This post is for any organization considering diving in to inbound marketing — head first or just to “test the waters” — but isn’t quite sure what to expect when it comes to implementation. You’ve probably done a fair amount of research and vetting and are approaching the conclusion that inbound marketing might change the trajectory of your company’s growth; it may even have occurred to you that waiting any longer might be a big mistake. Still, you have unanswered questions: What kind of work needs to be done to get an inbound program off the ground? What are the steps involved and who executes them? How do I create an annual marketing plan?
No two organizations are alike — current marketing strategy and tactics, in-house skills, the amount of foundational work that’s already been done, goals, and resources vary greatly — but generally speaking, a company will go through the following 5 steps when implementing an inbound marketing strategy:
1. Set goals and KPIs
Working with an experienced inbound marketing firm familiar with your industry, you’ll first share your revenue growth goals for the coming year(s), and together define all the KPIs you’ll track in order to measure the success of your inbound marketing strategy and program. This step often involves pinpointing your Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), a number that reflects what your average customer is worth over the average life of a relationship. That number helps determine 1) how many new customers you’ll need to achieve your goals and, in order to reach those goals, 2) how many leads you’ll need, and 3) how many visitors you’ll need to your website in order to get that many leads, based on average conversion rates.
2. Define and document your ideal customer profile and target personas; define their buyers’ journeys
Every company has an ideal client — the ones you want more of. In other words, if you had just one dollar to spend on marketing, who would you spend it on? Identifying your ideal customer isn’t as easy as saying “any company needing plastic molded parts;” you need to define more granularly, like “companies in the Midwest with high-volume plastic parts needs with budgets in excess of $400,000 annually, and with opportunities for penetration into their organizations and cross-sell.”
Once you define who your ideal customers are, you’ll identify the people within those organizations who will have influence in purchase decisions, and those actually making the decisions. These are people you want to attract to your website and have content help solve their problems. When you know specifically what people you’re writing to, you’re more able to make that content highly relevant and compelling to them; you can speak directly to the pains they feel and the challenges they face, and you’ll get found by Google because what you’re writing about will align with what they’re searching for.
3. Conduct SEO research and develop a content strategy; blog and create downloadable content (ebooks, etc.)
Before you start writing, first comes a strategy that outlines your primary messages to those different personas you developed in Step 2. Each has different goals and needs, so there has to be appropriate content available so that when they search, your content and solutions are found. Validate your assumptions about what they’re searching using search engine optimization (SEO) tools to identify key phrases that you can optimize your content around.
Your blog is your primary attraction device; it gets searchers onto your site, where they learn more about you and find other content, like ebooks and guides and tipsheets that they can download. They can only download this “advanced” type of content if they give you their contact information; this makes them a lead, and with the information they share you can now nurture them with emails that offer additional, related content.
There should be content not just for every target persona, but for each stage in their buyer journeys, too. Are they just starting to dig into the challenge at hand and how they might solve it? Or are they further along and comparing different solution options? Or are they ready to make a decision and just looking for a reason to pull the trigger? Each situation requires different types of messaging and content around it.
4. Get your website inbound-ready.
Not just any old website can accommodate all that you need to present to prospects. A website needs a blog, of course, but also calls-to-action (CTAs), which are basically graphical buttons that say things like “Get Your Comparison Guide Now!” and entice viewers to access the content. These are your conversion opportunities, and they should be placed strategically throughout your site. When visitors do click these CTAs to get content, they’ll typically go to what’s called a landing page, where they get a brief overview of the content piece and the form to fill out in order to download it. These, too have to be created in order for your website to be ready. Along with that will be things like thank-you pages and email templates, as you’ll be sending nurturing emails to those who download content.
You’ll also need to do some SEO work to understand the keyword your target personas are using when looking for solutions, and incorporate those naturally into content throughout the site.
5. Set up social media accounts and profiles.
Now that you have all sorts of interesting and valuable content that your best prospects will want, you’ve got to get the word out. Some will find that content when they find your blog, but you can really boost the number of visits to your site and its content by promoting it on social media. LinkedIn is a great place for your team to share links to blog posts and more advanced content; for some companies Facebook makes sense (most for recruiting-related content), and Twitter is a great channel when you want the media, including B2B trade publications to pick up your content (they watch it like a hawk, looking for keywords related to stories they’re writing). YouTube is another high-value platform when you have video content to share (and you should).
Put these elements in place and your machine is fueled up and ready to start attracting visitors, turning them into leads, and nurturing them until they become customers. This overview is simplified, of course, but these are the primary steps involved. There are additional things to consider, like measuring results (which should start Day #1) and using data to inform ongoing improvements to your program; you’ll also want to get Sales onboard and working with Marketing by implementing a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This documents outlines the responsibilities each team has to the other, and gets everyone on the same page regarding goals and processes.
Now you know what steps you’ll take as put an inbound strategy in place, but you might want to know how all these things work together and what prospects and leads experience once your program is launched. Here’s a summary presented in Infographic form that shows you just that! Download your own copy by clicking the link below.
We eat, breathe, sleep inbound marketing, so if you have questions about your specific company needs, give us a call! We’re always eager to help people understand and take full advantage of this powerful approach.
Posted by Greg Linnemanstons With 18+ years in senior management roles at Fortune 500® and medium-sized companies, Greg has deep marketing and sales experience with CPGs and manufacturing. He leads strategic initiatives with clients and is involved in developing client inbound marketing plans. Greg holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Economics from Lawrence University.