posts for the upcoming week
- Review action items I can work on to improve the quality of my website and its content
- Review and update my ongoing marketing plan
So for a few hours or less a week, I can maintain my marketing strategy and not take time away from that which matters the most: customer work.
In a nutshell, this is how it works: Instead of spending time creating ad campaigns or marketing pitches, spend time on generating content for your industry that helps consumers find answers to what they are looking for. As they search for answers, they will notice that your business is starting to appear in search results more and more, thus keeping your business on their radar. When the time comes for them to need a service provider, you have a much greater chance of being the first name they think of.
Sure, this comes with a lot of extra work upfront to establish a process of generating content and producing ways for new leads to convert into customers. But all of that's just day-to-day operational fluff.
Avoid Making the Jump to Inbound Cold Turkey
The first rule to implementing a strategy, and I want to emphasize this, is that you SHOULD NOT make a clean cut from traditional to inbound. That could be bad for business!
Instead, think of them working together using a holistic marketing strategy, reducing a little bit from your traditional strategy and putting those resources towards implementing a digital strategy. Over time, you can either balance their responsibilities or put more into digital while gradually reducing your dependence on traditional marketing.
So the next time you think that inbound is too expensive and isn't for you or your business, just remember: Inbound Marketing is a cost effective solution that works for everyone!