How to generate leads with 5 essential in-bound marketing techniques for small online businesses

Small business ecommerce lead generationInbound marketing is essentially about attracting people to your website using techniques such as SEO, content marketing, social media and email. For small businesses and ecommerce start-ups it can be particularly appealing as it doesn’t come with the hefty budget required by more traditional outbound marketing approaches like advertising or direct mail.

Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than traditional outbound marketing.

Small business and start-ups are unlikely to have an established customer base or a ready-to-use database at their fingertips.  In-bound marketing tactics can build awareness, create interest and consequently attract prospects to your website ready for you to nurture into leads and ultimately loyal customers.

Content ImageThe crux of successful inbound marketing is content. It is through the creation of valuable and engaging content that you can draw visitors to your website and showcase all that your business has to offer.

71% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to generate marketing leads

To get the content right for your business it is essential to do some background work first. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are you trying to target – who is your key audience? What sector or industry are they in?
  • What information is going to be of interest to them – what kind of content would they find helpful, useful, entertaining or engaging?
  • Where do they look for information – where are they currently getting their industry knowledge (e.g. competitors, organisations, social networks) and what places could you engage with them?

5 Key inbound marketing tactics

There are all-sorts of inbound-tactics you can use to generate leads and grow your business. In this article we just focusing on a few key in-bound techniques that will get you up and running and help attract visitors to your site. It is important to take a long-term approach to in-bound marketing. The benefits may take some time to come to fruition, but will be well worth the time and effort you put in.

1.SEO

Audiences use search engines to discover information and as a consequence search engines can bring a sizeable percentage of traffic to your website. Optimising your online presence to reflect the keywords and phrases relevant to your business and industry is essential if you want to move up the search engine rankings and be found by your target audience. I don’t for one minute suggest the practice of keyword stuffing, rather use keyword research to find the keywords and phrases that are meaningful to your prospective customers.  It is those keywords and phrases that should form the basis of creating engaging, relevant content for your target audience.

blogging2.Blogging

B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. 

Creating original, fresh, relevant blog posts for your site not only supports your SEO efforts, it draws new visitors to your site, helps build your brand personality, is highly sharable and provides added-value content for established customers.

Think too about guest blogging on other relevant industry sites. This opens your business up to a wider audience and creates links back to your site.

3. Visual content

The last few years have seen visual content literally explode in popularity. Introducing more visuals to your site is a great way to entice your target audience to your ecommerce business. We humans are naturally visual learners so it is no surprise that using visual content can have a greater impact that text alone.

  • Use inspiring and interesting photos and images to support your content.
  • Infographics.  People are 30 times more likely to read an infographic than a text-based piece of content. Infographics are a great way to convey ‘drier’ content such as research and statistics in an engaging format. There are a number of online tools such as Easel.ly and Piktochart that make it simple for you to create your own infographics using ready-made templates that won’t cost the earth to produce,
  • Video. People are naturally drawn to other people so videos are a great way to build a brand personality and put a face to your business. Implement an ‘ About Us’ or ‘Meet the Team’ video or try video blogging. You can also use video to help your convey complex information in a digestible format though Video Tutorials or How to Guides. And, interestingly, using videos on landing pages increase conversion by 86%

4. Email Marketing

Email is an essential part of the in-bound marketers’ toolkit. The added benefits for small businesses is that it is cost-effective, easy to measure and offers a healthy ROI. Use email marketing to communicate to your audience on a regular basis such as through a weekly or fortnightly newsletter. Email is a great way to build relationships and keep your business at the forefront of your audience’s mind. Offer links back to the valuable content on your site such as latest industry news, videos or your latest blog post.


Use Social media to build brand awareness5. Social Media

Utilise your social media platforms to drive your prospects to your online content such as your blog, news articles, video tutorials – in fact all the compelling content you have created.

Rather than taking a scatter gun approach to social media, focus your efforts on the key social media platforms where you customers are. For example if you own a craft store you are probably likely to find Facebook or Pinterest relevant.  Whereas B2B’s may generate more leads through platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Indeed,  44% of B2B marketers have generated leads through LinkedIn.

Converting visitors to prospects

Of course once you have enticed your target audience to your website and sparked their interest with all your compelling content, you need to try to convert them into leads by encouraging them to impart their contact information.

  • Optimise your website to make it simple for people to sign-up. Don’t ask for unnecessary information and ensure any forms they may have to complete are quick and straightforward. In the first case of getting people to sign up to your newsletter, a first name and email address will suffice.
  • Offer incentives. Valuable, desirable content such as white papers, eBooks, special offers and giveaways are a great way to get visitors to pass you their details. Rule of thumb – the more valuable the reward the more information you can gather.

