The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing for Small Businesses

Did you know that your average customer sees up to 5,000 marketing messages a day?

I know, the number seems huge – but in a world that’s packed full of different companies all vying for the same attention, it’s easy to understand where all this noise is coming from.

Unfortunately, if you’re a small business looking for marketing success, you’re unlikely to achieve much if you simply throw your voice in amongst the clatter. After all, we don’t remember most of the messages that we’re exposed to daily. The only reason you’ll keep a marketing message in mind is if it resonates with you in some way.

To stay afloat in a sea of competition, many marketers consider one of two strategies: inbound, or outbound advertising.

These methods use very different schools of thought and carefully-managed tactics to keep businesses on track – and they also offer very different results.

Here, we’re going to consider the “inbound marketing vs outbound marketing” debate, and consider how you can tap into the benefits of the most effective advertising strategies for your small business.

Let’s begin.

What Is Outbound Marketing?

Known to some as “interruption” marketing, outbound marketing is a strategy that uses tactics to push messages to many people at once in the form of television advertisements, print, and cold-calling. As you might have noticed, these methods are used to “disrupt” a customer and grab their attention.

Though considered the traditional form of marketing by some, outbound methods are a very one-way form of communication when it comes to addressing your audience. You simply pump constant messages towards your audience and hope that one of them wants to listen.

Unfortunately, outbound messaging simply isn’t that effective. In fact:

In today’s business environment, if your lead doesn’t want to hear from you, then they’ll find a way to avoid you. This means that your outbound marketing efforts might cost a lot of money to implement, without giving you much value in return. In fact, you might be addressing prospects who aren’t even interested in buying your product or service.

So, what’s the alternative?

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the alternative to the spray and pray approach to advertising that involves shouting your message at everyone – regardless of whether they want to hear from you or not.

Inbound marketing helps you to focus your budget on people who are already interested in your brand, product, or service – increasing your chances that your spend will actually deliver some form of conversion.

In today’s marketplace, customers are more empowered than ever. They know where they need to go if they want to find information about a company or product, and they’ll often spend their time searching for answers to their questions on Google, or another search engine.

Businesses who use inbound marketing strategy take advantage of the natural behaviors of modern shoppers, to connect with their customers in a more natural and organic way. They create content and interactions that appeal to specific buyer personas and leave intrusive advertising in the past.

If you take a look at the State of Inbound Report conducted by HubSpot for 2017, where around 6,000 respondents in the marketing field were asked to consider which source delivers the highest quality leads to their business, you’ll find that 59% considered inbound practices to be the most profitable.

Because inbound marketing focuses on drawing people towards your company in a way that’s compelling, valuable, and engaging, it’s no surprise that this tactic is usually the most effective for developing quality leads.

Why The Inbound Marketing Strategy Works for Small Businesses

One of the best things to note about inbound marketing is that it’s not just a strategy for larger business owners. Because the inbound marketing strategy naturally aligns with the way people prefer to search for, and purchase products, it’s also the clear winner for budding smaller companies, and local businesses too.

Inbound marketing offers a range of benefits to organizations that only have a limited amount of budget to rely on when it comes to engaging their customers. For instance, here are just some of the values of this method:

  1. Inbound marketing is cost-effective

Inbound leads generally cost much less than their outbound counterparts. In fact, up to 61% less according to some studies. This is because the unfocused and traditional forms of advertising are much more expensive than methods like social media, SEO, blogging, and so on.

  1. Inbound marketing is ROI-friendly

Because inbound marketing strategy requires a great deal of planning and organization, it also makes measuring your ROI easier too. Using Google Analytics and similar programs, you can track how well your marketing efforts are leading to powerful results for your company. This means that you don’t have to be stuck paying for an ineffective strategy.

