When it comes to doing business online, inbound marketing is the way to go. People don’t want you to sell them stuff, they want to buy. Inbound marketing takes on the role of informer and adviser. Outbound marketing adopts the role of the town crier and the mass marketer. Inbound marketing is insightful and personal. Outbound marketing is more generic and distant. In the world of Web 2.0 and beyond, the inbound marketing funnel will grow in importance.

Inbound marketing takes strangers and turns them into promoters based on a careful delivery of content, tactics, strategies and insights. It allows you to contact your ideal client directly and personally, with more targeted messages that have clear calls to action. But those calls to action must carefully move your audience from the realm of strangers and spectators to buyers and brand ambassadors.

Content is how you make it happen.

But when content is king and time is money, how in the world do you keep it coming without sacrificing your content’s quality? Here are a few simple suggestions:

1. Create an editorial calendar.

Incorporate each of your content channels, ranging from your email newsletter to social media updates into the calendar you create. When is your content due? How much do you need to generate each day? Each week? Each month? Knowing how much content you need makes it easier to break all of that writing (or hiring of writers) down into much more manageable tasks.

2. Don’t neglect visual content.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: a picture is worth a thousand words. While cliches are a bit tacky, the reality is that they’re often true. People are in a hurry. Reading takes time and attention – things everyone is short on. Visual messaging in the form of custom photographs, visual memes and infographics allow people to absorb messages quickly and often have a higher impact on engagement.

3. Keep your content timely and newsworthy.

Content marketing isn’t heavy on the sales pitch. Instead it aims to educate and inform. Therefore, you can add greater credibility and a more powerful sense of urgency when you dedicate time to scour the headlines on Yahoo or Google News for headlines and tidbits relevant to your industry or audience.

4. Use your content to engage readers and listen to what they say.

Inbound marketing channels like blogs, social media, surveys, video marketing and other like them allow you to use content and media of all forms to attract new people and generate leads. The best in the business use their content to engage their readers to interact with questions and comments, suggestions and frustrations. Not only do these content creators take these opportunities to solve problems at the individual level, they can also uncover larger conversations and concerns they can not only address and solve, but capitalize on in the process!

5. Use technology to automate your content creation and sharing.

Every day, new apps and software programs emerge that help to put your marketing efforts on autopilot. In the world of business, time is money. Automation allows you to handle redundant tasks like content delivery, newsletter sign-ups, blog and social media postings and handle them automatically, while you sleep. This allows you to focus on the biggest priorities and problems you face while your marketing runs smoothly in the background.

6. Although inbound marketing will require you to invest heavily in content creation, the price tag is significantly lower than with more traditional outbound marketing outlets such as television or radio advertising.

For the average business, inbound marketing has a cost that’s roughly 61% lower than the alternatives. How do those percentages translate into dollars? Well, according to the State of Inbound Report published by HubSpot, the average company saves about $20,000 each year by making the shift from outbound to inbound marketing.

The era of mass marketing is over; we’re now in the age of individual marketing. The consumer, for the most part, now has to power to choose what marketing messages, if any, they want to hear. Inbound’s power comes from that fact that it encourages the consumer to choose to hear what you have to say. And once you have that, it really becomes your ballgame to lose.

Image via Flickr.