You are probably wondering “what’s in it for me” when it comes to inbound marketing. It seems like a lot of work. Does inbound marketing really work for lead generation?
The answer is definitely yes – inbound marketing does generate leads. And, there are many benefits to implementing inbound marketing as one of your primary lead generation strategies.
But when faced with limited resources, inbound marketing can seem 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, a small business owner may just say it’s too much trouble.
But the value of inbound marketing for small businesses can outweigh the challenges and should be included as part of your marketing activities.
Getting started with inbound marketing
There are several things you should do before you start creating and promoting your content to attract inbound leads.
Optimize your web presence
A standalone website is a thing of the past. The website needs to support the rest of your online strategy. A quality, mobile-responsive website provides a landing area for those who come from your other web properties.
Before you begin any inbound marketing activity, you must have a quality optimized web presence so that your marketing activities are effective. Your web presence is made up of your:
- 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.
Clean up your website
Whether you are doing inbound marketing or traditional offline marketing, everything you do should drive people to your website. No matter what type of business you are in, people will go to your website to check you out. It must project your best brand image on all devices to make your business look current and professional.
Your website needs to tell the visitor why you are the right choice for them. The structure of your website should lead your visitors with the purpose of helping them decide what action to take. If you let the visitor wander without a clear path, you run the risk of them getting confused, frustrated and leaving without ever knowing how you can help them.
- Make your website design clean and easy to navigate.
- Write the homepage content so that it clearly speaks to your ideal client. This will help them understand how you can help them solve their biggest challenge.
- Ensure your website is designed for mobile first and is secured with SSL
- If you have a lot of content, reorganize and refresh it so it educates the visitor
- Optimize the main pages of your website for your top keyword phrases
- Incorporate Google Analytics and Google Search Console to gain intelligence
If you are not sure what to do, consult with an inbound marketing resource to understand what features, landing pages and calls to action your website needs to support your marketing efforts.
Plan your inbound marketing
Many business owners want to go straight to executing activities. They tackle their website and create content without first having a solid plan. Without an inbound marketing plan, you are likely to wander aimlessly instead of being focused on what will attract and convert your ideal client.
Develop your inbound marketing strategy
Developing your strategy helps you focus on the right things needed to consistently drive inbound traffic. Your strategy should incorporate:
- Your goals for inbound marketing
- An in-depth understanding of your audience
- What content would appeal to your audience
- Knowledge of your top keywords
- The right social media channels to build communities and develop relationships.
- An action plan to successfully execute your strategy
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.
If you understand your audience, you know what type of content they need. From this, you can create the right content strategy to attract them to you and satisfy their needs.
Define and 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 lead 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.
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 required if you want to reach your audience. 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 inbound marketing 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 the right lead generation forms
Once people are ready to pursue an engagement with your business, how do people contact you? You must have web forms to generate leads. Many people conduct searches for products and services at night, after dinner and after their children have gone to bed. If you don’t have a form that makes it easy for them to contact you when it is convenient for them, you are missing a huge opportunity to get qualified leads.
A well placed lead conversion form with a compelling offer is an important component of your website. Keep the form short and only ask for as much information as you really need. Also, respond to an inbound request as quickly as you can. If you wait, the lead may go to your competitor instead.
If you have all the above pieces in place, you have the foundation. Now our task is to implement the strategy in order to begin gaining visibility with your ideal client.
Implement inbound marketing action plan
Prepare an editorial calendar
A robust editorial calendar can simplify inbound marketing. It enables you to map your content to the needs of the customer, answering questions your ideal clients have so they can make an informed purchase decision. It also provides a realistic schedule for you to create new content.
Your editorial calendar includes:
- What content you plan to create
- What format you will use – blog post, podcast, YouTube videos, presentations and webinars
- Who will create it
- The style to be used across all media channels to project a consistent brand image
- Your schedule for sharing your content across all of your social media channels.
