by Shawn Cadeau
CMO at FreshBooks
As a small-business owner, you wear a lot of hats: customer support, HR, media relations, bookkeeper, and the list goes on. With so many responsibilities, having marketing strategies doesn't always make the top of the list. But it should, as it is important for maintaining the pipeline to ensure you stay busy.
One way to help generate new business (without having to be out in the field every day) is inbound marketing, a technique that brings customers closer to the brand through blogs, videos, email newsletters and social-media marketing, to name a few. These strategies bring customers in, instead of having to try and gain customers through activities like buying ads, cold calling and buying ads, a practice called outbound marketing.
By following these five easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to building a customer pipeline and able to stay focused on the work you’re passionate about.
1. Leverage online profiles. Many people make the mistake of assuming their website is a one-stop-marketing shop. But your presence on the web should go beyond your company’s website. Leveraging your personal social accounts to link back to your business site is a simple first step to begin marketing yourself in a less conventional way. It helps drive traffic from a wider variety of touch points and increases the potential audience you can reach.
Ensure the “About” sections of sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn have a short elevator pitch about who you are, what you do and why someone should use your company. And if it suits your business, don’t be afraid to inject some personality into it.
2. Build a blog. This can take a lot of time, but there is serious value in good content. Not only does it help establish you as an expert in your field, it also helps to increase your website’s rank for main keyword phrases.
When deciding what kind of posts to write for your blog, consider what your potential clients will be searching when looking to hire someone like you. Producing content that answers questions clients have will mean they’re more likely to land on your site and in turn will be able to read how much you know about your area of expertise.
Be sure to reference back to your site or consider integrating your blog with your website for a one-stop shop for value-added content and the services you provide. It’s a great one-two punch to show potential clients that you know your stuff and your business can solve their problems.
3. Contribute content to relevant websites. Much like writing blog content, this involves some writing on your part, but it is well worth the investment. There are a number of websites that accept guest posts written by people who are experts in their field. Find blogs whose audiences are made up of your ideal audience, and contribute the occasional article to establish yourself as a thought leader and help generate business leads.
It’s great when you can leverage trending topics into a relevant article to pitch. Sites always prefer content that is timely and dialed into the hot topics of the moment. This is a “quality over quantity” situation where you don’t need to be writing articles for different sites every week.
4. Tell people about your successes. Don’t worry about coming across as bragging, it’s important to make it known when work is yours. People looking to hire or explore new companies are always searching for insight into who’s doing good work and what they are saying about the industry. Publishing a running record of your work is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value you deliver.
Keep an updated portfolio on your website, share content you’ve written via Twitter, Facebook and your blog, and include your bio at the end of freelance content you’ve written. If you’re a photographer, include a watermark when your photos are shared online. There are lots of ways to share and take credit for your work, and it’s valuable to do so.
5. Publish reviews from past and present clients. The best way to build confidence in your work is through testimonials from people who have worked with you in the past or had experience with your company. These can be done in a number of ways thanks to all of the social platforms available.
Have someone write you a recommendation on LinkedIn or for use on your website. You can also amplify the good will of your clients by retweeting a particularly flattering tweet and integrating your social-media feeds into your blog or website. And lastly, remember to post any positive media coverage on your site. There’s nothing like giving your potential clients the confidence that they’re working with someone who’s the best and who has delivered great experiences to other people.