What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

–Update to Post Mar 2014–

For many years us marketeers have focused on outbound marketing. A one-way message, attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Advertising, Think TV Adverts. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away tips in a blog article/whitepaper, which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. They like your content, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future. A powerful way of creating a relationship with someone who was a stranger only minutes before. You’ve ‘earnt’ their attention.

This is the first step.

True inbound companies work on converting these people into customers, taking them on a journey down a sales/marketing funnel (still providing value all the way). This is called lead nurturing. This can consist of email auto-responders; automated emails which keep giving you more information/help/advice, conversion optimisation; different formats for the same pages on a website, tested constantly for the best results and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document before from my site and you’ve given me your name, I might put a personal message for you on my site the next time you return.

The first step to becoming an inbound organisation is to work out your customer personas. You may have two or three for your business depending on audience types/number of products etc. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He has built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing. He’s a true salesman and sells his business better than anyone else. Bob is interested in marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s an enthusiastic chap who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality. He calls his suppliers partners.

Now when we create marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper going to be something he prints out and takes home to read at night? Your focus on marketing becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.

As clichéd as it might sound, sharing is caring in this world. Create remarkable content that people want to talk about and tell their friends to check out. This is the way of an inbound organisation, is it the way of your organisation?

If you’re practising Inbound marketing I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. How is it working for you?

p.s. Hat-tip to Hubspot who are the masters of this world and coined the term back in 05/06. Love your work guys.

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Inbound Marketing – A few key takeaways from IMUK13

Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!

So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.

As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.

1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.

2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.

3).  My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.

Culture 1973 1993 2013
Mantra Management Leadership Inspiration
Desire Pension Salary Learning
Mentality OCD Anxiety Disorder ADD
Hours 9-5 9-6 Whenever
Workplace 4 walls Openplan Wherever
Tenure Whole Career 6 Years 18 Months

 

 

 

 

 

For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!

Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. 

5 things you might like to consider when starting a website

5 things you might like to consider when starting a website

1). Firstly a website is just the start of your online presence. So many people rock up to a project thinking about their budget in terms of the capital outlay on their website. They often don’t consider the marketing and comms resource they’re going to need to put into getting it off the ground. The website you create for your business/service/product should really be the start of your online journey so make sure you’re ready to budget just as much (and probably a lot more) on what happens next.

2). Is Google important to you? Goole drives around 90% of all UK web searches. In industry terms that’s a ‘bucket load’ and can’t really be ignored. If you want your website to show up in search then there are a number of things you need to consider and to be perfectly honest although there are a number of things you can play with yourself (I wrote about this topic a while ago here), it’s probably an area that you want to talk to an agency that specialise in if these results are critical to your success.

3). Where does Social Media play a role? Unless you’ve been blanketed from the world for the last few years you can’t help but notice that we live in a far more connected world than we used to. Our lives are being dominated by the large social networks – the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest seek our attention and allow us to feel more connected than ever before. As a business you need to consider your audience profile and then work out where they hang out. If Facebook’s not right for your business then don’t worry about it – spend your time wisely, you don’t have much of it.

4). Get clever. In the world of email marketing we have these things called auto responders. They are essentially automated emails, triggered on an event. When you create a website consider bringing these into play (most web agencies won’t recommend these unless you ask by the way). Set them up for when people fill out your contact form, signup to your newsletter or download your latest whitepaper. Oh really? You don’t have a whitepaper?

5). Create compelling content. If you want to be found/shared/loved/evangelised/bought from you need to be better than the rest and one way to start this process is by creating compelling content. Things like whitepapers, ebooks, blog articles, infographics, videos all help to get you out there. Your mission however is to try and create things others aren’t. By the way, a by-product of this point is also more success with point 2.

The guys over at Optix Solutions (a digital marketing agency I co-founded) are mustard at the web projects – give them a call if you want any advice on 01392 667766. If you’re after email marketing help connect with @olyharisson on twitter who heads up OptixMail – he’s the master.

Now Your Thoughts

  • What essentials do you think you need to take into a web project?
  • Have you got a few tricks in your locker you’d like to share with us?

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/

 

 

 

How to make your website a lead generating machine – 3 easy steps

How to make your website a lead generating machine – 3 easy steps

How are you generating leads for your business? Is it hard work? Lots of networking and meetings right? Would you rather be ‘found‘ by potential customers? Well that’s where the practice of inbound marketing can be very useful. Hubspot in the US were the company to coin this term and their website is a perfect example of how to practice lead generation. In fact, they now get over 27k leads a month because they are so successful at this. Guess what, it’s not that hard to do in your business – In this article I’m going to teach you how.

