If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. – Lao Tzu
With Q1 about to come to a close, it’s time for businesses to begin the process of analyzing quarterly results. This means diving into the numbers and evaluating how business is going. For many small business owners this can be a painful process particularly if business results are in the toilet and the sales pipeline has slowed to a trickle.
Are your revenues stuck in neutral or declining?
As the old Dylan song says, “The Times, They Are A-Changing’.” It’s no longer business as usual. The internet, Google and social media have rapidly shifted the playing field and for those companies that have been slow to adjust to these new dynamics, it may seem like business has become difficult overnight.
While it is convenient to blame your business woes on macro-issues like the politicians in Washington, the poor economy or global climate change, it’s possible there may be a simpler and more painful reality.
Your marketing strategy really sucks!
Many businesses quite frankly are stuck in an outdated mode of thinking when it comes to marketing their businesses, using traditional marketing techniques suited to a bygone era.
Traditional marketing, or outbound marketing, is comfortable because it’s conventional, safe and has worked in the past. Included in these “legacy” tactics are:
- Yellow Page Ads
- Brochures and Flyers
- Door Knockers
- Direct Mail
- TV Spots
Sure, it’s still possible to reach a great deal of potential customers with these “shotgun” methods aimed at any potential customer that can fog a mirror. However, chances AREN’T good that a random recipient of your marketing collateral is just sitting around waiting to purchase your product or service, particularly if they were not searching for it in the first place.
For many businesses, good money is being thrown at these strategies with little to no tangible results.
Buying Behavior Has Most Definitely Shifted
While traditional marketing methods have remained the same for many companies, buying behavior has changed drastically over the last decade. Cold-calling is perceived as a rude intrusion, and direct mail is intercepted by gatekeepers and thrown away before it’s even opened.
The most significant trend however, is the ability for buyers do their own research online prior to stepping foot in a showroom, or prior to scheduling an appointment with a sales person. The internet is the “great equalizer” that has tilted the sales process in the favor of the purchaser.
60% of the research and decision-making is done prior to you knowing that a prospect is in the market for your goods or services, and if your website is not optimized to capitalize on this trend, your business is in serious T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Inbound Marketing Allows You to Connect With Your Ideal Customers
In order to respond to this dynamic shift in behavioral patterns, inbound marketing has emerged as the new paradigm for savvy companies of all sizes to transact business in the digital age. Inbound marketing allows you to interact with businesses and consumers during the research and decision making process and capture the attention of your most coveted prospects along their journey from problem identification through purchase: their “Buyer’s Journey.”
By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound marketing attracts qualified prospects to your business, nurtures them, helps turn them into customers and if executed flawlessly, keeps them coming back for more.
Some of the most important tools to attract your ideal customers to your site and show how much you care as businesses are:
Blogging– A blog is the single best way to attract new visitors to your website. In order to get found by the right prospective customers, you must create educational content that speaks to them and answers their questions.
Premium Content– Premium content development includes eBooks, white papers, slide shares, Infographics, videos, podcasts and webinars. These items provide quality information that educate, inform and guide your prospects through their journey.
Social Media Engagement– You must share remarkable content and valuable information on the social web. Social media engagement, utilizing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and Pinterest have become the go-to methods of engaging with prospects. These tools allow you to put a human face on your brand. It is necessary to interact with your prospects where they hang out online.
Keywords– Your customers begin their buying process online, usually by using a search engine to find something they have questions about. To make sure you are appearing prominently when they search, you need to carefully and analytically pick keywords, optimize your pages, create content, and build links around the terms your ideal buyers are searching for.
Pages– You must optimize your website to appeal to and speak with your ideal buyers. Transform your website into a beacon of helpful content to entice the right strangers to visit your pages.
It’s Time to Redirect the Marketing Budget
Talk to any small business owner and they will tell you that this shift in consumer behavior is easily recognizable. Just go to a restaurant or coffee shop and take a look at the people glued to their mobile phones, laptops and tablets. Intuitively we know that things are different than they were even just a few short years ago, and for all but those few with their heads in the sand, this radical shift is evident.
Understanding this trend is the easy part, but knowing what to do about it is an entirely different matter. It’s a tall order for many business owners to shift away from marketing tactics that have provided great results in the past, and moving towards this unknown world. However, for those that wish to survive and thrive in the coming years, this move is necessary.
It’s time! In the midst of THIS quarterly review, DIVE into the numbers and look at where the majority of your marketing dollars are flowing.
An inbound marketing budget, particularly for B2B businesses will contain line items such as:
- Collateral development and production
- Content development specialists
- Email programs
- Graphic artists
- Market research
- Marketing software
- Metrics/data analysts
- Mobile marketing specialists
- PR specialists
- SEO/keyword research
- Social media specialists
- Special events
- Website development/re-engineering
If your budget contains none of these items, and you are still throwing the majority of your money at trade shows, advertisements, entertainment and dining and a whole host of offline other marketing tactics, you have some work to do.
Because right now, your ideal clients have a problem that your business is ideally positioned to help them with. While you are reading this article, they are searching online this second to understand their problem, and they are looking for “great” companies to do business with.
The question remains.
Are They Going To Find You?
It’s time to roll up the sleeves and get to work! What’s in your budget?