As an entrepreneur actively working to get your startup off the ground, you may often find yourself in need of expertise in areas where you have no experience.
From understanding basic accounting practices to establish your selling price and manage a budget, to the legalities of your contracts, company structure or product development, to developing a marketing and sales system that will attract new customers and build market share, there are many new areas you may never have encountered before. Live Free and Start offers a wide range of resources for all of these concerns and more.
This post will give you some insight into one very important aspect of your marketing strategy: digital inbound.
First, what is Inbound Marketing, and why should a startup care about it?
According to Hubspot, “Since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be.”
A startup should care about this for a few reasons:
1. It’s a FAR more cost-effective way to ‘do marketing’. If you’re bootstrapping and have more people than money at your disposal, you can build up an audience of followers, fans, and prospective customers organically, spending very little money to do so.
2. It builds the foundation for your future. Someday you will have money, and a base of followers, fans and customers that you can now tap to help you continue growing. Since you’ve established relationships with your target audience(s) since the beginning, it will be much easier for you to get them to convert as customers and share your message with others.
3. You’ll be able to show potential investors that you have a HUGE audience of well-targeted prospective customers already interested in your product or service. This will help you tremendously when making your bid for financial support.
4. It’s not rocket science. Inbound marketing is not a concept that will take you years to learn, and you don’t need an advanced degree to do it well.Read a few books on the methodology, start following the influential leaders in the space, download podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and/or subscribe to an all-in-one program to gain an understanding of the principles. Then, start testing out your strategy to determine what works for your company and your audience.
All in on the concept? Here’s the plan to get you started.
Start by getting to know your audience.
Who are you really selling to? Before you answer that, really think about whose attention you need to capture in order to make a sale. Who influences those potential customers of yours? Where do they get their information and spend their time? This will help you define your ‘buyer personas’ and develop inbound marketing campaigns that attract and convert them.
Know your end game from the start.
Individual plays make up the action on the football field, but these plays are all mapped out as part of the big-picture strategy long before game day. Before you start throwing messages up on Twitter and Instagram, or producing your YouTube video series, you need to define your end goals and how you want to reach them.
For example, if your goal is gaining 1,000 new paid subscribers per month, but people need to try your program before they will commit to paying for it, then you may need 10,000 trial downloads per month to get 10% of trialers to make a purchase. So your inbound marketing goal should be related to getting those 10,000 monthly trials, and you would use content to lead people to download a trial.
Now that you know your goal of leading people to download a trial, you can focus on messaging related to that, and not the final sale (that will come later). So each ‘play’ in your strategy would lead from building awareness with your target market(s), to capturing their interest, to converting them to a free trial download.
Be everything to someone, not something to everyone.
Startups, and new businesses in general, often ineffectively try to focus on everything, such as having a presence on every social media channel, which waters down the effect they could have had by focusing solely on one impactful channel.
Resources are extremely limited in the early stages of a business, so it’s important to focus your efforts on the limited number of methods and target markets where you can have the biggest impact.
Avoiding the desire to try to reach every potential customer is one of the hardest things an entrepreneur can overcome, but building a groundswell in a limited number of markets will allow you to capture new customers and achieve far greater results than spreading your resources too thin.
Capture their attention and make them remember you.
One of the best things about starting your own business is that you get to make the rules! Have fun with your message and your target market will too. You don’t have to be stuffy like the bigger companies, you can make your customers laugh and you can make them remember you.
Take a risk and try a few things you think would get people to pay attention.
Keep track of everyone, you’re going to need them later.
When you lead people to your website from social media, email, videos, podcasts, and events, it is imperative that you entice them to give you their contact info. At the very least, their name and email address will ensure you can start building a foundational marketing database for the future.
Offer them something on a landing page, such as an eBook, demo, free trial, or VIP access to your product when it launches so that they will have a reason to give you their contact information.
Use Google Analytics (free) or Hubspot (robust) to gather key information such as how they got to the landing page, which types of visitors were more likely to convert, and which messages were more likely to get their attention. Transfer those leads to your marketing CRM system so you can follow up with them via email.
You’re building the foundation of your customer base, and their email addresses will be the vital connection to help you reach them in many different ways in the future.