Don’t worry about the exact dates for each piece of content. Create the list and arrange as you go, selecting those pieces that you feel compelled to work on.
Also see if you can repurpose 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.
Further Reading: Topic Clusters Simplify Your Content Strategy and Improve SEO
Create your content
Increase your visibility and enhance your expert reputation by providing the content your audience wants and needs. But first you need to understand what your ideal client is looking for.
Then create a plan for content creation:
- Determine what type of content you need to provide
- Decide how often you will create original content and in what media (text, video, audio, infographic, presentation, eBook)
- Schedule time to write
- Optimize content using SEO best practices
- Post to your blog and selected social sites
- Make it easy for visitors to subscribe to your blog via email or RSS
Focus your content on the topics that will interest your target audience.
Not a great writer? Search for freelance writers who are familiar with your topic and can do the writing. Or have someone interview and record your conversation and then transcribe it into a blog post. All you have to do is edit, optimize, add an image and publish.
Set up your inbound marketing system
An inbound marketing action plan creates a system that enables you to consistently execute your activities and see the results. Without a system, you will find yourself in one of two places:
- Doing nothing because you don’t know where to start
- Overwhelmed and ineffective because there’s too much to do while still servicing clients
As with setting any goals, if you write them down you will be more likely to achieve them. Put your system in writing and make sure that it will work for you. Start simple and expand if you find that you can do more:
- Start with an activity plan for when you will do certain inbound marketing activities such as create content for the blog, curate content to share and post to social media.
- Book time in your calendar to make it part of your schedule and stick with it. Your goal is to stay active and visible in order to continue to attract those that may want to form a trusted relationship.
- Be realistic about how much you can invest in time and money on marketing your business. If you only have 30 minutes a couple of mornings a week, schedule it to do some inbound marketing activity that will benefit your business.
Make use of the right tools
You don’t have to create all the content that you share. Finding content that your audience would find interesting and sharing it on your social media profiles can help you become the go-to expert in your industry.
To collect ideas and content to share, you can either use Evernote or the OneTab extension.
Evernote can be used to save content ideas and posts to share. Install the Evernote Clipper extension to make it easy to clip content and save it in specific notebooks.
OneTab extension to Chrome and Firefox can also be used to save content to read and share later. If I open the post and see that it is worth reading and sharing later, I save it using OneTab and organize it into a group.
Either of these will enable you to save content to read and schedule for posting at a later time. This way you can set aside some time every week to fill the posting schedule of one of the following products so you remain visible.
Buffer, Publer.io or Hootsuite makes it very easy to schedule posts to Facebook, LinkedIn (both personal and company profiles), Twitter, Google Business Profile, Instagram and Pinterest. They offer a different experience so check them out to see which one you prefer. I use Buffer because the Buffer extension makes it easy for me to put content into the queue for all of my supported social media channels.
The products offer a free limited version that gives you 3 social media channels, 10 scheduled posts per channel and 1 user. Start with the free version to decide which one you like best.
Build and nurture your email list
Now that you are generating leads through your inbound marketing activities, 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 and 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.
This is where you engage with your audience and develop relationships. Before people will do business with you, they need to get to know, like and trust you.
- Spend time on your most important social sites
- Provide interesting content (manually or automated)
- Ask questions of your audience
- Respond to comments or questions from followers
- Review, find and follow interesting people
You are the only one who can project your personality into your social media activity. You can have someone that monitors the social sites for you but you should not let them impersonate you on your profiles. Be authentic. Be yourself.
So add inbound marketing to your marketing plan. But like everything in marketing, lead generation using inbound marketing is a process. It only works when all the pieces come together and deliver a clear, compelling message.
Develop your system can to include activities that can be outsourced so you can reduce your time and focus on running your business. Writing, curating and optimizing content can be done by someone else as long as you stay involved. Just remember that you do need to be present to build relationships and interact with people who are interested in your services.