Should San Francisco Startups Use Inbound Marketing?

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Why Inbound Marketing Works for Startups?

We do a lot of work with San Francisco startups and recently, we’ve been asked a lot about inbound marketing. These questions vary but they’re all very important; sometimes, it’s “what the heck is inbound marketing?” and other times it’s “should my startup choose inbound marketing over other marketing methods?” Forward Push actually handles a range of marketing strategies, so we’re not particularly married to just inbound marketing or alternatives. In fact, it really just comes down to what your individual business needs and how best to communicate to your target market.

Let’s go over a few details about inbound marketing — in particular, let’s look closer at when it works for startups in the San Francisco market. By the end of this discussion, you should be able to tell whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

Inbound Marketing: What Is It?

startup-marketing-san-franciscoThe idea behind inbound marketing is that you have provided enough online value through content and engagement that people seek you out — hence, inbound. This can be through search, social media, and other channels. Once they have found you, you must continue to provide content to build trust and a strong relationship, and that ultimately leads to a loyal customer.

When I say content, it can mean many things: blog posts, social media responses, infographics (see examples), videos, thought leadership articles, and more. Anything that would cause your target audience to click through on an impression is an ideal piece of content; the goal is to produce enough of it to build a large search and social media footprint and to maintain it at regular intervals to keep audiences engaged.

When Should Startups Use Inbound Marketing?

At Forward Push, we’ve helped a number of San Francisco startups launch inbound marketing campaigns. This has helped us clearly identify when it’s the best fit.

Inbound marketing is perfect when you need to focus on: long-term customer relationships: starting them, building them, and sustaining them. Through search, social media, and other avenues, the idea is to use a consistent content stream that gradually adds on to your user base and build your brand identity. Of course, the startup world is rife with fast-moving parts, both internally and externally. Strategies may have to change mid-stream, and it’s important to have adaptable content plans as fallbacks in these cases. If you’re using a marketing company to help out with content creation and strategy, it’s best to stay within the Bay Area so you can address these things on the fly.

When Shouldn’t Startups Choose Inbound Marketing?

inbound-for-startupsWhile inbound marketing has proven to be highly effective, it does come with limitations. Inbound working will not work for startups that are:

  • Lacking resources: This may feel like a bit of a misnomer, since all startups are battling resource availability. But to take on inbound marketing, you’ll either need time (for staff to create content and manage social media accounts) or money (for contractors to handle it). Without those, inbound marketing doesn’t work.
  • Can’t commit to the long game: Inbound marketing takes time. Search engines have to index content, email lists have to build up, social media accounts need to grow followers. If you don’t have the patience to diligently chip away at this and look for a campaign that will take at least six months, it’s not a good fit.
  • Need an immediate spike in sales/attention: If your startup wants to get immediate attention, there are other ways to get that. Pay-per-click campaigns can generate instant exposure on both search and social media, while traditional broadcast and print ads are still effective when used on targeted audiences.

Is Inbound Marketing Right For Your San Francisco Startup?

marketing-for-startupsIn this article, I’ve covered what inbound marketing is, when it works, and when it doesn’t work. For many San Francisco startups, inbound marketing may be the right strategy. On the other hand, some startups will find their budget better spent elsewhere. The questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I commit time and/or money to content creation?
  • Can I commit time and/or money to social media management?
  • Am I willing to wait months to gradually build returns?

That should tell you what you need to know. However, if you’re still unsure, contact me at Forward Push with your questions. As a Bay Area provider of both traditional marketing and inbound marketing services, our discussion should clarify the best path forward for your San Francisco startup.


By Marc Apple

Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.


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