At Optix, we practice Inbound Marketing but on a much smaller scale. I’m going to take you through a recent example which I hope will get you thinking about your own business and how you could do something similar.

We’ve been writing social media policies for clients for some time now. We decided to release a free ‘cut-down’ version of a policy which anyone can download and use. All we ask is that the user gives us their name, company name and email address. We also ask a couple of basic questions about the companies use of Social Media. The website then builds the policy on the fly and emails it to the user. Within the first month of this going live two amazing things had happened:

Over 50 companies downloaded the policy and gave us their details – all leads for my sales team.

We started to appear within the first 5 results of Google (They are very good at finding useful sites) for some really key terms like:

So how can you do this in your business? Here are three easy steps:

1). Consider what you can give away of value online. Can you create an ebook or a whitepaper or could you even do what we did and create a tool of value? Try and think ‘out of the box’ – don’t talk about yourself or your product directly, think about something of real use to your potential customers.

2). Put this on your website on a ‘landing page’ dedicated to that content and ask the user for some basic details in return for access to this valuable content – ideally if you can, blog about it and spread it using social media platforms like twitter, facebook and linkedIn.

3). Work out a ‘multi-touch’ (different ways of talking to the prospect – i.e email, phone, meeting – I’ll credit Scott Gould and Kristen Sousa for that one :)) plan for keeping in contact with the users who download it. Consider auto-responders if you don’t have much resource in terms of sales teams.

So there you have it, consider what you can create today and start to create compelling landing pages for capturing the details.

Now Your Thoughts

  • Can you share examples of where you’ve seen other companies do this. We can all do with inspiration :)
  • Have you dabbled with this type of marketing before? Let’s hear your thoughts.

From a stable job to a start-up business

This week I spent some time interviewing friend and now supplier of my firms book-keeping services, Ben Didier about starting his own business earlier this year.

Why did you choose to go it alone?

I have always wanted my own business, ever since I was young.  For me it was the plan from the start – College then Uni then business and management experience – then my own business!  It has been far from plain sailing but that is near enough the route I have taken.  I actually wrote down the reasons for taking the step when I started, as I knew there would be tough days ahead and I needed to be clear about why I was doing it. Here they are:

1.       Create something of my own that I can build and develop.  I get a real sense of achievement from that and hopefully, eventually it will produce a strong income.

2.       Set my own terms of working.  I want the freedom to choose my own projects and working methods.  On the other side the responsibility and risk that comes with this it is not for everyone and not all circumstances – sometimes you can’t afford to take the risk.

3.       Direct risk and reward.  I want to get the direct benefit of my actions and decisions, and am also prepared to accept the consequences of those when it doesn’t work out.  Employment can shield you from both sides of this, to an extent.

What attitude do you think you need to go it alone?

The single most important part of starting out on your own is – Wanting itResilience is the first quality of business – because if you give up before you have had chance to make it – then you wont.   People outside of business often focus on their service or product when thinking about starting up, rather than about winning work.  This can prove a shock when starting out, as business is primarily driven by winning customers – and looking after them!  Winning the work requires determination as it takes time, people aren’t always ready for what you offer at the time you offer it, and there are always many set-backs.  If you can’t get beyond those mentally, then business may not be for you.  As a bookkeeper I would always say you need to be interested enough in the figures to ensure that more money is coming in then going out!

What was the scariest thing about doing it?

The unknown market –“ is there the appetite for the services I want to provide in the area?”  You never really know until you actually start.  I had planned to get a part time job if the clients did not materialise quickly enough, and had cut my personal outgoings to the bone, so I had considered the risks carefully.  I knew sales may takes some time and wanted to survive long enough to be able to build a reputation and client base – the low overheads were crucial to this.

How you are getting on?

Fantastically!  Having started in January this year, after 8 months I now have 8 clients I provide services for every month and have worked on some other interesting projects.  I am independent and self-sufficient which is great.  One good thing about bookkeeping is the regularity of the work, this reduces pressure to get new sales all the time, so I can focus more on looking after the clients I have.  A commercial perspective on internal finance in producing the figures is really helping the owners I work with to make more informed decisions – so there the feeling of delivering something of value which I also get a great deal out of.

