How To Use Inbound Marketing To Make Your Small Business Stand Out

If you’re not familiar with inbound marketing, it’s time to catch up.

The brief synopsis: inbound marketing passively gets you leads from the internet without breaking the bank.

It’s a small business owner’s dream.

It also happens to be a great opportunity to create some definitive positioning for your business.

See, inbound marketing requires content, and through that content you can express the things that set your business apart from your competition.

As traditional marketing methods, like television commercials and printed mailers, begin to die out, inbound strategies are finding their place among small business owners.

Especially because the cost is usually way lower, and the return higher.

That’s a recipe for great marketing for any small business.

Today, we’re going to dig into some of the ways you can use inbound marketing to set your small business apart.

Inbound Marketing Requires Time

Before I dig into the techniques I’ll be sharing today, I want to give you a warning.

Inbound marketing is heavily affected by the amount of time that goes into it.

That is to say, the more time that goes in, the better your results.

Time must go into your inbound marketing content in two ways.

  1. You need to invest time into your content creation.
    Your content needs to be informative, complete, and high quality. You’re not going to do that by rushing through it.
  2. You need to give your content time to work.
    It’s insanely unusual for a brand-new piece of content to be huge. Most content will have it’s greatest return after it’s been in circulation for a little while.
That means that nothing about inbound marketing is fast. But then again, nothing that’s worth doing usually is. Click To Tweet

You need to be aware of that before you get to work on your content. It sets up your expectations.

Let’s face it; if your expectations are off, you won’t be happy with the results, and you’ll quit too soon.

By making yourself aware and knowing what to expect, you can adjust the way you approach it, focusing on collecting data to improve your content.

Yep, that means investing more time.

But that time pays off big.

You see, when you invest the time into your content the right way, you get to make your company stand apart.

I’ve said that already, haven’t I?

That’s our mission, though. To help companies stand out, causing them to grow.

That’s what I do for our clients, and that’s what this information will help you do.

That’s also what you want, right? Growth?

Inbound marketing strategies are the best way for small business to do that.

Use Inbound Marketing To Showcase What Makes Your Small Business Different

If you’re familiar with what it takes to make great content, this article is where you need to be.

If you’re not, you might want to learn that first.

Rather than teach you how to make content, today I’m going to help you understand what content to create depending on your goals.

All of these ideas come from the core idea of making your small business stand out from the competition.

They’re not unique to your business themselves, but they require you to focus on a unique aspect of your business.

Ready? Good.

Prove Your Knowledge

The most valuable way that you’re different from your competition is the things you know.

While every industry has standard knowledge, every business has unique experience and perspective.

That means you know something different than your competitors.

Through your inbound marketing content, you have a great opportunity to showcase this.

Case studies are a great start.

Your experience dealing with different customers and their unique situations gives you a unique perspective in your industry.

You get to solve problems that nobody else has solved before. Those problems will come up for others in the future.

Document all your client situations.

Whenever you come across something new, take the time to expand on the situation.

Write a blog post or share a video that outlines what the specific issue was.

Be as detailed as possible without giving away anything your client wouldn’t want you to share.

You get to solve problems that nobody else has solved before. Those problems will come up for others in the future. Document all your client situations. Click To Tweet

Once you’ve outlined where you started, share what you did to solve it.

Discuss your brainstorming process.

Did your team immediately know what to do, or was there trial and error?

If you knew what to do, what was it? Communicate the details of the steps you took to solve the problem.

If there was trial and error, what did you do that failed? Why did it fail?

Share what adjustments you made every time you shifted your strategy and indicate what gave you the idea to try that.

It’s especially important to highlight any heroes on your team that stepped up.

When you have someone who came through with an angle that nobody else thought of, it demonstrates the talents your company has available.

That’s going to attract future clients.

When your audience can see how your company deals with unique problems, it builds their confidence in you.

They may even have the same problem.

Creating confidence in what your team knows is the best way to earn new clients.

Confidence sells.

It also frees you to do your work without your clients doubting your methods.

That freedom makes your process run more smoothly.

That confidence also increases your company’s value, which means your clients are willing to pay more.

More customers and more revenue mean growth. Every time.

Create A Community

Social media is a huge part of inbound marketing.

It’s your distribution channel and the fastest way for you to communicate with your audience.

Great social media content is a solid place to build a community of people interested in your product as well.

People expect to be able to communicate with companies through social media nowadays.