  1. Inbound marketing produces better leads

Not only can an inbound marketing strategy deliver more leads for less of an initial investment, but the prospects that you get could be higher-quality too. Because this technique is a permission-based form of advertising, a prospect won’t be initiated until they’ve shown interest. This means that you don’t waste as much time chasing leads that simply won’t convert. Your job is to nurture the lead when it arrives on your doorstep.

  1. Inbound marketing creates better customer loyalty

Finally, because inbound marketing focuses on delivering value to your customers, and nurturing the leads that you get, it’s more educational, informative, and entertaining than it is “promotional”. This means that you can begin to establish yourself as an authority figure and a thought leader in your marketplace over time, improving your position in your industry. Gradually, your customers will begin to perceive your business in a more positive light, leading to better brand loyalty.

How Can Small Businesses Initiate an Inbound Marketing Strategy?

If you want to be successful in today’s small business world, then the first thing you need to recognize is that your customers are in control.

No matter which industry you’re in, or who you’re trying to connect with, your consumers have the power to tune out your marketing efforts whenever and however they like. That means that you need to work hard on a permission-based marketing strategy that attracts, engages, and converts the right people.

An inbound marketing strategy can be the key to success for many growing companies, but to begin, you’ll need to make sure that you know how to make your plan work for your industry, your brand, and the people you’re trying to target.


Step 1: Setting Inbound Marketing Goals

Just like any other kind of advertisement or lead generation, your inbound marketing strategy will always be more effective if you know what you’re trying to achieve. Having a goal in mind means that you can set a roadmap for success, and measure your performance along the way too.

Start by meeting with your entire team, including people from sales and marketing, so that you can discuss what you’d like to get out of your online marketing efforts. While a rise in profits is an obvious ambition for most companies, try to dig a little deeper than just financial goals. Think about if you’d like to improve awareness of your business too, or increase the amount each customer spends in your store.

Once you have your goals in mind, you can consider creating a buyer persona. A persona is basically a representation of your ideal customer, based on what you know about your audience. The information you have about your audience, including their pain points, desires, and demographics will help you to create an inbound marketing strategy that’s specifically tailored to a certain group, which means you make the most out of your budget.

Remember, when you’re researching your customers, you should also be paying attention to your competitors too, and where you stand in comparison to other people in your industry. The more you know about your marketplace, the more you can take advantage of gaps and opportunities in the market.

Step 2: Developing your Content Strategy

In most circumstances, an inbound marketing strategy comes down to the creation of effective, valuable, and entertaining content.

Essentially, you devote yourself to giving your customers value in the form of informative and engaging content, and they reward you with their custom and their loyalty.

You should be able to use your buyer personas to figure out what kind of content you need to create for your audience. For example, there’s a good chance that if you’re trying to appeal to a high-level, sophisticated collection of executives, you won’t need to spend too much time posting on snapchat. Here are some of the things you’ll need to think about in your content strategy:

  1. Keywords and SEO

Search engine optimization is all about enhancing your websites and social posts to ensure that they rank high on the Google results when someone is searching for something that’s relevant to your product or business. If you can determine which words and phrases your customers associate with your brand, then you could develop a more effective content strategy.

Remember, you should optimize every page on your website by ensuring that you include the appropriate keywords within the page properties, image tags, meta tags, and content.

  1. Designing an Editorial Calendar

Before you start sharing content with the world, you need to decide what kind of content you’re going to produce, and how frequently you’re going to share it with your audience. An editorial calendar can make it easier to ensure that you have a consistent posting schedule in mind so that you’re not confusing your audience.

Think about how you can share different types of content with your customers in the form of blogs, articles, video posts, and images so that you’re better able to connect with people in a range of different ways.

  1. Blogging and Promotion

Blogging is the heart and soul of traffic for your website. When you write the correct content, then you can drive more people to your website, and ensure that you get your pages ranked highly in the search engine results. The key to success is creating posts that center around the pain points of your buyer personas, as well as trending industry topics.

