Last week, Josh and I had the opportunity to attend the Inbound Marketing Summit at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Home of the New England Patriots, though they were never there. The speakers included many of the bloggers, twitter handles and marketing experts that we follow regularly such as:
It was a jam-packed 2 day conference where we mingled with industry experts, and huge marketing agency executives to absorb as much knowledge as possible for application to our small business marketing clients.
Over the next few days, I want to share what I feel are the biggest takeaway messages from the conference as it applies to Small Business marketing.
What the Heck Is Inbound Marketing
You might be wondering what the heck inbound marketing is, especially if you are a small business owner or marketer. The notion of inbound marketing takes traditional (outbound) marketing where you publish ads, run a radio commercial, buy billboard space, and generally force yourself into leads' life, and completely squashes it entirely.
Wikipedia says that Inbound Marketing is as follows:
"Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by customers."
Essentially, Inbound Marketing is geared around making it easier for leads to find you, instead of hunting them down through cold calling, etc... With all of the online resources available, this is actually a much easier task than you would think. It will also save you big bucks!
Social Media Works IF You Are Engaged In It
We all know that having a twitter account, facebook business page, foursquare location and youtube channel is free. We've also all heard great success stories about using these mediums to reach leads, grow sales, and retire young. The key component to these success stories is often left out...
Someone at the successful company had to work their tale off to make it successful.
While social media remains free to participate in and use, it takes an investment of time to make it effective. In our experience, many of the small businesses that we meet indicate that they have no free time to check-in on Yelp, send a tweet, or reply to comments on facebook. Let alone blog on a weekly basis! Some also say, we need policies in place first before we let our employees use these platforms and represent our business.
What they mean to say is, they don't have the time/desire to figure out how to use social media tools, and setup a strategy to make them worth using. They don't see the clear reason why social media can help their business or how it works, so they find an excuse not to start using it. They don't want to spend the brief time it takes to create a general policy on using social media at work. They don't want yet another thing to monitor.
All-in-all, small businesses are still trying to "get it".
We are a small business, and we struggle to keep up with our own social media strategies, blogging, videos, etc... primarily because we're focused on helping our clients grow theirs, BUT we see the tremendous opportunity that it affords us and our clients, so we live in it.
Why You CAN Find Time for Social Media
A couple of the speakers at #IMS10 gave us great responses to companies that are "afraid" to let employees engage in social media on behalf of the company, or are hesitating to make the commitment to join and participate in social media. Or, just haven't entered because of [excuse here]:
- You trust your employees to talk directly to customers on the phone and at your business right? What's the difference?
- The US Military allows troops to tweet, comment, post to FB right from the ground WITHOUT a pre-approval process. Is there more risk in your business than there is in the US Military's day to day operations?
- Many small business owners dislike the disconnected experience leads have with their website. They are used to the meet and greet experience of their storefront, or office. HELLO! Social Media gives you this opportunity online to a much larger audience than the walk-ins you get to your office!
- You and your target market are NOT too old or behind the technology curve to start engaging in conversations through social media. The data shows that your peers and prospects are there.
Guess what, those numbers are rising! Don't be last to join in. Your competitors are likely already there.
- Your customers and future customers are their, and it opens a HIGHWAY to your website. With some strategy, metrics, and evaluation process in place, it can be the best lead/sale generating source you have.
It's About Starting Off Right - The Rest Is FREE
The biggest roadblock we see with clients is that they just haven't taken that pivotal step of tweeting for the first time, or setting up a facebook account. If you're unsure about jumping in, get training! Even the most novice of online users can get acquainted and comfortable with social media in 2-3 hours.
We highly recommend starting your social media/inbound marketing endeavor with the help of a consultant (not your niece/nephew/son/daughter/neighborhood geek) that can get you off on the right foot from a strategy perspective. Don't just dive in without goals/metrics/review processes/analysis in mind.
Yes, having some consulting to get you trained and started correctly will require that you invest some funds. You are already probably blowing wads of cash on useless newspaper ads (not useless? how measuring effectiveness?). Halt your ad for a couple weeks and make a real investment that you will really see a return on.
After you are setup and ready to go, it's FREE. Measuring ROI on an investment of FREE is pretty strait forward...
Part 2 - Coming Tomorrow
Sneak Peek: Social Media is not a miracle worker... it requires time and patience.