Inbound marketing is an essential consideration of any forward-thinking business. Without tapping into the vast array of potential customers online, you may struggle to survive in an ever competitive marketplace. But how can smaller businesses engage with what they might perceive as a costly process?

The inbound marketing approach

We no longer yell at potential customers to get their attention, but rather use our wits (and a fair bit of online content) to bring them to us—what’s known as inbound marketing.

Put simply, it means helping people find answers to questions or problems through educational and informative content online (such as blog posts, ebooks and emails), and guiding them down the marketing funnel from being visitors to your website, to leads, to customers, and eventually champions of your brand.

Cheap and cheerful inbound marketing tips

However, thanks to commonly held misconceptions such as the push for everyone to use marketing automation, a lot of SMEs might not fully engage with inbound because of the perceived costs. Which is a shame, as inbound marketing is a fantastic approach to growing your business regardless of whether or not you’ve downloaded some snazzy software.

So, for those on a budget, here are a few tips to get started:

1. Have a realistic but solid content strategy

In other words, don’t overcommit to 12 blogs a month when you don’t have anybody to write them! In this game it’s far better to demonstrate consistency than being able to pump out more words than your competitors. If you have limited resources, you need to carefully work out how much time and money you can spend on the various aspects of your content creation and distribution to meet your business goals—then draw up the plan accordingly. It’s far smarter to start small and build up the content as your business grows, than start huge and have to make cutbacks when you can’t achieve your goals.

2. Limit your social engagement platforms

Similarly, those businesses on a budget need to be careful about losing themselves to social media. It’s tempting to throw yourself across all platforms for the maximum exposure, but you risk spreading yourself too thin and looking pitiful everywhere. Again if you have limited resources, do some research on where the majority of your target audience hangs out (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) and then maybe just concentrate on the one platform. This not only cuts down on the resources you need, but the singular focus enables you to make sure what you’re sharing is perfectly targeted and of the highest quality—rather than just trying to get out X posts a day on Y platforms.

3. Be smart about content creation

Don’t waste valuable man-hours trying to pluck ideas out of thin air to come up with a list of blog post titles. Use platforms like BuzzSumo to identify what articles or posts have been successful in a particular field at any point over the last year and use those as inspiration. Or, even cheaper, simply use Google to search around the keywords of your business and see what questions are being asked. Remember, there are no new stories, only new ways of telling them—so it certainly doesn’t hurt to see what headlines have been clicked and shared, and then steal them for your own. Just make sure the content within is all you, because people will be looking for that authenticity in whatever you’re talking about.

4. Be smart about distribution

A lot of businesses forget this, but unless you have resources set aside for distributing the content there is actually no point in writing it. Give equal weight to the sharing of your content as you do in producing it in order to maximise the potential reward for your effort. Again you can use platforms like BuzzSumo to see not only what pieces were popular, but who shared them and made them so. Tracking down and engaging with these ‘influencers’ in future pieces can then help you reach audiences you might otherwise have been missing out on.

5. It’s fine to be lazy and rehash old blogs

This isn’t something you can do until later down the line, but don’t ever hesitate to freshen up old blog posts with the latest statistics or thinking. Especially if these topics are suddenly popular again or perhaps there is a whole new angle on the piece that you can now include for a unique perspective. Views and shares are always there for the taking, but to get them it’s not always about creating a good piece of content—sometimes it’s simply a matter of luck and timing in it appearing in the feed of the right person, who is in the right mood to share it.

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