Most small business owners have many roles. They spend their days doing sales, operations, accounting, marketing, and much more. What they really need is a way to gain a marketing edge on their competition without spending a fortune. The solution? An inbound marketing strategy.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is any method that earns people’s attention instead of buying it. It is all about helping people find you online using (mostly) free online marketing tactics. People who are researching and shopping in your given niche can be great candidates for inbound marketing. Typically, these strategies include social media, content marketing, search engine optimization, and more in an effort to attract potential customers to your website.
Its primary focus is bringing value to your customers and helping them solve their problems. This is very different from the typical outbound marketing, which is interrupting in nature, like most traditional advertising.
Social media marketing using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. is frequently the first step in meeting potential customers. It’s likely that you will find many of your customers are already on the major social networking sites. This gives you an opportunity to build a following by helping them.
Many companies make the mistake of using social media solely as a method of promoting their business and talking about their company. These companies are missing the point of social media – they aren’t providing value for their customers.
An example of a company “doing it right” with social media is Starbucks. Not only do they engage with their audience on a daily basis across each social media channel to form a personal bond that humanizes their brand (which increases brand loyalty), they provide real value and incentive for their followers. Their followers regularly are treated to coupons, prizes, and giveaways, just for being followers.
Once you have your potential customers coming to your site, great content is required to keep them there. Understanding your audience and how you can assist them will help your content marketing succeed. Blogging can be an excellent way to engage with this target audience. It will also help with your search engine optimization (SEO) by giving the search engines regular quality content to rank.
But content marketing goes far beyond just text-based content. Integrate as many of the following types of content as possible to build a robust content marketing strategy:
- Onsite blog content
- Offsite blog content (ie, guest blogging)
- Videos (Youtube, Vine, Instagram)
- Images (Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest)
- Powerpoint slide decks (shared via SlideShare)
- Whitepapers (PDF form)
- eBooks (PDF form)
- Email newsletters
When you write incredible content, don’t forget about Google authorship. This can be a great way to show Google which content is yours. It can also have the advantage of getting your picture in your search engine rankings.
The right video can grab your reader’s attention and hold it like no other media. Once you find out your audience’s needs, it becomes easy to create a how-to video that helps them improve their situation. There are several different major video distribution platforms, with Youtube being the obvious 800-pound gorilla. But Vine is growing quickly as a valuable platform for video marketing. For some ideas and examples of companies using Vine for marketing (and how they’re doing it), see this article.
Tip: Since you already have great content, why not convert it into Microsoft PowerPoint and submit it to a site like Slideshare.com? This can be a great opportunity to repurpose your content to get additional traffic and backlinks.
Press releases can be a wonderful way to publicize your business and get the word out. They can also be great for earning backlinks. It’s important to make sure your press releases are actual news and not simply advertising for your company.
Press releases can also improve engagement. By regularly creating newsworthy press releases, you can help build a long-term brand. This can go a long way toward building a solid online presence beyond your blog content.
When you write your press release, remember to stay focused on your message. Understand your audience. You want to have a firm idea of what your press release is going to be and how it will have the most effect on your audience. It may also be important to consider the best time to distribute your press for maximum coverage.
Of course, just like your blog content, don’t forget to use social media to help promote your press releases.
Tip: It may be worthwhile to spend money on your press release distribution. Some of the more expensive services have better distribution than the free ones. Personally, I use and recommend PRWeb.
You’ve worked hard for your website’s visitors, why not bring them back again and again with a great newsletter? Newsletters can be a brilliant way of letting people know what is going on with your company. Some websites offer incentives to get people to sign up. These incentives include free e-books, reports, or whitepapers.
Newsletters can be a great way to show that you’re an expert in your field, and that you take the time to share your knowledge with your audience. By tracking your click-thru rate, you can also note when they’ve taken action.
My favorite example of a successful newsletter is Moz’s Top 10. Folks who sign up for this newsletter get a simple “Top 10” list of the best marketing content across the media landscape, delivered every other month to their inbox. It’s useful, simple, and very effective. The key to the success of this newsletter, though, is that it focuses solely on delivering value to readers; not advertising to them.
Optimizing your website
One of the first tips for optimizing your website for today’s search engines is to provide the highest quality content possible. Make sure this content is grammatically correct and provides value to your customers. This is much more important than how many times a certain keyword appears in the text or many other tricks that people have used in the past.
Google’s own Matt Cutts has stated that Google is now much better at recognizing the topic of a webpage without needing extensive on-page optimization. With the advent of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms, this is even more important.
For an excellent overview of on-site SEO factors, see this page.
Building an audience
All of these methods combined can help build traffic to your website. Doing initial research up front and finding out what your audience needs is the most important step. After you find out what they need, you can create a solution for it and people will flock to your site to get the help they need.
Once you have the solution, combine the elements listed above. For every article you write, make sure you link to it from Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social media sites. If the article is newsworthy, create a press release to help promote the article. Case studies can also be useful for helping to build knowledge about your company.
Using metrics to track your progress
Before you start having thousands of people coming to see your incredible content, you want to make sure you are reviewing your metrics so you can track conversions. There many things you want to know, such as how many visitors are finding your website and where they are coming from. How many of your referrals sites are converting to sales?
With the proper metrics you can tweak your call to action, offers, landing pages, and more, to see what changes you need to make to improve conversions. It can also be useful to know which sources of traffic are providing the best conversions. This will allow you to save money and time by spending on the referral sources that are the most profitable.
I prefer to use Google Analytics to gather intelligence and metrics. You can set up goal tracking, and view other KPI’s. For some excellent pre-built dashboards, see this article.
In the end, it’s all about helping your customers. Find a problem your potential customer needs solved and help them solve it. Once you’ve done that, using the inbound marketing techniques listed in this article will help you build traffic. Then track your referral sources to know which sources of traffic are the most profitable.