Now Your Thoughts

Have you made the leap from a stable job to a startup? Want to add anything to the post that you’ve learnt along the way?

You can find out more about Ben and his services on his website: http://www.bookkeepingssw.co.uk/ or follow him on Twitter: @bookkeepingben – I can’t recommend him highly enough :)

Is your marketing material all about you?

Is your marketing material all about you?

I learnt a valuable lesson about marketing once which fundamentally changed the way I view the composition of marketing material for my businesses. This was the lesson: It’s not about me/my business, it’s about the needs of my prospective clients. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but it’s all to easy to talk about yourself when putting together this material. I challenge you to look at your own material now (yes this minute – go and grab it) with a subjective head on and consider how it would read to someone you want as a client. Have you told them how great you are? Have you told them how much experience you have, how many years you’ve been in business and the fact that you’re one of the best in your area at what you do? Is this the main message? Guess what? Your prospective clients don’t care. They have their own issues, their own challenges and their own needs to satisfy. They don’t care if you’ve got over 50 years combined experience in your market, they probably don’t care if you are the number one company offering XYZ in your area! These maybe useful to know and perhaps you should have these as after thoughts but they shouldn’t be your main message. What you actually need to do is define the audience you’re trying to reach, why they might need to buy what you offer and then heres the clincher – solve their problem for them (or at least tell them that you can solve it somehow).

When you start thinking about marketing like this, it requires a different style of thinking, a different outlook on the production of this important material. In my opinion there are far too many companies out there simply ticking a ‘marketing box’. They produce some material saying how great they are, they send it out either electronically or via snail mail and then saying ‘Yeah good job guys, that’s the marketing bit done’. They then wonder why they are not getting results and why the phone is not ringing off the hook. Next time you’re putting together something which is marketing your business, try and think of how it will be viewed in terms of the buyer. If you’re like me then I’m sure that everyday you gets lots of letters, glossy flyers and brochures across your desk – how many of these end up in filing cabinet Z (The bin)? A large proportion I’ll wager? Now think about what made you pull that one thing aside to actually spend some time looking at? I bet it added value for you in some way, or helped towards, or claimed to be able to solve a problem you have? The success in direct mail and e-marketing can be quite low so you need to make sure you make it work for you. It can be expensive after all. If you’re looking for inspiration then I can thoroughly recommend signing upto the Glazer Kennedy Insiders Circle. These guys are legends at preparing marketing material which really works. You can also check them out on their Facebook page or follow Mara Glazer on Twitter. You won’t be dissapointed.

One last tip – Not all of us are or ever will be marketers so when you produce drafts for your next brochure of sales flyer, try sending it out to friends and colleagues who could be potential buyers and ask theem to be as constructive as possible. Be prepared to have it ripped apart and get ready for the critiscm – Don’t get defensive if its not what you want to hear – after all you don’t want to send out something that’s going to get you nowhere do you? The end result will be a more successful campaign and hopefully better conversions into real business.

Most importantantly – Have Fun :)

Recession – Cost Cutting Exercise or Opportunity to Make Your Mark?

Not a long post today but it’s about a topic that I’ve discussed a lot of over the past six months so I decided today to put pen to paper on it just in case it can help any small to medium sized business owners out there.

Recession or any kind of slack economy is, in my opinion, a real chance for clever businesses to really lever themselves into an industry leading position. This is of course as long as they can keep cash flowing themselves!

The main reason I believe this, is that many of your competitors are cost cutting, thinking that’s the answer to the dreaded ‘R’ word. So while they are less prominent, you need to step up and take advantage. You’ll almost certainly be able to get better deals on marketing opportunities at these times too so make use of them. Get your name out there more than they are, and get ready to clean up on the business that is still looking for your products/services.

Another reason it’s a great time to ramp everything up is because some of your competitors will almost certainly disappear completely so make sure you’re ready to pick up some customers from those businesses that found things too difficult when they are looking for a new supplier.

A quick word of warning – recessions mean more new start-ups as people who are made redundant take the opportunity to set up new businesses, so just make sure your business is lean and ready to take opposition from younger, hungry companies. Just work out what differentiates you and be ready to tell everyone from the roof tops.

A slow economy is an opportunity for us entrepreneurs – work out how you can take advantage now :)

Social Media in Business

Even by the internet’s rapid standards, the rise of Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Stumbeupon has been nothing short of meteoric.

