On the phone with a prospective client the other day, I suddenly realized that my hand was making a repetitive circular motion as I explained the way internet marketing for small business works.
Well, after all, it is circular. One event touches off another, which creates another, and so on. Every thing affects all the other things in the cycle.
Your description of the process may vary, depending on basic orientation. But roughly, it’s going to be something like:
- website leads to
- changing content, which leads to
- social media, which leads to
- subscriber list, which leads to
- sales, which leads to
- new website content.
Your online branding, shared via social media, works unceasingly to bring buyers to you. It’s a relatively simple formula.
- Figure out how to represent your biz via recorded media of some kind (written word, audio, video, etc.)
- Create a schedule for ongoing creation of this content – and follow through!
- Offer subscriptions and send valuable information to opt-ins.
- Follow up with honest selling and obsessive customer service.
- Get a recorded testimonial from your thrilled customer. Use the experience of actual sales to create new content.
I’ve been listening to online preachers of internet and inbound marketing for the past five years and there’s one phrase that has never been replaced with a better one. Lingo should become more precise over time, but this term remains obtuse.
I’m referring to our habit of insisting that in order to get a leg up with your internet presence, you need to identify where your target market ‘hangs out.’
Now, you’re a professional, you have responsibilities and a helluva lot to do. You may party down once a week or month, but ‘hanging out’ is not something on your daily list. Oh, you visit Facebook every day, but the chance you’ll see a certain update is small.
So now we have to face the fact that it’s far less a matter of figuring out “where your target customers are hanging out” and much more a matter of ranking for a large number of keywords, being ubiquitous online, turning up around every corner.
Alright then. How do I connect with my ideal customers online and get them to opt-in to my list? Simple. Content, content, and more content. Title it, tag it, publish, rinse and repeat. Give, then get.
If you have trouble adjusting to change, you may have problems with the internet, because the overall beta mode of everything online is nothing if not subject to change.
Sometimes I fear that my clients’ patience will give out. We set up some app or site and then the rules shift.
I wonder how anyone who doesn’t study the internet in depth can understand what’s going on, much less trust any of it. When you are there everyday, the pieces fit together; but if you check in only sporadically, it must seem a crazy tangle of nonsense. How can you keep up with all the changes?
This is why the person you select as consultant for your business needs online must be someone you deeply trust. As with your broker, your lawyer, or your doctor, you may at times trust them to take actions on your behalf whether or not you completely understand the rationale. You’re too busy to stay on top of all that: you trust your advisor to handle it.
Look for technical and communications expertise in an inbound marketing consultant; but far more important is to know the person sincerely has only your best interests at heart.
If there’s one thing that irks me, it’s intimidation. When someone addresses a group, wagging a finger and pontificating about something that every one present should be doing, I cringe.
Unfortunately, the knowledge gap when it comes to social media and inbound marketing provides many opportunities for people who like to preach, threaten, and intimidate.
Businesses do need to get on the internet bus. If you want/need to sell to others for just about any purpose, it’s certainly true that the web is the way. It may even be true that there’s some urgency: not taking advantage of the internet could leave you invisible.
But once we agree on that basic concept, there is no use of the web that works for everyone.
If you dictate that blogs, videos, Twitter, LinkedIn, emails, or any other single tool (or specific combination of tools) in the immense array of available technologies is essential to internet success, you’re selling snake oil. Every situation is unique; every set of tools must be custom-selected.
Traditional marketing relied on intimidation, but the internet demands more of us. It’s too obvious when you’re trying to intimidate. The web works best when we humanely help. Whole different ballgame.
Sometimes I wonder if the term, social media is a misnomer. When I first encountered it, I thought the label sounded frivolous. According to Wikipedia, ”Businesses may refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM).”
Many of us used to suffer under the delusion that SM was expressly not about business, it was where we could ‘be ourselves’ and ‘share with friends.’ But that was far more hype than truth. For one thing, you have to be guarded about everything you say online, lest it come back to haunt you. And for another, sharing with ‘friends’ is now cast in terms of power and influence instead of giving and receiving with care.
SM is about consumers more than friends. It’s a way to supply business with data, proof, and connection. With print processes impossibly expensive on every level, without SM, business could no longer market or communicate.
Before you attack such statements, understand that this is not a bad thing. I’m not saying that we’ve simply been manipulated by evil corporations. I am saying we agreed to take responsibility for making our world. We entered into dialog with not only business but one another. Social media is about social re-organization.
