October 9, 2018 - Episode 10

Top 5 Marketing Tips for Small Businesses from Inbound 2018

Jake and Mirela reflect on their trip to Inbound 2018, a marketing conference hosted by HubSpot, in Boston last month. We discuss five marketing tips they learned while networking and listening to speakers at the event. Learn about how providing a great experience, being easy to do business with, storytelling, and how audio, video and other content can help your local businesses succeed in digital marketing.

Episode Transcript

Jake Braun:
Welcome to Kickin' it with Kapok, a podcast about business owners' marketing struggles and solutions and other business-related topics. I'm Jake.
Mirela Setkic:
And I'm Mirela.
Jake Braun:
This is episode 10, "Top Five Marketing Tips for Small Businesses from Inbound 2018." Today, Mirela and I will be talking about what we learned at Inbound last month. Hopefully some of what we learned can help some small business owners out there listening. Let's jump right in.
First, I'm excited that this is episode 10. It's the first milestone for the podcast.
Mirela Setkic:
This is a big deal. As Joe Biden would say, "This is a big bleep deal," and I actually also realized that this might be our last episode in our current office, which is our very first office that we've had. We're actually moving soon into a brand new space. So this is also another big deal. So tenth episode and also last episode in our first office.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, it's pretty cool. I'm surprised that people have been listening, and it's been growing a little bit. It's kind of shocking. You start something and you don't really know what's going to happen. And while we're in the meta section of the podcast, if you will, if you're enjoying the podcast, please subscribe and rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. It really helps a lot. It helps people find us. It helps us get new listeners and it just helps all around.
So before we get into the actual tips and lessons we learned, what exactly is Inbound? Maybe we should tell the listeners, in case they're unaware.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah, I think that's a good idea. Inbound, or Inbound 2018, is a digital marketing conference that's put on by HubSpot, which is a large company located in Boston, Massachusetts, and they offer sales, digital marketing, and CRM software to companies, big, small, and super small. And they put on this annual conference where they bring ... obviously, they showcase their own services and their products and their ideas for the upcoming year and reflect on the previous year, and they also bring other vendors to also speak and showcase their products and services at the show and marketers around the country and even around the world come to this fancy, nice-looking conference in Boston, and you don't have to be a super big company to go. You can be small like Kapok Marketing, or you can be huge like some marketing company on Madison Avenue in New York City.
So everyone comes together and goes to different seminars, listens to keynote speakers, and tries to get inspired and figure out what they should be doing at the moment and also in the coming year.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, it's a huge event, and there's a lot of marketers there. It's a great opportunity to network and learn with other people who are in the marketing industry. And it doesn't matter how big or small you are, whether you use HubSpot or not. I think there's still a lot you can learn there if you're in the marketing industry. So let's dig into the first tip. What's the first tip we learned? I know the HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, talked a lot about flywheels and funnels. Is that what we should start with?
Mirela Setkic:
I guess that would be a good place to start because sales funnels are a kind of a big deal, or they, according to HubSpot, they were a big deal but they're not a big deal anymore. So traditionally, what most people did in terms of online marketing or digital marketing is you would construct a sales funnel, which is a setup that you put in place to take people from A to Z where they hear about your product or service, you create awareness, you pique their interest, and then you bring them to a stage where they have to make a decision is this something that they want or need and if they should buy it. Then the final step is taking an action or purchasing something from you or registering for an event or whatever your call-to-action is.
And so you can think of it as an upside-down pyramid, and obviously, as you're getting closer to the end result, which is the sell or the action, the pyramid gets narrower and narrower. And all of the focus has been put on this sales funnel. It's kind of the Holy Grail. And if you don't have a sales funnel, people think that there's something wrong with you.
