If there’s one thing most small businesses lack, it’s a huge marketing budget. That’s the reason why small businesses don’t tend to buy television ads, radio and newspaper advertising. They cost an awful lot of money.

These traditional advertising methods, and others like cold calling, telemarketing, flyers, spam email, web site pop-ups and direct mail, are all characterised by businesses interrupting their potential customer with their sales message. This sort of approach is called outbound, or interruption marketing.

An alternative concept is inbound marketing. Instead of firing out interruptive ads and trying to pull people to your company, inbound marketing uses helpful content to attract visitors and aims to build relationships by providing them with relevant insights and engaging, high quality information. You make your business sticky – interested potential customers will stick around because you’re making it worth their while.

Inbound marketing involves promoting your business online, via your website, blogs, social media, opt-in email, search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising. Inbound marketing is relatively cheap to implement, so it’s especially suited to small businesses.

So is this the same as Content Marketing?

Not exactly. Content marketing is just one aspect of inbound marketing. If you think of inbound marketing as a strategy, content marketing is a toolbag of tactics you’ll use to carry out parts of the strategy. Content marketing relies on you creating high quality content, published via blogs, email, reports etc, which you use to attract potential customers.

What’s the catch?

It sounds too good to be true – a cheap solution that involves customers beating a path to your door. Well, it doesn’t happen just like that. An inbound marketing system takes a lot of organisation and implementation to be effective. Where outbound marketing can cost a lot of money, inbound marketing is cost-effective, but it takes a large investment in time. Inbound is also a long game. It takes time to build relationships and convert leads to sales.

Why have I never heard of inbound marketing?

It is a relatively new strategy, but it is gaining favour very quickly. In HubSpot’s 2015 ‘State of Inbound’ survey, they found that, of small businesses questioned who had 1-25 employees, 84% used inbound as their primary marketing strategy. But also, 49% of larger companies with 201+ employees also used inbound. They found that 3 out of 4 marketers across the globe prioritised an inbound approach over traditional outbound marketing.

What are the benefits of inbound marketing for small businesses?

Firstly, as I said, it’s cost-effective. Inbound prioritises compelling content over expensive ads, which draws customers to you, making your business sticky. This gives your small business real marketing power. Inbound is also effective: HubSpot found that every company in their survey, regardless of their marketing spend, was three times as likely to see a higher return on investment from inbound marketing campaigns than from using outbound.

Inbound marketing allows you to build lasting relationships with your customers. By building an opt-in mailing list, for example, you can be in contact with your list membership as regularly as you need. Inbound marketing is also immediate and continuous – you can start conversations, take feedback and requests, all in real-time. You can react to events happening in your area of interest, just as soon as it takes you to write a blog post or an email.

As inbound marketing is a web-based activity, you get to use the full power and flexibility of SEO and PPC advertising to target new audiences quickly and effectively. If your campaign isn’t working, or the target audience changes, you can change your keywords instantly. That’s just not possible using traditional advertising.

And lastly, inbound marketing is very useful for building brand awareness and establishing your authority in your area of business.

In my next post, I will outline the steps you need to take to implement your own inbound marketing strategy.

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