Updated: Jul 30
People who live and breathe inbound marketing are well aware of the complexities involved in developing a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.
Inbound marketing necessitates more than being a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Instead, you must be an expert in a variety of areas, including content writing, search engine optimization, social media, website design, conversion rate optimization, pay-per-click, email marketing, and so on.
As a result, when we help marketers with inbound marketing strategy, the conversation frequently turns to how to build a marketing plan – how to prioritize, what to do, what not to do, what works best for specific business models, and how to implement the proper infrastructure to facilitate inbound lead generation. A solid plan can mean the difference between treading water and achieving exponential growth, whether you're launching a new startup company or looking for quick ways to revamp your enterprise marketing activities.
Following this guide will help you put the proper inbound marketing plan in place for your organization, prioritize each aspect of your strategy and focus on what drives the best results. In a world of instant gratification, there isn’t much time for planning so this guide is designed to help you really hit the ground running.
1. Define your buyer personas
Buyer personas are the foundation of all inbound marketing efforts. Understanding who you are marketing to, what motivates them, and how they communicate will allow you to create messaging that truly resonates with your ideal customers.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customers for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept. For example, there are most likely different types of buyers in your target market. CEOs, Marketing Managers, and Sales Directors may frequently purchase your product or service.
Buyers in each of these roles have distinct interests, priorities, and objectives. Taking the time to define and comprehend the characteristics of each of your buyer personas will allow you to focus your content creation on topics that will appeal to ideal customers.
2. Outline your Marketing Triggers
After you've determined who your ideal customers are and what makes their world go round, the next step is to pinpoint the events and pain points that drive them to seek information about your product, service, or industry. These occurrences are referred to more formally as marketing triggers. Rather than broadcasting messages to large audiences, trigger-based marketing aims to meet potential customers at their point of need by being reactive and targeted.
Consider the marketing triggers for a company that sells office furniture. Organizations that are experiencing rapid company growth, and geographic expansion, are undergoing building renovations, have outdated office furniture, or simply want to keep up with new trends in office interior decor are the most likely to purchase office furniture.
Companies that experience any of these events may recognize the need for new office furniture and begin conducting online research. This is an ideal time in the purchasing process to present a potential customer with a top-of-funnel offer that speaks to their needs while also introducing the value of your product or service.
3. Create a list of Keywords
Now that you know who your buyer personas are and what drives them to seek information, the next step is to figure out how people find information about your product or service.
Keyword research enables you to see the estimated search volume by location, the difficulty of ranking for specific keywords, and an estimate of the cost of purchasing search traffic via pay-per-click advertising. When creating a list of target keywords, select search terms with a relatively high monthly search volume and a medium to low level of competition. Google's Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for quickly generating a list of relevant keywords and identifying search terms that are in your sweet spot in terms of competition and search volume.
Using this research, you can compile a list of key terms and phrases about which to write content. Crafting keyword-rich content that addresses the common questions that your buyer personas have when they come across a marketing trigger ensures that you are attracting the right people to your website at the right time.
4. Set your inbound Marketing goals
The first step in calculating the return on investment of your inbound marketing activity is determining what you want to accomplish and when you expect to see results. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, according to the SMART Goal Framework.
To establish your inbound marketing objectives, first assess your website's current ability to attract traffic, convert leads, and close sales. Key performance indicators could include:
Unique monthly website visitors
Count of inbound leads per month
Traffic sources include PPC, SEO, blogging, social media, and email.
5. Outline your content strategy
As we dissect the inbound funnel, we can see that leads typically fall into one of three categories:
Top-of-funnel-Awareness: Leads at the top of the funnel are typically looking for general information on a topic.
Middle-of-funnel-evaluation: Leads in the middle of the funnel must be introduced to your brand and learn about doing business with you.
Bottom-of-funnel purchase decision: Leads at the bottom of the funnel are frequently seeking information that conveys the functionality and benefits of your product/service.
