Maybe it’s because I grew up eating, drinking, and sleeping it. I just love business.
One of my most vivid memories is sitting around the dinner table with my family talking shop. Of course, dinner was really code for “brainstorming session.”
My brothers and sisters and I would toss ideas back and forth with my folks about ways to put the family business on the map. My father was determined to own the market and devour his competitors. There’s nothing he wanted more than to be the global leader in industrial vacuums.
Maybe that’s why I love “getting under the hood” of my prospects’ businesses and marketing aspirations. There’s not much that inspires me more than identifying target markets, carving out a competitive edge, and creating a game plan to reach business goals with inbound marketing.
Unfortunately, getting under the hood means there’s something to diagnose. There’s some problem that’s stopping my prospects from getting where they need to be with their marketing activities.
My goal with this post is create a road map to help companies improve their Inbound Marketing program and get optimum results.
1. Think long-term
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is to focus their efforts on the short-term, without tying their marketing activities to larger, longer-term objectives.
Inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Focusing on month-to-month metrics alone just isn’t going to tell you the whole story.
You need to start your race with a clear vision statement of what you want your company to look like in 1, 3, or 10 years should the inbound marketing program hit a homerun. This vision is fundamental to determining the scope and aggressiveness of the campaign, how frequently you need to blog, how much and what types of premium content you should offer, and so on.
In order for your vision statement to stick, you’ll want to get all stakeholders within your organization on the same page.
Set up a series of meetings with C-level leadership to gain alignment on the vision for your company over the next one to three years. What does the revenue need to be? When do you need the revenue? Will there be new product to offer? What about new target markets? How many conversations/leads/traffic do you need to close deals?
Armed with the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to determine if your month-to-month marketing metrics are scaling up the way they need to be in order to meet your revenue goals.
2. Strategy before blogging
We’ll get into the strategic activities you should implement in order to get big picture, long-term results. But before we do, let’s look at why you need a strategy, and where your thinking should be before you create content.
Most people new to inbound marketing are excited to get started and jump right in to writing blog posts.
Want to take a guess at what happens? Nothing, except the time and money they invested goes down the drain.
Mapping out a strategy is the secret weapon to succeeding with inbound marketing. It’s the first step you should take, even before blogging. You may be tempted to hit the ground running, but if you start blogging without a strategy you’re setting yourself up for failure.If you start #blogging without a strategy, you're setting yourself up for failure Click To Tweet
It’s true that inbound marketing is all about content. You need blog posts and you need premium offers. Beyond that, you need landing pages for your offers and then you need to drive traffic to your content with ads and social media sharing.
But here’s the thing: sales is a numbers game, and since marketing’s job is to deliver qualified leads to sales, marketing becomes a numbers game too. This is where your long-term vision statement comes in.
Knowing how much revenue you need, how many deals you should close, and in what time frame, you can quantify the number of leads you need to hand off to sales, how much traffic you need to generate those leads, and the amount of content you need to drive that traffic.
It looks something like this:
X amount of traffic = Y amount of leads = Z amount of closed deals
So, you may think that writing one blog post per week is sufficient to gain traction, but in reality, in order to hit your numbers you may need to double that effort.
The next step after you’ve quantified the content is to take a look at the quality. Why are you writing and exactly whom are you writing for? More importantly, what is it that they want or need to know?
This is where more doesn’t always mean better. You can write a blog article every day, but if your reasoning for doing so is “that’s what everyone else is doing”, or “more blog articles will give us more leads”, you’re missing a key strategic element.
You first have to identify which buyer persona(s) you are looking to attract with this content. Not only that, but what stage are they at in the buyer’s journey? Do you need top-funnel content to raise awareness, or do you need mid-funnel content for buyers in the consideration stages? For mid-funnel content, do your personas respond best to example or comparison articles?
Much like the above point, you then need to identify how many articles of this type you need to post per week to hit your traffic goals.
Outlining a strategy in this way will help you determine if you need to increase your blogging efforts, focus on middle-of-the-funnel content, or target very specific long-tail keywords to drive a substantial boost in traffic. You may find that it’s a combination of all three.
3. Create Buyer Personas
It may seem like a simple step, but if you don’t define the target, you won’t know where to aim your content. Sure, you’ll be writing great articles, but they’ll lack relevance to your audience. If your content isn’t relevant, you can forget about driving engagement, social shares and so on. Your marketing results will suffer in a big way.
Given this, how do you ensure that your blog posts will be relevant?
