Do you enjoy searching for customers on a regular basis? If not, then inbound marketing may be your solution. Inbound marketing is simply the strategy of helping your ideal customers find you. The freelancers that I know who do it well get to sit back and watch the leads for their business roll in, taking a lot of pressure off of having to go out and find clients. As a freelancer, I have used inbound marketing as a way to gain clients since I started my business, and am happy to say that all of my business comes to me. In this guide, I’ll take you through the 10 steps inbound marketing experts follow to drive people to their office, phone, or inbox.
Step 1: Create an awesome elevator pitch
One big difference between successful and not-so-successful inbound marketers is that the former have an awesome elevator pitch, while the latter either have a poor one, or none at all. An elevator pitch is how you would introduce yourself to a potential customer in an elevator in 30—60 seconds. When people come across your online presence, they’re not likely to spend more time than that, so you need a short and hooky sentence to inspire people to want to know more.
While you can’t measure the time people spend on your social media profile, you can use Google Analytics on your own website. I find that the average visit duration on my freelance business site is 1 minute, 16 seconds. That’s effectively how long I have to make a first impression on a potential client.
Coming up with that one killer sentence can be challenging, but it can make a huge difference to your business.
A great elevator pitch communicates three things in one sentence—who you are, what you do, and why someone should hire you. A couple examples:
- I am a freelance writer who helps businesses develop high-quality blog content to attract their target customers.
- I am a freelance web designer who turns business websites into conversion machines.
Actionable Takeaway: Create a one-sentence elevator pitch to use on your online profiles. It should tell people who you are, what you do, and what benefits you would provide them if they hired you.
Step 2: Treat every online profile as a lead generating tool
A lot of freelancers expect their potential customers to first discover them via their website, so that is the one (and sometimes only) platform they fine tune for conversions. But the truth is, potential customers find freelancers in so many places, from their website to their Twitter to the profile they use to review books on Amazon.
This is why top inbound marketers treat every online presence they have as a lead generating tool. No matter where someone discovers you for the first time, they should be able to find out in just one sentence who you are and what you do. If you are a freelance web designer, photographer, writer, consultant, etc., then make sure that is obvious on each of your online profiles.
There are two ways to approach the editing of your online profiles. The first is to search for your name and/or your business on Google. Any profiles that come up in the first couple of search results pages should be edited to include your elevator pitch.
The second is to start with the profiles you use the most on a regular basis. When you sign into Twitter, Facebook, your favorite forum, a blog you write for, and similar sites, edit the areas where you can tell people about yourself—your profile, your forum signature, your author bio, etc. by adding your elevator pitch.
And of course, if you have any blogs of your own (personal or professional), make sure your about page tells visitors what you do for a living. You never know when someone looking to hire a freelance web designer will be excited to work with someone who shares their same love of Doctor Who when they discover it in your fan blog. I’ve actually gained a few clients from my photography blog, one that I rarely update, but still has my author bio identifying me as a freelance writer. Since I added that bio to my photo posts, I have received requests from other photographers who want to hire someone to build up their content.
Actionable Takeaway: Edit your top online profiles to include your elevator pitch so that people who discover your most active profiles will be able to learn more about your business.
Step 3: Join professional networks
Almost all the top inbound marketers I know are active members of professional networks. So, if you’re not already a member of the professional networks that your potential customers are most likely using to discover service providers like yourself, I suggest making the effort to join them. Just having a profile on them can open the door to more lead inquiries.
LinkedIn is the most notable social network for professionals, and it’s a hotbed of leads for any B2B service provider. If you don’t have time for any other professional network, this is the one to go with. I’ve personally gained several clients on LinkedIn by simply having “freelance writer” in my profile and being active in the professional LinkedIn groups. As mentioned in our guide to great ways to find freelance work, consider creating profiles on the top freelance networks (see Tip #3) and professional directories (see Tip #6).
Actionable Takeaway: Create a profile on LinkedIn along with other niche and local professional networks. Be sure these profiles contain your elevator pitch and the top examples of your work.