The term social media is not well understood. Business use of social media, for instance, does not amount to an internet marketing presence. If you just chat with friends and family on Facebook, fine. But don’t expect your Facebook page alone to bring you customers.
Social media is a (relatively small) subset of online inbound marketing. And online inbound marketing is a subset of marketing, which also includes inbound efforts that are offline.
Think: a child is a subset of a family, which is a subset of society. They are all equally important and necessary; but each is very different.
For business, the key to inbound marketing is content. Once you have content, you can use social media as one way to give people access to it.
Additional ways would include building landing pages, posting on your blog, writing guest blog posts, sending out a newsletter, offering content to live networking groups and liaisons, and your pick of the thousands of other distribution opportunities.
Somewhat unfortunately, social media is the term the public has adopted, it seems, to refer to online marketing opportunities. Yes, your sharing should be thorough, respectful, and attractive. But it’s what you share that matters most.
True confessions time. I really like Facebook a lot. It keeps me in touch with friends as never before. It supplies endless entertainment. It makes me feel as though I am part of a strong community.
Nonetheless, I must admit, if I only know you through business connections, I probably don’t want to be friends with you on Facebook.
Now, before you take offense, let me explain. Everyone uses social media tools in ways that best suit them. I love how my Facebook profile news tab is full of messages from people I’m personally connected to. I go there a couple times a week and drink deeply of the news from my near and dears. I post updates now and then, but much more often just read the messages from friends and enjoy the sense of well-being that comes from belonging.
That enjoyment would obviously be lost if I connected with anyone and everyone.
What’s more, I don’t have a Facebook Business Page. I build lots of them for clients, and they’re definitely useful for many. For me, for now, not so much.
In online inbound marketing, there are no standard processes. Every strategy is customized to the given business.
What is Ninja marketing?
I suspect it’s lithe, almost invisible, flexible, breathtaking, and infinitely sensitive. Doesn’t that sound like a Ninja to you?
An earlier generation might have labeled the type a samurai.
What gives this person power? Her command of those five attributes. She is:
Lithe: Dedicated to improvement, a kaizen sort of approach. Never repeating routines but always discovering newness.
Almost invisible: The Ninja operates in the shadows, dressed in black, like a Japanese Bunraku puppeteer.
Flexible: Nimble of mind as well as body, the Ninja marketer plans, devotes to the plan, and then knows when to change the plan.
Breathtaking: You know, it’s that “Be remarkable” thing that Seth Godin is always talking about.
Infinitely sensitive: This attribute was what motivated this blog post. A Ninja marketer listens with her whole being; she can tell when to speak and when to hear. Most of all, she knows that the way to look good is to make the other guy look good.
The Ninja marketer, if nothing else, lives by the faith that focus on the other pays and pays and pays. It’s a rule that works in social media, especially. Respond to realties; give where you’re needed.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you social media returns can’t be measured, because any inbound marketing specialist can show you multiple ways to measure the effectiveness of your tweets and facebook updates, your ads, blog posts, and article submissions. The challenge of social media is more complex: yes, we can track the numbers, but what do they mean? Is it always true that a spike in website traffic means a spike in sales? Not even close, right? Is it true that a great score from twittergrader.com means your website traffic has increased? Hardly, as we all know.
In a way, there are so many tools for measuring your inbound marketing efforts that they get in each other’s way and tend to confuse us. Deciding which indicator to work with is, in itself, a daunting task. What tells you most accurately how your brand is performing: productivity, comments, stats, traffic, conversions … ?
Is there always a direct correlation between business success and marketing returns? Not necessarily, right? You can be popular without profiting monetarily from it.
The internet lets us pretend that we can measure communications. But we shouldn’t let that illusion fool us into thinking the stats don’t lie.
When I started this blog last January, my second post presumed to define the term, inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is my daily professional focus and fascination, but I’m still not absolutely certain what it is.
Why do we call participating on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, or LinkedIn social media? Because it’s more friendly and personal than traditional marketing, right? Because it is essentially about inter-personal communications, and only secondarily about business. Because in social media, business is a guest in the personal lives of its connections.
Being guest, instead of host, means business must accept what is offered with gratitude, and respect the host and the environment. A beloved guest is one who enriches the host’s life, and does not diminish it.
Social media says that the medium is social. Webster’s says social means, “… involving allies … pleasant companionship … cooperative and interdependent relationships …”
Business can use social methods to make required connections. Competition is eclipsed by community.
Perhaps this begins to explain why explaining social media to the uninitiated is so challenging. It’s counter-intuitive.