Both more experienced inbound marketers, and those new to the field, will benefit from understanding the key factors behind an inbound marketing strategy. Here are 8 strategic essentials you should know.
If you’re already a fan of inbound marketing and know exactly why and how to run an effective strategy, then this article on the essentials of an inbound strategy will help you take your marketing to the next level.
But if you’re not quite sure what Inbound marketing is and why you need it, this post will help you get a bit more background information first.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL ONE: A PLAN
Without knowing where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Great inbound marketing needs to start with a good reason for why you’re doing what you’re doing. Are you planning to win more sales? Create more brand awareness? Win the hearts and minds of your existing customers so they are more likely to choose you again, come renewal time? All of these, and many more strategies are a great starting point. The important thing is that you start with a plan in mind.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL TWO: YOUR CUSTOMERS
It’s also critical to know who your target audience is (who you’re trying to attract) and have an idea of what you want them to do once they’ve read all your awesome content. Start by defining your ideal customer – and your less than ideal customers, and turn these into personas. Your personas will look at the personality traits of who you really want to convince to buy your product or service. The next step is to think about what you want them to think, feel and do once they’ve come across every single element of your marketing: this will help you stick more clearly to your strategy, and create a consistent message. Here are few helpful hints about buyer personas and how to create them.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL THREE: CONTENT
There’s an old phrase that goes “if you build it, they will come”. When it comes to a great inbound marketing strategy that’s only part of the story. First you need to build the strategy, and then create the content, and then find the right ways to distribute those messages – then they will come. However, none of it happens without content.
That content can be about anything and everything that your customer cares about! It doesn’t help to create content for the sake of content. It has to be IRATE: interesting, relevant, appropriate, timely and entertaining – otherwise you customers might just get irate. It all starts with understanding what they want or need and then how you can help them.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL FOUR: CONTENT PLANNING
So you know what you want to say to your customers… when are you going to say it? Having a robust plan for that content, divided into weekly ideas, helps you plan how to say what, when. Even the best content can lose its impact if customers and prospects aren’t looking for it. Having a schedule of regular, helpful content can even build anticipation. If you’ve got a newsletter with great tips in it, for example, your customers might even look forward to receiving it one a quarter, month or even once a week. The cadence has to be right for your business – and your customers. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with the timing, too. Just make sure you’re tracking the results, and acting on them.
Read more about how to curate content.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL FIVE: INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS
What does the rest of your company think about marketing? Be honest. Do you think they’d all love to get involved in marketing if you gave them a chance? The answer might actually surprise you. In truth, anyone in your business could be part of your marketing team – and as many of them as possible should be part of your team. A great inbound marketing strategy isn’t just about the marketing team – it’s also about the people just on the edges – particularly your salespeople.
Any great strategy is likely to get more buy-in when stakeholders are consulted – the same goes for your inbound marketing strategy. Don’t forget that salespeople are an essential part of your extended marketing team. If they know what you want to achieve, why, and how it will help them – you might even be able to convince them to help you produce content (and it gets their names out there, too).
Ultimately, making sure everyone across the business understands your customers, across all levels – and that they understand how the strategy will help their business AND their strategy, benefits your marketing team and your business overall.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL SIX: GET ON BOARD WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Like it, love it or despise it – social media is here to stay. You might think that Twitter is just a platform where people like to talk about what they had for breakfast (it’s not, but we’ll forgive you if you’ve ever thought it was) but if that’s where your customers and prospects are hanging out, you need to be there too. Social media is the tool that amplifies your content. Without it, even the best messages in the world, even the most helpful advice or the best solutions that your customers are looking for, will never be found!
INBOUND ESSENTIAL SEVEN: GOALS – SETTING THEM, MEASURING THEM
Part of your strategy is about setting goals, and measuring what you’re doing against that goals.
These goals underpin why you’re creating content and sharing it with those buyers personas. Start with a guideline / benchmark – e.g. email open rate in your industry – and then measure yourself against those goals.
Then constantly assess whether you’re on track to meet those goals, or whether they need to be re-evaluated. In most marketing environments, people do monthly reports. However, a month in the inbound world is already a long time. Weekly evaluation can’t be underestimated. The ongoing management of an inbound campaign has to happen every day – so you can constantly be optimising and improving your approach.
If your inbound marketing agency isn’t coming to you regularly, getting approval for changes that need to be made, you’re wasting time. And time is money.
INBOUND ESSENTIAL EIGHT: NURTURE YOUR PROSPECTS
An essential element of a great inbound marketing strategy is producing the right content and making it available at each stage of the buyer’s journey – then it’s a simple matter of helping people along that journey.
But in order to know what info they need, when, you need to understand how to nurture people based on their behaviour. Start by looking out for commonalities and outliers in the source, i.e. what information has brought them to your website, blog post or landing page. For example, if they’re coming from paid search are they behaving differently than if they clicked on a message shared via social media? Ask yourself – what is convincing them to convert? Then you need to speak to them in a very different way at each stage. For example – people may need introductory-level information at the marketing qualified level (MQL) than at the Sales Qualified Level (SQL) stage – where they’d want information about costs, delivery timeframes and how to avoid risks.
In conclusion, inbound marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint – and more of an adventure race than a marathon. Along the way you’ll learn a whole new range of skills you might never have known you possessed, but it will be completely worth the journey at the end of the day.
Get started with your inbound strategy by looking at how you qualify your leads. Our guide to navigating lead scoring will help accelerate your smarketing camapigns.