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The Findable Entrepreneur

This article originally appeared as a guest post on The Fundable Entrepreneur. Angel investor, entrepreneur and business mentor Ken Steinberg has created a site that is dedicated to providing early stage entrepreneurs with assistance because “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Mousetrap game

Moustrap game photo courtesy of Glogger via Creative Commons

The best product or service doesn’t always win. Sorry, but the road to success it littered waist-high with better mousetraps that never sold and in the vast majority of those cases, they failed at marketing. A superior product with inferior marketing is a Betamax. An inferior product with superior marketing is a Shamwow. A superior product with superior marketing is an iPod.

If you want to be fundable, you need to be findable. This article will let you in on five tactics you can use in order to implement an inbound marketing strategy that will level the marketing playing field between you and your competitors, regardless of budget.

You Lucky Dog!

We live in the greatest times in the history of business startups. If you are in the early stages of getting a business off of the ground, you may not exactly feel like it right now but you are lucky to have access to a truly amazing array of resources and opportunities. But if you won’t take my word on that, maybe you’ll take Guy Kawasaki’s.

If you’re an entrepreneur and unfamiliar with Guy Kawasaki I strongly suggest you become familiar with him ASAP. Guy earned his wings as the original “Technology Evangelist” for Apple Computer in the early days of the Macintosh. His job was to convince software developers to write programs to run on Apple computers. His success at Apple allowed him go on to form a venture capital investment firm, Garage Capital, and to also found several successful startups himself. Guy wrote a blog article called, “How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09,” in which he described how quickly and cheaply he was able to launch one of his online ventures, Truemors. He concludes, “1) There’s really no such thing as bad PR. 2) $12,000 goes a very long way these days. 3) You can work with a team that is thousands of miles away. 4) Life is good for entrepreneurs these days.”

While there are countless examples of free and low cost web technologies that can help get your company off the ground, in my opinion the most important, least understood, and most poorly implemented is inbound marketing. If you learn what it is and how to do it properly, it can be your secret weapon to leapfrog competitors and put distance between yourself and them.

The Problem with Outbound

Do Not DisturbBefore explaining inbound marketing, it’s useful to explain its polar opposite; outbound marketing. This is the “traditional” approach to marketing in which companies try interrupt people from doing what they wanted to do in order to watch, hear or read a message they wouldn’t otherwise care about. These interruptions include television and radio commercials, print advertisements, web banner ads and popups, cold calls, unsolicited emails’ etc…

While these techniques can certainly be effective they have three major flaws:

  • First, people are getting much better at ignoring and/or blocking these interruptions. DVRs allow us to skip commercials, satellite radio does away with commercials, and spam filters help keep our inboxes clean.
  • Second, traditional outbound marketing is linear: In order to reach more eyeballs, you have to pay more. A small advertisement in the local newspaper is affordable to most but a 30 second Superbowl commercial isn’t.
  • Finally, it’s rude. As a new business trying to establish relationships with new customers wouldn’t you love to start by some means other than trying to shove an unsolicited message in their face?

Inbound to the Rescue

Inbound MagnetImplementing inbound marketing means pulling people into your site by creating remarkable content and then converting visitors to leads and leads to customers. This approach counteracts the three problems I just listed with outbound marketing. You’re not trying to interrupt people so you don’t need to worry about all of those roadblocks. Inbound marketing is nonlinear because it relies on people sharing your content with others; one person tells two friends, they tell two friends, and so on… Finally, it starts off your relationship with potential customers with an act of generosity, not interruption.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to having the positive attribute of not being outbound marketing, it has the added benefit of being much less expensive.

Do I have your attention yet?

Five for Finding

OK, hopefully you’ve bought into the idea that to be successful, you need to be findable and that the best strategy for getting there is inbound marketing. So let’s meet the rubber with the road and list those five tactics of inbound marketing:

  1. Create Remarkable Content – The key word here is “remarkable,” which means something worth remarking about. While there are lots of tips, tricks, and techniques involved in creating remarkable content there is one golden rule that will help get you started. Make sure the content you create qualifies as being a “gift.” In other words, does your content provide something valuable to the reader? Does it improve her day? Give him something that makes his job easier? Provide advice for solving a problem or making more money? This should clue you into the fact that the most common form of content companies shower upon us – the press release – is not a gift. In fact, if you think of it in that light the whole concept of a press release starts to feel a little silly and a lot antiquated.
  2. Optimize for Search – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complicated process that is very poorly understood. But the reality is that about 85% of how well your site will rank for given keywords breaks down to just three factors; inbound links (65%), URL structure (10%), and page titles (10%). Obviously, the most important factor, by a long shot, is inbound links. This is why creating remarkable content is the cornerstone of an inbound marketing strategy. On the Internet, people remark about your content with links. If you create great content with keywords in the URL and page title, you’re 85% of the way there.
  3. Promote Online – Once you’ve created your content and made it search engine friendly, you want to get out there and spread the word. This primarily means using social media to get people sharing and talking about your content.
  4. Convert – This step could also be labeled “paydirt.” There is a reasonably famous clip of former New York Giants football coach Bill Parcels motivating his players on the sidelines during a Superbowl in which he yells, “This why you lift all them weights!” If you’re going to go to all the trouble of diving traffic to your website and not go to the effort of converting visitors to leads and leads to customers, then why bother in the first place? So how do you convert? With landing pages. A landing page is contains two key elements; a strong call to action and a low-friction conversion form.
  5. Analyze. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Having a good analytics package installed on your website is a good first step, but it only provides metrics, not analytics. The difference is that metrics are relative indicators of behavior whereas analytics are absolute measurements of desired outcomes. For example, unique visitors and depth of visit are important and meaningful metrics, but they only indicate traffic volume and patterns which may or may not correlate to actually improving your business. However, conversion rates on landing pages, for example, give you a measurement of a very specific desired outcome; new leads.

Inbound Marketing process

Simple, Yes. Easy, No.

These steps sound simple enough, and they are. However, simple does not always equate to easy. In fact, simplicity is pretty hard to pull off. Each of the five inbound marketing tactics mentioned here involve hundreds of sub-tactics and techniques in order to be successful. Some are common sense, some are counterintuitive, but all of them are free or low cost.

That’s why inbound marketing levels the playing field: it’s more about the width of your mind than the depth of your wallet, according to Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot and co-author of “Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs“. If you want to learn more about inbound marketing, I recommend you get started by picking up a copy of his book.

Now go forth and be remarkable!

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