So at the Inbound 2018, the CEO of HubSpot said that they're thinking that the sales funnel is no longer the Holy Grail because people or customers want more. They expect more from companies. So now they are taking this flywheel approach, which you can picture as a circle and it's an ongoing circle. So you start with attracting your customer or your audience, and then you engage with them with really awesome content, and then they purchase something from you or they take some type of an action, and then you continue to delight them after they take that action so you can attract them to get something else from you.
So it's like this perpetual ongoing relationship that you keep feeding. So it's not just one time deal, you buy from me, okay, bye. Instead, it's, "Oh, you buy from me. Well, here's more things that you might be interested in. Here's maybe free information to enrich your experience with the product or service that you just purchased, and then maybe that additional information will encourage you to buy more," so just keep going in this circle.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, I think whether you look at your efforts in marketing as a flywheel or a funnel, I think a little bit of it is just marketing technicalities, if you will. Whatever you call it, I think the critical part is just offering a rewarding experience to your clients or your customers with your product or service. The brands that are the most successful are the ones that you think of in a positive light. And, of course, there's exceptions, like monopolies and oligopolies, but unless you're planning on running an airline or a power plant, all you really need to do is focus on your customers and making sure they're happy with you and your product and service.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes, and just keep in mind that the relationship doesn't end when the transaction takes place. The communication needs to continue in an effort to bring that person or people back to your store, in-person or online, whatever the case is. You want their repeat business, and in order to get repeat business, you want your customers to be genuinely happy. You don't want people to have buyers' remorse after they purchase something from you, first or a second time.
Jake Braun:
Okay, so what's our next tip?
Mirela Setkic:
Well, our next tip is competitive advantage. Everyone, including ourselves, is always trying to figure out, "How do I stand out? How do I make myself different from my competition? What makes me unique?" And one of the speakers at Inbound talked about just being easy to do business with. And he said, and I don't remember his name, he said that the easiest way to build competitive advantage is to be easy to do business with and make it super easy for people to buy from you and also make it easy for people to get their money back or get support if they're unhappy with the product or service that they've purchased from you.
And some of the examples that came to mind, and I think the speaker at Inbound mentioned these companies as well, are Warby Parker and Uber. With Warby Parker, they have this service where you can go to their website and you can order five frames that they send to you so you can try them at home. And if you are happy with any of them, you can purchase them. If you are unhappy with all of them, you can send them back, and you can order more frames to try on or that's where the relationship ends. You don't have to do any business with them.
That is super, super easy for most people and also, it eliminates the fear of, "Well, what if this doesn't go right?" The speaker at Inbound mentioned that most people, when they're going to purchase something, they're mostly thinking about, "What will I do if this doesn't work out?" And they're not thinking about, "Oh, man, I'm really going to enjoy this product." They're thinking about, "Oh, man, I'm putting this money out there. What happens if I hate it? What happens if it's of poor quality?" And companies need to think about that and they need to answer that and they need to make that step super easy for customers to overcome and just answer that objection so doing business with that company is a no-brainer. You just order it. If it doesn't work out, you send it back, and that's it.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, I think that's a really good tip, and I feel a lot of the same things about this as I do the first tip. You can't trap clients or customers into liking your brand. Just make it easy to cancel or quit. Unless you're one of those monopolies or you're running a Ponzi scheme, it will pay off a lot more in the medium to long run. Most businesses eventually fail when their products or services are no longer enjoyable to their customers. You can play games in the short run to keep people locked in with contracts or hiding problems with your product or services, but eventually, the music's going to stop and your customers will leave.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah. That's true. And we're not saying that there's anything wrong with having a contract. You can have contracts with your customers and agreements, but you can't make them go through a million steps in order to get out of that contract or cancel that agreement. I've had friends who have signed up for gym memberships, and I don't even remember the places, and they would sign up online, but then when it comes time to cancel the membership, they are asked to go in-person during business hours to get out of this agreement.
