If all your friends were jumping off the bridge, does that mean you should too?” Thanks, mom, for planting one of the great existential questions into our brains from childhood. Still, even that old chestnut draws an interesting analogy. Is it best to follow the crowd, or to stand alone even if it feels strange to do so?
In terms of inbound marketing, it’s not hard to determine who’s “jumping off the bridge” – into a sea of new business-building opportunities, you can assume – versus those who think this whole Internet thing is just a passing fad.
Some industries, like manufacturing and construction, seem to be losing some ground in the inbound arena. Part of that is due to the unusually long lead time it takes to build up a customer relationship. But part is also due to manufacturing’s general unfamiliarity with the advantages inbound marketing has to offer.
There’s little advantage to the “me too” mindset. If your website isn’t optimized for visitors; if your social media presences is weak or even non-existent; if your content look more like an ad than a true piece of valuable information … check to see if your competitors are in the same boat. If they are, you can avoid the “me too” trap by positioning our company to leap over competitors’ heads and use creative content to identify, attract and convert leads into customers.
- While your competitors are still making cold calls, spending big on direct mail or display ads, or appealing to the ever-shrinking audience of TV and radio, you could be using the proven tactics of content marketing to stand apart.
Conversely, if your competitors are already immersed in inbound tactics and you’re not, you have some catching up to do.
- Ideally, you want to become the “first mover,” a business expression that refers to a company’s leadership goals in the marketplace.
Yes, you can take advantage of competitive reluctance to go inbound by leading the way yourself.
What Kind of First Mover Can You Be?
You’ve got choice!
- You could be your industry’s or local market’s first-moving pioneer in content marketing, creating and publishing highly engaging and original blogs, articles, whitepapers, videos and more. At some point, you will create a piece of content so helpful and valuable, you might use it as an incentive for visitors to stop at your website’s landing page to leave lead-generation information in exchange for the goodie in question.
- You could be a social media first-mover, harnessing the wide appeal of networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest to attract the attention of web visitors wanting to know about your industry. Bonus: social networks often display the more “human” and playful side of a company.
- You could be an SEO first mover, meaning that the thoughtful links, keywords and content you provide so impresses a search engine (by which we mean Google) that your results get pushed to the top of the Google results page, where people can find them with ease. And the more good links you provide earlier, the better leg-up you get among web searchers.
- Finally, you could become a thought-leader first mover – that go-to source for information, not advertising.
How Do You Become a First Mover?
The first step is to establish your commitment to content marketing. Your web services provider or partner is a great resource for helping you identify your target audience from the countless zillions surfing along Google as we speak. Then …
- See What’s out There - While some industries are slow to join the inbound revolution, you could find that your competitors are already blogging, sending automated email or involved in other inbound strategies. Read their blogs, then ask yourself: What can I create that’s even more valuable and attractive to the same audience?
- Develop an Audience Persona - Personas, which are fictional renditions of actual target customers, are ideal for narrowing your message and its media right down to the specific places your target is likely to go. For example, if your persona research indicates your target prefers Twitter to Facebook, then tweet away!
- Create an Editorial Calendar - You and your web services partner should know enough about your target audience to fashion a series of content offerings aimed to their interests and preferred media. Give your calendar at least 6 months of lead times, so that you are prepared for those certain times of year when you are confident people will be seeking out the kind of goods and services you offer.
- Make Yourself Known to Related Industries - As a first mover and thought leader, you can become a source of quotes and other info that related businesses (like vendors or employment agencies) can call upon for expert advice. Holy awesome free publicity, Batman! What a great way to build credibility.
- Optimize Your Website - Nothing turns potential business away like a half-dashed website that focuses more on "buy now!" than answering people's questions. Work with your web company to create an ideal site that is easy to navigate, contains plenty of contact information and, most importantly, includes a landing page where the casual web visitor may convert into a qualified lead.
- Measure, then measure again. Inbound marketing can be a huge advantage for the first mover, but seldom do you hit the bulls-eye the first time out. By integrating analytics and reports into your campaign, you see exactly who is responding to your content, and how long they stay on your website.
Grab the Inbound Advantage!
"When you consistently publish high-value content," says Influence&Co., "your audience will look forward to your next piece. People will seek out your opinions; they’ll feature you and your ideas in their own articles."
So being a first mover is pretty much a win-win for you and your customer base – but only if you handle it correctly. Even if you’re late to the party, you can still ramp up the charm and end up with plenty of new friends.