I remember my first marketing experience like it was yesterday. A stranger in a suit whispered sweet nothings in my ear about “new customers, value, image, ROI” as they pushed me slowly towards the contract, assuring me that they would be there for me after I signed it. I was young, naive, and thought I was totally ready for a serious 24 month fiscal relationship. I looked deeply into their eyes, and with bated breath, signed on the dotted line. Sadly, I wasn’t their first fiscal relationship, and once the payments started, they wouldn’t return my calls. Worse, when I opened their little book, I found my name next to hundreds of others, just like me.
It was my first (and last) Yellow Pages ad.
Your first business marketing deal was probably like losing your virginity; it happened too late, you spent too much time getting to the point, no one understood what they were doing, you were disappointed with the follow through, and marketing was never the same since. Business owners often have bad first marketing experiences, leaving them afraid of investing in marketing.
Why the Yellow Pages?
In the year 2000, the Internet was bold and new; AOL CD’s could be found on every desk, the Iphone as 7 years away, Google was merely a twinkle in two grad students’ eyes, and Spam only came in a can. Marketing was different. Marketing for most businesses was how large of an ad you bought in the major phone book. People named businesses to start with an “A” to get the first listing when people looked for a plumber. Marketing relationships with potential and existing customers were locked into a 1 to 2 color expensive ad on a literally yellow page. How effective was it?
When was the last time you spent money on marketing that you didn’t resent?
Most business owners I work with are technical founders, meaning they had a skill or talent in the line of business. Technical people look at doing X activity to get Y money, which makes marketing hard to appreciate. Spending thousands of dollars to be one of hundreds of similar businesses in the phone book with a tiny ad that says nothing but “buy” sucks. Potential customers have no way of making an informed buying decision with a 2 color picture of my business card. So what do phone books and 400% returns have in common? Information with intent. Before Google, when someone was ready to make a buying decision, they opened the phone book. Phone books were the proto-search engine, and when the phone rang, your salesperson educated the customer on their options. So where does 400% come into play? Marketing has changed, and your thinking and perceptions need to change if you’re going to take advantage of the opportunity.
The three main changes:
- Today, people conduct 57% of their research before they contact someone
- People want to be educated, not sold
- Marketing can be targeted and personalized at an individual level.
Enter Inbound marketing.
People use the Internet for research before they buy anything, and research requires education. Business owners fall in the trap of placing “buy now” signs on everything, when people are looking to learn about their options. The role of the sales rep being the educator are gone, and you need to honor that change. Sales reps have been replaced by content that helps your ideal customers make great decisions. When people contact you to a final selection, they want to feel unique in your dealings with them.
Inbound marketing is building educational content that brings prospects into your sales track, while providing a personal experience.
The 400% return.
So why 400%? Inbound marketing, done right, brings a better return than advertising to acquire customers. The return on reaching people during the 57% research phase cannot be bought, period. You’re gaining trust, authority, and engaging the customer before anyone else by educating them on your sector.
Educate, not sell.
So, a simple equation. Let’s look at spending $1000 on two types of marketing campaign, and the return I could see selling widgets.
A. I buy $1000 of Adwords to drive people to my site. People click on the ads, I pay a fee, they hit my website or landing page, and hopefully they contact me. The ads end when the budget runs out.
B. I write 10-15 blog posts about my content, and get them listed for free on other sites, search engines, and blogs about widgets. My posts talk about widgets, and what someone should know about widgets, and how someone can contact me with questions. $1000 is my time invested and for promotion.
Where is the return? In B, as my posts will last long after the keyword budget! When people contact me, my knowledge of widgets is established, and they are ready to buy a widget. I want these type of customer leads every time. At the highest level, learn about educating people before they buy, and how to put them on a nurturing track to lead them to buying. In the helpful links, I’ve posted some of the more popular software platforms for managing inbound marketing. Look at the concepts and content ideas they offer for free, and explore the ideas with your team. If your growth is stuck, look at a new marketing approach to break your rut.
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