A simple and effective inbound marketing strategy for freelancers

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Let’s not fool ourselves, inbound marketing is not a quick-and-easy 3-step job. In fact, it’s a process that requires constant attention, analysis and refinement.

Maybe for that reason, those that are more likely to get involved in inbound marketing are usually registered businesses of all sizes — small, medium, large and enterprise.

But freelancers? Not so much.

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They have blogs, that’s for sure, but they generally don’t have an inbound marketing strategy. Their blogs are seen as promotion and advertisement, rather than what it should be: a sales funnel.

In today’s post, I won’t be giving you a comprehensive action plan for inbound marketing. No, that would be a few thousand words too long and wouldn’t be as in-depth as resources focused on the specific aspects that need to be looked at.

Instead, I’m going to give you an overview and argument for why you should consider getting started on your own inbound marketing strategy.

What is inbound marketing?

In a general sense, inbound marketing is the opposite (or rather, alternative) to outbound marketing — which we can call traditional marketing.

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Outbound, or traditional marketing, is interruptive. It places the ads in front of people who didn’t ask for it. Whether the ads are on Facebook, radio, television, Google or anywhere else.

It can also be in the form of cold calls or cold emails, where the contact was initiated by the business rather than the customer.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is based on providing value to a visitor in exchange for their attention. That is converted at a later point into a subscription and finally to sales.

Inbound marketing, therefore, is based on multiple touch points with the customer and making the sale later on in the funnel, rather than at the beginning as with traditional marketing.

Most commonly, inbound marketers use blogs as the means by which they provide value.

What are the benefits of inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing has a few great benefits. If done right, it helps build a relationship between the brand (freelancer) and the highly-qualified audience.

That relationship implies time, trust and loyalty, helping not only with overall sales but also with referrals.

So, for example, if I were a web design agency, I would provide valuable information to people who would most likely be my customers. This information could be about design aspects, how to set up a WordPress site, or other related information my audience would most likely enjoy reading.

So if you have a blog, how are you going about doing inbound marketing wrongly?

How to do inbound marketing the right way

If you have a blog, then you’ve got one of the steps covered. However, it is unfortunately not the first step. Instead, it’s the fourth step.

I’ll be skipping the ways you can promote your blog posts, and instead focusing on what you need to do on your site once you’ve got your visitors.

Let’s quickly look at the most important steps for inbound marketing:

Step 1: Find out what you are selling, and to whom

While most guides would talk about defining your audience first, it’s important before then what you are selling.

If you’re a web designer, what exactly is your product? Is it e-commerce? Brick and mortar stores hoping to get online? Small businesses with up to 25 employees? Local, national or international brands?

Answering the questions about what you’re offering is the first part of defining your audience.

After that, you can define who you’re actually selling to. If you’re doing ecommerce, it could be for micro-businesses (a one-man show) that have no real idea of what they’re doing and will need a lot of hand-holding.

You can also guess their probable demographics, business size, niche, site visitors, etc. This will make it easier for you to create content for them.

Step 2: Know the purpose of your blog

The purpose, or the end-goal, of your site is money. It’s sales. It’s conversions. Or whatever else you’d like to call it.

Of course you want to provide education, valuable resources and showcase your talents — yes. But the purpose of those things is to make some money at the end of the day.

The reason why it’s important to remember that is because everything should be crafted around that idea. Whatever you’re doing in inbound marketing, you need to figure out how this element is going to move these visitors from point A to point B to point C to point $$.

Note that I’m not saying every blog post should have a promotional edge or sales pitch. Instead, each blog post should be focused on moving your visitors closer to that goal.

Step 3: Set up funnels

A marketing funnel is one that describes the visitor’s journey towards an eventual sale. It can have many complicated parts, but basically it goes like this:

Awareness (blog post) > Subscriber > Education > Sale

A marketing funnel is shaped like a real-world funnel for one reason. At every step of the way, you’ll be losing some visitors.

That’s why the entry side of your funnel (those who visit your page) will be 10-100 times larger than the final sales part of your funnel. 20% of your visitors will subscribe, 30% of subscribers will read your emails, and 5% of your email list will end up buying from you.

In order to move visitors from Awareness to Subscriber, you’ll need to interest them with an enticing offer.

For example, if you’re a local wedding photographer and you’ve just written a blog post titled, “The 10 best colors for the wedding party to wear (that will look amazing in pictures)”, then you could have a signup form for a PDF of The 23 best hidden locations to take wedding pictures in Boston (or wherever you are), including maps, reviews, and whatever else you can add to it to make it very valuable.

This PDF resource is your lead magnet. In order to get it, visitors have to sign up with their emails. They are now subscribers.

But not only do you get subscribers for your email list, you’re also getting people who most likely need a wedding photographer. Targeted, quality leads.

Step 4: Set up your email marketing

As the popular saying goes, “the money’s in the list.”

As part of your funnel, you will need to educate your visitor. This can be done informally by simply setting up a newsletter that you’d email to your subscribers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

It can also be a more ‘formal’ education, where you are providing a type of course or training.

For photography, you can have each email in your training course be about a different aspect: lighting, composition, editing, etc.

In your education, you’re giving a lot of value to show your subscribers you know exactly what you’re talking about and are confident to give it away for free. This will make them trust you, and the more touch points you have with them, the more likely they’ll buy from you.

Step 5: Sell something

While educating your subscribers is a great thing, you will need to sell something in order to have a return on your time and monetary investment.

If you’re not selling anything now or not plan to sell anything in the future, then there’s simply no point in having a blog.

You should be selling your services to your customers, whether it be content creation, web design, photography, proofreading, etc.

You’ve shown the subscribers that you know what you’re talking about, you’ve gained their trust, so now it’s time to switch to sales mode.

After three emails in your education series, you should start offering your subscribers something of your service, most likely a smaller thing.

It could be a paid course that you’ve built, or a one-day photography class nearby. Or it could be for your full services, perhaps with a discount.

The point is, you should make the sale because, as I mentioned above, the entire purpose of the funnel and your inbound marketing strategy is to make money.

These steps are a simple (and abridged) pathway to having an effective inbound marketing strategy. The best way to get started, of course, is to start, and to find the best ways you can provide real value to people who will later provide you with real money in return.

What inbound marketing tactics have you found success with? Let’s hear it in the comments!

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