If you’re still marketing the old-fashioned way, your market—your customers—will continue to move further and further away from you. They’ve already migrated online and many more are migrating to mobile media even while you’re reading this. Making the transformation to digital marketing and, more significantly, to the inbound marketing that leverages the brave new world of social media, is critical but not complicated.
The marketing tools may have changed and the pace has picked up, but people still look for the same things they always have when making a purchase: value, quality and confidence that the seller stands behind their products and services. Pick up a few pointers and before you know it, you’ll be facing up to Facebook and tweeting like a Hollywood star even if you don’t yet know what a tweet is and why you need to do it.
1. Get Keyed In
The Web has like, a gazillion pages, maybe two or three gazillion. Keywords are to the Web what the bread crumbs were to Hansel and Gretel, only digital: They’re how your customers find you online. Lay down the right bread crumbs and using search tools, like Google, your customers will follow the path to your front door, which in this case isn’t the witch’s house, it’s your website.
Choosing the right bread crumbs—keywords—is critical to getting your business found on the Web. Some of the keywords will be obvious. Do you manufacture the world’s best chocolate-covered widgets? Use “best chocolate-covered widgets” and “chocolate-covered widgets” as two of your keywords.. If there’s a lot of competition in the chocolate-covered widget industry, help prospects by narrowing it down for them, e.g., for example, “cheap chocolate-covered widgets” or “chocolate-covered widgets Chicago” For a more comprehensive list, use a keyword grader. A keyword grader helps you develop an effective keyword strategy to guide search engines —and thus your best prospects—to your website.
2. Get Some Curb Appeal
Think of your homepage of as the front entrance to your store. It’s what customers first see when they click that link from the search engines. It needs to captivate prospects from the moment they set eyes on it.
Graphic design, content and search engine optimization are the foundation of good Website design. The design should be clear and simple, but eye-catching and functional. You want people to see your company name and logo first. After that, you want them to quickly find their way to whatever it is they’ve come looking for at your website. A homepage is like the table of contents in a magazine. Visitors to this page should be able to find what they’re looking for as well as what you want them to find. Use a website grader to build your webpages in such a way that your chances of being found by prospects are better than your competitors.
3. The Content Monster
The Web is a lot like the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street except it likes to eat content 24/7/365; the Web says “FEED ME CONTENT.” And, although the Internet isn’t a picky eater, your customers are. They want quality information that solves their problems.
Online, every purveyor is just a click or two away. Make sure your content is well-written; if it’s not interesting and useful, visitors will tune out and click the mouse to your competitor’s website. Be sure you include a Call to Action at least once, and better yet, in several places on your Web pages. Visitors sometimes need to be prompted, just like in a showroom: “Would you like to buy those chocolate-covered widgets? Click Here.”
One of the most cost-effective ways to feed the Content Monster is by blogging. A blog (shortened from its original form, Web log) is like having your own newspaper column, only it’s digital, readers can post comments (if you want them to), and it can lead prospects to your door because you’ll be seeding it with keywords that further enhance your inbound marketing efforts
Start by blogging about the things your customers ask you about most often. Give them useful information that answers their most common and most pressing problems. The more often you blog, the more often people will find your content—and you!
4. Promote Like a Pro
A tweet is short piece of content, limited to 140 characters, broadcast simultaneously to everyone who is “following you” via Twitter , which is the source of all tweets. Use tweets to keep customers updated on general news and information about your business or use it to drive short-term promotions, such as “Buy 1 chocolate-covered widget, get 1 free. Offer ends @ 6 pm.”
Facebook , for those of you who have been hiding the last few years, is the mother of all things social media. It’s a place where people and businesses share interesting things with their friends. Where it trumps all other media is the interconnection between your friends and your friends’ friends, making “spreading the word” about your business to hundreds of people, who spread to hundred more, fast, cheap, and very effective.
LinkedIn is like the networking group of days gone by. You link in to your professional contacts, who are linked in to their contacts. Then, when you need an introduction to someone outside your immediate group, LinkedIn tells you who you know that knows someone who knows the person(s) you’re trying to link up with.
5. Romancing the Leads
You’ve gone to the effort of transforming your business into a lean, mean inbound marketing machine and you’re generating website traffic. Now, develop a strategy to take those visitors and reel them in with an offer, a call to action and a landing page that will yield the magic words you need to succeed: Their name, phone number and email address so your crack sales team (even if that’s just you) can contact them. Experiment with your offer until you get it down right.
6. How Do I Nurture Thee? Let Me Count the Ways
Once you have your prospects comfortably nestled on your website, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start courting their business. Use email campaigns to keep in contact, give them incentives to be your friend on Facebook or join you in other social media. Keep your offers relevant, be respectful of your customers’ time, and measure and refine your campaigns, weeding out the lookie-loos and malcontents.
7. Nail It
With your marketing transformation well under way, it’s time to reap one of the biggest benefits of inbound marketing—the metrics it delivers.. With a print ad, the only way to gauge effectiveness is with a coupon. Run a TV or radio ad and the bump in business may or may not be obvious. With inbound marketing, you not only know who responded, but how to get in touch with them, what they responded to, what more they’d like to know about your business and so much more. Use the metrics inbound marketing provides to fine-tune your marketing machine and have it deliver for you day in and day out.
Image credit: Bob B. Brown