Pay-Per-Click (PPC), sponsored content, and paid links have become the McDonald’s of modern marketing. With these methods, marketers hope to get traffic and, with luck, conversions, as quickly as possible and with as little effort as possible. It’s as if digital marketing had a drive-through window.
‘Fast food’ marketing can offer instant gratification, and it makes perfect sense in some circumstances. For example, in fast-paced businesses such as large hotels with 8,000 rooms to fill every night, PPC or outbound marketing can be an essential way to drive a large volume of traffic to your site. Or if you need to promote a major event happening within a day or so, you’re going to need PPC or other paid marketing tools to drive as much traffic as soon as possible. And you might use Twitter’s promoted tweets feature to draw more attention to a particularly good piece of content or a new landing page.
But the danger is in overly, consistently relying upon fast food marketing at the expense of taking a slower, steadier approach—which has a different set of rewards.
Over time, a fast food-only approach isn’t sustainable or scalable. If you want your marketing programs to deliver solid, long-term results that meet business goals, ‘slow food marketing’ strategy is what I recommend.
The Slow Food movement began in 1986 as a reaction to a proposed McDonald’s that would have been built near Rome’s Spanish Steps. The movement went global and expanded its focus to promote organic and local foods and sustainable farming practices and to encourage consumers to grow their own food.
It’s an ideal model for long-term digital marketing success today. Here’s why.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a major shift to inbound marketing. At a high level, this is about listening closely to your customers; being available to them when they’re ready to transact business with you; and having a relevant product or service when and where they need it.
Inbound marketing, when done well, isn’t easy or fast. But we now have a variety of tools that foster an illusion that inbound marketing is easy and fast. And we’ve grown dependent on these tools because they make everything seem easy, and they give us a ton of data.
But here’s the problem, as I see it: This ‘fast food’ style of inbound doesn’t help you organically and continually grow site traffic, conversions, and customers over time. It doesn’t help you truly listen to your customers and develop a durable, meaningful relationship with them. It doesn’t lay a foundation that will make future marketing efforts work more efficiently or successfully, scale further, or achieve a higher ROI.
What’s more, with a fast food approach, you’re not seeding sustainable, strategic marketing skills and expertise within your team—which can further hinder your ability to connect with customers and grow.
So how do you develop an inbound marketing strategy that’s more in line with the Slow Food movement’s basic principals? You start by growing organically and by growing your own.
Growing organic food has many environmental, health and financial rewards. And organic is definitely the way to go with your inbound marketing, too.
When a website isn’t receiving significant organic (non-paid) traffic, the brand often turns to paid marketing strategies to try and make up the difference. While PPC and other tactics have their purpose, they aren’t likely to help your site grow its authority and trustworthiness or receive quality backlinks.
Organic traffic takes much longer to develop, of course. Consider a press release (which counts as paid traffic) vs. a blog post (which delivers organic traffic).
To get attention right now, you might distribute a press release over Business Wire, PRWeb, or other paid PR service. Press releases are relatively easy to write—there are plenty of ‘who-what-when-where’ templates to follow. A press release can help elevate your online profile immediately by notifying journalists, bloggers and others about your news. The news release can also help you gain greater visibility—at least temporarily—in search engine results. When done well, a press release can also help you get backlinks from news sites that write about you.
By comparison, a well-written blog post is much harder to create than a press release. A successful post fits into your brand’s editorial vision. It speaks to your targeted customer personas. It has a voice and style consistent with your brand. It engages readers by evoking curiosity and even emotion. It informs while it entertains.
A well-written blog post articulates your company’s thought leadership. It delivers a call to action. And when you’ve really done your job well, it converts prospects into customers and customers into fans. A well-written blog post is exactly the kind of quality content that helps your site earn backlinks and authority. Over time, this helps improve your search engine result rankings, which in turn drives your organic traffic.
Ultimately, your site’s volume of organic traffic is an important representation of how well your marketing is working. Your organic traffic usually comes when your website ranks highly for relevant keywords in search engine results; is trusted (by search engines) and considered authoritative; has dedicated landing pages on topics prospects and customers care about; and has earned many backlinks from other trusted, authoritative sites.
To get a sense of how your site is doing, type in your website URL at SEMRush. You’ll see a graph that displays your site’s organic and paid traffic. This graph can be a major predictor of future success, as a company with largely organic traffic has a much stronger foundation than one whose traffic is primarily paid.
The Slow Food movement has helped give rise to urban farming, in which locals grow their own vegetables and fruits in their backyards and on rooftops. In the past decade or so, farming has become a skill set few people in cities had.
It’s extremely tempting to outsource your marketing to external SEO, SEM, branding or other agencies. There are plenty of good agencies (I even found a real organic agency recently, although organic advertising is still not easy to find). And there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing some of your marketing some of the time.
But before you outsource, it’s critical to grow your own marketing in-house. This means taking full responsibility for your brand and value proposition and how they’re conveyed to your target person your content; the personas you want to speak to.as. There are many core elements to your marketing efforts that, to succeed, must come from within: the look and feel of your website; the goals of your marketing; the voice and tone of your content; the personas you want to speak to.
In marketing terms, then, ‘growing your own’ means developing strong skills in-house instead of outsourcing them.
Your marketing team should truly understand how SEO works. They should know, by doing, what it takes to write a good blog post, create a compelling video, or design a cool infographic. Your team also needs to understand how to amplify and repurpose content across a variety of channels, both traditional and digital. They should know how to interpret your site’s data from Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.
These are skills many in-house marketers are losing, due to outsourcing and an over-reliance on fast food marketing digital tools. And if your team loses these skills, how effective will it be in matching your marketing initiatives with the company’s goals, brand image, and customer needs? How can marketing success be sustained and scaled long-term? The reality is, it can’t be. You must have the necessary knowledge and skill in-house to perform a job before you consider outsourcing that job on occasion.
Growing organically and growing your own are the foundation of your slow food marketing strategy. You’ll need to sharpen your tactics as well to keep the momentum going. Here are five steps to follow:
1. Put a stop now to PPC, sponsored content, or other paid marketing tactics. This will make your team more accountable for the quality of content they produce, for staying on message, and for keeping customers and the big picture in mind. I’m not saying you should never use PPC or other paid marketing tools again. But if you don’t go cold turkey on them at least for a while, you won’t see t
2. Create content you care about and that your customers will share. Make your blog posts or other content worthwhile. Answer your customers’ questions; address their pain points; show them you’re listening. Amplify your content over social media, too. What’s the point of putting out great content if no one can find it?he results of your organic marketing efforts as clearly, and you won’t force your team to build or grow their skills.
When you create quality content and amplify it, you’re likely to be rewarded in Google search result rankings, especially within 24-48 hours after the content goes live. Google tends to reward ‘fresh’ content in rankings on the assumption that users are looking for the latest information relevant to their keyword search.
3. Make sure your content is still relevant and valuable months after it goes live. Updating your content as needed helps keep it current and valuable to your customers. It can also help the content attract additional backlinks and continue to rank well in Google search results long after the ‘freshness’ boost has worn off.
4. Don’t cheat. Google is constantly updating its algorithms to push down low-quality content in rankings and to penalize websites that have paid or ‘shady’ links. If you take shortcuts, you’re bound to get into trouble with Google, either now or later.
5. Plan for the future, not the present. You never know how Google will change its algorithms months or years from now, or what the impact will be. The best defense is simply to keep putting out great content that earns links. And there’s no shortcut for that.
Fast food marketing tactics will always be with us. And they can serve a purpose.
But if you’re after sustainable, long-term results—the kind that can truly help grow your brand and customers—slow is the only way to go.