Well, in reality most people don't want to do that. They have a job. Who wants to take time off from their job to go cancel a gym membership when that gym took their money online? Now they have to go in-person.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, I didn't mean to say that contracts are bad. Contracts are good in the sense of outlining the business terms of an agreement, but just don't use contracts as a way to trap people. That shouldn't be your business plan. Your business plan shouldn't be, "We're going to get someone to sign a contract so they can't leave then." So what about tip three? What's tip three?
Mirela Setkic:
Storytelling. And this was actually one of my favorite seminars or presentations that we listened to at Inbound. The speaker who spoke about storytelling talked about how storytelling is one of the most important and also most overlooked aspects of marketing. I guess companies just get caught up in trying to sell and market themselves that they forget to tell the story of what they do, how they do it, why they do it. And, as humans, we communicate by exchanging stories with each other, and, as humans, I suppose we expect companies to trade stories with us if they want to enter into a relationship with us. So it is very important to tell your potential and current customers who you are, what do you do, and why do you do it?
Also, this particular guest speaker spoke about how most companies, if they do tell a story, they just skip to the end. "Blah, blah, blah, and then this is what happened." And as human beings, we want to know, "Well, what happened at the beginning? What happened in the middle? Was there a struggle? Were things always peaches and cream and amazing and now you're here, you're successful? Tell us the whole story. Tell us about the ugly office you had at the beginning and tell us about the time that you launched a product and it flopped, and what did you learn from it? What came out of that?" People want to know the full story of what's going on behind the company and behind some of these things that they're selling and offering to their customers.
Jake Braun:
I agree. People love stories. They like going along the journey with you. And you mentioned Warby Parker earlier. I think they're a great example of someone capitalizing on a great story. They offer affordable glasses and all the stuff you said, and they've become a player in an industry that's really notoriously brutal. Luxottica, which owns most of the eyewear brands or a lot of the eyewear brands I should say. I think they control about 25% of the global eyewear industry, and they're super vertically integrated too. They own vision insurance companies and retailers like LensCrafters. So it's really impressive and a testament to storytelling that someone like Warby Parker can come into the industry. And they're relatively small, but they're still very much growing, and a lot of their advertising and marketing is storytelling.
Mirela Setkic:
That's true. I bet if we walked out into the street and said Warby Parker to someone, that person would probably know a little bit about that company because they have really good marketing that tells stories. But if I said, "Luxottica," or whatever the name of this company ... I can't even say their name because I've never heard of these people. They don't have a story.
Jake Braun:
Luxottica owns brands like Ray Ban and stuff like that.
Mirela Setkic:
I don't know that because they have never told me their story. I don't know who they are.
Jake Braun:
Very true.
Mirela Setkic:
Oh, and I guess I've been talking about some of these tips. What did you get from Inbound? What were some of your favorite things that we learned there?
Jake Braun:
Well, in talking after the conference and maybe preparing for this podcast, I think you know what I'm going to say.
Mirela Setkic:
Jake loves audio and video, so I'm guessing that's going to be his favorite.
Jake Braun:
Well, you've stolen the tip, but yes, it has to be doing more audio and video marketing. Video is huge. YouTube is often heralded by marketers as the second-largest search engine, and audio searches are on the rise too with Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and all those other devices out there. More and more podcasts are going live, and if you have text content already, you can really use that to create audio or video. And if you don't have that text content yet, then creating audio or video first, it might be easier for you than writing. Then you can even convert your audio or video into text. There's services like Rev that are pretty cheap that will do the transcription for you. So audio and video is definitely my tip.
Mirela Setkic:
Well, as much as I am still uncomfortable with my voice being out there and potentially videos of me being out there, I have to come around, and I've realized that audio and video are the future of digital marketing and doing business and putting your name out there. I was surprised to hear one of the speakers say that in two years, 50% of online searches will be voice searches, and people will be asking Alexa and other devices like Alexa to help them find the nearest restaurant to them, to what the weather is and all of those things. I'm still not one of those 50% of people. I still like to type my things in, but I do realize that I'm a total outlier, so I think, even here at Kapok Marketing, one of the things that we hope to do more in the future is have video content out there now that we have a little bit of experience in doing a podcast. We've gotten our feet wet, and I've realized that it's not that terrible and not that scary to have your voice out there.
