Starting the Inbound Marketing Conversation

Starting the Inbound Marketing Conversation | Hello Websites

If you’re savvy to internet culture, chances are you know what Inbound Marketing is. The idea that you want to provide value, and let people come to you naturally instead of interrupting them, makes sense! So, you’ll naturally want to follow this trend, and start generating content.

But how? And why?

When does Inbound Marketing make sense?

A big part of the Inbound marketing process involves making sure that what you’ll be saying fits into the kinds of needs, questions, and personality of the people you want to approach. Inbound Marketing only makes sense if you can put a human angle on the subjects your products or services address – which does, sometimes, require selling, but that’s way less common than you’d think.

For example, most people might think of a sporting goods shop focused on hunters would find a fairly limited audience for their Inbound marketing material. What if that shop didn’t spend a lot of time producing media about how to shoot – and instead focused on proper woodland safety, made videos on how to set up your tent, or wildlife-proof your campsite?

Pure gold, waiting to be produced.

Finding a message that aligns with the people your customers are – not just the products you want them to purchase – is the very core of what makes Inbound Marketing valuable.

Step one is applying some “Mise en place” to your marketing tools.

The process used in professional kitchens for arranging the tools and ingredients you’ll need for a service applies far better than you’d think to handling an ongoing communications strategy.

For this mise en place stage, we need to look at two things: your content (the media you’ll produce to offer and draw people in), and the networks or channels you’ll become involved in.

Make some decisions about the kinds of content you want to produce:

  • Will text guides in blog posts work best for your content?
  • Is there news in your industry you can cover in an interesting way?
  • Do visuals make sense, such as infographics or imagery?
  • Do you want photography or graphics attached to each item you produce?
  • Can you justify asking for an email address or other information in exchange for some content?
  • Some subjects work very well with video. Is that something you want to approach?

The kind of content you generate will be important – not only because it appeals to different people in different ways, but also because different formats perform well on some networks that perform poorly on others.

For each network you plan to take a run at, make sure you have at minimum the following – as appropriate for that platform:

  • An avatar or profile image that will look good when displayed small, or on mobile
  • A cover photo if the platform allows for it (and most do, now)
  • Profile text to fit into the “About” sections
  • A URL to direct people to, if they view your profile. This can be your main website, your blog, or even a custom to-network landing page, for that network’s use alone!

Some of this can be prepared before you sign up for the services themselves – other bits will make more sense as you dig in. Profile text is a tricky element for this, because some platforms (like Twitter) have very limited space on purpose – while others allow for longer passages.

Once you have all of your initial profiles set up and filled in as much as possible, you’re basically ready to get out the door and test the waters.

Your initial investment in social media platforms can be small.

If you’ve never done social media or any kind of inbound marketing before, we’d like to take a moment to give you permission to start small and work your way up toward a comfortable level.

It’s worth taking the time you need to get into a platform, and get over any measure of website stage fright you might have – rather than diving in and burning out quickly. Inbound marketing is a long game – not a limited campaign – and should be treated like any other practice. Diligence and dedication are much more important than explosive enthusiasm (though there may be room in your brand for that, too.)

While you’re getting started, it’s important to keep in mind that – if you do or do not find success in a given platform – you’ll want to evaluate how much effort is worth putting into that platform over time. Think about;

  • How do you decide when a platform is working? Do you want views or downloads for media, or do you want direct sales to result from your work there?
  • How long will you work at a platform, before considering moving on? Is a one-month trial run all you can invest, or do you want to build a quarterly (or even annual) cycle to judge success with?

These decisions, especially when made early and evaluated often, will change how you participate on a platform.

Diving in – your first messages

Resist the urge to begin loudspeaker work on every platform. Resist the temptation to announce formally your involvement in a given channel. Above all, wait – and provide value before you try to sell.

Even if selling in this case means providing something at the cost of an email address, it’s better to start using a platform first. Develop a schedule. Post some questions. Make conversation where you can.

Many of us who have been at this for some time love to quote Chris Brogan here and sum the idea up as: Be there before the sale.

Here are some quick wins you might want to consider:

  • Your first few messages on a new platform set the tone for the rest. Write some things about other people’s work that means something to you.
  • Using the search features on Twitter and other platforms can surface some important information you can either respond to directly, or produce content to resolve
  • Comments on blogs and forums that solve problems, but don’t necessarily require a purchase, are about the best thing you can possibly do.
  • Systems such as LinkedIn groups can be amazing services to offer your clients, if they make sense functionally.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to strain your creativity. It just has to be something that matches your aims, and gets the message out that you’re there to help.

Once you’re established, all of your content marketing efforts will be more valuable.

A big feature of Inbound Marketing often comes down to content offerings; creating webinars, eBooks, quick services, and other things that people can sign up for – usually with an email address and some low-impact information. This allows them to get immediate value, and provide you with the permission you need to keep showing up where they are, such as with a newsletter, or a lead call.

In general, the longer people are exposed to your genuine aid through public, and especially free channels, the more receptive they’ll be to more dedicated attention – such as an email drip following their request for an eBook.

This is the best place to capitalize on your existing relationships with people, and it’s the primary (but not the only) place you can begin to move people down the funnel toward a potential purchase.

Does that sound complicated? It shouldn’t.

Setting up shop and starting a business is far harder than beginning an inbound marketing process – as it should be. Yes, individual pieces of your marketing strategy may be complex – but the majority of it comes down to “Just show up, and help people.”

The people you help, then, will do the rest.

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