Of course the next part of the journey is turning those leads into paying customers…!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences using in-bound marketing techniques, so please do leave a comment

 

 

 

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SEO Basics for Beginners – Part 2

SEO for beginners

Simply put, the more visitors you have on your website, the more opportunities you will have to make a sale. SEO is about increasing the number of visitors to your website.

SEO Basics for Beginners Part 1 of this blog looked at what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is and why it is essential in helping drive quality traffic to your website.

Part 2 looks at how to get started and the key marketing tools to use.

Where is a good place to start SEO?

We probably need to start by pointing out that there is no quick fix to SEO.  It requires time and effort and needs to be looked at as an on-going, longterm marketing activity. However, “marketers who commit to the effort required in creating quality content can improve their SEO positions” (Kaci Bower, www.sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com)

We mentioned in Part 1 that successful  SEO centres around creating fresh, relevant and authoritative content.  So how do we go about ensuring our content is exactly that?

There are three key areas to focus on when starting Search Engine Optimisation.

  1. Keyphrase Analysis
  2. On-page optimisation
  3. Link building

1. Keyphrase analysis

Before spending time optimising your website for the keywords you think people will find your site with, find out what they are actually looking for instead.

It’s straightforward enough to find out what the most number of people type in and search for in relation to your types of products and services. This allows you to optimise your website for the best keywords that will result in the most visitors.

Ensuring all your content is relevant and customer focused is integral to achieving good search engine ranking. Key phrases are the words that users type in to the search engine query box when performing a search, therefore achieving keyphrase relevancy  is essential as this is what the search engine is looking for.

The first step is being able to identify the keyphrases your customers are likely to type in the search engine when looking for a product or service. Spending time researching your customers and competitors is important. There a number of great tools available to help with this. For example Google Adwords offers Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator, these tools are free , you just need to set up a free Google Adwords account.

Without having to spend any money on a Google ad campaign you can use the Google Adword Keyword Tool to show you how popular a keyword or keyphrase is to estimate how many are searching for those terms. Utilising these research tools can help you make more informed choices when look at creating relevant and authoritative content.

Google keywords search tool

When you are in the Google keyword search tool, start by typing in the keywords you are thinking of using or phrases about the products and services you are selling. When you click the Search button for those keyword phrases, Google will then give you the number of monthly searches for a whole bunch of related phrases and keywords.

You will then be able to determine the keywords and phrases which receive the most searches each month which will help you optimise your website to attract the largest reaching audience.

Find google keywords with the most visitors

2. On-Page Optimization

On-page optimisation is the process of ensuring that the content on your website matches the key phrase queries searched for by your customers and is central in achieving search engine relevancy. Essentially it involves making many small adjustments to areas of your website that make it easier for search engines to crawl through and understand the content of your web pages.

“Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes may seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.” (Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide)

The free SEO guides we’ve listed at the end of this blog will really help you in this area since, as we’ve mentioned, on-page optimisation means making lots of little tweaks to your web pages such as title tags, alt tags, meta tag,  URL and so on.

3. Link building

So we know content needs to be relevant but search engines are also looking for authority. A key factor in search engines determining whether a website can be considered authoritative is how many external / inbound links it has (these are links into your site from another third party site). Remember though links  need to be high quality and relevant.

Creating valuable content helps generate inbound links from quality sources. You should look at becoming a bit of an ‘expert’ in your area of business you could for example think about creating a business blog writing posts relevant to the products and services you are selling or the audience you are trying to attract.  Two great free hosted blogging tools which are easy to set-up and use are WordPress.com and Google’s Blogger. You can then link to your blog from your website and link to your website from your blog.

You can also proactively build inbound links by identifying and linking up with partner sites such as trade associations, suppliers, relevant media sites, press release distribution sites and social networks. Finding other peoples blogs and news sites and offering to guest post an article will also allow you to write useful and helpful content which also builds backlinks to your website.

Content, content, content!

SEO is about creating quality content that is customer focused, relevant and authoritative. Increased search engine visibility really will help drive traffic to your website, but don’t forget SEO should be looked at long term and as an ongoing marketing commitment. There is no quick fix SEO but it is low cost and investing some time and effort in on-page optimisation, keyphrase relevancy,  customer focused content and increasing inbound links can see real and sustained results over time.

Want to find out more?

Hopefully Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog has given you a better understanding of SEO. If you are interested in exploring this area in more detail below we’ve listed below some excellent free resources that will help get you started.

Free search engine optimisation guides:

MOZ Beginners guide to SEO:  http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/

Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide:  http://www.google.co.uk/…/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

Tools for help with keyword analysis

Google Adwords  – Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator (once you’ve signed in to adwords just click on Tools and Analysis then Keyword Tool or Traffic Estimator):

http://www.adwords.google.com

Search engine guidelines (how to ensure you are using white hat techniques!)

Google Webmaster Guidelines (especially Quality Guidelines section)

http://support.google.com/webmasters

  1. Keyphrase analysis