Inbound marketing is natural, sustainable, and produces measurable ROI (return on investment). As a startup with investors, or a small business with limited capital, inbound marketing just makes sense.
However, developing a workable strategy that produces the kind of results your company needs is easier said than done.
Where Small Businesses Go Wrong with Inbound Marketing
Small businesses often approach marketing from a half-in, half-out approach. They know they need to have a strong online presence, but may not have the time or resources to follow-through with actually creating an inbound marketing plan.
However, it’s 2016. Your competition isn’t going to hold back – and it could cost you.
Whether you hire a consultant, outside marketing agency, or choose to DIY this year, you can’t afford to put your online marketing strategy on the back burner any longer.
Creating an Inbound Marketing Plan That’s Compelling
In any business, a marketing strategy should produce the best possible return with as little investment as possible. For small businesses, this often means doing what you can with what you have.
Before you begin updating a site or interacting on social media, you need to start with a roadmap for implementation and measurement. Trust me, a little strategy will help you capitalize on your time and dollar investments.
Consider these step-by-step instructions for creating an inbound marketing plan:
Create Your Market Assessment
To properly pitch a strategy, you will need to show audience understanding. Develop marketing  personas, outlines of your ideal customers, and look for online trends in how those people behave online.
Think About Measurement Considerations
Financial ROI is crucial to business success, but many inbound marketing strategies need time to flourish. Create your own set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that add value to the brand and supplement financial ROI metrics. Your KPIs might include increased online visibility, consumer trust, or repeat business.
Identify KPI Pathways
Once you have identified strategic goals, you can start to identify potential consumer pathways – how consumers will contribute to your goals. For instance, search engine rankings and social media engagement will improve online visibility. Not every consumer will start their journey with a search or on social media, however. Try to list out every possible existing pathway a consumer can use to reach your company.
Optimize and Add to Your Pathways
Focus on strengthening your existing online pathways first, and then add some new tactics. Small businesses often have success with local SEO, blogging, social media interactions, and email marketing. If you already have a blog, focus on writing about topics that subtly tie into your goals and KPIs. For example, you could highlight a customer story and link to a review site to improve consumer trust metrics.
Measure the Results
Use Google Analytics to run some  simple reports on mobile and website assets. Take the time to run and look at the reports so you know exactly where you stand. For example, if most consumers easily access your repair services page, but no one looks at your online products, you may need to look closely at why and change your online activities.
While some of this is easier said than done, once you have a clear image of your company goals, you can repeat the optimization and measurement steps over and over again until you meet your goals.
For companies with little online experience, a small investment in an online audit or strategy consultant can help. A word of warning, though – you know your company better than anyone else. If you feel strongly that your consumers will pass over an ebook without a second glance, don’t let an outside marketer convince you otherwise. Take the time to learn a little about online success and measurement so you can make informed decisions.
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