The most frequent question I get asked by small business owners is how to simplify inbound marketing when faced with limited resources. Inbound marketing seems so overwhelming with all the effort that needs to go into creating great content, sharing it on social media, and optimizing that content for search engines.
But the value of inbound marketing for small businesses can outweigh the challenges and should be included as part of your marketing activities.
Inbound marketing—the what and why
Inbound marketing is the process of attracting your ideal client with quality content to create brand awareness and attract new business. Your content, whether it is in the form of a blog, e-book, webinar, presentation, audio, or video, needs to:
- Be optimized to be found in search engines
- Be shared through social media and email marketing activities
- Educate your ideal client on how you can help them satisfy a need or solve a problem
Inbound marketing offers many benefits:
- Build your expert reputation
- Generate inbound links for greater search engine visibility
- Develop relationships with prospects and customers
- Strengthen search engine optimization efforts
- Increase brand awareness
- Generate qualified leads at a lower cost per lead
And although inbound marketing can be a rather large undertaking, you can focus your efforts to simplify inbound marketing and make it work for your business.
Inbound marketing—the how
The following six steps can help you simplify inbound marketing and get the results you are looking for. Understand what you want to do with inbound marketing and why you want to do it, and take it one step at a time.
Identify your goal
What do you want to accomplish with inbound marketing?
- Create more brand visibility by ranking higher in the search engines?
- Generate more leads?
- Convert more leads into customers?
Goals need to be measurable, but achieving your goals are not totally in your control. So if you want to generate 100 new quality leads a month, then you need to identify what it will take to help you achieve that number. Goals may take several different activities to achieve.
Optimize your web presence
Before you begin any inbound marketing activity, you must have a quality, well-optimized web presence so that your marketing activities are effective. Your web presence is made up of your:
- Website (which must support mobile devices)
- Social media profiles
- Business directory listings
You should be in control of them all, and they should consistently project your brand. Don’t take short cuts in this important area as first impressions count. If you haven’t developed your powerful web presence, do that before you launch marketing campaigns.
Create your lead magnet
First-time visitors probably won’t buy from you because they are still researching a solution and not entirely sure what you offer is what they need. Plus, giving you something of value—their contact information—isn’t going to happen for free.
But in order to grow a quality email list, you need time to build trust, instill confidence in your expertise and build a relationship.
Enter the lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a free incentive to get people to give you their contact information. Your lead magnet needs to be something that your target audience values that ties into the products or services you provide.
The right magnet for your business depends on what your customer values. They don’t have to be lengthy, complex, or time-intensive to create. They do, however, need to be useful.
Lead magnets come in many forms: checklists, templates, tools, infographics, presentations, guides, coupons, free estimates, webinar replays, quizzes, or surveys.
[Check out our step-by-step guide to creating a lead magnet here.]
Determine what your audience would value and create the lead magnet that will help you grow your email list. You may want several lead magnets to use at different times to attract an audience at a varying points in the purchase process.
Build and nurture your email list
Now that you have your lead magnet attracting your target audience to subscribe to your list, nurture your list by sending valuable content that helps them learn more about your expertise. Nurturing is letting your subscribers get to know you and your brand through communication that offers value, not a sales pitch. Send them your blog posts, a personalized newsletter, a tutorial, an infographic, or other useful content that supports the reason they subscribed to your list in the first place.
Segment your list to deliver information that is relevant to the subscriber. Segmenting your list helps you get better open and click rates. If you only collect email addresses, you have fewer options, but you can still segment based on signup date or subscriber activity. If you do have more information available, you can choose other ways to segment.
One segment you absolutely should have is your customers. This is the “delight” phase of inbound marketing. Those who already do business with you should be one of your prime focus areas. Communicate with your customers and offer them special deals. Provide awesome customer service and quick responses to their questions so they can only brag about how wonderful you are. Happy and satisfied customers who understand the value you offer will not hesitate to refer new customers to you.
Identify your top social media channels
No small business needs to be active on all social media channels. Your choice of social media platforms will be different whether your business is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer). You need to find your audience on a particular social media platform, or you probably shouldn’t be there. Be smart about where you spend your time so that you don’t spread yourself too thin.
With the many ways to engage with your audience on social media, you do need a strategy. Each platform has its “rules of engagement.” Organic reach has deteriorated and pay to play is now mandatory. Other options for engaging with your audience now include private groups, live streaming, and content syndication.
The three major players—Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—all offer small businesses a distribution channel for your content. If you are a visual business, Pinterest and Instagram are also a good choice. And don’t forget YouTube for posting and optimizing your videos.
In all cases, you need to understand when you should post and when you should pay for visibility. Choose the most appropriate social media platform, create an ad to drive people to claim your lead magnet, and get the lead generation engine running. Just make sure you are sending visitors to a high-quality landing page that doesn’t chase the visitor away.
Create an editorial calendar
A robust editorial calendar is how you simplify inbound marketing. Lay out your content with their calls to action and distribution strategy in a calendar. Even if you only plan one piece of content per month, plan on how you will share it and if you can rework the content into other types of media.
For example, if you are giving a presentation or webinar, record it. Post snippets of the video on YouTube, embed them into a blog post and summarize the presentation. Send out a replay of the webinar as a lead magnet to get more subscribers. Transcribe the Q&A and turn the answers into another blog post.
Most businesses have a lot of content available to them, they just don’t realize it. Work with someone who can help you see the value of the information you have and how it can be turned into content for your inbound marketing strategy.
Eliminate the overwhelm
The best advice I can give to those wanting to implement inbound marketing for their business is to focus on a few activities that help you achieve your goals, outsource when necessary and not get distracted with all the possibilities. Being able to focus your marketing is important to those of us who need to deliver client projects while continuing to market our businesses.
This article was written by Debra Murphy from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.