The Inbound Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs
Updated: Aug 3
According to Hubspot, marketers who prioritize blogging campaigns are 13X more likely to see positive ROI. So, what makes blogging so special – and why should start-ups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, who are often time-crunched, devote effort to blogging and other content campaigns?
Blogging done right can be a critical part of an inbound marketing strategy. Inbound can pay off huge for entrepreneurs and small businesses as it provides a great way to build trust with your customers and prospects. And for many entrepreneurs – especially those that provide services – building your personality online with compelling content can raise your profile and land you deals.
“Inbound marketing is a technique for drawing customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization and branding.”
Marketing Challenges for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups
Because most purchases now start with a Google search, theoretically, start-ups and multinational companies have the same opportunity to reach their target customers. But in reality, billion-dollar companies are able to hire large marketing departments and teams of people who spend all day marketing their products and creating content, while entrepreneurs are doing it themselves (along with building and running their company!) or with a small staff.
Add to that the lack of organizational processes around marketing, and potentially a lack of experience with marketing automation, technologies and strategies, and it is easy to see why marketing can often take a back seat during a start-up’s early days. Often, a small business might take a stab at marketing early, using internal staff who don’t really have the time and experience to market strategically, and they find they have spent money on things that just haven’t work. This can leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth – and make it harder to get the team on board with a strategic marketing plan later.
Why Inbound Marketing Works for Entrepreneurs
Despite these challenges, entrepreneurs who take control of their visibility and brand messaging have an opportunity to disrupt the market. As an entrepreneur and startup founder, you likely interact with your customers quite closely – as a result, you can really listen to their needs and develop offerings that are uniquely positioned to help them. At the same time, through knowing them well, you can also find a unique voice for speaking with other potential customers.
Inbound marketing done right will attract the right buyers – by providing value-added content, you can lead them on a buying journey that ends at your doorstep. And provide value that helps them succeed as well!
“Definition: Inbound Marketing is the process of attracting the attention of prospects, via content creation, before they are even ready to buy; it's one of the best and most cost-effective ways to convert strangers into customers and promoters of your business.”
Follow the below outline to develop your own inbound marketing plan – and reap the benefits of blogging, content and other helpful strategies to attract new customers.
Related Post: Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs
Marketing Goals Should Track to Business Goals
Setting goals for your inbound marketing program can include clicks and views and actions taken on your social posts – but if you’re focused only on the mechanics, you can’t be sure if you’re working toward the growth you want for your business. Start with revenue and growth goals – then determine how many deals you need to get there, and how many leads you need to get to close those sales. This will determine your real goal – number of qualified leads.
Once you know how many leads you need, you need to think about how to get them? How many people need to visit your website each month to reach your lead generation goals? How many people who visit your site end up filling out a contact form or calling? How might you improve those numbers? (hint: by offering solid content, a deal or offer, and a call to action.) Where do those visitors come from? (Which social channels drive traffic? How about Search?) How much can you spend on those channels?
Know Your Customer
In order to effectively market to potential customers, you need to know who they are. We start every client engagement with a positioning session that includes an audience identification exercise.
Ask yourself these important questions:
What type of customers does my product/service serve?
What is their title/function?
What are their demographics and interests?
How much do they earn?
What problem do they have that my product/service is likely to solve?
What motivates them to buy?
What do current customers who fit this profile like about my product?
By working through this exercise, you will create a profile of your ideal customer (buyer persona.) Once you understand who that customer is, you will have valuable insight that makes it easier to target them effectively. Imagine the questions they will ask, or the problems they will need solving, then build all of your content to answer those questions.
Create Compelling Content
Content marketing basically refers to the strategic development of words and images to promote your company, products and/or services. The goal is to connect potential customers who want to find you with your business. The content you disseminate will feed search engines and your social media channels – and make it easier for online media outlets, other blogs and potential customers and partners to find you.
The goal is to create content that will build a personal connection with your leads, prospects and customers. It isn’t enough to stuff your blogs full of keywords – you want the prospects reading those blogs to both identify themselves in the problem/solution scenario you are laying out, and feel like they are getting to know you and your brand (and your ability to help them) as they read along.
So, what types of content work well to attract customers? In short, useful info that can help – without a hard sell – works best. Of course, it should relate to your business, and it is wise to create a Call to Action that leads people on their buying journey with you, but keep the hard sell to a minimum. Content types to consider include:
Blog posts – aim for at least 500 -700 words; 1500 or more is even better (but just make sure its useful info, and not just an excuse to stuff your keywords into written form)
Video Blogs – our friends at Rapport International do a great job of this, sharing multiple useful videos on LinkedIn weekly. Their business – translation and interpretation services – lends itself to this medium nicely.
Webinars – Our clients at River Financial Group, who provide financial planning services with a specialty in advising families of children with special needs, have had great success with webinars that focus on the unique issues of concern to their clients.
Customer Stories/Case Studies – Check out our client AMV to read some of their customer stories.
Newsletters (Like this post? You can get more of this when you sign up for our newsletter here!)
Surveys (Learn how you can use surveys in all sorts of cool ways – to develop content and to improve your business – here. BONUS: This blog post also shares some anecdotes about some of our customers that are useful for learning how we work!)
Now that you have a sense of what type of content will attract people to your site, how do you turn them into leads?
Create Compelling Offers
The goal of all of this is to generate leads – at the most basic level, you want to build your email list so you expand the universe of people your company is communicating with. But people aren’t going to just hand over the email address unless you give them a reason to – enter the offer.
Think about something you can give away that helps visitors to your site solve a problem – and shows them how you work. For example, a financial planner might give away a retirement savings calculator like this one. Or you might share some tips in an eBook, checklist, or video.
Related Post: Best Practices in Lead Generation
Don’t Forget the Call To Action
To lead website visitors to your compelling offer, you’ll need to create a call to action. Use active words and ideas: Are You Ready To Save Money? Accelerate Your Growth! Act Now!
Use your Call to Action to lead visitors to a dedicated landing page with your compelling offer – then have them fill out a form to get the content. Make sure you’re not asking for too much info – or they may abandon the form. Name, email address, and maybe company name are enough at this point.
You’ll use a mix of platforms to attract people to your site, and then nurture them once they become leads. Make sure you’re using the different media effectively.
Leverage Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for communicating, if you use it effectively. Keep these guidelines in mind:
Not every channel is the same – so make sure you’re developing content that fits the channel (for example, using Facebook or Instagram content on LinkedIn could make you look unprofessional. Using LinkedIn content on those platforms can make you look boring)
Do your research – leverage available tools to see when your audience is most active on each channel
Social channels are a two-way street – if you’re always selling, and never reacting, or sharing other people’s stuff, people are less likely to listen to you.
Our friend Lysa Miller of Ladybugz Interactive Agency has done an amazing job of building both her company's and her own profile by actively nurturing her presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Email Is Powerful
According to Hubspot, roughly 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months. Email marketing allows you to stay on prospects’ radar and deliver valuable content. We recently added a new client – 18 months after adding them to our email list – because the right offer hit their mailbox at the right time.
Measure and Improve
To ensure you’re meeting your goals, you’ll want to measure your results. Are you hitting targets? Is engagement on your website and social accounts improving? How about open and click rates in your emails? Once you’ve got some good data on the effectiveness of your program, you can revise as necessary.
Related Post: Communication KPIs