One of the last places I expected to see inbound market put into effect was at a community farmers market. I spent a nice sunny Saturday morning watching all the vendors entice and interact with their customers. Since my wife was volunteering there to promote Kent State University’s Campus Kitchen Project, I had plenty of time to stroll around and watch how each vendor plied their trade:
The vast majority of the vendors did nothing but sit, wait and hope somebody noticed them, much like the companies who create a website and wait for the masses to find them. In both cases, the results are dismal. The vendors who did nothing to entice people to their table just sat there and grumbled that the farmers market was simply not a good venue.
How many times have you heard a business complain the Internet is not a good way to market themselves? After all, they created a nice website, and nobody came.
There were a number of vendors who employed outbound or interruption marketing practices that did more to accost their prospects than reel them in. The best example was the practices by a special interest group who wanted those passing by to sign a petition. They would literally jump in front of any semi-conscious person and begin expounding on the virtues of their cause.
A lot of Internet marketing is centered on finding ways to simply get in front of people, whether it is in the form of unwanted emails or pop up ads that disturb your Internet experience. The companies that use those techniques are trying to get their message to anyone, regardless of how many people they irritate in the process.
The vast majority of those who were stopped by the aggressive special interest group provided the first excuse that came to mind and ran away as quickly as possible. The more alert attendees would look in the opposite direction as they walked by and pretended to be deaf to the calls to stop. Think of the number of emails you receive on a daily basis. Many end up in our spam folders, and that is akin to those smart enough to avoid eye contact.
The special interest group might have had a great story to tell, but few were willing to listen. I am not saying they did not have much success, but they alienated far more than the handful who signed their petition.
There were a number of vendors who understood the benefits of creating value to lure their prospects to them. The vendors that offered free samples had a swarm of visitors to their table. Once there, they were able to engage them in a conversation about the benefits of what they were selling.
While not every one made a purchase, those vendors did report greater success and felt they had built relationships with those they spoke with. The mere act of giving the prospects a free sample invoked the “Law of Reciprocity” that made them more apt to listen to the vendor.
Content marketing online is similar: We do not give out free samples, but if we create great compelling content, our website visitors will exchange their contact information for it. If we continue to provide great content, we find website visitors will engage us when they have the need for our services or finally have the budget to proceed.
But for all their success, the “content marking vendors” were missing a key component—their only chance to share their samples and their story was when a person walked by their stand. If someone only came to listen to the live music or stayed at the other end of the farmers’ market, they had no opportunity to engage them.
Finally, one group saw the benefit of taking their great “content” and distributing it to their prospects: The Kent State Campus Kitchen took their free food samples and walked through the crowd sharing both the samples and their story. They engaged far more people simply by distributing their content to them. Many of those same people stopped by their table to learn more about the services they provided.
Inbound marketing operates the same way. It is about attracting web visitors to you because your content is published in the channels where they spend time. You need to be continuously telling your story and publishing new relevant content throughout your ecosystem on a regular schedule. This ecosystem includes your website, blog and all your social channels, as well as a few other creative outlets your audience frequents.
Sharing great content to the sites your prospects trust to get their information, helps lead them back to your website.
Publishing new relevant content often is rewarded, not only by your improved position with the search engines, but also by your target audience, because you continuously reinforce your position as the go-to source for these services.
So if you want a bountiful harvest of qualified leads, take a tip from our local farmers: find where your prospects reside and share with them something they will value.
photo credits: Brandon Doran; Phil Romans