For any small to medium-sized business (SMB) hoping to succeed, implementing the right marketing strategy is crucial. But, which is right for your business and your budget? Historically, big players had a stronghold over the market because they could afford the big bucks to advertise their products or services using ‘Outbound’ marketing methods. In effect, this meant holding the little guys at bay; until that is, the advent of online ‘Inbound’ marketing, which has been a great equaliser. So, how can SMB’s make the most of inbound marketing strategies? – First, a little information on outbound marketing.
Traditional or ‘Outbound’ marketing is primarily concerned with paying to advertise products or services to unsuspecting consumers in the hope of achieving sales. Communication with consumers is one-way and intrusive. Lives are ‘interrupted’ by tv/radio commercials, pop-up ads and unsolicited phone calls and emails – although consumers are hitting back, with ad and telephone blocking, being just two examples. Big business has used methods of mass marketing for decades even though the level of ROI can be quite low relative to spend. However, as they usually have huge marketing budgets, they can afford to throw money at outbound campaigns. These methods are viewed by many to be outdated and ineffective, especially for SMBs.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, has a conversation with consumers; to attract, engage, and convert into buying customers. Posting compelling content online attracts consumers (your ideal personas) to your website and to showcase your product or service. Inbound methods don’t ‘interrupt’; they offer solutions that consumers are already looking for – and they’re cheaper in comparison to outbound. The following are examples of inbound methods which you can apply to your overall marketing strategy:
- Website Optimisation – Compelling content should be prevalent throughout; blogging is a great strategy for attracting visitors to your site, providing educational content and providing answers potential customers are seeking. And your landing page(s) should be optimised for ease of CTAs – gathering contact information.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – Using keywords on search engines such as Google and Bing, to attract your targeted audience. Optimised keywords place you higher on the search page ranking, making it easier for prospective customers to find you.
- Social Media – Posting interesting, educational and entertaining content on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, helps to attract your ideal personas to your website. Content can be via blogging, article writing, e-books, white papers, videos, webinars, infographics, images, etc. Visitors who find your content interesting are more likely to engage with your brand and share it with others.
- Email – Because you have asked a potential customer’s permission to add their name to your database, via your landing page, you can target them with tailored marketing campaigns.
Evidence in Support of Inbound
If you are looking for ‘evidence’ to support prioritising an inbound approach to marketing, consider the findings of a recent survey carried out by HubSpot, a leading Inbound Marketing and Sales Software Platform. (State of Inbound 2015 – Annual Report by HubSpot)
The survey consisted of nearly 4000 companies worldwide, of various types and sizes and with various budgets. Of those surveyed, 48% had fewer than ten employees, 37% had less than $250.000 annual revenue; 65% were B2B companies, 24% B2C and the remaining 11% not-for-profit. Among other things, the survey found:
- Inbound marketing was three times more likely to achieve a higher ROI than outbound, regardless of size and budget.
- Inbound was the preferred marketing method of SMBs, with larger organisations favouring both methods.
- Inbound worked successfully across B2B, B2C and nonprofits.
- Proven ROI was paramount to unlocking marketing budgets.
- Tracking ROI was essential to increasing ROI, lead generation and conversion.
- Both inbound and outbound marketers rated paid advertising as the number one most over-rated marketing tactic.
Leading marketers who recognised that inbound marketing led to higher ROI, also recognised it was a long-term strategy. It can take a while to build your customer base and ensure your technology is working for you before you start generating a higher ROI, (unlike the initial revenue from sales achieved by an outbound campaign). So, it can be tempting to give up if early campaigns fail. But indications from HubSpot’s report are that, conversely, you should consider increasing your marketing budget and staying the course.
On the whole, inbound marketing is highly beneficial to SMBs. But, incorporating some form of outbound marketing tactics in your overall strategy might also be warranted, depending on your particular circumstances. Nevertheless, securing an effective marketing budget, implementing the right technologies, and a willingness to play the long game, are essential components to making the most of using inbound marketing strategies to grow your business.