Does your small business have a blog?

How about a strong social media presence?

Do you send out targeted emails?

These are all important tenets of inbound marketing and if they’re not a part of your marketing repertoire than you’re missing out on an efficient and cost-effective way to get new customers.

HubSpot found that inbound tactics generated an astounding 54% more leads than traditional marketing methods, and these leads cost 61% less than those garnered the old-fashioned way.

Inbound marketing is all about capturing your potential customers’ attention. An effective content plan is essential. You want to attract visitors to your site and build trust, so they keep coming back for more.

How marketing has changed

In the old days of traditional marketing, cold-calling, spammy emails, expensive television and radio ads, billboards, and direct mail reigned supreme. With these methods, companies cast a far-reaching net in the hopes that someone out there wanted to hear their message. A lot of time and money was used advertising to people who had no interest in their service or product.

But today, these methods are not only pricey but ineffective. Studies have found that 86% of people skip TV commercials, and 44% of direct mail goes unopened.

Inbound marketing switches the emphasis from the marketer to the customer.

The focus is now all about getting found by your potential customer and developing a relationship with them.

Give your audience a reason to trust you

These days, most people jump online to do a little research before buying a product or service.  According to Marketo, up to 93% of buying cycles start with an online search.

Your potential customer may not buy something from you immediately, but you want to catch them at the research stage. To do that you need to build trust and become a go-to resource they can count on. You want to listen to them and be part of the conversation.

So ditch the hard-selling marketing tactics; it’s ineffective and frustrating for both you and your customers. Instead offer valuable content and educate your potential customers.

Developing your content strategy

With inbound marketing, there are so many different platforms to shout out your message. Here are a few that cost next to nothing to implement:

  • Blogging- This is the perennial favorite and for good reason. HubSpot found that 79% of companies with a blog had a positive ROI.
  • Social Media– There are so many social networks out there- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, and Snapchat to name a few. Obviously as a small business, you unlikely have time to manage all of these social media accounts. Just pick a few to start, and they don’t necessarily have to be the biggest. Figure out which ones work for the type of content you plan on posting— words, videos, images, etc.
  • eBooks– Why not offer a free eBook to whet your customer’s appetite.  You can go into much more detail with an eBook and provide even more captivating content.
  • SEO– You want customers to find you online. If you have the greatest content on the web, but no one’s seeing it, it’s all for naught.   SEO practices are constantly in flux, but today there is an emphasis on so-called “White Hat” SEO. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing and $5 articles from overseas that offer no value.
  • Emails and Newsletters– Use your website and blog to capture email addresses from people who are willing to sign up.   It’s going to take time to build up your list. But at least you know your subscribers are interested in what you have to offer, rather than if you’d purchased a generic list of email addresses.

Benefits for small business

Previously, many small businesses were priced out of some traditional marketing methods, such as expensive TV commercials and even the more affordable options, such as direct mail chewed up valuable resources.

The Internet has evened the playing field. Any business can start a blog, send out a batch of targeted emails, or promote their content across social media accounts.

By implementing simple inbound marketing tactics, your small business will save money and valuable time. With a little effort and some patience, you can expect to see big results.

This article originally appeared on Content Angle and has been republished with permission.