Smart, successful local businesses need a steady source of new and recurring customers. Having an outstanding product or service is where it all begins but marketing is what gains a business new clients and grows revenue. So what strategies should be in a business’ marketing plan and how can they best capture new customers?
Read on to find out how high performing local service business should be marketing to their clients by three different means: inbound, outbound, and strategic partnerships. Let’s define these three channels.
Strategic Partnerships/Referral Based
Referrals are the bread and butter of many local business. It’s word-of-mouth from current clients and referrals from business contacts, or referrals from companies you may have strategic partnerships with, or power partners.
Strategic partnerships can take different shapes, but being collaborative, a valuable resource for the company’s clients, and referring business to one another are all elements at its core. For example, if you’re a pest control company and you have a strong partnership with a local landscape maintenance company, and vice versa, this can be a power referral relationship – a strategic partnership.
Referrals tends to lead to high quality leads and higher closing rate for new clients. However, word-of-mouth referrals can be an inconsistent source of new business so it’s better to diversify and have different streams of new clients. The term referral is also used in inbound and outbound marketing to determine the referral source of the client.
When people think of outbound sales, many people associate it with the classic cold call. While this is true, there are many other outbound channels such as paid search engine ads, paid social media advertising such as in Facebook, direct-mail, radio advertising, newspaper ads, phone book advertising (this is starting to die off), TV/video advertising, online display advertising, or outdoor display advertising such as billboards.
Outbound marketing has also historically been viewed as more linear marketing, rather than the mutually symbiotic natural relationship inbound touts. Linear meaning that each medium is its own source that doesn’t really enhance the other such as having a newspaper ad and a separate radio ad, which don’t really complement each other, or bring people in to the business naturally. They could be viewed as separate boxes, that you check and assess independently, unlike the flywheel, propelling concept of inbound marketing.
Outbound also includes attending a chamber of commerce event, a networking group such as BNI, or having a booth at trade show. All of these types of activities put you in front of people potentially interested in your business, but have an entry price.
Some outbound activities can be free such as attending a local business grand opening, being a visitor at a networking meeting, or speaking at an event, but they are all outbound marketing tactics.
Does It Have to Be Disruptive Advertising?
Outbound marketing, which may also be referred as interruption marketing, can be a more expensive tactic, but allows you to reach a wider audience. You are essentially buying traffic and pushing your product or service in front of people, but the key is to to target your preferred clientele. While outbound marketing may be ‘old’ marketing, it can be combined with with new media to deliver a powerfully crafted, focused message.
Since you are paying for placement and if done right, can get your message out quickly and effectively to targeted prospects, outbound tends to yield quicker results than inbound. This gives it a significant advantage over inbound for more nascent businesses.
Outbound may be seem like more traditional, corporate advertising, but it can also lead to a lot of community good. Joining a Rotary Club could fit under outbound. In the end, it’s about utilizing all the marketing tactics that effectively bring in new business.
Inbound is a newer marketing term. It’s a tactic where you’re putting out content that brings people in to your business, but not through paid distribution. So examples would be organic search engine traffic (SEO), website content, blogs, posting on social media, building an email list to market to, video production, webinars, ebooks, white papers, etc. In short, inbound is about having customers come to you through your awesome content rather than paying for ads.
Inbound marketing is also about social proof. Delighting customers and getting lots of good customer reviews with stories to tell. This can help amplify the brand through social, email, and through earned media which profile the company. Thought leadership and community building are also elements of inbound.
With inbound marketing, your website tends to be centerpiece of your marketing. Many of your marketing activities feed into your website such as being able to sign up for offers, webinars, download ebooks, or your posts on social media and email linking back to your website.
Inbound is more technologically centered, digital marketing. In inbound, your website is treated like a flywheel that is built up and powers your marketing, effectively distributing it to different channels, but also with a reciprocal effect.
Building Business For the Long-Term
Inbound is more of a long-term marketing tactic. You’re building up your marketable assets providing new content to people who may be interested in your services, publishing blogs and other web content, sending out emails, doing videos, hosting webinars, and posting on social media. The goal is that over time you will attract and nurture these prospects and turn them into clients.
This can get a little confusing as you can inbound marketing is by no means free or low cost. It can also easily cross over into outbound if you have to send outreach emails to have content publish on other websites, including the time spent to prepare and publish that content. You could also be paying to have the content published or links promoted, but that would technically fall under outbound activities. Some people put pay-per-click advertising into the inbound channel, but PPC is paid traffic.
The differences between marketing agencies that are labeled as content marketing, inbound marketing or SEO can be a little gray. Hiring companies that provide these services can be quite expensive.
Branding is at the Core of Inbound
Inbound is not as simple as simply publishing relevant content and customers will come. You need good design, interesting content, good SEO, a brand story, and compelling calls to action on your mediums, including your website.
Inbound marketing likes to be presented as pure – cool, hip and modern. People come to your business naturally because they’re interested in you, instead of wading through the noise pollution of ads. Outbound marketing can be loud and obnoxious. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be targeted, focused, and creative.
Smart Marketers Diversify
So which one should choose: inbound, outbound or referrals? To be diversified and have more customer touch points, you should be doing all three. While you do want to prioritize and focus on your most profitable mediums, there is considerable overlap and integration between the channels.
Why publish a great post to social media and have it reach only a few hundred people whereas a relatively small amount of paid promotion could allow that same post to reach tens of thousands of people? Combining organic content with paid distribution can be a big win-win.
Another example would be if you were spending thousands of dollars a month on a billboard, would you really want to send people to a lousy website, even though the website may fit more under the inbound tactic? Nope, that would be a big mistake.
Marketing channels shouldn’t be viewed as silo, especially as technology develops. For example, I can advertise on YouTube, which people come to organically. They can click then from the creative, intriguing video I’m using to advertise to get to my website, which may not lead to a sale or which may lead to a webinar sign up, which is part of inbound, which then leads to a sale. Conversions can have a multitude of touch points, and your marketing should reflect this.
As a marketer, you need a variety of tools in your tool shed. Carefully select and test the tools that are most effective in delivering the results you seek, utilize different channels, put more of your focus on the ones that work best. And then fine tune your business’ marketing plan.