December 12, 2014
It has been said that we do business with people that we know, like and trust. This couldn’t be more true anywhere than in online marketing of your brand.
Business owners are often frustrated when they focus on marketing activities like SEO, PPC and e-mail marketing and then find that those channels aren’t bringing them the ROI and results they were expecting. Often the reason why those channels are not performing as well as they could is that there isn’t a larger, co-ordinated strategy focused on targeting the ideal buyer with content, and creating a system for nurturing visitors to leads, and leads to customers.
Ensuring that your marketing strategy involves “closing loops” while nurturing those who are not in the buying stage of the process can really increase your results over time.
Ready to get some results? Let’s get started.
What Inbound Marketing Is
Inbound marketing is a way of planning and building online marketing campaigns that focuses on earning the attention of your ideal buyer as opposed to having to interrupt your buyer when they are not expecting it. Earning the attention of your ideal buyer is most easily done by creating useful, informative and educative content on your website, and creates trust.
What Outbound Marketing Is
Outbound marketing is the opposite, and focuses on “pushing” your brand marketing to interrupt your ideal buyer, hoping that they take action and engage with you. Outbound marketing, unfortunately, rarely connects with your ideal at the right time or place in order to encourage engagement, and many times frustrates consumers. TV commercials, radio ads and banner advertising are some examples of traditional outbound marketing.
What Inbound Marketing Isn’t
Inbound marketing isn’t a quick fix for business, or a single way to improve SEO. It is instead a way to pull all of your marketing strategy and marketing channels together in a way that attracts ideal buyers, increases long-tail organic traffic, engages consumers and helps direct your ideal buyer to take action. Assuming that you have a good brand and valuable product or service inbound marketing can build more traffic, more leads, more sales and happy customers. What’s more; inbound marketing can differentiate you from your competition which is crucial in this day and age of competition.
Here are 15 practical ways to use inbound marketing to drive more traffic, leads and customers to your business.
- Know your ideal buyer
To be successful your brand must be able to identify and pinpoint your ideal buyer(s). You can do this by building what are known as buyer personas — working models of your ideal buyers. Ideally you would involve employees from marketing, sales, customer service and management to collaborate on the process.
By understanding the ideal buyer you can refocus your inbound marketing strategy, content and flow to speak directly to the needs of those people or teams.
You can learn more about buyer personas here.
- Set your campaign goals
Setting SMART (specific, measureable, actionable, realistic and timeframe-based) goals is important in all areas of marketing. By setting goals you are able to forecast content generation, strategy development and tasks to stay on track. Additionally, this helps you to properly measure your efforts since you will define what is important to you as a business.
For example, knowing how many leads typically convert to proposals or quotes, and how many of those convert to sales helps forecast and goal-set for the amount of traffic you will need to support those goals. You will want to know those goals inside and out, and preferably work backwards from traffic / leads and revenue, building a strategy that supports those goals.
- Map your content
The next step is to map your content, based on those buyer personas to stages in the buying cycle. The purpose is to build high quality content that tells a story, solves a problem and entertains and educates at each step of the buying cycle.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has a great breakdown on how to map your content so that you can nurture leads through the buying cycle, closer to your brand, to a sale.
- Create your content calendar
Your content calendar serves to help co-ordinate content development for your campaigns. Ideally the calendar is shared amongst all relevant team members so that the team can contribute to ideas in the form of blog topics. Most often they are built based on a three-month projection. The calendar is also used to plan out promotional content such as press releases for new product / service releases and news. There are lots of great content calendar templates – here is one that includes instructions to help guide you through the process.
- Plan your marketing / lead nurturing workflow
Not all visitors to your website are in the position to buy. In fact, most are in one of two stages in the buying process – awareness or contemplation. Because of this those visitors will likely be turned off by sales-orientated content. Conversely, prospects closer to purchasing might lose interest if you do not generate relevant tailored content to them that serves to help move that prospect from consideration to close. This content is most often delivered using email and additional content suggestions that support the goal you have for that visitor at that stage of the funnel.
Here is a good article about how to build a lead nurturing workflow, or fix an underperforming one.
- Create your measurement plan
Peter Drucker once said “What gets measured gets managed.”
Measurement lies at the heart of any great marketing campaign. In order to know what and how to measure your campaigns, you will need to take some time to evaluate your campaign and understand what your business goals are and ideally how your website contributes to those end goals.
Dig in deep and carefully determine (audit) what you consider a goal on your website. Understand the importance of each of those goals as they constitute to your overall business goals. You will then want to employ a web developer to help implement Google Analytics or a similar digital analytics tracking program on the website so that you track each one of those important areas.
Example: You are a dental professional who is looking to increase relevant traffic and leads from your website
You will probably want to track initially:
- Lead Forms – tracking visitors to leads through to thank you pages
- Phone Number – the total number of calls via the number at your website
- Offer Form – tracking visitors through offers at your Offer pages
- Downloads – tracking the number of times content has been downloaded
The measurement plan helps you understand what to track, and therefore allows you or your marketing professional to analyze efforts in order to understand where you are effective, what challenges you are experiencing and what your ROI is from your campaign.
