Inbound marketing is something that most small business owners have heard of but few implement. For those who add inbound marketing to their marketing plan, they experience a more cost effective and successful form of lead generation. To be successful with inbound marketing, you need to plan your strategy around search, content and social media specifically for your business. In this post, let’s get into more detail about how you can use inbound marketing to improve lead generation for your business.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is a better way to do lead generation. It is comprised of three specific marketing strategies: search, social media and content marketing. Using these three strategies, you can generate more quality leads for your business by:
- Creating quality, educational content targeted at a specific need
- Optimizing that content for search
- Promoting the content and your brand through your social media channels
Unlike traditional outbound marketing where you push yourself on potential customers, inbound marketing is better aligned with today’s buyers who research solutions before they decide which brand to select. Using inbound marketing enables you to build rapport and trust with those who want to purchase your products and services.
What are the benefits of inbound marketing?
Buying decisions, both consumer and business, have evolved where they begin with an online search. When a prospective customer finds your business via search, the useful information you provide helps them determine whether you understand their needs, making your business more attractive to them. Inbound marketing has other benefits as listed below.
- Cost-effective – Inbound marketing is still more cost-effective than traditional outbound marketing tactics. Implementing effective SEO, content creation and promotional strategies can get you long-term visibility, but the skills needed to implement them properly have increased.
- Creates brand loyalty – If someone is spending time reading your blog, downloading your white papers and joining your email list, they are making a commitment to your brand. This helps build brand loyalty. Warm prospects are more likely to contact you when they are ready to buy.
- Builds trust – Useful information that solves a problem and answers questions with no strings attached develops a more personal relationship that helps them decide whether to do business with you.
- Expands your universe – For many small businesses, reaching a broad audience was difficult due to the cost. Attracting potential customers to your website with quality content can help small businesses reach a broader, more geographically dispersed audience. If you can service customers nationally or internationally, inbound marketing is a must.
- Projects your expertise – Don’t underestimate the value of inbound marketing, especially for local businesses such as home improvement and major renovation contractors. Adding content that educates your customer makes them more likely to hire you when they have a project.
Now that you understand what inbound marketing is and how it can help your small business, it’s time to plan your inbound marketing strategy and create your inbound marketing action plan.
Review your marketing plan
Your marketing plan sets the direction for all of your product and marketing-related activities. It defines the target audience, differentiators, core messages and other aspects for your business. Within the marketing plan, you define at a high level, which marketing strategies you should use to grow your business.
But each of these marketing strategies need a plan to define what is needed to be successful. Every marketing strategy will have its own course of action but will dovetail off of your overall marketing plan.
Make sure you create a marketing plan for your business first. You will need to review your marketing plan to get the information you need to develop your inbound marketing strategy. By reviewing your marketing plan, you will ensure that what you do for inbound marketing will align with your overall business and marketing strategy. Having this information will make it easier to plan for each specific strategy.
Define your inbound marketing strategy
Your inbound marketing strategy needs a brief plan that outlines the following areas. The purpose of this plan is identify all the pieces that need to come together to ensure your investment pays off.
If you have defined your target audience in your marketing plan, you should be all set. Determine the needs of that audience so you can provide the content they may be looking for. You also may want to narrow your audience even further depending on the product or service you will be promoting with inbound marketing.
Being focused on one particular market enables you to make better choices for your content and channels. This saves you time and money on activities that don’t make sense for your business and the clients you serve.
Inbound marketing goals
Goals should define what you are trying to accomplish with inbound marketing. Define the measurable outcomes that you want to accomplish over the next 90 days or so.
Measurable outcomes can be number of leads generated, leads converted into customers or revenue. By setting marketing goals, you can then organize your marketing activities around each goal to see if each is contributing to the outcome.
Content marketing strategy
Content marketing is creating, publishing and promoting quality, educational content that moves your prospects through the buyer’s journey. This offers value to the buyer and establishes you as a business that has expertise, experience, authority and trust (E-E-A-T).
A solid content marketing strategy defines:
- The type of content you will create for the various stages of the buyers journey
- Who will develop this content and share it
- Your content distribution strategy
The types of content you should consider include blog posts, case studies, eBooks and whitepapers. Not all content needs to be text and you should try to include some audio and video depending on your business and your distribution strategy.