The goal of top-of-funnel content is to generate as much awareness as possible while also converting visitors into leads. Top-of-funnel content that can easily spread among a large audience includes social media, blog posts, videos, infographics, and SlideShare presentations.
Content in the middle of the funnel begins to position your product/service. Branded webinars, case studies, free samples, catalogs, FAQ sheets, spec sheets, or brochures can be used to introduce your brand while also providing value to the viewer.
Leads at the bottom of the funnel have demonstrated that they are evaluating your product/service specifically. These leads may only require a taste of what you have to offer, which could be a free trial, a live product demo, a discount, or a complimentary assessment, consultation, or estimate.
If you have great top-of-funnel content but nothing to offer leads in the middle and bottom of the funnel, you will struggle to move leads through the sales cycle. Begin by evaluating your existing content and mapping it to each stage of the inbound funnel to identify any obvious gaps in your content.
Do your buyer personas have all of the information they require at each stage of the purchasing process?
Understanding the questions, concerns, and objections that each of your buyer personas have throughout the three stages of the inbound funnel will aid in the development of your content strategy.
6. Design your lead nurturing process
Some leads decide to buy a product or service much faster than others. This can occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common cause of a lead stalling in the sales process is a lack of information. If a lead has unanswered questions, it is likely that they are not ready to move down the marketing funnel.
A series of automated emails are the most effective way to contact leads and answer their questions. Email automation provides leads with a gentle nudge or reminder that you have valuable content available to them. This encourages leads to revisit your content and progress down the inbound funnel.
The emails you send to top-of-funnel leads should address the most frequently asked questions during the sales process. Once you've proactively reached out to answer these frequently asked questions, your leads will be better informed, more qualified, and more open to learning more about your product or service.
As leads progress through the funnel, you can start positioning your product or service by providing brand-specific information. This could include a series of emails that address frequently asked questions and concerns about your company.
When a lead responds to a bottom-of-funnel offer, they have considered sales qualified. Leads should be handed over to your sales team at this point so that they can be contacted directly and converted into paying customers.
7. Create a conversion-focused blogging strategy
Conversion-focused blogging strategies are intended to bring highly relevant traffic to your website with the goal of converting that traffic into qualified leads. Each blog post supports an exclusive content offer by answering frequently asked questions about your buyer personas and encouraging them to access your exclusive content.
Consider our previous example of office furniture. If you write a top-of-funnel whitepaper about "The 10 Benefits of Open Concept Offices," you should follow it up with a series of closely related blog posts to drive traffic to that exclusive offer. These could include:
Is your workplace suffocating creativity?
Four companies are pioneering the open-concept office trend.
5 Design Trends Changing the Workplace
Each blog post would include a call to action to download the whitepaper "The 10 Benefits of Open Concept Offices."
8. Implement an inbound marketing platform
While strategy and content creation take up the majority of the work in developing an inbound marketing strategy, the technology that enables inbound lead generation should not be overlooked.
Choose platforms and approaches that will allow you to focus on your business rather than the nuts and bolts of connecting disparate systems when considering infrastructure to facilitate inbound marketing.
9. Recruit a team of inbound marketing experts
As previously stated, inbound marketing necessitates a diverse yet specific skill set. Depending on your in-house expertise, capacity for additional work, and budget, it may be appropriate to hire for specific roles or outsource certain aspects of your inbound marketing execution.
All of these skill sets are available to a well-rounded inbound marketing team:
Strategy for inbound marketing
Data analysis/web analytics
Front-end and back-end web development
Designing a website
Search engine marketing
Optimization of conversion rates
Management of social media and communities
Making the transition from traditional, outbound-dominated marketing programs to inbound-dominated marketing investments may appear to be a risk, but the benefits are undeniable. The sooner you implement this strategy, the sooner you will reap the benefits of inbound marketing - more leads at a lower cost generated by a completely scalable strategy.