People aren’t responding to your calls or emails? There is a solution.
The days of outbound marketing seem to be coming to an end. The “Wolf of Wall Street” mentality of harassing customers over the phone, sending spam my emails, and going door-to-door to close deals has become much less effective in recent years. This is due in large part to the fact that we, as consumers, have gotten really good at blocking solicitations. Caller ID, spam folders, and ad blockers have made reaching prospects very difficult for companies of all industries.
In today’s climate, the game of marketing is changing towards a new strategy: inbound marketing.
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is the idea that if you provide value to customers first, they will respond by giving that value back by doing business with you.
AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur who has completely built his business, Alumnify, off this concept. He is also a marketing contributor for Forbes, Inc., The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and many others, and is a recognized expert in content creation and inbound marketing solutions.
I had a chance to speak with AJ about his advice for companies looking to engage their current customers, prospects, employees, and alumni.
Here are AJ’s best tips to become a marketing rock star:
1. Identify the problem
With Alumnify, AJ’s initial target customer base was universities. The most glaring evidence of a problem there was the strong decrease year after year in alumni engagement.
Right now, alumni engagement is under 10 percent, an all-time low. When AJ looked at why that was, it became very obvious that institutions were struggling to adjust to the new ways alumni wanted to be reached.
For about 85 years, alumni engagement was pretty steady. Then all of a sudden, in the ’90s, it began to fall drastically. In panic mode, many schools chose to double down on what had worked in the past: cold calls, snail mail, and gathering more email addresses.
Many companies in the market that helped schools with these outbound strategies tried helping them improve their results by making these outbound marketing strategies more effective. These companies offered better data on keeping track of which alumni were reached, software to help optimize open email rates, and technology to make the actual giving process easier for graduates.
The problem AJ saw with this was that these university strategies and third-party company solutions had no effect, or even a negative effect, on alumni engagement. The problem wasn’t that these outbound strategies weren’t being used enough or weren’t being done in the most productive ways. It was that they were built on an overall strategy that was broken.
Seeing this all play out, AJ and his team decided they were going to build inbound marketing solutions that would provide value to alumni first, and once that was achieved, graduates would donate on their own. Alumnify was one of the first to really focus on this belief for schools, which led them to get a lot of early customers and press when first starting the company.
2. Understand the solution
AJ believes that the first thing you need to do is make sure you know what inbound marketing is. At its core, inbound is anything that provides a tremendous amount of value to your target customers without asking anything from them in return. There are tons of ways companies can provide value to their prospects. The best part is that most of the major strategies can be done for minimal cost.
3. Build your digital properties
AJ recommends companies and schools start by getting a blog set up and assigning someone be responsible for publishing content at least once a week. One of the nice things about inbound marketing is that it allows companies to build major assets for their business. Your content library is a huge asset for your business, which will eventually help you rank higher on Google and pull in more customers on your website.
4. Test your strategies
Other inbound strategies include webinars, e-books, infographics, mobile apps built to help your customers, and optimizing your social media.
Each business is different, so the strategy you should start with depends on a lot of factors, including audience, industry, and expertise. Like most things, the hardest part is just getting started. Once you find an inbound strategy that starts to work, it becomes much easier to fine-tune and expand on your traction.
5. Slowly redirect your efforts
This doesn’t mean you should stop all your outbound marketing efforts. Instead, test the waters to find which strategy sticks. While inbound is definitely the future, some customers still respond well to outbound strategies. Even as an inbound company, Alumnify still cold calls customers and sends promotional emails once in a while. The difference is that, while they still do some outbound, inbound is the core of the business.
6. Think about your reputation
When AJ thinks about the brand he wants for Alumnify, he doesn’t want prospects and customers avoiding their phone calls. The image of a customer seeing an Alumnify team member calling them and saying “Not these people again” is his worst nightmare.
7. Provide value
Instead, AJ believes that the key to getting customers to love us is to provide value without asking for anything in return. So while Alumnify does cold call once in a while, they blog, create video content and give free inbound advice way more often. It may take more work in the short run, but it’ll also help build a much better brand for their customers in the long run.
8. Utilize free resources to learn
Alumnify has a free inbound marketing email list that it emails with weekly tips and webinars that people can sign up for here. They just launched it yesterday. As mentioned earlier, AJ is also a very active inbound marketing blogger and columnist. He’s always open to helping anyone who needs help with their inbound strategies. Send him a tweet at @ajalumnify or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you tried out these strategies to generate leads? How has it worked out for you? Comment below!
Originally posted on Inc.
Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.