The key is to identify exactly who you’re writing for, down to the tiniest details. This means drilling into everything from demographics such as age, income level and education, to psychographics such as goals, needs, obstacles and challenges. Psychographics look at what influences people to purchase and what information they need to validate that purchase decision.The key to success with inbound marketing is to know exactly who you’re writing for and why Click To Tweet
Once you have your demographics and psychographics mapped out, you’ve created a representation of your ideal customer. This fictional representation is commonly referred to as a buyer persona.
The power of buyer personas is this: they give you insight into the challenges that buyers are looking to overcome and how you can solve them with your content. It’s these unique challenges that lead them to Google with very specific questions.
I’ve covered how to create buyer personas, so I won’t go in to much detail. Buyer personas should be documented and shared by everyone on your team. You’ll use these personas as a foundation for all future marketing to ensure that website content, blog articles, ad campaigns, emails and social posts address the needs and concerns of your ideal customers.
Notice I use the word personas. That’s because there’s a good chance you’ll need more than one persona. For instance, you may need one for decision makers (CEO or VP) and another for other stakeholders involved in the research process. These people will probably be the ones gathering information and presenting in a summary report. If this is the case, you’re writing for more than one buyer persona, and you need content for everyone involved in the buying process.
4. Map out the buyer’s journey
Customers today research and validate your company and solutions before you ever hear from them. In fact, according to CustomerThink, 57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before the buyer contacts you.
Think about how you made your last major purchase. You probably started doing research online or asking a few friends and colleagues for their input.
If you started with the search online, chances are you got ideas for new searches after looking at the search results. You kept going until you really found what you were after.
Once buyers start this journey, there are 3 major stages that most will go through.
- Evaluation and Consideration
The takeaway here is to make sure you have content to address each stage. If you don’t have content for each one of the stages, follow the next step to fill in any gaps before you start blogging and sharing.
5. Create premium content
Now that you’ve identified the stages in the buyer’s journey, it’s time to plan your inbound campaigns around several pieces of premium content offers.
Most of the time, premium content is in the form of Ebooks, how-to-guides, templates, and so on.
In the Awareness stage, buyers are not ready to buy, or even talk to you. They’ve entered a search in Google and are looking for answers to their questions. They don’t care about your or your brand, and aren’t ready to read about product comparisons.
Your only job at this stage is to answer their questions. If you can address the triggers that prompt them to start looking for a company like yours, you’ll stand a good chance of getting them to know, like and trust you.
As some people start to know and like your brand, they’ll move into the Evaluation stage. This is where you can start to use content that promotes your company. In this stage, you’ll need to know your personas well enough to deliver content that address objections, challenges and obstacles before they ever come up in conversation. Think of low-cost ways to experience your products, product comparisons, case studies, and such.
Some portion of the people in the Evaluation stage will move into the Decision stage. These are now what we call Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). These people actually want to talk to your sales team and are ready to buy.
Buyers in the Awareness stage won’t be ready for product comparisons because they’re still getting to know you. In the same way, people in the Evaluation stage already know and like your brand. Since you’ve established credibility, what you need to do now is show them why your solution is best for their needs. You get the idea.
It’s worth mentioning that buyers aren’t going to move from Awareness to Consideration overnight. Given that sales cycles can be months or years, you’ll need to nurture people throughout the entire customer experience, from courting through signing. This is something we’ll help you create if you hire us to map out an Inbound Marketing Strategy for you. If you choose to do it in-house, lead nurturing is done by creating email sequences that address questions and challenges for each buyer persona.
6. Start blogging
Finally, with your lead capture and nurture system in place, it’s time to start blogging. If you don’t have a system, we can build this for you.
Create blog posts that your buyer personas will be interested in reading. Some people will be tempted to write only about the company’s products and services, but if you’ve followed the preceding steps, you know better than to do that. Content that only promotes your company simply won’t be relevant to your audiences, nor will it generate much interest.
Topics that work well are those that answer frequently asked questions.
Start out with enough enough blog post titles to last for the first 90 days. With that you’ll have enough data from analytics to which of your posts are most popular and driving the most traffic. Use that insights to write more about that in the future.
If your inbound marketing campaign is lagging and not performing in the way you were expecting it to, then you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. You should make sure that you are doing the following:
- Establishing a long-term inbound marketing goal that aligns with your business goals. Having a long-term strategy in place also makes it easier to measure and adjust what you are doing.
- Creating a strategy that supports your long-term goals, with integrated marketing activities that support each other
- Identify buyer personas in order to more effectively target your audience.
- Create premium content for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Track your blog posts to determine top performing content so you can create more of it.
How can we help?
Inbound marketing can be incredibly effective at accomplishing your business goals, and it requires a lot of time and planning upfront to hit a home run and reach revenue goals. If you like what you have read and want to schedule a complimentary discovery call, please contact us or call us at 646-780-9496.