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For most startups and growth-stage companies growing market share comes down to a matter of numbers.

You know your product or service is good because you’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that it is.  You’ve received positive feedback from your customers, signed some solid purchase orders or contracts, your website, packaging and brand look great—but you just can’t seem to grow as fast as you’d like.

Smaller companies struggle to take their businesses to the next level because of the expensive barrier of entry to print advertising, T.V and trade shows. Facebook is now overpriced for most small businesses. 

Market industry leaders enjoy market dominance and the bulk of the market because of years of brand building. Their massive marketing budgets are hard to beat, making it seemingly impossible for the smaller or the emerging companies to compete against.

However, as some us well know—to bag the beast—you must outthink the beast.

If you haven’t noticed everything has migrated online. Your customers are going to the internet first to research products. Look at some of these revealing statistics:

  • 61% of global Internet users research products online. (Source: Interconnected World: Shopping and Personal Finance)
  • 93% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. (Source: Hubspot)
  • 90% of the purchase lifecycle is over before a customer decides to buy (Source: iMedia)
  • 65% of U.S. shoppers research products and services on a computer and make a purchase in-store (Source: Cisco)

… and these numbers are on the rise.

In this article, I give you six points about how you can “outthink” your competition by building an inbound marketing program—versus investing in trade show, TV or print.

1. What is inbound marketing?

FlywheelSince 2006, inbound marketing has been an effective marketing method for doing business online. Sometimes called “digital” or “content marketing,” “inbound” is the opposite of “outbound marketing.” Where outbound is buying print ads, placing a TV spot and praying for customers; inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests and by solving their problems and answering their most burning questions — you naturally attract website visitors—or inbound traffic—that you can convert to customers and turn them into promoters of your brand. 

An inbound approach also lends credibility and trust to your partners or affiliates by enabling them to reference great information off your website when their customers ask for recommendations on what to buy or how your product or service works.

2. Why inbound marketing now?

Consumer behavior has shifted over the years. The days of “push” advertising and “salesy” tactics have lost their effectiveness. If you think about it, you yourself skip television commercials when watching your favorite show, ignore flashing online ads when surfing news sites, hang up on cold calls, block text messages, tune out radio ads that you have no interest in and throw the direct mail in the trash. Years of being bombarded with this “intrusive” form of advertising has changed the way consumers prefer to get information about the products they want to buy. Inbound turns outbound on its head. Instead of constantly pushing your message on your customers, you attract them to your website through your content.

Inbound marketing has been proven to generate 54% more leads than traditional paid marketing and saves you $20K on average a year over outbound marketing. (Source: HubSpot

 

3. Helpful content is the secret sauce

Content can be a blog, podcast, video, checklist, ebook or report that attempts to solve your customer’s problems in a relevant way. Blogging is the best way to get started. Did you know that if you’re not creating content on a regular basis, Google will drop your search engine rankings?

For a good example of a blog, take a look at HubSpot’s Blog.

4. Build your thought leadership

Everyone is an expert in something. If writing isn’t your forte, you can always hire someone to help you out. There are hundreds of writers in your industry looking for work. Start by forming a list of questions that you hear most from your customers, dealers or clients. Take that list and form it into a series of blog posts. In time, you’ll have more than enough to write about.

Most companies who blog—are blogging mostly for self-promotional purposes. Your prospective clients or customers don’t want to hear how great you are—they want to hear how you can help them. In the process, you’ll earn their respect, trust and ultimately their wallet.

Check out Marcus Sheridan’s book, They Ask, You Answer. They Ask, You Answer is a business philosophy which, when embraced fully, will make you the most trusted voice within your industry. And it begins with an obsession of understanding the answer to one question: “What is my customer thinking?”

 

5. Online marketing is not about Facebook and Instagram likes

There are plenty of companies who have thousands of followers and likes on their Facebook/Instagram page. However, those likes don’t necessarily translate into website traffic and sales—especially now that less than 0.07% of your posts on Facebook are ever seen by your followers. It is important to show “social proof” but Facebook likes alone does not mean you have an online marketing strategy.

 

6. Get there first

The world for most part exists online.  Thats a scary thing to say I know, but in large part it’s true. The companies who start now will have a huge advantage down the road. By owning the online space in your category—be it accounting, consumer products, apps, healthcare, consulting etc.—you will gain significant advantage over your competitors.

Josh Claflin

Josh Claflin, Certified Business Made Simple Coach and StoryBrand Guide helps businesses clarify their message and create marketing programs that work.

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