We are thrilled to have Nick Salvatoriello as a guest speaker at the Annual Service Training Institute this February 8–12 in New Orleans. Nick is the Principal Inbound Professor at HubSpot Academy, and an expert in inbound marketing.
Paul Mac Donald, Executive Director of the United Servicers Association, had the opportunity to ask Nick a few questions about how service organizations and small and medium-sized business can make the most of their marketing.
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PAUL: We know that mobile searches exceeded desktop searches in 2014. Do you think that holds true when consumers are searching for products and services for the home, such as appliance repair?
NICK: To answer this question, business owners who offer products and services for the home such as appliance repair must study the behavior of their ideal buyer persona. Where are these buyers when they are thinking about or talking about appliance repair? Are they at the mall? Are they in an appliance retailer? Are they in a coffee shop talking with a friend about their homes? Certainly those are settings would lend themselves well to that person reaching into their pocket and pulling out a smart phone and doing a quick search.
Smartphones allow consumers to access data and search for local services in the moment, as they think of it. Even if you imagine your buyer persona standing in the basement of their home, staring at their broken washing machine, they may very well have their smart phone on them (as I often do) and will do a mobile search and browse while the issue is top of mind rather than running upstairs to a computer. As early as 2012 we were reporting that half of all local searches are performed from a mobile device. It would be wise to assume that the upward trend in mobile searches will impact the behavior of consumers who are searching for products and services for their home.
PAUL: How can small and medium-sized businesses compete with large national brands in engaging customers?
NICK: There has never been a better time for SMBs to compete with large national brands. Search engines, in general, want to serve up the best possible answers to queries in their organic search results. The answers to the questions your target audience is asking are not always provided by the biggest brands. Think of a question that clients or prospective clients ask you about your industry and enter those questions into a search engine. You will likely see a few results pointing to a national brand, but often you’ll see discussion threads in forums or blog posts from niche websites dedicated to educating people in the industry.
Large national brands are often less nimble than SMBs. They can be more bureaucratic and more averse to risk. You can take advantage of this by publishing content that is helpful and personable. If you’re an SMB, you’re likely staffed with people who are passionate about the enterprise and are fairly close to your clients and prospects. Use that intimate knowledge to your advantage and write answers to the frequently asked questions you encounter in your work every day.
SMBs can target local markets. They can compete with national brands by offering content that is personalized to their market. Imagine a large storm hit your area and impacted area homes through the loss of power or frozen pipes. You could quickly publish a post that references the storm, its local impact, and what consumers can do about it to fix any damaged appliances. SMBs can publish relevant, interesting content to serve their markets quickly and easily while large national brands are focusing elsewhere. As long as your content is designed to honestly help solve the challenges of the market you serve, your customers will engage with it.
PAUL: I got this question from a member recently: “We are an SMB with a responsive website and a blog, and we post on Facebook, but we’re not growing as we need to. What’s the secret to effective SEO?”
NICK: I get this question a lot when working with businesses that are new to inbound marketing. They want to build a machine, check the boxes, and sit back and watch the visitors, leads and customers come flying in. I remind them of the old adage, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” You may have these things set up, but do you really care about them? Are you referencing specific portions of your website when you speak to prospects? Are you writing blog posts based on the frequently asked questions from your customers and prospects that you encounter each week? Do you ask all your staff members, current customers, past customers, and vendors to “Like” your Facebook page? If you’re frustrated that you’re not getting enough traffic to your blog, and you don’t have all your staff members subscribing to it, then you’re missing the boat.
If you are committed to having your website, blog, and social presence be a place where your ideal buyer can solve their problems, and you’re still not growing, this is what I would challenge you to do: Make sure the last thing you and your staff ask of everyone you speak to for the next 90 business days is, “Are you following us online for free tips and solutions?” Make sure that is the first “yes” that your team focuses on getting from your clients and prospects and you will add traffic and momentum to your inbound marketing every day.
PAUL: What’s the key difference between inbound and outbound marketing?
NICK: Context. Outbound marketing is something that is pushed to someone without taking the context of their situation into mind. It feels like an interruption. It feels like a distraction. It feels focused on the business providing it, instead of the needs and perspectives of the person experiencing it. Highly contextual marketing is intriguing because it’s relevant to me, it seeks to solve specific problems that I might have.
The second piece of that context is anticipating what’s next. That’s what makes it inbound marketing. You let the audience know how easy the next step is, if they like what they are hearing, reading, seeing or experiencing. That’s why people often associate inbound marketing with a magnet: It catches your attention, but then links you into a deeper engagement as you journey towards making a decision, and hopefully that decision is to do business with the entity that provided such a relevant content experience for you.
PAUL: How can HubSpot help SMBs engage new customers?
NICK: Hubspot can help you—for free—provide more content that is relevant to your ideal buyer persona. We try to practice what we preach, so we provide a lot of free resources to help solve the kinds of problems that people who often choose to do business with us have.
In fact, my team, HubSpot Academy, provides a free Inbound Marketer Certification that was just mentioned on Entrepreneur.com as one of the 15 Free Online Learning Sites that Every Entrepreneur should visit. Check out our free training, connect with our community of inbound marketers online and start to build a plan. After that you might want to try out some of the awesome, free software tools HubSpot makes to help companies of all sizes be more effective engaging new customers such as Sidekick (getsidekick.com) or Marketing Grader (marketing.grader.com).
Once you’ve built some familiarity with inbound marketing best practices and have gotten comfortable using digital tools to increase your effectiveness, you might want to take the plunge and give HubSpot a try for your business.
Nick Salvatoriello is a Principal Inbound Professor at HubSpot Academy, where he develops and delivers training that educates and inspires HubSpot’s global community. Prior to joining HubSpot Academy, Nick was a HubSpot Inbound Marketing Consultant, where he consulted and provided planning and strategy for new customer accounts. Through HubSpot Academy’s online training programs, Nick now manages production for HubSpot’s Partner Inbound Success Training and administers HubSpot’s official Partner Certification exam to hundreds of HubSpot Agency Partners each year.