By taking advantage of this truth, you can create a feedback community using social networks as the platform.

The first step is to respond.

When your audience tags you, comments on your posts, or contacts you directly through messenger or a tag, it’s your job to respond quickly.

By responding, you’re doing two important things:

  1. You are validating your audience’s question, concern, or review by showing them that you’re paying attention.
  2. You’re inviting others to join in the conversation and ask more questions.

These are community-building steps.

When you approach these from the right angle, you build rapport with your audience.

Others join in with their viewpoints and questions, and they start communicating with each other.

If you are actively focused on customer retention, your existing customers will back you and praise you.

Their recommendations will strengthen your audiences trust in you.

It also reaffirms to other customers that they made the right choice to work with you.

That makes them more loyal.

From there, build on the interaction.

Create a group of people interested in your product, then use it to promote exclusive content and programs.

Exclusivity gets people excited.

All the while, your community is growing stronger by becoming a positive feedback loop.

When your audience is involved in that, their feelings of trust and happiness with what your company does grow stronger.

Include that community on an email list.

This gives you an opportunity to promote more exclusivity. Special discounts, products, services, and offers can be given to that group.

This audience begins to think of your company – and you – the way they think of friends.

Exclusivity gets people excited. Click To Tweet

It’s important to understand that because you don’t want to do anything to hurt that.

Friends don’t take advantage of one another.

By gaining that level of trust, then backing it with the right service and support, you create loyal customers who eventually become brand evangelists.

They’ll spread the word, exposing you to their friends and family.

That introduces you to new markets to grow from.

Reveal Your Culture

People want to know what your team is like at work.

There’s something satisfying about working with a company you really feel like you know.

That’s one of the awesome advantages to sharing your company culture through your content.

However, we’re not talking staged pictures or a copy of your mission statement.

We’re talking candid, raw, unrehearsed shots of what actually goes on in your office.

Be it a show of work ethic, office pranks, or sheer boredom, there’s nothing like letting your audience peer into the shenanigans that are a part of your team’s day.

Those glimpses behind the scenes tend to connect with your audience.

They get to see that you are real people, not “faceless cogs”.

When people can see the human nature of your team, they start to develop a fondness for your company.

That fondness is going to make every good interaction better.

Your clients are more likely to leave positive reviews about your business.

They’re also going to care more about what happens to your company.

All of that concern is going to develop your audience and clients into brand evangelists (it can also boost community building).

Like we’ve said before, brand evangelism leads to referrals, an increased audience, and growth.

Those glimpses behind the scenes tend to connect with your audience. They get to see that you are real people, not “faceless cogs”. Click To Tweet

But there’s a benefit that, while it won’t make you as much money, it will feel better.

Your customers will behave more like friends, and that makes the work so much nicer to do.

Throughout the day, as things are happening around your business place, pull out your phone and snap a few shots.

You don’t need to use them at that moment, or even the same day.

Store them for the times you’re ready to share something.

Use them as the “content between the content”.

Caption them with a slight joke or an observation.

Share them with your audience in the hopes that they’ll connect.

Remember, not everything you post will work, but if you collect data on what does work, you can keep an eye out for more of it.

The idea is that you get your audience reacting and commenting on the content.

It should get a positive reaction, be it laughs, admiration, or amazement.

The more you can do that, the more it will work.

Entertain Your Audience

It isn’t just your company culture that can get your audience to laugh.

Every team has that one person who is great with the right meme for the situation.

It’s time to enlist that person to help with some well-timed humor.

Taking advantage of entertaining content, especially via social media, works similarly to displaying your company culture.

  • It shows that you’re human.
  • It demonstrates your sense of humor.
  • It puts a smile on your audience’s face.
  • It can boost community building.

One of the best parts about using social media to entertain your audience is the viral nature of humorous posts.

When you post something that really hits the funny bone, people will share it.

Let me say it outright though. Viral content should never be your primary strategy.

However, if you can boost visibility with something more likely to go viral, it won’t hurt you in the long game.

Meanwhile, the reactions you do get are going to spread.

They’re also going to adjust how you show in the different social algorithms.

The more people like, react to, comment on, and share your content, the more often they’ll see it.

That means their friends are going to see it too.

Keep in mind that attention is the main currency you’re working for with your content.

So, pay attention to the things that make sense for your business.

