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Gone are the days in which inbound marketing, and even the process of strategic lead generation, was seemingly reserved for large, B2B enterprises. In today’s digital environment, the inbound philosophy is becoming increasingly popular even among small businesses, who have discovered its low cost, high ROI and general success rate.

But if you focus on adjusting your marketing strategy, you have to get it right. A badly planned or executed inbound marketing strategy can do more harm than good, which is why as a small business, you should never ignore these four inbound marketing best practices.

1) Keep the Content Coming

First, inbound marketing cannot be successful without consistent, quality content flowing through your pipeline. As you probably know if you’re reading this post, the customer journey to becoming a lead is relatively simple: they see a piece of quality content, which entices them enough to sign up on a landing page in order to receive it.

This process means that in order to get leads, your content has to remain fresh and new. Put simply, audiences in 2015 will not want to read about “4 fashion trends for 2015” anymore – to entice them to become leads, that content has to be updated to remain fresh and oriented toward the future. Fresh content is the engine that makes lead generation go.

2) Follow up Quickly

Once your leads have signed up, it’s absolutely crucial for you to follow up with them – immediately. A landmark study by the Harvard Business Review showed that if you follow up with new leads within an hour, you are seven times more likely to qualify the lead as sales-ready.

Needless to say, that study matters. Chances are you don’t have a sales or marketing specialist just waiting for leads to come in and responding immediately around the clock. So what you need is an automated system that sends an email to new leads. This first email could be as simple as saying thank you for signing up, and delivering the requested content – everything after that comes in the next step.

3) Nurture, Don’t Pester

Lead nurturing is a crucial part of inbound marketing. By staying in communication with your leads, you can help ensure that over time, they will become sales-qualified and ready to turn into customers. We’ve covered lead nurturing on this blog in the past, but there is one thing we absolutely need to highlight: the fine line between nurturing and pestering.

While lead nurturing is undoubtedly important to increase sales, you don’t want to send so many emails that your leads become annoyed and disenchanted with your brand. It’s a fine line to walk but fortunately, research can once again help you determine the best practice.

A study by MailChimp found that sending emails between two and four times a month (about once every week to two weeks) generated far more engagement and goodwill than sending the same emails more than once a week. An effective nurturing strategy gets in touch with its leads just often enough to stay in their minds, but not so often that goodwill turns into annoyance.

4) Build Relationships

Finally, it’s important not to stop your inbound marketers once you’ve completed a sale. In fact, that is the best time to maximize your ROI! We recently wrote about just how important customer retention can be for your marketing efforts and with effective inbound marketing, you keep your customers engaged even after they’ve made their first purchase.

For starters, lead nurturing should not stop after a lead becomes a customer. Instead, this step should be an opportunity to keep sending information (at a reasonable rate) about your company, new products, and new industry insights. Building relationships with existing customers turns one-time buyers into brand loyalists, bringing your inbound marketing efforts full circle.

If you’re an inbound marketing novice, you may have gotten worried about the amount of effort it takes to send immediate responses to your leads, or set up an effective lead nurturing strategy. The good news: you don’t have to be! A CRM like ours allows you to set up automated processes that do most of the work for you after its initial setup. To learn more about us and inbound marketing, contact us!

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