The Google Digital Analytics Academy offers a good video that helps to chart out your plan.
- Build your offers
An offer is simply an exchange of information for something of value to a consumer. In order to build effective offers you need to understand your target audience well, and know what types of content they would be interested in consuming in exchange for their information.
Offers can take the shape of eBooks, guides, videos, limited time membership access or even one-on-one free consulting. Do some thinking on what assets and resources your brand has available and then craft some offers that are compelling and encourage visitors to exchange their contact information for your offer.
You can learn more about offers here.
- Craft your landing pages
Landing page optimization, and the study and execution of it, is an entire study on its own. In order to build landing pages that get results for your brand, you must understand what your offer is and how it solves a problem or provides an opportunity that benefits your visitor. Once you have determined this, for each offer / audience segment, then you can get to work drafting up each page, along with the headline, benefit statements and form compelling the consumer to take action.
Unbounce has developed a great guide to landing page optimization here.
- Create and test your e-mail nurturing campaigns
Now it’s time to create your e-mail nurturing campaigns. The goal for e-mail in your inbound marketing campaign is to drive action in consumers who have given you permission to communicate with them. Sometimes the action is to read more great content you have created. Other times, the call to action is to take further action by downloading a white paper, signing up to a webinar or enrolling in a product demo.
Based on your buyer personas and content mapping you should have a fairly focused sense of what the common problems are for your ideal buyer. Ensure that your email campaigns take those potential customers through a logical flow with an end result (most often your primary business goal). Setting your final ideal goal is crucial in creating the right campaign.
Also be sure to track your email campaigns so that you can measure your email basics such as the number of times emails have been opened, links have been clicked, and action has been taken.
- Re-organize your blog
Ensure that your blog is well organized to attract and engage visitors and drive them into the lead nurturing process. Some cost-effective ways are:
- Create a right hand column CTA (call to action) for your newsletter subscription
- Add social sharing widgets so that your content can easily be shared out
- Create blog post footer CTAs which drive the consumer in to take further action
- Create one right hand column CTA to educational content (an EBook, guide, whitepaper)
- Add high quality images to increase conversion rate and reads for your content
- Add thumbnails to blog posts on your blog landing pages and categories
- Ensure you create an author profile / bio complete with a professional image of yourself
Here are some additional ways to improve your blog and drive traffic.
- Write consistent content for your blog
You’ve built your buyer personas and have completed your content mapping process back in steps one and three. Now it is time to build blog posts.
The key to great blogging is to be consistent and persistent. This means creating a content schedule focusing on your ideal buyers and sticking to it. Most highly successful bloggers will tell you that the biggest results in blogging come from consistently building remarkable content weekly.
Start by simply starting. Pull your first topic from the content calendar, and start writing! Always ensure that you have someone else proof your piece to ensure that it reads well and is error free (unless of course you have communications / writing skills)
If possible include employees in your content generation efforts.
I would recommend that you schedule posts in advance. This can be done relatively easy in most common CMS and blogging platforms and allows you to build content in advance, helping ensure content is scheduled consistently. This also helps you “pre-promote” content in advance before it is scheduled.
- Optimize your blog posts for long tail keywords
Every blog post that you write should be optimized for long tail keyword phrases. This helps to drive additional long tail keyword traffic to your website which will result in more visitors you can potentially pull into your lead nurturing systems.
Ensure that you optimize your Title tag and page copy for each post around these keywords in order to maximize on your share of potential traffic.
Here is a HubSpot guide on long tail keyword research and optimization of your blog posts.
- Share your content socially in the right platforms
Sharing your content is important. Be sure to target the social networks that your ideal buyer uses, engages with and contributes to. Far too many times brands – especially small and emerging brands – try to be “everything to everyone.” Focus on one to two social media platforms (i.e. Twitter and Linkedin, for example) and pool your resources and efforts publishing and linking to your content in those.
Be sure to share important offers, new blog posts, company news and important industry events in social media regularly.
- Drive and test traffic from online channels
Now is a great time to test traffic to your newly created landing pages and offers by driving traffic in from other relevant channels. A good starting point for driving traffic in addition to organic traffic is to consider CTAs to drive consumers into your landing pages from these channels:
- Paid Search
- Video Marketing
- Social Media
- Local Search
There are an unlimited number of online marketing channels you can test to see how your landing pages, offers and system perform. Because you implemented a measurement plan, you can now track your progress and make adjustments to your campaign over time.
- Test, Measure, Analyze, Feedback.
Brian Massey (@bmassey) said “Your opinion doesn’t matter.”
In online marketing nothing could be more accurate. Great online marketing always boils down to creating reasonable hypotheses and then testing the heck out of them, and evaluating results.
Inbound marketing is a continuous cycle and is ever-evolving and growing. Sometimes you need to pivot. Other times you need to scrap ideas and evolve new campaigns from your knowledge. At each step you learn grow and understand what your audience needs.
Achieving “know, like and trust” at every touch point your audience is key. Great content, and inbound marketing, can help to make that happen.
Todd Mumford is founder and CEO of Riverbed Marketing – an inbound marketing company located in Vancouver, Canada focused on helping small and medium businesses increase brand visibility, traffic and attract the right customers.