Follow inbound-marketing strategies to get leads for your business

Embracing social media as a key component of your company’s marketing strategy is quickly becoming as critical to success as traditional, outbound channels such as direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows. Engaging in social media as an inbound marketing approach can be quite profitable and a very cost effective method to generating leads for your business.

It’s important, however, to approach social media appropriately. While social media has been used by millions of business owners to build their business, it can also your business if used inappropriately.  As such, small business owners should be sure that they have carefully considered each of the following areas when it comes to this new and potentially rewarding marketing channel.

Start With a Good Social Media Mindset

Having a good social media mindset begins with the ability to provide interesting dialog and content for those who need it- and those who want to listen to you. More importantly, bear in mind the fact you’re your interaction with the public also requires you to be an active listener, as well as content provider.

Considering that, approach social media by employing a selfless, socially responsible stance that provides valuable information, advice and opinion free of charge. As a business expert, you should be prepared to serve your online audience’s needs by providing creative, authoritative and educational content so that people can learn more about what you do without being overwhelmed.

This altruistic approach will ultimately enhance your prospects’ experience of learning more about you- as a person- and the company that you represent. The mere fact that you are providing valuable information and advice for free lends more credibility to your approach. Moreover, during this collaborative process with your target audience, you are gaining trust and confidence, which has great potential to be converted into future profits for your business.

Small business owners who have not experienced the rich rewards of social media may question whether their time and efforts truly pay off in terms of clients and profits. Companies that have been actively engaged in social media marketing in the past few years are aware that social media is profitable and very cost effective, however.

Inbound vs. Outbound

According to a 2011 survey by HubSpor.com, “inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 62 percent lower than outbound dominated organizations.”

In fact, this past year, small businesses planned to spend 49 percent of their lead generation budgets on in-bound marketing alone. With regards to lead generation budgets being spent on both marketing channels- inbound and outbound- it was discovered that blogs, social media and search-engine optimization were the least expensive means to market a company, according to HubSpot.

The percentage of companies with a blog grew from 48 percent to 65 percent between 2009 and 2011. You are now in the minority if you do not have a company blog.

More and more businesses are blogging, as the percentage of companies with a blog grew from 48 percent to 65 percent between 2009 and 2011. In other words, you are now in the minority if you do not have a company blog. HubSpot’s research also indicates that companies truly value blogging, as 85 percent related their company blogs as “useful,” “important” or “critical” to their businesses. Lead generation from blogs was shown to be a below average cost per lead” in comparison to other inbound and outbound marketing channels. In short, don’t underestimate the value of this new type of marketing- and, for that matter, don’t underestimate its prevalence, as well.

Customize Your Approach

The most exciting part of embracing social media marketing is the fact that it allows you to customize your approach to each of your potential customer segments. Via social media, small businesses can gain valuable insight about the demographics and interests of their prospects. Industry-related blogs, forums and social media pages can yield some very valuable insight about your clients by way of their online inquiries, input and responses. Use this information to best market to and engage your target audience.

With all of this access to potential customers’ immediate needs, desires, traits and personalities, business owners may find that it’s surprisingly easy to create not only personalized responses, but personalized marketing approaches, as well. After all, one of the most effective ways to build your customer base is through building functional relationships with people whom you want to do business with. The approach you utilize will have a direct influence on the overall effectiveness of your campaign.

Curb Self-promotion

Regardless of the specific social media channel they pursue, small business owners need to be aware that their inbound-marketing strategies should conform to a new set of rules, as many of the former transactional marketing models no longer apply.

In recent years, there has been a migration toward participating in so-called relationship marketing, where communication and social bonding are the primary means of developing trust with potential customers. Gone are the days of the traditional approach of launching sales offers geared toward acquiring leads. Today, you have to connect with people in ways that traditional channels never did.

That said, as you work on growing your business via social media marketing, you should carefully avoid the pitfalls of shameless self-promotion, marketing that your social media contacts simply may perceive as spamming. You must always be mindful that social media is just that- social- and that your prospects are now collaborators with their own voices. Aggressively pursuing clients or promoting your company only will serve to alienate customers and contacts.

Be Consistent

It is all too often the case that small business owners attempt to engage in social media only to abandon it shortly thereafter. Cyberspace is a rife with “ghost blogs” business related blogs that are rarely attended to if not disused altogether.

How can you possibly collaborate with and learn about your prospects if you’re regularly absent from your company’s Facebook page, Twitter account or industry forums and blogs? Most internet-marketing experts recommend that a blogger post at least once a week to be affective.

Further, it’s important that your posts provide fresh content in lieu of, for instance, reposts of information or news that’s already been widely disseminated. For effective search engine optimization of their websites and blogs, business owners need to consistently post original material for the recognition and ranking of search engine algorithms.

Remember that you are what you post: the replies, answers and information that you offer can result in your company either gaining an elevated reputation or diminishing that reputation.

Consider these Seven Steps

Here are seven key strategies to achieve success using a more comprehensive social media marketing approach via platforms such as blogs, as well as social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter:

  • Establish expert authority as a publisher and business owner
  • Provide original, free and valuable content
  • Be an active listener
  • Gain the trust and acceptance of your target audience
  • Keep self-promoting posts to a minimum
  • Be consistent and original in your posts
  • Relax and enjoy your time spent in social media collaboration

To successfully achieve a social media mindset, small business owners must learn to be collaborative and, on occasion, event endure criticism. This too can prove to be a valuable learning took, as prospects’ and customers’ needs and desired can enable you to make necessary adjustments to their business models, thus remaining relevant and sustainable. In the end, you want to ensure that your social media participation will not only prove to be profitable, but that it will also distinguish you from the crowd, enabling you to stand out among your customers and the industry as a whole.