What’s all this fuss about inbound versus outbound marketing? What’s the difference anyway? Which one should I be doing? Is marcomms something different? And what’s content marketing? Where does social media fit in? How about digital?
These are just some of the questions I commonly strike with clients who have been trying to promote their small businesses - while managing them too - and have become overwhelmed. There are all sorts of terms for different parts of the marketing and communications equation and new definitions seem to evolve day-by-day. When you start to read up on the latest, it can quickly result in information overload.
Marketing and communications is complex, but I like to think of it like this: marketing shapes who you are as a business. It’s how you target your brand, products and services at who you want to use them. Communications is your voice. It’s how you promote what you have to offer using various channels and tactics.
There are of course endless ways you can promote your services and products, but before you start it’s important to have a marketing and communications strategy to give you direction and guide your efforts. What should this include? Again the answer depends on you and your business. However, the essence of every strategy I create with any client – big or small - starts with the basic who, what, when, where, why, how?
- Who is important to your business?
- What have you got to offer them?
- How will your products/services benefit them?
- Why should they take notice of your business over all the others?
- Where are you going to communicate with them about your business for best effect?
- When are you going to do this – timing is everything - and how often?
- How will you sustain your efforts – do you have the resources to implement your ideas?
- How will you measure your efforts so that you can improve?
Ultimately, your marketing and communications approach needs to be targeted, achievable within your budget and sustainable with your resources so that you can continue to consistently promote and grow your business, while maintaining your level of service.
I believe these are the foundation marketing and communications activities that every business needs to do in order to grow:
- Communicate with your current clients regularly and add further value to your service by providing advice, education or special offers. You’ll build loyalty and increase your referrals.
- Reach out (often called outbound) using traditional marketing methods such as advertisements to give your brand visibility among your target audience. You need to be seen to be noticed.
- Engage in a conversation with potential clients/customers in places you know they hang out (often called inbound). By offering useful content through blogs, social media and other channels, you start to create a positive relationship with people, which makes them more likely to want to engage with your business.
The most effective marketing and communications approaches combine all three of these aspects. With so much choice available to people, you can’t just rely on one method alone; it often takes an advertisement, a social media engagement and a referral to get a potential client across the line.
This is why it’s so important to have a strategy. Investing your time in planning will mean you invest less time and money into marketing and communications initiatives that aren’t the best fit for your business. If you begin with a good plan and have this at the heart of everything you do, your overall marketing and communications approach will be much more targeted and effective.