Once upon a time successful marketing was akin to ‘whoever shouts the loudest will be the most successful’. Big budgets meant expensive advertising campaigns and direct marketing, which meant companies could essentially buy themselves new customers.

But there has been a monumental shift in recent years. Outbound marketing is well and truly out of fashion, and inbound marketing is the ‘in’ thing, particularly with the growth of internet use and social media.

These days we are surrounded, overloaded even, by so many marketing messages that a lot of communication has simply become wallpaper. It’s easy to become blind to overt selling techniques and totally switch off from businesses that aren’t interested in popping out of their ivory towers to more actively engage with potential customers.

Welcome to the world of inbound marketing!

Inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content that other people will value, and having regular contact that will keep you front of mind, ensuring that you build a reputation as an expert or the provider of choice in your particular field. It’s about having a relationship with people – in fact, it’s almost as if the more virtual our world becomes the more we need to strive to have meaningful contact.

So how do you do it?

The main rule to follow is: don’t focus on selling. Share your knowledge and expertise, help people by solving common problems, give free advice, demonstrate how you (or your product/service) have helped other people. Your blog will be one of the most valuable tools you have to do this, but you could also offer free guides and downloads  on your website, posting videos on YouTube or publishing an e-book. Take a sneaky peak at what your most successful competitors are doing and find ways of trumping them!

Make sure you promote new information through social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – the aim is to promote your name and your business virally to your target audiences. If people respect what you have to say, they will share the information with friends and colleagues, ensuring you have even greater exposure. And it is these kind of people – those who are receptive to you – who will contact you when they need your product or service. It’s a natural progression to a ‘relationship’ that has built up over time and a perception that they know you and would be happy to give you their business.

And best of all, this is all great news for us small businesses as we have limited marketing budgets. And it’s even better than blanket advertising and promotions because you are talking to an audience that has declared itself interested and engaged – the ideal prospective customer.

Are you using inbound marketing techniques already? It would be great to hear your success stories.

Photo credit: Danilo Rizzuti