A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

Inbound Marketing Strategy

Most web users these days view advertisements as irritating distractions. While advertising is a big part of what many consider to be interruption marketing, or as many experts call it, outbound marketing. In simple terms, outbound marketing is the attempt to buy the attention of people to generate leads. It comes in many forms like texts, emails, billboards, spam, printed leaflets, trade shows or telemarketing. However, the rules of marketing have changed over the past few years. There are now more interesting and more innovative ways to get leads and conversions thanks to best practices of inbound marketing.

The term “inbound marketing” was first used by HubSpot founder Brian Halligan in 2005. The concept of inbound marketing states that you can attract customers and prospects naturally by providing quality and interesting content on a website or a blog site. While traditional advertising has ruled the marketing world for decades, now marketers and advertising experts are focusing on the world wide web to reach more people in a more personal and focused level. If the contents informs, educates, and engages directly with people using target buyer personas, it will serve in building awareness and increase the interest which will generate leads. Once a site visitor becomes a lead you can pass them into the sale funnel. After they convert and buy repeatedly, you will be able to analyse the process, allowing you to produce more desirable content and show your expertise.

Inbound Marketing and Outbound Marketing Explained

If you’re an inbound marketer or a business planning to improve inbound marketing strategies to boost your business, you need to know what inbound marketing actually is. If you’re having trouble explaining or if the people are having a hard time understanding your explanation, you’re not alone. Concepts of inbound marketing can be confusing for many people to grasp, especially if they are new to search engine optimisation, social media marketing, automation or blogging or basically any type of digital marketing. If you want to make people understand what inbound marketing is and the tactics behind the concept, you have to explain it in more relatable terms.

Inbound marketing is a process or concept that is defined as promoting a company or a business through eBooks, social media marketing, search engine optimisation, videos, podcasts, white papers, newsletters and other types of digital marketing content that will serve in attracting potential customers to be closer to the brand or business. An inbound content marketing strategy should possess these important factors to be more effective:

  1. Distribution of content. Creating targeted content that provides answers to customers and prospects’ basic inquiries and their needs. If found useful, this content can be shared and will produce a wider reach.
  2. Personalisation. Customise your content to the needs and wants of the people who are visiting or viewing your website or blog site. As you learn about your target leads, you will be able to personalise your messages and content to match their specific needs.
  3. Lifecycle marketing. Word of mouth and promoters don’t appear overnight. These happen or start with strangers, contacts, visitors and customers believing in your business or product. It also helps when specific actions and tools are used in helping to transform those people as your brand ambassadors.
  4. Multi-channel approach. Inbound marketing uses a multi-channel approach because it connects people wherever they are and in through proper channel they want to engage with.
  5. Integration. Content creation, publishing and analytics tools should all work together like a well-oiled machine. This will allow you to focus on creating and publishing the right content in the right place and at the right time.
inbound vs outbound
Image credit: voltierdigital.com – via HubSpot

Outbound marketing is the opposite of inbound marketing. It tries to reach consumers through traditional or general media advertising as well as person-to-person contact. Depending on the channel or venue used, the approach can be broad (for example TV advertising), personal (face-to-face meetings) or impersonal (cold-calling and blanket emails).

With the popularity of mobile and smart devices, many new and creative ways of advertising have been introduced. Outbound marketing has lost appeal because of the new marketing trends, but many companies are still continuing to dedicate up to 90% of their marketing budget to outbound marketing strategies. The goal of outbound marketing is lead generation, making it essential to many large businesses trying to gain customers. And for many companies, outbound marketing is often the way to reach the widest audience possible in the least amount of time.

One of the biggest differences between inbound and outbound is the use of blogging.

Blogging can be compared to jogging or dieting. You’ll get better results if you do a 30 minute jog every day and follow your diet plan than if you run in a marathon once a year. Results take time, patience, discipline and dedication. It goes the same with blogging, you don’t just create and upload content 3 days in a row and then give up when your site is not ranking or your site is not driving online traffic. Business blogging needs consistency and long term effort. You’ll have a higher chance of success blogging every other day for a year as compared to blogging twice a day for 3 weeks. stopping suddenly and then starting again a month later. You will also lose your momentum and interested readers.

inbound marketing
Image credit: www.weidert.com

Applying keyword strategies is like applying for college. Approach your keyword selection just like you’re applying for college. There are some really good keywords that you would like to rank for but they are probably also quite competitive. You could put in some serious effort to rank for these high-popularity terms but you’re going to get faster returns if you also target some long-tail keywords in SEO. These terms can still provide you with good business results and they’re easier to rank for.

