Most business owners in Maryland generally believe that they need to be active in social media. The big challenge emerges when they have to decide which platform or platforms they need to be on.
It's at this point where many decisions go awry -mainly because the prime focus of why they should be on a particular platform is off base. In my mind, there's a primary reason for a business to be active in social media and that is to drive leads and sales. Having that as a singular focus makes it easier to decide where to be in social media and what to do once you're there.
With this sharpened focus on driving sales and leads, there will be two core activities a business will need to consistently do in order to be successful:
1. Create content and share on the chosen platforms.
2. Engage with others on those platforms.
On the content creation side, the content you share is intended to convert traffic to leads and those leads to sales. The key concept here is conversion. While it's nice to have people look at your content, you want to include a call to action with each piece of your content. The call to action asks those viewers of your content to do something - preferably, something that benefits them and is easy to do.
Let's say you have a sign business. You've done some research and know that there are 5 key considerations to designing successful signs. You create a blog post on your site that talks about some of the considerations and offers a two-page guide to sign design as your call to action. The person on the social media site would see your post title, click on it to go to your site to read it and embedded in your post is the call to action to get the free guide. The call to action is a clickable link to a landing page that recaps the highlights of the 5 considerations and has a short form asking for the person's name and email address. Once the form is filled out , the guide is emailed to the visitor using the information provided in the form.
So, the lead generation cycle using social media is: content creation > content publishing on social media site > reader clicking on blog post title > site visit to read post > reader clicking on the call to action > reader filling out short form on landing page > two-page guide emailed to lead. Keep in mind that not all of the content you share on social sites should be yours. You want to share other relevant content about your industry and current events in your industry so you don't turn people off by being too salesy.
On the engagement side, you want to spend time responding to or eliciting response to the content you're sharing and commenting on others' content. The engagement should be strategic and link to your sales and lead generation efforts.
While there is growing understanding and interest in inbound marketing from small businesses, once the promise of it has been defined the next question is: how much is it going to cost to do inbound marketing?
It's a fair question and one that can be challenging to answer quickly and correctly. First of all, the agencies and consultants who offer inbound marketing services have a varying list of services they offer and different approaches to how they sell those services.
Some agencies have created packages - which are essentially a range of services and activities bundled together to provide for the most common client needs. These are typically offered in tiers - the lower priced tier addresses smaller budgets and simpler execution, while the higher priced tiers cover a deeper set of needs and a greater range of activities.
Others utilize a discovery process where they assess a business's current inbound marketing status and customize the support based on the specific needs identified in the assessment.
So, if you're a business owner and you're new to inbound marketing, how do you know what to look for and determine if the prices are fair? The first step is to categorize the level of need you have in order to properly leverage inbound marketing.
High Need Businesses
If you have most or all of the following needs, you would be in the high need category:
- Website should be redesigned
- Website content is minimal
- No blog established
- Little or no customer and prospect data
- Have not used or lightly use email
- No calls to action on the site
- No landing pages on the site
- Little or no supporting content (articles, case studies, tip sheets, video)
- No defined keyword list
- No marketing plan
High need businesses would be faced with higher support costs because of the many foundational pieces that need to be built to support inbound marketing. Site redesign and the development of a marketing plan would be upfront costs, while the rest of the support would be on an ongoing basis. These upfront costs can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or more depending on the sophistication of the site design and plan depth. Monthly costs can range from $1,500 to $5,000 or more depending on the depth of the monthly support - typically, they lead to the high side due to the deeper need set.
Low Need Businesses
If you have many or most of the following marketing assets in place, your business would fall in the low need category:
- Good website structure and depth (100 pages +)
- Some call to action on the site
- Dedicated landing pages on the site
- A blog
- Prospect and customer data
- Prior history in emailing prospects and customers
- A decent content library (10 - 20 assets in place)
- Defined keyword list and rank data for top keywords
- A marketing plan
A low need business typically has inbound marketing momentum and may have stalled in one or more areas or needs a tighter focus in these areas to lift performance results. The upfront costs disappear in this case and the monthly support fees typically are lower due to having the foundational pieces in place. Inbound marketing support costs can range from $1,000 to $3,500 or more, again, this is highly dependent on the complexity and depth of the support provided.
With both of these categories, the pricing above does not reflect any marketing technology costs: marketing automation, CRM, email or ecommerce software. The range of products available and the price variances are wide - they range from $200 per month to $3,000 per month or more depending on the software versions that are purchased.
Businesses with higher priced services or products usually have longer sales cycles and additional costs can be incurred with the integration of multiple systems. Integration costs can be monthly and range from $80 per month to $500 per month or more and some are one-time costs from $1,500 to $5,000.
You don't have to be a CPA to understand that inbound marketing can be a sizable investment. One you have the costs and services defined, the next step is to look at the return on investment requirement. Determine what the average value of a new customer is and weigh that against the projected investment. It helps to know site traffic to lead conversion numbers and lead to sale conversion numbers. Low need businesses will likely have access to this data; high need businesses won't and will have to rely on realistic projections of the traffic to lead to sale ratios to justify any investment.
The bottom line: do your homework, talk to as many professionals as you need to get comfortable and prepare to be a partner in a successful inbound process!
What types of service offerings are you encountering and are they in line with the ranges discussed here? If you're a business buyer of inbound marketing services, what are your frustrations with the agency selling and pricing process? Your input is welcome and appreciated!
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