smb-tech-trendsGoing to market is considerably different today than it was just five years ago. Then most business relied heavily on push technologies – print and broadcast advertising, direct mail, telemarketing and public relations — to get their messages in front of customers and prospects. Today customers can take matters into their own hands, searching online for companies who offer the goods and services they need. Social media gives them an opportunity to engage once they find them; reviews can seal the deal or send customers looking elsewhere.

The concept of being found by small business customers is called inbound marketing, and it’s very customer centric. It’s not about telling customers how you add value. Inbound marketing focuses on satisfying a need or want the customer has.

Already many small businesses are on board with inbound marketing. In fact, HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, indicates that small companies lead inbound marketing adoption — 43 percent of companies that use inbound marketing have one to five employees.

Key inbound marketing activities

Just as in traditional marketing, there are specific inbound marketing activities to employ for a successful campaign. Here are five that should be the cornerstone of any program you implement:

Content: Content is king when it comes to inbound marketing. As your small business customers turn to the web as their first stop for information, insightful and searchable content should lead them to your digital door. Your portfolio of content should include articles, blog posts, white papers, customer case studies, videos and podcasts, eBooks, webinars, Infographics and more.

Landing pages: Landing pages are where the relationship often begins with website visitors. Use a compelling landing page with a special promotion or relevant industry content – a white paper or SlidesShare presentation – to capture qualified lead information. Also be sure that your landing page has a strong call to action, such as download now or start your free trial now

Social Media: Social media fosters customer conversations; promotes your small business brand; and when you share links to web pages and articles, blog posts and landing pages, drives customers and prospects to your site. Engage with your customers across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other social channels. In addition to keeping customers and prospects up to date on your company’s products and services, share industry information and ask questions to establish your thought leadership and to find out what customers are thinking.

SEOKeyword search or search engine optimization (SEO): Getting found in search engines by your target audience is still important even though social interaction has moved up the inbound marketing food chain. Identify all your relevant keywords associated with your small business offerings – and that customers and prospects use in their search – and incorporate them into your content.

Analytics: In order to achieve your inbound marketing goals, you need to measure activity (see: How your small business benefits from web analytics) to find out how many website visitors you have and where they are coming from, content performance (what content is most appealing), how effective your landing pages are, and conversion rates or the number of web visitors who take action on your site. Review analytics against your inbound marketing goals and make changes accordingly.

After all those years of looking for customers, an effective inbound marketing effort can bring them to you and keep them coming back.