Does a poor economy mean there is no business? Not at all. When we say there is a poor economy for housing, does it mean there is absolutely no market for home buyers or when we say it’s a down market for leisure travel do we mean that no one is flying? No. In fact in this poor economy, more than 60 million homes were sold last year and Americans took 1.5 billion leisure person-trips in 2010. What a poor economy means is that there are fewer buyers than there were when customers were so numerous, enough would just wander through the door to keep you busy. All you had to do was let them know there was a door. A newspaper ad. A yellow pages ad. A saturation postcard mailing. Perhaps an email campaign or even an internet banner ad. All these things were sufficient to let these types of customers know that you were available to take an order. Marketing was about the institutional concept of letting people know you had a business.
In a poor economy, that’s changed. Those buyers that would just wander through your door are gone. The buyers that are still out there are the ones that you never saw before. They didn’t pay attention to institutional advertising. They are buyers who make decisions about your product or service by gathering information, talking to references and learning as much as they can about you before you ever see them. If your marketing was – or is - focused on buying lists, pushing out an offer, and hoping for a 1% return, these buyers were not on your lists and if they were, they weren’t going to be in your 1% return because that’s not how they buy. These customers, the only kind that exist in a poor economy, respond to something called inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is the process of creating information about how your business solves customer problems and making that information available on your website through search engines like Google and Bing and on social networks like Twitter, Linked In and Facebook. If your marketing efforts aren’t facilitating the kind of research that customers do in a poor economy, they won’t find you. So what do you do? If you just ‘go dark’ on your ads or your mailings, while you ramp up efforts to create the information prospects search for on the web, people presume the worst and you lose share of mind. The economy is tight so increasing the budget isn’t happening. But if your business is going to flourish, you’ve got to fix your mix.
One Step At A Time
There are answers.
- Streamline and Automate
- Start small
- Execute faithfully
- Measure, Tweak and Repeat
Streamlining and Automating – There is often automation that can be applied to outbound marketing to decrease its costs. Savings range from postal rate discounts to moving paper mail programs to email to using a process dashboard to facilitate job management. By streamlining and automating existing outbound programs, savings can be re-directed to ramp up inbound activities such as keyword research, website search engine optimization enhancements and content development. In addition, you may scale back, but not eliminate outbound activities to more aggressively re-direct budget to accelerating your inbound marketing.
Start Small – Once you have your keyword research in hand, effectively crafted blogs and social media activity have been shown to generate leads at the lowest cost. Check out this article on EMarketer.com for a more in depth look at how these tools can really move your marketing mix onward and upward. If you’re not a writer, services are available that can ghost-write material for you so you can stay focused on your other activities.
Execute Faithfully - Basically, stick to what works, or just "stay the course." Be responsible for regularly updating social media; delivering responsive, helpful customer service & steadily/continuously updating your email campaigns & subscriber databases
Measure, Tweak & Repeat -Self-explanatory, right? One of the best things about a properly implemented inbound marketing program is that everything is measureable. Evaluate what's not working, determine why, tweak as needed, (i.e., fix your marketing mix) then once more from the top, with feeling. Successful cycles work for a reason. Adjust to current trends as needed, but keep the basics in place.
It can be done. And the results, leads that find you when they are ready to buy, are rewarding. An important partner in your quest to fix your mix is a service provider that understands both the nuances of wringing savings from your current outbound activities and how to prioritize and execute inbound marketing so your business can start getting found. Contact IMR for a free audit of your present plan or check out these free resources on inbound and outbound marketing.