If you look up “internet marketing,” you will find mountains of sites and information all putting together programs to help you, and since most of these sites are marketing you their marketing services, they do all of the following extremely well.
But if you prefer the cheat sheet to the hundreds of hours you can spend on the freely available material, here is a super-simplified overview of inbound marketing methods, their purpose, and effectiveness.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – You have probably heard this term. SEO became huge a few years back as soon as people got a decent grasp on Google’s search engine ranking algorithms. If you have managed to avoid the term, it means someone is going through your website and making adjustments to increase your ranking on Google, ideally to get your company on the first page. When was the last time you went to the 3rd or 4th page of your search results?
Google changes the algorithms constantly, which means people in the SEO business need to keep on top of the changes and adjust accordingly. The basic premise is having original content on your website with links to other pages on and off your site. The more interconnected it is, the better you rank. Writing with lots of keywords thrown in helps too, but you cannot overdo it. When focusing on building your SEO, stick to something super specific. If your company caters to the grooming of siamese cats, avoid trying to rank on the first page of a search for “cats.” Your specific niche is your friend.
Blogging – Marketing has changed from the advertising team telling people specifically what to think about their products. Now information is freely available to anyone who cares to look. Customers want to know about YOU before they buy. This is doubly true for high-ticket items. Putting out regular blog content about anything related to your topic will not only help your SEO, but it gives the customer a chance to decide if they like you before engaging in a conversation. The focus of the blog is education. How much value can you bring to your readers who are long-time customers or first-time purchasers? The more value they get out of your content, the more value they will see in your core and splinter offers.
Email Newsletters – I follow 20+ blogs but regularly forget to read them. An email newsletter is a non-invasive way of reminding your contact list that you are there for them. You have the option of creating a separate newsletter from your blog or just blast out links to your blog. The part of this that is really exciting is companies are creating automated marketing systems which sort what your customers are interested in and only blasts them that content. The rabbit hole goes way deeper, but just sending a newsletter once a month will dramatically improve your inbound prospects. Out of respect for the time of your contact list, limit your newsletters to no more than 2-3 times per week. Once a week seems to be the sweet spot.
Webinars – This is an online class educating people about your area of expertise, usually with a sales pitch at the end. These became really popular a couple years back, but businesses are now finding out how difficult it is to get people to commit to sitting at their computer at a specific time for an hour to two. The upside is they typically have high conversion rates. Promotion and viewer engagement are key here.
Pay-per-click Advertising (PPC) – I read once that “he who is willing or able to spend the most on customer acquisition wins.” That is not always true and the efforts have to be measurable and targeted. Well-written and well-placed Facebook ads can outperform radio and television ads. As a bonus, they have measurable results. When writing your ads, make sure to know where your target audience spends their time. Buy a few spaces for testing different versions of the same ad, then put your money into the best performer. Timothy Ferriss has a great section on this in his book The 4-Hour Workweek if this is new to you.
Affiliate Marketing – This is a relationship between your company and several other blogs, magazines, or other companies in your industry who use each other’s email lists to cross sell. Typically, this involves a percentage of the sale going to the provider of the contact. If you have worked hard to create a large email list, recommending products of other companies that provide something you don’t will show your readers that you are looking out for them, not just yourself.
Social Media – Twitter, Facebook Fan Page, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and so many others. You need to know which of these your customers use so you can be there too. Most companies give this lip service by setting up accounts and occasionally posting some boring content. If you have or are doing something spectacular, post it! If it’s lackluster, you risk getting overlooked in favor of adorable kitten pictures. If you are unfamiliar with social media in general, start with one and expand as your comfort grows. Follow other people in your industry, as many as you can. Make comments on other posts and link back to your blog when it’s helpful. Avoid spamming your own content as much as possible. Remember the old cliche: to be interesting, be interested.