So we're actually taking this to heart and making changes here at our agency, and we are realizing that if our content is not in audio or video format, then two years from now or next year or year after and years after that, we will be missing a huge chunk of people who are only doing voice searches. And if we're not meeting them there and we're not giving them audio and video content, then we're just never going to cross paths and we're going to miss out.
Jake Braun:
One of the things I forgot to mention is that this also includes making your website content audio friendly, in terms of SEO. You don't necessarily even need the audio. Some of these people, like Google, will read the content on your website for you. Keep in mind that you do have a little bit of time in terms of this too. One of the people I listen to, Neil Patel, and he has a podcast called Marketing School, and he pointed out that a lot of these audio searches are questions with direct answers like, "What is the weather today," and that may or may not be too useful to you as a business owner. But it will likely continue to change too, so you should be thinking about how you can capitalize on audio and video and the text on your website that might be read out loud as audio by one of these services.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah. That's true, which means don't panic. If you don't have a ton of audio and video, that doesn't mean that you're way behind and dinosaur age and there's no hope for you. You should just think about it and make a proactive effort to start at least doing a little bit of audio and video. Maybe start a podcast like we did or maybe just make 30 or 60-second videos that you put on Instagram or you put on YouTube or even on your website. Baby steps. Something is better than nothing.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, and this is definitely an on-the-horizon thing to a certain extent. Keep in mind, these are tips from marketing conference, so most of the people here are on the cutting edge. And if you are a business owner out there and you want to get a taste of being on a podcast, you can click the Be a Guest link on our website and maybe you can be a guest on our podcast or you can find another podcast that's in the industry you're in and get in contact with them and see if maybe you can be a guest. And then you can talk to someone who has more experience and get your feet wet before you create your own podcast, which is a huge endeavor.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah, that's true. You can actually come be a guest on our podcast and practice with us and then see how you like it. And you might even discover that you're really good at it and you will probably go back to your office and start your podcast immediately.
Jake Braun:
Okay. And what's our last tip, tip five?
Mirela Setkic:
Tip five is they always say how cash is king, and at this conference, everyone talked about how content is king, and they talked about how companies really need to think about and make a proactive effort in providing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to their customers. And this allows you to not only provide a really good experience for your customers, who might have questions or how need additional information, and also prospects who are just coming directly to your website, but it will also impress Google and it will tell Google that your website is a voice of authority, meaning that it's a good source of information and Google will start serving the information from your website to people who go to Google and search for specific topics. It's kind of a big deal when you appear in the Google snippet, which is the short answer that Google gives you.
Jake Braun:
The featured snippet.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes, the featured snippet. I'm not good with all these technical terms, so Jake always helps me out because I'm a simpleton when it comes to that stuff. I know what it is, but I often forget what it's called. So think about what are your customers thinking about. Think about what the questions that they have about your product or service or your industry in general. Think about what are the objections that the potential customers might have. Is your product very difficult to assemble? Maybe if it is you need to have a detailed explanation of how to assemble it. If it is not difficult to assemble but people may think that it is, then you should have a video that says, "No, actually, you can set this up in two minutes, and here are the steps how to do it, and here's a video of me or someone who is actually a novice to my product setting it up," so you can show the person that it's easy.
And you can put this on your website. You can put it on YouTube. I think most of us have, at some point in our life, had a problem and gone directly to YouTube and asked, and then there's some awesome person out there who did this video and is making so many people's lives so much easier. One of the books that I think we have talked about in a previous podcast episodes here and we've read here at Kapok Marketing is ... the name of the book is "They Ask You Answer", and the author is Marcus Sheridan. And he talks about making a list of all of the questions that people may have about your product, your service, your company, your industry, and then answering all of those questions publicly, including disclosing price information.
