Send a few hundred emails, and hope that an inquiry occurs.
Send a few thousand direct mail pieces, and get a couple of inquiries from prospective customers.
Make a hundred telemarketing calls, and find seven or eight people willing to listen to what you have to offer.
Broadcast a TV commercial, get a few million viewers, and get thousands of new customers.
All of the above are outbound marketing techniques used by companies to develop business. Twenty years ago, these techniques were very effective. Today, they’re much less effective.
Consumers have learned to tune out these types of outbound marketing approaches. Because these marketing methods are intrusive, and annoying, products have been created to help consumers avoid these messages.
Caller ID was created to help consumers identify telemarketers, and avoid them. Consumers have learned that most mail is comprised of junk mail along with a few bills, and are now conditioned to identify junk mail, and throw these direct mail marketing pieces away.
DVR now allows people to avoid commercials, and companies advertising with commercials, actually reach fewer people today.
Finally, spam filters have become quite effective in blocking out email solicitations.
Consumers have much more control when it comes to making purchases today. They can go to the web, use a search engine, and get information about endless numbers of products, and decide what to buy without having to even leave their homes.
Fortunately, for businesses looking for customers, there is a way to better way to find customers, thanks to the Internet. In fact, technology has leveled the playing field for small companies to be able to compete with the big companies in the marketplace.
In the past, small companies, that couldn’t afford television advertising, or large direct mail marketing campaigns, were at a tremendous disadvantage when competing with large companies who could afford the large advertising, and PR firms.
Today, however, small companies can use the web to get customers to come to them, and unlike outbound marketing programs, inbound methods can be relatively inexpensive, and affordable for even the smallest of companies.
Here are a few things small business owners can do to get customers to notice them:
1) Provide something of value for free. This could be a product, or information that prospects would find useful. Blogs, ebooks, webinars, surveys, and videos, are all great tools that small businesses can use to make this happen.
Hubspot, a marketing software company here in Massachusetts, is probably the Godfather of inbound marketing. The company publishes lots of free ebooks with great information about marketing, and now has thousands of paying customers. Using Hubspot’s free Marketing Grader Software, small businesses can also get an idea on how effective their web sites are at getting noticed on the web.
Another company that capitalizes on free tools is Amazon. The company allows consumers to read its Kindle products by letting them download Kindle software on cell phones, and laptops for free. If you like the kindle on your cell phone, chances are you may eventually decide to upgrade to a larger product i,e, the kindle.
2) Read, and make comments on other people’s blogs. Unlike static web sites, blogging allows companies to be able to reach out and connect with their customer base. By making comments on blogs that your clients read, companies can start dialogs, listen, and learn about their prospects.
3) Respond to people who comment on your blogs. Intrusive advertisements are one-way communication. Blogging, however, is two-way. Readers can share their thoughts about your products, and services, and companies now have the opportunity, to listen, and communicate with the people they want to serve.
4) Get active on the social networks. Places like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google, are avenues where small companies can connect with thousands of prospective customers. The best part is that membership in these networks is free.
Unlike prospects coming from “cold calls”, people who come to you after using a free product, reading an ebook, or attending a webinar, are much more likely to pay for your services, or buy your products. It’s simply a much better way to win customers, maintain relationships, and grow a business.
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