Every small business relies on marketing to spur awareness about its brand and offerings. Traditional marketing approaches consumers in broad, interruptive strokes. When did this stop being effective?
Advertisements in magazines, newspapers, radio, and television are standards of traditional marketing. Unfortunately, consumers today have outgrown these tactics. A shift toward digital media and publishing has limited the reach of traditional marketing channels—some may lose their footing altogether.
Inbound marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing. The information age has both liberated the consumer, and crippled traditional marketing; that’s because consumers don’t want to be talked at anymore. They don’t want to be told what to do, what to think, or what to buy. In order to compete in a market, small businesses have to wise up to these changes or risk not being heard at all.
Eighty percent of business decision-makers prefer to get information via content versus from a traditional advertisement. Millennials in particular have become extremely savvy. With so much information available at our virtual fingertips, it’s become harder to reach consumers with traditional marketing. In fact, 28 percent of marketers have reduced their advertising budget to fund more digital marketing.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
To address consumers in the 21st century, marketing must join the community, and the conversations of the consumers. Today, when people consider a purchase, they’re turning to social media to ask questions, read reviews, and share ideas. It’s a word-of-mouth style of communication that can be more far-reaching than any marketing campaign. Learning to harness this power is what inbound marketing aims to do.
Think of inbound marketing for small businesses as an umbrella term for different types of online content specially designed to pull people towards your brand. Instead of demanding attention in a paid television advertisement, inbound marketing begs people to explore and discover at their own pace, by appealing to their interests, needs, and desire.
Blogs, video tutorials, whitepapers, eBooks, and free tools are just a few examples of different content types that live bellow the umbrella of inbound marketing. Consumers engage with this type of content frequently, and they do so because they get something out of it: value.
Inbound marketing should always provide value to the consumer. This is not something we associate with traditional advertising. Value can be perceived in a number of ways, and at various steps in the buyer’s journey. Sometimes value is pure entertainment; other times it helps people solve a problem or learn a new skill.
By providing value to consumers at no cost, inbound marketing does something traditional marketing could never do, and that’s build trust and community around a brand.
Why Small Business Needs Inbound Marketing
Just like interpersonal relationships, the nature of consumer behavior has become inherently social. That’s a challenge for small businesses, especially when they don’t have an established customer base.
Inbound marketing is designed to pull consumers towards a brand; instead of buying consumers with advertising, inbound marketing earns their trust. When a brand is helpful, consumer trust increases, and overtime, this trust is what will help establish a brand as a leader.
Unlike traditional marketing, inbound marketing is often less expensive, but it does require a large time commitment to be successful. That’s because inbound marketing is highly integrated.
Inbound marketing is a combination of tools, tactics, and channels, all of which center around content. How a small business interprets consumers’ interests, needs, and desires will ultimately affect how that business shapes its content. In other words, content produced for inbound marketing isn’t the result of vicarious creativity; rather, it’s the result of thoughtful insight and analysis.
Popular inbound marketing channels include platforms like YouTube, Medium, company blogs, search engine marketing for small business, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The more consistent your small business can be at helping consumers achieve their goals, the more likely these consumers are to turn to your brand when they need to make a related purchase.
Small businesses need the support of consumer communities to compete with larger organizations in similar markets. Inbound marketing has had great success, especially for the underdogs. You don’t need TV advertising, radio commercials, or print ads to be competitive in the 21st century, but you do need to put your customers’ needs first and forget about the hard sell.