With hundreds of millions of people worldwide using social networks regularly (Facebook now has 200 million active users) and their popularity continuing to grow on a daily basis, they represent a massive marketing opportunity to switched-on business.

In Exeter, Social Media is taking off with a large group of users networking regularly together. Next month sees the first social media conference in Devon organised by my friend @scottgould. Optix Solutions are amongst the sponsors and are very excited about hearing and meeting @treypennington and @thebrandbuilder who are both flying over from America especially for the event. Tickets by the way can be bought here: http://alikeminds.org/

The big question for me, is still whether or not a brand can embrace Social Media as well as a person can. I believe there is room for both and there is no question that many high profile businesses have done extremely well from Social Media. Dell, Starbucks and Google all use Twitter well but is there a case for smaller SME’s to make it work for them?

My Opinion: YES! MOST DEFINATELY and I’ve experienced this with my own business. However, whether you run a business or a personal account there are certain ways to go about things and certain etiquette you need to get used to. Within Optix, we encourage our staff to have their own blogs/twitter accounts/social media pages and without a question of doubt this has lead to stronger relationships with our clients who are also using social media and to new work and relationships with people we would almost certainly never have come across without it.

Here are the twitter feeds of some of the guys in Optix (oh and Optix own one is @optixsolutions – we use this for info on our business, special offers, news and site launches):

My Own Twitter Account: @banksy6
Al Gleave (Bus Dev): @alpenwest
Kris Sousa (Sales/Support): @kristensousa
Nick Watson: (Developer) @nickizzle

There is so much I could say about Social Media and Twitter in particular but I’m aiming this at new business owners and entrepreneurs so lets just set you along the right path with some good solid advice on why you need to start thinking about Social Media in your business.

Here are Banksy’s top 5 tips for making social media work for you.

1). Allow people to share your business successes and stories with others – FOR FREE! You can do this by adding a tool to pages on your website that allow anyone surfing, to very quickly share your content with others. Popular tools include Share This and Add This both of which do the job more than adequately. If you’re not sure what I mean by this then take a look at the Devon Air Ambulance website that my company Optix Solutions have just launched and scroll right down to the bottom of the page. You will see a green icon with ‘share this’ written next to it. Click it and see how easy it is to share that website on Facebook/Twitter and many, many other websites out there. Think now of the power of just one or two users sharing that website with potentially hundreds or maybe even thousands of trusted contacts and friends that they have on their own networks. Its almost a no-brainer to have this added to your website these days. If you don’t know how to add it or need help then drop me a line :)

2). Build contacts, relationships and networks online – I’m sure if you’re starting a business, in your early years as a business or an entrepreneur of any kind, you are probably networking offline? Am I right? Well Twitter and other social networks allow you to find people with similar interests and values and then connect with them. The rest is up to you as it would be offline. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a short-term gain, its not. Invest in social media and you’ll reap the rewards later.

3). Leverage social media for your other forms of marketing – Social Media is a great way of generating traffic for your blog or website. Users may then go on and look around other services you have to offer on these websites. In fact, although this blog is starting to get a good reputation with the search engines, the largest referrer of traffic to it each time I post is Twitter. This is because I put the word out to my network each time I post and people visit….which is great:)!

4). Become known as a ‘thought leader’ – This is really about building authenticity in your brand – be it personal or business. It’s a brave/stupid person that tries to sell directly from social media – it just doesn’t work. You need to show others that your posts/tweets/content can be thought provoking and hopefully interesting  so they will engage with you if they feel it’s right to do so. Don’t push marketing material out to them too much or you’ll simply lose followers and contacts.

5). Even if you don’t believe in social media yourself, others do and they could be talking about you or asking for help. There are a myriad of tools out there which allow you to monitor mentions of phrases, including your own brand. I for example, have tools set up to monitor mentions of my company name as well as my own name. Our company monitors local tweets, and anything to do with people looking for web design work.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is not meant to be, in anyway a full break down of social media and what it can do for you, its merely a teaser. I do hope in the future to focus on the individual networks and go into a bit more depth for you on how to get the best from each of these, however in the mean time I recommend reading the Chris Brogan’s blog post on social media here for some great tips:

http://www.chrisbrogan.com/50-ways-marketers-can-use-social-media-to-improve-their-marketing/

Consider today what you want to achieve from social media, consider your audience and which sites they might be using and then put together a plan for yourself and of course, if you need help – drop us a line. Good luck.