Step 4: Connect your Facebook page to your profile
In addition to adding your elevator pitch to your personal profiles, be sure to connect professional profiles to your personal ones. For example, you can’t always guarantee that visitors to your Facebook profile will go to your About tab and read your bio information. If you link your Facebook page to your profile, however, it will be upfront when people visit your profile, or just see it in search results.
To do this, go to your personal profile’s About tab and click the Edit button next to Work and Education. Start by entering your business name (or the name your Facebook page is listed as).
Then enter your position (such as Freelance Writer), location, and description. Most importantly, make sure the “I currently work here” box is checked. This will put your title and link to your Facebook page in a visible, public spot on your personal profile. Any potential customers who might be friends with you on Facebook or those who might be searching Facebook for people in your industry will be able to easily discover you.
To receive freelance work inquiries on Facebook, you need to do two things. First, check the “Other” inbox for your personal profile. Messages from people who are not friends with you (i.e., potential clients) might end up in there. Second, turn on the option for your Facebook page to receive messages.
I’ve received new clients through both of these avenues, and you just might too!
Actionable Takeaway: Connect your Facebook page to your personal profile using the Work and Education section of your profile’s About tab.
Step 5: Claim credit for your work
One of the best ways top inbound marketers get leads for their business is through living examples of their work. If your work is published online, and your clients are okay with it, look for ways that you can be credited for that work. Freelance photographers can get this credit by including their watermark on photos they share online. Freelance writers can get this credit by having their author bio included in content they create. Freelance web designers can get this credit by having their business mentioned in the footer or websites they design.
Why is this powerful? People who are shopping for services are always looking for inspiration. For example, when a friend of mine was looking for a wedding photographer, she would peruse magazines to find photographers that fit her style. When she found a photo she liked and saw the name of the photographer on it, she would contact them. I also know lots of businesses that find writers for their website or blog by connecting with writers they come across on other sites. Many of my clients first came to me by sending an email saying, “I loved your work on FreshBooks and would like to get similar content for my website.”
Actionable Takeaway: When possible, make sure your name is included with any examples of your work online. If you can include your elevator pitch nearby, be sure to do so.
Step 6: Create content that converts
Running a blog on your website is another great way to get more leads. Blogs work as lead generators because they can help you overcome the fact that it’s tough to rank for your main keyword phrases in search—like freelance web designer—on your website itself. But with a blog, you stand a good chance of ranking well for longer keyword phrases that can draw your customers to your site.
When considering what to write about on your blog, think about all of the things your customers will search for online prior to hiring someone like you—then create content for those searches. Here are some examples of what a company might search for when they are planning to hire a web designer, and how you can create content for them to discover.
- Web design ideas for businesses—Take your best business web designs and put them in a blog post entitled 50 Web Design Ideas for Businesses.
- How to find a web designer—Help your customers by writing a guide on how to find web designers entitled How to Find a Web Designer for Your Business.
- How to choose a web designer—Help your customers qualify great web designers by writing the best things to ask a potential web designer candidate in a post entitled How to Choose a Web Designer—10 Essential Questions to Ask.
Not sure what kind of questions your customers might be asking? Find out by searching for your title on Quora, a popular question-and-answer website.
As you can see, there are lots of great questions that you can base some blog posts on. By answering them on your blog, you’ll be leading your ideal customer from search to your website.
You can also post your answers directly to networks like Quora, so people there can find you too.
Actionable Takeaway: Figure out what your potential customers are searching for and create content to help them find the answers that will turn them into your customers.
Step 7: Guest post to your target customer base
A lot of freelancers generate leads through guest blogging—writing posts for other websites. This step is well worth your effort, especially when you’re having a hard time getting traffic to your own website. Guest blogging works best when you demonstrate your expertise on popular blogs that your customers already read. For example, a freelance consultant I know who helps businesses manage their Facebook presence, regularly writes guest blogs on prominent sites for business owners, such as Social Media Examiner, Business Insider, Small Biz Trends, and Mashable.
