I spend zero dollars marketing my business. “Marketing” in its traditional sense includes advertising, baiting media outlets with press releases and, to paraphrase David Meerman Scott, buy, beg and borrow for leads and attention. The way people find out about my business is through two primary mechanisms: Word-of-Mouth recommendations and finding me through search engine results.
Word-of-Mouth, in this instance, is inclusive of people passing recommendations online. If an account manager at a public relations firm is looking for a social media consultant and asks his or her network online for a recommendation and my name surfaces, that’s word-of-mouth. When that recommendation comes from an electronic source, we have a tendency to say it’s not word-of-mouth. Machines don’t have mouths so we can’t quite wrap our head around the inclusion.
But when we’ve spent only time and energy producing digital footprints that enable machines to make those recommendations, we’re not buying or begging for the attention. We’re simply making it easy for potential customers to find us. This is called, “inbound marketing.”
- You blog about interior design and, because you use several relevant terms to people searching for an interior decorator, begin to climb in organic search rankings. Emails or phone calls come in (inbound) from people asking if they can hire you to decorate their homes.
- You find and share valuable content with people interested in stock market tips on Twitter. Some of your followers start reaching out to you asking if you can help with their investment advice.
- Your thoughts about your industry become noted by your peers and you wind up ranked on a Top 10 List of blogs relevant to your field. Potential customers go searching for experts in the field and find the Top 10 List, thus finding you, and call you to inquire about your services.
Friday I took a call from a gentleman who makes speciality software for a niche industry. He has little reason to know who I am or even where to turn for social media, public relations or Internet marketing advice. He spent a couple of hours last week researching those three topics online and, “my name kept popping up.”
This is inbound marketing at its finest. I spent nothing more to acquire that customer (I haven’t yet, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I do.) than the 45 minutes or so each day I spend sharing good content on Twitter and Facebook, 3-4 hours per week I spend writing blog posts and 3-4 additional hours per month I spend writing my monthly newsletter. That equals about 20 percent of my time, which is about what many businesses spend on marketing in some manner.
I provide content that is of interest to people wanting to learn or know something about social media, public relations and Internet marketing. I share similar content from other people who do the same. And the calls, emails and other messages keep coming in.
This is your primary reason for using social media marketing. Yes, there are others. No, I don’t recommend most businesses use only social media and/or inbound marketing techniques the way I do. But if you’re looking for a way to get a leg up on the competition, there’s a pretty good chance they either aren’t using inbound marketing, or they aren’t doing it well.
The pros and cons of inbound marketing are interesting to consider as well. While you can spend significantly less money than traditional, outbound marketing, you can also spend considerably more time producing the content and other digital footprints that attract leads. Depending upon your business, you audience, your content and so on, this varies.
Perhaps the biggest pro, in my opinion, is that the leads you gain through inbound marketing are pre-qualified and are looking to buy your particular product or service. This not only enhances your chances of making a sale, but makes a world of difference on the relationship you can build with that customer. They come to you ready to spend. They want to give you their money. If you “sell” someone on your services, there’s a cautionary skepticism about spending their money with you.
When your customers choose you rather than you targeting them, you are more than a vendor.
But inbound marketing isn’t new. People have been doing forms of it for years. Think on the process a bit and let me know how you’ve been performing inbound marketing. The comments are yours.
IMAGE: Raised hand by Charles B. Ming Onn on Shutterstock.com.