You can apply this metaphor to your SEO strategy. If you study hard and do your best while you’re in school, surely you will get into a great college or university. For SEO, if you create excellent and relevant content consistently, your persistence and hard work will result in having excellent rankings in your chosen keywords.

The conversion path is like catching an animal in the wild. Wildlife experts lure the animals in, capture them, tag them and then release them back into the wild to keep track of them. The conversion path is the process that turns web or blog site visitors into leads and customers. The stages of this conversion include the landing page, call-to-action, form submission and the thank you page. Let’s break these down:

  1. Call-to-action is the bait. You have to lure visitors and possible customers with convincing and compelling offers, promoted with enticing messages and eye-catching designs.
  2. The landing page is the capture. Once you have captured their attention, go for the catch and make sure they don’t wander or escape. Remove your navigation, write and provide a clear copy and make sure your landing page is highly optimised before getting the information you need.
  3. Submission form serves as the tag. You’ll know the customer’s information when they fill out the submission. So whenever people leave your website and browse other sites, you will be able to identify them among all the other visitors when they re-visit your site.
  4. The thank you page is the release. After you have captured your lead intelligence, you can now release them to browse the other elements of your website or other off-site pages like your social media accounts.

Marketing automation can be compared to flying business class. You can either choose to drive a car to the other side of your country and travel for 3-4 days or you could buy a ticket and travel in comfort and style in a business class flight and get to your destination in just 4 hours. Let’s use email automaton as an example. You can spend a lot of time writing personalised email messages for everyone in your mailing list. How long will it take and will you have the patience to do it?

If you’ve done this you’ll probably realise that you’re basically saying the same thing in every email with possibly a few exceptions. They’ve been segmented and they all have this one thing in common. So, instead of spending weeks sending out those individual emails, you can just segment the list of people using your marketing automation tool, then insert some dynamic fields on the content to make it more personal. After doing this, you can nurture the people who have responded. Everything is documented and recorded in your content relationship management tool.

The Basics Of Inbound Marketing

HubSpot, the originator of the “inbound marketing” term defines it as the following:

“Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people to your product and your business, where they naturally want to be as compared to the old style of outbound marketing of buying ads, buying email lists and praying for leads to come.”

But still, as HubSpot has stated, they are worried that many industry people don’t understand the differences between inbound marketing and content marketing. By asking respondents, they found out that the majority of marketing and sales and service professionals think that content marketing is just a subset of inbound marketing. Yes, it does makes sense because inbound marketing is made up of different components and none of the number of these components is as important as content. According to Joe Chernov, content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing and without content, there will be no inbound marketing.

In 2015 alone, about 47% of shoppers first used a search engine in finding what they were looking for. These shoppers did not browse the newspaper or go through their spam folder, but went straight to Google. And the numbers will steadily increase because more people will be using their wireless smart devices to connect to the internet and do product searches. To capture your target audience, you need to have a website or a blog site that can be easily found. Also, a business must provide engaging and relevant content, optimised landing pages that can offer free downloads like white papers or e-books or podcasts and most importantly, should have a constant presence online. Other aspects of inbound marketing include:

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – SEO can make your brand in the front and the centre if users looking for products and services. This is way better than blindly sending out hundreds or random emails and hoping for potential leads.
  2. Social Media – almost everyone has a social media account. This will make your online presence and customer experience more personal because you will have a one-on-one connection with your customers and prospects. People will be able to have their queries answered in real time and they will feel that they are not just talking to the brand, but to the actual people who run the brand and business.
  3. Business Blogging – if you make good content, visitors will come. It will also make your business an industry thought leader.

Your Guide To Planning Effective Inbound Marketing

Let’s get straight to the point. Traditional marketing is still an advantage for many businesses, but digital marketing will get you more mileage and will produce more personal connections with your customers. Below are seven effective steps to make your inbound marketing strategy a success.

1. Planning and Setting Goals

This is one of the most challenging aspects of inbound marketing. For many companies, inbound marketing is a new way of marketing and it will take some time to truly understand the advantages and how it can change the way a company markets their products and themselves.

Your strategy should revolve around your business goals. With this, you can define the KPIs that will tell you about how your inbound marketing is doing. Under this, there are several factors that you need to consider:

  • Discover. First step is to set a direction to your customised goals. Conduct a meeting with your team in identifying the target customers. At this stage, you can talk about key metrics, the revenue goes and the sales process in creating the best strategy.
  • Creating a Persona. Understanding your target audience will provide you a direction for the content you’ll create and to keep your visitors to be back for more. Have a researched representation of who your customers are, what they want to accomplish, their buying behavior and their buying decisions.
  • Industry Research. Understanding and knowing your competition and what the other companies are doing is one of the best strategies. Enhance your specialty and find a weak point within your industry and take advantage of it. Penetrate that gap and make your name heard.

