A Marketing Plan for More Traffic, More Leads, and Higher Customer Retention

Are you up against competition that has deep pockets and can outspend you using traditional advertising methods?

Does it seem like a losing battle to go head-to-head with them to get new prospects?

Particularly for start-up companies, using traditional advertising and marketing methods can get expensive…especially if you’re up against an established company with more money than you. This is why you need to use marketing channels that will bring you the attention and customers you need without breaking your bank. Fortunately, you have an entire group of channels that you can use…

 Inbound Marketing.

This diagram explains all the techniques behind inbound marketing:

Traditional outbound marketing can end up being a poor investment. You have to rely on channels like cold-calling, paid branding and print advertising.

All of those channels can get really expensive really fast.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, will help you capture attention, generate leads, convert customers and keep those customers…all at a lower cost to you than your competition.

So, if you need help getting more traffic, more leads and retaining customers, then let’s look at a few steps you need to take to get there.

Step #1 – Ignore Sales And Focus On Marketing

Before you accuse me of losing my mind, let me explain. While hiring a killer sales team is very important, it’s much better to create a marketing strategy that feeds that team qualified, warm leads, instead of cold, and possibly dead leads. This way your sales team doesn’t spend their time chasing down unqualified prospects and following up on bad leads.

Instead, your efforts should be focused on building a marketing team with excellent marketing skills. Like::

  • Hire brilliant marketers – Look for talented men and women who have a reputation for building a huge fan base, generating qualified leads and using the tools that are involved in inbound marketing (SEO, social media, and content marketing) to bring brand exposure. It’s also better to find those who have worked with a startup company before.
  • Focus on tightly targeted markets – Understand your audience, break them down into relevant segments and then create tailor-made campaigns for each segment. This narrow approach will also raise your conversion rates.
  • Close qualified leads –What does a qualified sales lead look like? It comes down to the answer of these three questions:
    • Do they have the authority to buy?
    • Do they have the budget to buy?
    • When do they plan on buying?

You want your sales team to avoid leads that are NINAs—no influence, no authority. You want to just send them mostly A leads (is ready to buy in 3 months or less), some B leads (is ready to buy in three to twelve months). The C leads marketing can keep. This process should make the sales team’s job seem like they are shooting fish in a barrel.

Step #2. Focus On Multiple Inbound Channels

The key behind an effective inbound marketing strategy is to create and deliver valuable content. This strategy gives you a lot of different channels to use.

Here is a template that you can use for your own inbound marketing strategy:

  • Blog – Your team should focus on publishing quality content two to five times a week. By quality I mean it is search-engine friendly, highly-researched and compelling.
  • Engage in comment marketing – Someone on your team should focus on visiting sites within your industry to interact with bloggers and readers in the comment section. Commenting is a great SEO strategy too, but more importantly, it will bring you attention, help build you up as an authority and prepare you to write guest blog posts.
  • Publish guest blog posts – Guest blogging is one of the fastest ways to grow your subscriber base. Fortunately, because of the high demand for content many blogs are looking for guest writers.
  • Produce online video – Video can help improve your search rankings, to raise the amount of time, people stay on your page and even boost conversion rates on your landings pages.
  • Interact in the social bookmarking world – While this isn’t one of the most popular ways to generate leads, it is definitely one you shouldn’t ignore. In fact, certain industries include heavy users of social bookmarks sites like delicious.com or Readability.
  • Establish authority on Q+A sites – Quora has really established itself as a place for a professional exchange of ideas. Search for questions related to your industry, leave thoughtful answers and interact with other contributors. This process will help build your credibility.
  • Design brilliant infographics – Some companies like Wordstream use a heavy dose of infographics to generate traffic and back links to their sites. But making a great infographic is not easy. A bad infographic can set you back, so get this one right. Visual.ly, a one-stop shop for infographic creation, also has this inbound marketing technique nailed.
  • Build a social media audience on the big four – Focus your audience-building efforts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. If your target audience is on Pinterest or Tumblr, then use those sites as well. Keep in mind—don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick two or three that you can maximize your exposure.
  • Implement a solid startup SEO plan – If you run a startup, then you are in an excellent position to take advantage of everything that SEO has to offer.the Cool thing is if you are doing all the things above…you are halfway into a great SEO plan. Now you just need to cover some other basics like on-page optimization.

All of the efforts behind a good inbound marketing plan won’t cost you a dime except for the sweat equity you invest. This means you can compete with bigger competition that is better funded.

For each of the inbound marketing efforts above you’ll want to break them down into steps. To show you how to do that we’ll break down one of these techniques into detailed steps. And we’ll choose a social media strategy where there is little competition so you can take advantage of this strategy now.

Step #3. Dominate LinkedIn Groups

While the big three social media sites get all the attention, LinkedIn is quietly becoming a powerhouse. With over 150 million users, you have a lot of opportunities to generate some serious attention. The specific strategy I want to focus on is with Groups. Contribute and engage with LinkedIn Groups with this quick 5-step strategy and you’ll generate some high-quality leads.

  • Find the best Group to join – LinkedIn has lots of groups that are divided into categories. Find three to five small groups that most accurately represent your target demographic. The reason you want to join small groups is there will be less competition and easier opportunity to get attention.
  • Target popular discussions – You’ll waste your time if you simply try to join every discussion. Instead, search for the most popular discussions—these will have the most visibility. These discussions usually involve hot button issues, and attract a lot of members. You’ll find these discussions on the top of the group discussion page. Read the post, review some of the comments and jump in!
  • Start a new discussion – Before you start your own discussion, make sure you spend some time in other discussions. Get a feel for the culture of the group and find out what is important to them.
  • Follow up – It’s not easy keeping track of discussions, so you’ll have to be proactively visit your groups and monitor the discussions—especially the ones you started.
  • Start a Group – This is a perfect way to establish your authority. But you have to be strategic here. Make this group center on your brand and how your message is different than the competition. Brands That Defy Gravity is a great example of a group that stands out in a crowded market.

Let’s look closely at another strategy.

Step #4. Never Attend A Trade Show Again

If your industry has a lot of trade shows, you may be tempted to attend a few. Why not? Trade shows are a great place to meet new people, build relationships and build your brand. But trade shows can be very expensive. From buying the ticket to the show (which can cost upward of a thousand dollars), to flying to and from the show, buying food and spending money on a room…you could easily drop ten thousand dollars a year. There is a more effective—and cheaper—way to leverage the power of trade shows.

Most conferences are online in some way, so you don’t actually have to go or even pay. In fact a lot of these conferences share so much content during the show that you can tweet about it as if you are actually there, using the conference related hashtags, of course.

Here’s what you could do also:

  • Blog about the main points of each speaker – During an event you can check the website and pull down the points that he is sharing. Then publish a blog post as soon as possible and promote it on your social site. This will engage you with those who are actually at the conference!
  • Summarize the conference – The day after the event create a blog post or white paper about the conference. Include points from each speaker and even offer take away lessons that you learned. This is effective because you were building a captive audience while you were tweeting and blogging during the event.

“Attending” conferences and trade shows via the internet will probably give you more insight than those who are actually attending since you’ll have a 30,000 foot view. Make sure you are engaging both attendees and speakers at these events, and notifying them when you share content.

Conclusion

Inbound marketing is truly a gift to startups who are strapped for cash. Depending upon how big your team is, you will all probably end up working like a slave to get it all done…but it will be worth the effort. Dozens of companies like Mashable and SEOmoz got tremendous exposure for their companies from their tireless inbound marketing efforts. What other inbound marketing techniques have you used?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor