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Inbound marketing is one of the most common practices for generating awareness and new business. It is the methodology that suggests you should be attracting customers through valuable content and experiences instead of disrupting them with advertising, sales and the like.
According to Hubspot, 56% of marketers who leverage blogging say it’s effective, and 10% say it generates the most significant return on investment.
However, if you’ve ever launched a blog for your business, you know that inbound marketing is not as easy as we’re made to believe.
As a fractional CMO for early-stage startups, I’ve seen all the strategies that founders believe they should be doing but end up holding them back from achieving their full potential. Here are three inbound marketing and the actions you can take as a business owner to combat them.
1. Your market isn’t saturated.
But it is. Inbound marketing worked well back when fewer businesses were online, and digital marketing was a novel concept. More and more companies are flooding the online landscape, and it’s not easy to stand out when they’re all trying to provide value to the exact audience you are.
According to Digitalcommerce360.com, in 2007, ecommerce sales made up 5.1% of the total US retail sales. As of 2019, e-commerce made up 16% of retail sales. By 2022, the number had reached 21%.
The sheer volume of content online now can be overwhelming. People are just as inundated with valuable online content as they are within other marketing means — and as a result, they’re trained to ignore it.
What you can do about a saturated market: Seek partnerships with other businesses that have synergy with yours but that isn’t direct competition. You can run contests and giveaways together on social media, cross-promote in one another’s email newsletters, or even create bundles of your items and theirs to create unique product offerings on your websites.
Creating solid partnerships with relevant businesses is an ideal way to gain brand awareness and new customers without developing a bunch of content.
2. Provide value, and the right customers will find you.
No amount of search engine optimization will help someone find your solution if they aren’t looking for answers.
Take Bird e-scooters as an example. Before Bird, nobody was Googling for places they could rent electric scooters in a city. But in 2017, the company just left their scooters and instructions on using them on the streets of Santa Monica, CA. With that one act, they charted a new course for the future of transportation.
There is no amount of podcast interviews or blog posts that could have created the buzz and level of customer acquisition that this one moment of disruption did.
When you have an innovative product addressing problems people aren’t thinking about, relying on inbound marketing doesn’t make sense, no matter how unique your product is.
What you can do if your business concept is novel: Take it to the streets. Start by manually sourcing your first customers, requesting feedback actively and asking for referrals. If you can make a power play through advertising or outbound sales, do it. Don’t be afraid to be disruptive.
3. Inbound marketing strategies are free and easy.
2,000-word SEO-optimized articles don’t write themselves. It’s not likely your business will be able to generate strong recurring revenue from one viral Instagram post alone.
Do you know how long it takes to convert a TikTok subscriber?
These strategies take lots of energy and consistency. They also require money and other resources if you can’t do them yourself. Furthermore, inbound marketing strategies can take many months — and sometimes more — to bear any fruit.
Most startups have 12 to 18 months of runway before they run out of cash. Small businesses likely have less time to start turning a profit before they can’t operate any longer.
Most small businesses and startups don’t have the time or capital to wait it out.
What you can do instead of free inbound strategies: Make sure your messaging directly addresses the pain points of your ideal customer, and then show up where they spend their time. If necessary, offer your speaking services in networking groups, run webinars or reach out to potential customers for sales calls.
It takes more than a winning idea for a business to succeed. You can have the greatest and most innovative company in the world, but if you’re not reaching your target market and getting in front of people, it doesn’t matter. Your brand is as good as non-existent if you don’t have an audience to market to, and it’s not the consumer’s responsibility to find you — it’s your job to find the consumers.
Businesses need to get profitable as quickly as possible — generating strong leads with proactive marketing efforts and not being afraid to be disruptive.