Remember, you can also consider other forms of promotion too, such as PPC campaigns. Pay-per-click marketing allows you to place your message in front of someone who’s already seeking your service or product. However, PPC is not an organic way to get long-term traffic, which is why content marketing is so essential.

  1. Social Media

Today, social media is the number one platform for connecting with your audience and sharing content in a meaningful way. The chances are that your audience already engages with at least one social media platform, and learning how to connect your content with that platform is a great way to open the door for new prospects who want to find your website and potentially purchase your products.

Step 3: Nurturing and Retaining Customers

Attracting prospects to your business is great, but once they’re there, you need to convert them into long-lasting and loyal customers. One of the key things to remember about the inbound marketing vs outbound marketing debate is that inbound marketing is all about creating strong relationships.

While outbound marketing is a very one-sided experience, inbound marketing is a way of bridging the perceived gap between audiences and brands, so that they can begin to communicate in a more effective way. As a result, you may find that your inbound marketing efforts create advocates for your company – people who are willing to market your business for you.

So, how do you nurture and retain the customers that you attract with your content marketing and lead generation efforts?

  1. Nurture your Leads

The easiest way to guide your customers through the sales funnel is to launch a lead-nurturing campaign. You can do this in many ways, including follow-up emails with customers who might have visited your website in the past or added products to their cart. It’s all about keeping in touch with your clients as they move through the consumer journey so that they feel educated and confident when making their purchase.

  1. Create Educational Pieces

An inbound marketing strategy allows you to segment your customers into crucial lists based on needs and expectations. From this point, you can start to implement marketing automation, addressing any specific needs your customers might have when it comes to giving them the educational content they need. Producing informative emails and blog posts could help to improve the overall buying experience for your leads, to ensure that they keep coming back for more.

  1. Implement Referral Programs

As mentioned above, one of the biggest benefits of an inbound marketing strategy is the fact that it can turn your customers into loyal advocates for your brand. If your audience is willing to do some of your marketing for you, then you may find that discovering and converting leads is much less expensive than you thought. You could even consider creating referral programs that make it easy and even appealing for customers to start promoting your service or product.

Step 4: Keep Learning and Growing

Finally, unlike outbound marketing efforts that involve simply using the same tired tactics and hoping for the best, inbound marketing is all about learning from your successes, and your failures, to make your next campaign even more effective.

With that in mind, you should keep track of the goals you laid out for yourself when you first began planning your campaign, and think about which metrics you’ll need to track to determine how successful your current strategies might be. For instance, you might look at metrics like cost per customer acquisition or cost per lead.

Some of the ways you can ensure you’re always learning and improving include:

  1. Frequent Onsite analysis

Trends and preferences around online shopping strategies change naturally with time. Consistently performing a complete analysis of your website, with insights into which pieces of content are getting the most engagement, and what you need to do to reduce things like bounce rate and cart abandonment is a great way to ensure that you’re always making the most out of your inbound marketing strategy.

  1. Offsite Evaluation

Just as you need to know how well your business website is performing, you also need to understand how powerful your offsite strategies are too. You can measure things like your rank on search engine pages, and how much interaction you’re getting on social media to find out whether your overall plan for online presence is effective or not.

  1. Regular Reports

Finally, you can keep track of the goals you set for your business with plenty of reports that provide insights into just how much extra traffic, profits, and other important results you’re getting based on your online efforts. The more you can learn about your inbound marketing strategy, and what makes it effective, the more likely you are to end up with effective campaigns.

Start Your Inbound Marketing Strategy Today

Ultimately, inbound marketing does require more work and more effort than a standard outbound marketing strategy. However, this is because inbound solutions generally deliver more high-quality leads to your company, for a lower initial investment.

While setting up your inbound marketing strategy the right way for your company might take a little time, and some trial and error, it will be worth it in the end when you see the kind of results you can get out of these long-term, value-focused solutions.

If you’re not already using inbound marketing for your small business, then now could be the perfect time to get started.