Some questions to consider when looking at entertaining content:

  • Does this meme fit what I do?
    I have a client who runs a smog shop. Every Friday I include a meme in his social content. I always try to make it relevant to his audience. Smog memes exist and get used every now and then, but I also try to use content that reflects other conversations around his place of business.
  • Does this touch on the wrong topics?
    Just because a meme is funny and fits your audience doesn’t mean you should use it. Try to stay away from polarizing topics. Stick with the stuff that most people can relate to. The goal is to be relatable, not inflammatory.
  • Is this an early or outdated meme?
    Chances are you’ll never be on the cutting edge of memes unless you spend a ton of time on Reddit. Even if you do, getting too far ahead will confuse your audience. Consider what the majority of your followers are probably seeing regularly and stick with that. At the same time, don’t use stuff that lost its relevance in pop culture more than 6 months ago. The only old memes you should use are the absolute classics.

Yes, I did in fact just give you a lesson on memes.

Sometimes an older meme is OK.

You see, the pop-culture references in memes allow you to better relate to the bulk of your audience on the internet.

They’re often a great way to reflect an emotion using a sarcastic connotation.

They also reduce the amount of creativity you need to possess to be successful.

Memes come pre-packaged. All you have to do is search [your topic] meme.

Try it out. Google a meme related to your industry. I’ll wait.

There’s always something.

However, if you’re feeling really creative, there are also simple ways to create your own meme.

Be careful, though.

If you’re like me, you have a sense of humor that’s very hit-or-miss.

Not generally a good idea for me to make my own memes. People won’t always get them.

If people tend to laugh at your jokes often, this might be a good opportunity to stand out for your humor.

Memes aren’t the only option, though.

Use video, tell stories, and offer up a joke or two.

The point is that making people laugh is a great way to get them to share.

When they share, you get introduced to a new audience.

Establish Your Neighborhood Presence

If you’re a brick-and-mortar or live in a town that’s high on local pride, it’s time to pay attention.

As if you’d have gotten this far by not paying attention, right?

Something incredibly important to your small business is its hometown.

There is a strong sense of local pride anymore, especially among people in the 18-35 age range.

People want to know that you’re connected and involved in your community.

To do that, you’ve got to let them know what you’re up to in the neighborhood.

What better way to do that than to document how you get involved with your community.

Listen, I’m not only talking about charities and sponsorships. I’m talking about all the ways you connect.

For example: One of my clients runs a local auto repair shop.

There are an awful lot of posts that go out on their social accounts that discuss the benefits of getting your vehicle fixed there.

We also include a lot of posts that allow the audience to relate to the owner, who happens to be a staple in the community.

There are stories about his activities in the community.

We demonstrate the shop’s fandom for local and national sports teams.

We share local reviews of the shop and of businesses we recommend.

And right now, we’re promoting their grand re-opening after a major remodel.

This is the kind of stuff that shows that you’re a member of the neighborhood, not just another company.

And what do people know about supporting a business that’s a true member of the community?

Their money will go back to the community.

People love to support what supports their neighborhood.

However, if you’re going to use your commitment to your city as a marketing tactic, there is a very important requirement.

You must be genuinely involved in your community. Click To Tweet

Fakers don’t make it when it comes to demonstrating community involvement.

Your neighborhood knows.

Your neighbors will call you out.

Consider that carefully.

If you’re not currently involved in your community, now is a great time to document change.

As long as your involvement comes from the right place, you can start creating a shift in opinion about your company.

Not that there is or has to be a bad opinion about your small business.

However, people may feel that, because they don’t see you involved, you must not be one of their neighbors.

That’s an opinion you probably ought to shift.

Get involved because you want to get involved.

Document it to share it as content.

Watch your shifting reputation create all the same loyalties we’ve talked about already.

Build strength in your physical local community.

These Ideas Make Your Small Business Stand Out

Even if your competition is doing the same things as you, these ideas will be uniquely executed by you.

By creating content that allows you to show off these ideas, you’re demonstrating the differences between you and everyone else.

In fact, by the content creation process alone, you’re doing what most of your competition won’t.

That alone sets you apart.

Let’s not forget that all the while the content you’re making will begin to draw in leads.

After all, you’re looking for growth.

Carefully plan the ways you’ll use these ideas to boost your content plan.

Execute them with care, focusing on quality.

Stay consistent, even when you don’t immediately see results.

Collect data and adjust what you produce.

Then, all of a sudden, everything will start to take shape.

You’ll see leads, revenue, and a ton of growth.

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.