Successful guest bloggers avoid falling into the trap of “guest blogging for links.” They don’t try to get as many links on as many sites as possible. Instead, they build their authority in their industry in front of a target audience that includes their customers. For example, with the consultant mentioned above, if a blog is geared toward other social media professionals, such as people learning about Facebook for personal use, or if it simply has no audience at all, then it’s not worth his time.
Actionable Takeaway: Find blogs whose audience includes your ideal customers and seek guest blogging opportunities that will help you demonstrate your authority in your industry in order to gain leads from your content.
Step 8: Provide the best answer
Going back to the questions that your customers are asking, there are tons of communities—particularly Q&A networks, and forums—where your ideal customer is going to get information. These are the types of groups that top inbound marketers not only participate in, but also provide highly valuable answers for.
Why is this important? On sites like Quora (as shown in Step 6), people search for questions that have already been answered before asking them again. This means that if you answer a question, there’s a good chance that other people will view the answer, not just the original person who asked the question. This makes it another good way to create something once and have it drive leads to your business regularly.
The best place to start is to search questions your customers might be asking, see which questions come up first, and then answer any questions that are still open to answers. Since these questions came up first to you, they will likely come up first for others as well.
Also, start looking into social groups (Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and Google+ communities) and forums used by your customers. On LinkedIn especially, you will start to see the leads coming in when you provide valuable answers.
Actionable Takeaway: Take 10—15 minutes a day to answer questions asked by your customers in Q&A networks and social media groups.
Step 9: Publish testimonials
Testimonials equal leads. I have several clients who first contacted me because of a testimonial they read. So I know first hand how powerful testimonials can be to help win business. So, anytime someone leaves you a testimonial, be sure to use them on your website, service sales pages, and anywhere else you are likely to gain a customer. If possible, publish testimonials by well-known people and businesses in your industry, i.e. testimonials by people with a lot of authority.
Some places to capture testimonials include the following.
- Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. To obtain these, ask your most satisfied clients to write a review of your services on LinkedIn.
- Tweets on Twitter. If someone writes 140 characters of praise about your services, use the star icon beneath the tweet to favorite it. When ready, use the embed option for the tweet to embed it on your website.
- Praise on Facebook. When people post to your wall on Facebook, you can go directly to the post and click the dropdown arrow by it to embed the post on your website. This is a great way to publish recommendations about your business on Facebook. This also works for public posts customers leave on your personal Facebook profile.
- Praise in the media. Did you get mentioned in a notable blog or media outlet? Bookmark those articles, take out the best testimonial snippet, and post it as a testimonial, linking back to the original post.
These types of social media endorsements are powerful because people can click to the original source and verify that the testimonials are, in fact, legit. With so many businesses faking testimonials (either by purchasing them or making them up), having testimonials that can be associated to a real person is a big plus.
Actionable Takeaway: Be on the lookout for any praise about your services online and bookmark it. Then add it to your website’s testimonial page, services pages, and other areas visited by your customers.
Step 10: Market to your casual connections
You never know when you might be corresponding with a potential customer. This includes your personal email. The best set-it-and-forget-it marketing tool you have is your email signature. It can be as simple as including your title and a link to your website beneath your name. I’ve personally gained new business from random emails confirming tennis matches, responses to emails sent to groups of people, and emails that were forwarded from a friend to their coworkers.
Actionable Takeaway: Create an email signature for all of your outgoing emails— personal and professional—to let recipients and potential customers know what you do.
Bringing it all together now
Inbound marketing is a great way to get business coming to you instead of chasing it all of the time. If you do the following, you are sure to see your business leads increase in no time.
- Create a strong elevator pitch.
- Let visitors to each of your online profiles know what you do.
- Join professional networks such as LinkedIn and those in your industry where your customers search for people to hire.
- Connect your Facebook business page to your personal profile.
- Claim credit for your work online when possible so potential customers can see what you do.
- Create content that attracts your customers and converts them into leads.
- Guest post on the blogs your ideal customers subscribe to.
- Provide highly valuable answers to potential customers’ questions in Q&A networks, social groups, and forums.
- Collect testimonials from a variety of sources to include on your website including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.
10. Market your business to everyone, even your personal connections via your email signature.
What inbound marketing strategies do you use for your business? Please share in the comments!
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