2. Be Visible

  • Keyword Research. If you want to be found, you need to be visible. Once you get an understanding of your customers, you need to know how people are searching for your content using keyword search. This will allow you to estimate the local and global search volume, ranking difficulty and predict the possible cost of running paid marketing campaigns. Do research on the phrases and terms to target so that you can attract the right people to your site.
  • SEO. Optimise every page that you have on your website for your keywords to be found. All of the site pages should have the appropriate keyword within the content, the image tags and other page properties. Doing on-site SEO on all of your current and future website pages is essential.
  • Content Writing and Posting. Relevant, useful and enticing content is the basis of bringing traffic to your site. The key here is to create content that targets your customer persona’s pain points and main industry topics. This is a high priority when getting your website found. The more you upload, the more visitors you will attract and the more chances your site will have to be found and ranked. Also, before you begin your blog, you need to come up with an editorial calendar which will help you schedule content creation and publishing, know about upcoming products and encourage discipline in managing and updating your blog.
  • Social Media Marketing. Sharing your content on your social media accounts will make you reach a wider audience on multiple channels. Social media acts a door for potential customers to find your website and be familiar with your business. Thus, it’s very important for your content to be relevant, engaging and active.

3. Lead Generation

  • High Quality Content Creation. High quality and useful content can convert leads into customers, especially when the content is an offer that contains unique information and useful value to your target customers. Visitors will be willing to sign up to a form to gain access to that premium and useful content. Case studies, Webinars and eBooks are some examples of premium content.
  • Landing Pages. This is where the premium and high quality content is posted. Send potential customers and clients to these landing pages. An effective landing page is properly designed, attractive, eye-catching and has a desired user action.
  • CTA.  A call-to-action directs your visitor to the premium content landing pages. Create professional and exceptional graphic buttons that your visitors will be willing and compelled to click on.

4. Customer Capture

Taking advantage of Customer Relationship Management integration will provide the sales team with the necessary information which will make them prepared for any sales calls. With the CRM system, you will be able to track every action a possible lead can do on your website, within email marketing and on social media. This will make sure your sales team is a step ahead.

Hello

5. Nurturing Your Leads

  • Blogs. The sales team talks to leads every single day and surely they may have some topics or ideas based on the lead’s interests, issues, needs or challenges. Creating content that can help them convert those leads into customers. Talk to your sales people and create a wiki page or Google Doc where they can contribute their ideas that can be made into useful content.
  • Workflows. One thing that you have to remember is that not all content that you upload to nurture your leads needs to have a submission form. Take advantage of some marketing automation in your lead nurturing workflows. You have to remember that your blog content will be at the very top of the funnel and the most logical place to have it incorporated is at the early stages in the workflow when easing the leads in to the conversion process. You can also add links to other relevant content on other pages of your site that your leads will possibly want to visit. These links can reinforce your expertise and position as an industry expert which will further nurture your leads.

6. Keeping Your Customers

Getting the customers and closing sales are the goals of the sales and marketing team, but your inbound marketing relationship with customers should not end there. Once you have established that trust with your customers, you can turn them into promoters of your business or products. Who are the best advocates of your business? The people that have a great experience with your brand. You can have referral programs providing loyalty rewards, continued customer education content and segmented customer newsletters in order to keep them up to date on what’s up and coming.

7. Measure Your Inbound Marketing Results

Use Google Analytics to run some simple reports on your website and mobile assets. Take the time to look at the reports presented so that you’ll know where you stand and from there, formulate your next inbound marketing strategy.

Doing a full analysis of your website is one essential thing you need to do. You can do this by looking at the performance of a specific keyword, rankings, SEO, blog performance, organic search engine traffic, page performance and other factors. Off-site analysis is another thing that you need to do. This is the analysis of your online presence away from your blog site or website. This includes your social media accounts, paid social campaigns and paid search campaigns.

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Image credit: Business vector designed by Freepik

If you’re a startup, a small or medium sized company with little or no online experience, you can have a small investment in an online audit or a strategy consultant.

If you have already a clear picture of your company goals, you can repeat the optimisation and measurement steps until you reach your company goals. Take time to learn about online success and measurement so that you can make informed decisions. Use all the available tools that you have access to. These might include Big Data, EDM and intranets.

Jon Capistrano

Dedicated to work, scooters, classical music, jazz, acid jazz, rock, punk rock, soul, ska, reggae, family and friends.

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