An introduction to inbound marketing for startups
How do you market your startup without having to spend on online or offline ads? One of the cheapest and best ways is to build a community around your business. We spoke to Syed Irfan Ajmal an expert in inbound marketing and asked him to give us advice on how to use content to increase sales for your business.
First off, I want to start with some statistics on traditional marketing:
- Your average customer is 112.50 times more likely to complete navy seal training than click on a banner ad. [Source: Solve Media]
- 86% of people skip TV adverts and 71% of them open a second screen during an ad break. [Source: CMO Council]
- In the US, complaints to the Federal Trade Commission about telemarketing calls have almost tripled to 150,000 per month since 2009, despite the fact that as of 2012, over 200 million Americans had registered on the FTC’s ‘Do Not Call me” list.
Fun Link: Speaking of cold calling, here are some funny means consumers are using to extract some revenge on cold callers.
So the question is how do you market your start-up if outbound marketing is not effective anymore?
You guessed it. Through inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is about attracting the attention of the customer through helpful content distributed through blogs, infographics, podcasts, videos, case studies, white papers and much more as opposed to using outbound marketing means of buying the customer’s attention through ads, banners, cold calls, spam mail, telemarketing etc.
As David Meerman Scott mentions, it’s about ‘earning your way in’, in contrast to using outbound methods of buying, begging or bugging your way in.
It is out of the scope of this article to give you a complete overview of inbound marketing and there is extensive content available online on how it works. But I will mention 3 things that I think are very important:
1. Quality Content Creation:
Keep promotional content creation to, say, 20% with the rest of your 80% of content being informational in nature and relevant to both your product/service and your target customer. Don’t necessarily limit yourself to articles and blog posts but venture into other content formats like video, webinars, infographics and podcasts as well.
In this regard you should also use tools like Ahrefs Content Explorer and BuzzSumo to find great topics (which have received lots of shares) to discuss and also use useful Keyword Research methods so that your content is found by people who are searching for it.
2. SEO & Content Marketing:
Creating a great content piece is only a job half done. You have to spend much more time and effort on content promotion. For starters, build relations with other top websites (and the best way to do that is by helping them even if it means engaging with their content). From time to time reach out to them and offer to write a guest post for them, in this guest post make sure you mention your own website and the content on there. Now why would they mention your content? Because it would be informational rather than promotional in nature and so it would provide value to their audience (provided it’s relevant). Some additional info:
- Find out how Buffer and AirBnB gained traction without spending on ads.
3. CRO - Conversion Rate Optimization:
You must also optimize your website and other web properties (e.g. your newsletter) so as to improve your conversions (sales, email subscribers, blog subscribers, etc)
In this regard creating powerful CTAs (call-to-actions), split-testing your landing pages, improving design/UI/UX, making your copy more action-oriented, and a variety of other factors can help you improve your conversions. Check out 100 conversion optimization case studies, as well as, a CRO1010 Guide.
“But why shouldn’t I continue using Facebook Ads which is getting us lot of conversions?”
As much as I am a huge fan of inbound marketing, this article is not a hate-campaign against outbound marketing. If Facebook ads (or Google ads or some other conventional method) is working for you, I am not asking you to ditch it all together and invest all your efforts into inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing does take time and, according to some experts, it is always wise to diversify your marketing investments. This is not to say I advocate you cold-calling or spam-mailing the hell out of people though, but certain outbound strategies can work of course.
However, imagine this:
- You keep on running a Facebook ad. But they show your ad only until you have the money to keep that ad engine running since it’s a ‘rented media’.
Content creation does take more time (although usually costs less to create, and promote it the inbound way), it is for your own website which you own. Whatever infographic, video, article you create there is (and should be) relevant to your target market and you own this media. This means you are building a strong community that revolves around your product and that loves you and trusts you since you are providing them lots of valuable content for free.
So if you are able to write, promote and distribute good content for your website, it will benefit you in the long run as it should turn your web properties into an (almost) self-running marketing machines that you own.
This is perhaps the biggest benefit of inbound marketing which outbound marketing can’t provide.
Author’s Bio: Syed Irfan Ajmal is an entrepreneur, HubSpot Certified Inbound Marketer, public speaker, and regular columnist at Business.com. His agency MQC provides inbound marketing services to SMEs, and he also writes at InboundZone on how to attain financial & time freedom through inbound marketing.