Have you noticed the changing tides while running your small business lately?


Owning a small business has never been easy, but over the last five years things have changed DRASTICALLY AND PERMANENTLY, and if you do not ADAPT, QUICKLY, you may struggle to be in business in the next five.

I will repeat that. If you do not ADAPT, QUICKLY, you may STRUGGLE TO BE IN BUSINESS IN FIVE YEARS.

What do I mean?

Tactics to develop leads for your business that used to work just a few years ago have stopped working. Many people attribute this sea change to the rising popularity of social media marketing on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but a BIGGER REVOLUTION in online marketing has been taking place simultaneously that is changing the face of how companies do business.

Inbound marketing has been trending upward sharply since HubSpot, Inc. CEO Brian Halligan first coined the term in 2005.

What is inbound marketing?

“Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content that you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.” (Source: HubSpot)

The way that people WANT AND EXPECT to make business purchasing decisions has changed. Much of the research for a buying decision is done early in the buying process ONLINE before ever speaking with a company representative.

People don’t respond to cold calls anymore, and direct mail has become so ubiquitous, that many people sort their mail over the recycle bin. I surely do.

If you are still doing business this way, is it still working?

If you don’t believe me, here is a scary statistic for you from research think tank Gartner.

“By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship without talking to a human.” (Source: Gartner Research)

This online shift has already happened and if you haven’t made the transition, you risk being out of business soon, or at the least being in business, but struggling to get by.

So just how does the inbound marketing process work?

First things first, inbound marketing isn’t easy.

For businesses that consider inbound as a strategy, THE FIRST REALIZATION is that it requires mastery of a variety of different marketing tactics including content development, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, lead generation, lead management, and analytics.

Can this be done as a do-it-yourself project by a small business owner, or small in-house marketing team?

With enough time and money, the answer is yes.

For most, however, hiring a marketing agency will be required. Learn Why Here.

The Inbound Marketing Process

For the rest of the post I will go over the inbound marketing process from beginning to end, from getting found online, converting visitors into leads and then customers and then measuring the entire process so that you can get better at it and ultimately increase your marketing return on investment (ROI).

Assess Your Business and Set Realistic Goals

This is the first step before you ever discuss tactics or implementation. The process begins with an honest assessment of your current business model, current marketing tactics and most importantly your future objectives.dart-board

Questions to ask yourself in this stage include:

  • What type of sales increase am I looking for?
  • How much budget can I realistically afford to develop the strategy?
  • Which of my current tactics are bearing fruit, if any?
  • Can my operations realistically handle an increase in sales?
  • Am I and my staff willing to spend the time required to participate in marketing activities?
  • What ROI am I looking to achieve for the investment of time and money.

Develop Your Strategic Objectives

The next step in the process is to develop your strategic objectives.

The process begins with developing a picture of your ideal client(s) through the development of a Buyer Persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers, based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

Once you have a picture of your ideal clients and where they hang out online you can begin to determine which tactics will resonate best with your core audience, whether its SEO, Social Media or content marketing, or a combination of all of the above.

The buyer persona should be the lens through which you evaluate all of your strategic options and select those that give you the best opportunity to reach your target audience.

Your Company Website

Your company website is the hub through which all of your online marketing activities will flow. Needless to say, IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT IT REPRESENT YOU WELL.

How does your website look? Is it time for a redesign? If you don’t know or are unsure, READ THIS .

Ideally your website will accomplish three things.

First it will provide a clear picture about the solutions that you provide. When a new visitor hits your site, you only have about 3 to 6 seconds to make an impression. The copy on your site and supporting visuals must communicate quickly and clearly what you do, and hit home for your ideal prospects. HubSpot has a great article about home page design.

Secondly, your website should be customer centric, not me centric! Too many businesses make the mistake of trying to showcase everything they do and design the website around the premise of, “look how good we are.” I have news for you, no one cares! Especially at this stage when a customer is visiting your website for the first time.

Your website must be designed to address the issues your buyer personas have. Not a nice fancy brochure that offers no real value!

Thirdly, your site should have a corporate blog that continually is filled with new, useful and free content that is updated on a regular basis.

Blogging, when done consistently is a key source of traffic generation for your website. With each new entry on your blog, you provide an opportunity for your prospects to find you, find a solution to a problem and subsequently learn about the solutions that your company provides.

Generate Relevant Traffic

Once you have your website designed and optimized, and your blog being updated with new information on a regular basis, it is important to utilize additional traffic generation tactics.

This is where SEO, social media marketing and pay-per-click marketing have their place. Which tactic should you use?

The answer will depend on factors such as your goals, budget and ultimately on the buyer persona(s) that you developed for your business.

One, or a combination of all of these tactics may make sense for your particular situation.

More traffic to your website or corporate blog means more eyeballs and chances for lead conversion.

Lead Generation with Offers and Landing Pages

While all of the steps are in the process are important, this is the absolutely crucial step in your lead generation process that must be nailed in order to generate high quality prospects for your sales team. You can generate all of the traffic in the world to your site, but if you have no lead magnets in the form of high quality relevant offers for your prospects, your strategy will fall short.

This step requires the development of premium content in the form of case studies, white papers, ebooks and buyers’ guides that require a prospect to provide information in order to access.

Landing pages with contact forms are required to access your high quality content, and ultimately convert a visitor into a lead. Information such as name, company, an email address and/or a phone number are typically required to download offers.

This is how your convert a visitor into a lead.

Lead Nurturing and Sales

The final step in your sales funnel is to nurture your leads and hopefully if all the stars are aligned convert those leads into sales.

Lead nurturing is a critical part of a marketer’s job, especially in the B2B space. Lead nurturing is the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need. (Source: Marketo)

Different tactics, predominantly email marketing and lead nurturing are used in this step of the process. Marketing automation, social media publishing, paid retargeting and additional marketing tools can also be used in the process.

Hopefully if your sales process is sound, your sales team will have qualified sales leads that will ultimately convert into sales.


Analytical tools are required to measure each step of the process to determine the effectiveness of your inbound marketing process. Key performance indicators (KPI) are business metrics that help the small business owner keep track of goals and objectives and allow the business owner and marketing team to determine if their marketing tactics are working.

Utilizing the analytics of a tool like HubSpot can help track your KPI’s and show you what’s working and what needs to be tweaked.

Like it or not, inbound marketing is here to stay. If your lead generation and sales growth are stagnant, it may be time to take a look at inbound marketing to jump start your business.