In its 2013 edition of The State of Inbound Marketing, HubSpot reported businesses on average see 34 percent of all leads coming from inbound marketing, while traditional outbound methods are responsible for 22 percent.
In case you need a quick refresher about inbound marketing, it describes online activities that attract people (not search engines) to your business through social networking, content marketing and SEO keywords. Inbound marketing’s older sibling, outbound marketing, refers to traditional advertising methods, such as print and broadcast media.
The best inbound marketing campaigns tell stories and create personal connections with customers. You can hire an SEO firm or content marketing expert to handle your inbound efforts, but for small businesses with even smaller marketing budgets, a few simple do-it-yourself tactics will create results.
Calls to Action (CTAs)
Subscriptions, free offers, trial offers and memberships are typical CTAs websites use to attract customers. The Daily Egg says the most effective CTAs include “risk-free” language, instructions to “click here,” and encouragement to “act now.”
CTAs can net big return on investment. HubSpot’s client In The News implemented CTAs, along with other inbound marketing efforts, and increased leads by 676 percent. Think about the calls to action that pull you in. Here are two ideas:
- Offer free stuff: If you are a service business, offer free consultations in person or by phone. Use this opportunity to get to know your potential customer and what problems you can help them solve, even if they are only tangentially related to your business. If you sell products, experiences (health and fitness, for example), or tangible goods, you can’t go wrong with buy-one-get-one-free, free shipping or first-time customer discounts.
- Teach them how to do your job: For example, content marketing agency iAcquire offers inbound marketing tips on its blog. When you give away knowledge, you establish yourself as an authority in your field. On a small scale, iAcquire’s audience will learn tips for doing their own marketing. When they need large-scale on and off-page marketing, they’ll turn to iAcquire.
Social Media and Blogs
In a recent post, Christian Schappel walked you through “10 critical social media mistakes to avoid,” where he offered solid advice for companies who are serious about launching a social media campaign. Regular, consistent social media and blog posts can increase traffic in many ways. The basics include:
- Social media updates via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Blog posts you promote via email and social media
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
Businesses that do all three will experience increased web traffic, increase conversions and higher SEO rankings. Follow a few basics for developing your inbound marketing content strategy.
MarketingSherpa.com shares a success story from Doubleday, which used social media and geocaching to promote a John Grisham book that resulted in a 220 percent increase in reach. Geocaching is popular among families and people who enjoy the outdoors. They use GPS technology to track and find hidden containers, typically the size of a shoe box, someone else has hidden. There are 2.4 million geocaches all over the world, geocaching.com reports. Caches can contain little trinkets, candy, coins, or just a sign-in sheet to log your visit. Doubleday placed 5,000 Grisham geocoins in locations all over the U.S. It used the geocache call-to-action, along with blog entries and social media updates, to expand its reach.
Get Started With Inbound Marketing
Don Schultz, professor of integrated marketing communication at Northwestern University, says brand preference has been declining about 1.68 percent per year for the last 10 years. As a result, people who sell stuff have to work harder to capture consumers’ attention. Companies compete not only with each other, but also with volumes of information available with a few keystrokes. A solid inbound marketing strategy will attract, build, and retain a larger customer base. Get started:
- Set an editorial calendar.
- Create a content plan.
- Assign owners to the tasks within your plan.
- Set up a chain of accountability, so nothing gets pushed to the back burners.
- Get to know what your customers like to do, and what they need help with.
- Broaden your thinking outside your core business. Examples: A dental practice might share tips on healthy eating. A pest control company offers tips about houseplants. A car dealership recommends travel destinations. Get the idea?
A Case Study on Good Inbound Marketing
Big-box home improvement store Lowe’s is excellent at using social media for inbound marketing. It has a series of shorts it posted via video app Vine that show simple solutions for common household problems. They don’t promote products, and the Lowe’s brand isn’t seen in the videos.
Additionally, it starts conversations with its customers via social media. An early October post asked people to share “fond memories” about the return of autumn. It had 69 comments, seven shares and 528 likes.
What we learn from Lowe’s: Use social media to make personal connections with your customers, and you’ll generate more leads and create loyal brand followers.
About Cecilia Buchanan: Cecilia focuses on building successful small business teams.