Search marketing strategy
Search marketing is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on what happens when someone searches. The goal of search marketing is to help your website rank higher in search results for searches related to your business.
Your search marketing strategy defines what areas of search marketing you will implement. You need to:
- Identify the most relevant and valuable keywords for a website based on what people are actually search for and how often.
- Improve your website content and structure to increase its visibility in the SERPs.
- Acquire inbound authoritative links to your website to improve your website’s visibility and rank in the SERPs.
- Decide if you want to use paid advertising on search engines to reach potential customers.
Social media channel strategy
No small business needs to be active on all social media channels. Your choice of social media platforms will be different based on where you need to reach your target audience. 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 and Rumble for posting and optimizing your videos. Depending on the brand, TikTok and Instagram may be a good choice for short-form videos.
Create and implement an action plan
Now that you know your audience, goals, content, search and social media plans, now you need to implement your strategy. Use the following guidelines to help you create an action plan so you can be consistent with your inbound marketing activities.
Prepare an editorial calendar
A robust editorial calendar can simplify content 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 or an FAQ.
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.
Need help with a marketing plan? Sign up for my email list and receive your FREE Masterful Marketing® Create Your Small Business Marketing Plan eBook, marketing plan campaign template with editorial calendar!
Analyze and optimize your web presence
If you haven’t searched for your business to see what is there, you could have some negative surprises waiting for you. Take some time to discover how your business is seen in search by conducting a brief web presence analysis. This exercise helps you determine how your business is viewed when someone searches for your products and services. In many cases, small businesses don’t know what is on the Internet about them or if they can be found at all.
Your web presence is made up of your website, social media profiles and 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 your inbound marketing campaigns.
Clean up your website
All marketing activities 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 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. 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.
Define and create your lead magnet
First time visitors won’t buy from you because they are still researching a solution. 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 and nurture these prospects, you need to offer them something of value to encourage people to give you their contact information.
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. 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.
Create the right lead generation landing pages and forms
Once people are ready to pursue an engagement with your business, how do people contact you? 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 an 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. Respond to an inbound lead as quickly as possible. If you wait, the lead may go to your competitor instead.
In addition to standard website contact and lead conversion forms, be sure to create effective landing pages that help convert visitors into leads. Use landing pages when you are sending people for a specific purpose. Landing pages should always be used for paid ads, specific campaigns or other tactics where you want your visitor to focus on the offer.
Build and nurture your email list
Now that you are generating leads, 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. 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.
Create your content
Quality, educational content that moves your prospects through the buyer’s journey establishes your expertise, experience, authority and trust (E-E-A-T).
Now start writing your content. It needs to be well-written, authoritative and cover the topic in depth. That doesn’t mean length or complexity. The content should cover the topic in a complete and comprehensive manner.
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.
Make use of the right tools
You don’t have to create all the content that you share. Find content that would be of interest to your audience and share it on your social media profiles. This helps 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 using one of the following products so you remain visible.
Buffer, Publer.io or VistaSocial makes it very easy to schedule posts to Facebook Business pages, LinkedIn (both personal and company profiles), Twitter, Google Business Profile, Instagram and Pinterest. The products offer a free limited version that gives you 3 social media channels for 1 user. Start with the free version to decide which one you like best.
Once you have chosen your social media platforms and created an account, now you need to get social. 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
Project your personality into your social media activity. Be authentic. Be yourself.
Analyze and measure
Measuring your marketing is key to seeing what works and what doesn’t. By looking at the data, you can determine if what you are doing is actually delivering results. Then you can keep doing what you’re doing or make adjustments.
- How will you determine if your efforts are successful?
- What will you measure?
- What are the key metrics you will use to determine success?
Lead generation using inbound marketing is a process that allows your business to gain visibility and establish relationships with customers. By projecting your expertise and industry knowledge through your content, you can naturally attract and engage with customers.
But remember it only only works when all the pieces come together to deliver a clear, compelling message. With a well-defined and practical plan built knowing your budget and resources, inbound marketing can increase your web presence and grow your top-line sales revenue.