And the premise is that just because you don't want to put something out there, it doesn't mean that people are not asking about it and they're not having conversations about it. So if you don't answer those questions, maybe your competitor down the road will and he or she will win people's business.
Jake Braun:
Yeah. Since you mentioned featured snippets, just a quick corollary tip, if you will, for audio, the featured snippet is usually the one that gets read by some of these services like Google. So the featured snippet's definitely somewhere you want to be. And just in content in general, it's super important if used correctly, but you do need to be willing to commit. As we've mentioned in the past, you need to be posting probably at least weekly, and it could take 12 to 24 months before you see the big results.
If you post less frequently, you may see results, but it likely won't be that impressive. And if you're posting less than once a month, you probably will be better off spending your time doing something else, maybe direct advertising. But if you are willing to put in the time and effort or the money to pay someone else to write, it will pay off.
Mirela Setkic:
Yes, and like Jake said, it's definitely not a set it-forget it, microwave results type of commitment. You have to be in it for the long haul, and you really have to become disciplined and strategic about choosing the right topics, choosing the right keywords, committing to putting out content on a regular basis, and to make sure that your content is not stale. And you really just can't say, "Oh, man, this sucks. I haven't seen anything come out of this in two months. I'm just going to leave it alone."
In our case, we're pretty much doing the same thing. We're blogging every single week. In the beginning, it feels lonely because no one is saying anything, but then we meet people. We do interviews, and candidates come in, and they mention our blog posts and our podcast episodes. So people are listening. They're reading, so it's not as lonely as it feels in the beginning.
Jake Braun:
Yeah, you definitely need to have a strategy. We've got a couple minutes left here, so let's try and squeeze in a quick bonus tip. Tip six. So if any of our listeners out there are engaged in professional selling as part of their job, a few people talked about network and sales at the conference. If you're not on LinkedIn, you should be. You should accept all of the incoming connection requests from people on LinkedIn, even if you don't want to talk to them or whatever the case is, and when you send outgoing requests, make sure you customize the message. It's the easiest way to increase your acceptance rate when you're trying to connect with other people. Also, sales is becoming more and more automated, so focus on being a leader in your role and leading your prospects and keep them moving to closing them.
Mirela Setkic:
Yeah, and I've had to had a change of heart on this because, initially, I was completely doing LinkedIn wrong. My policy was if I haven't had a conversation with a person on the phone or in-person, I would not accept their LinkedIn connection request. And then after going to this conference and talking to Jake and talking to other people, I realized that is totally wrong way to do it. So now I accept everyone. I actually feel flattered that people want to follow me. So I've definitely flipped a page on this.
Jake Braun:
I think that you're doing great, and I think that the personal thing, I think maybe that's a good strategy for Facebook. You don't necessarily want to be Facebook friends with everyone in business, but LinkedIn is good. And my skills are very limited in terms of initial outreach or sales. My knowledge in this area is really only second or even third-hand. I hear all these great sales or networking ideas, and I see people being super successful with them, but I'm certainly not the one who's probably going to go out there and execute on them anytime soon.
Is there anything else we should add real quick?
Mirela Setkic:
I don't know. I think we're running out of time, and we might have to wrap this up. If we missed anything or something doesn't make any sense, let us know. Email us, call us, whatever, tweet us, and we will explain anything. If you want to see more of our notes that we took at the conference, email me and I can send you all of my notes. And I think that's all I have.
Jake Braun:
Yeah. It's been a great 10th episode. Feel free to reach out to us. Like Mirela said, if you have any questions or comments about anything we talked about today or marketing in general, you can visit us on our website, KickinItWithKapok.com or on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as Kapok Marketing. This has been Kickin' it with Kapok, brought to you by Kapok Marketing. Thanks for listening. We'll have something just as great for you next time.