How to Build a Smart Inbound Marketing Strategy

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Marketers the world over know how important inbound marketing has become over the last few years. Cold calling and purchasing leads just doesn’t cut it anymore, at least, not in the ecommerce world or its sister industries. But before we delve into how to build a rock solid inbound marketing strategy, first let’s discuss how to put together a savvy overall marketing plan.

Marketing is about as important to small businesses (or any size business really) as water is to grass. That is, if you don’t water the grass, it simply will not grow. It’s the same with your business. You may break even or make a small profit, but if you don’t market your business, it just won’t grow.

What do you need for a decent marketing plan? Three things: a budget, resources, and reporting measures. What else? If you’re serious about marketing, which I hope you are, you’ll also need to hire a loyal marketing professional.

Read on and get the scoop on how to focus your marketing efforts in the inbound realm.

In & Out of Inbound Marketing

The best thing about inbound marketing is that there are many, many ways to go about it. From email marketing to content curation, SEO (search engine optimization) to social media marketing, there are so many ways to pursue inbound marketing that the list could literally go on forever.

Now, that may seem a bit overwhelming to you, but don’t worry! Just because there are a zillion ways to market your business from an inbound standpoint doesn’t mean you should try to tackle every single one of them.

So, take a deep breath, and start thinking about what kind of inbound marketing tactics will work best for your business.

To help you in your quest for business growth and success, the following steps will give you a hand in mapping out and implementing the best possible inbound marketing plan for your business.

Build a Marketing Foundation

  1. Create a keyword list. You don’t necessarily have to use something like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to do this, however, it is certainly recommended that you use some kind of keyword tool to gain additional insight into which keywords and phrases related to your business give you the most ‘SEO juice.’ Start by sitting down and brainstorming. Use logic. You know your business and what it does inside and out, so develop your keyword list first by thinking along those lines.
  2. Figure out EXACTLY who your buyers are. Knowing who your buyers and potential customers are is the first step toward marketing to them. Can you imagine trying to sell web design services using cat memes? But a cat food manufacturer might see drastically different results with the same concept. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing how your target market feels, thinks, and operates. You need to know what makes them tick. Try creating a buyer persona, i.e., a fictional character that represents your ideal customer.
  3. Identify your marketing goals. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they set up an inbound marketing strategy is that they forget to set goals. How is this possible? Well, when you’re new to the game, it might make sense that you just want to ‘see what happens’ with your strategy and evaluate it from there. But how will you evaluate what works and what doesn’t if you don’t set specific, measurable goals? It’s about figuring out where you’re at and consistently making sure you’re moving forward.
  4. Narrow down a content strategy. Don’t just give this step lip service. Do your research, and decide which types of content will best serve what you and your business have to offer. If your brand name is popular online, you might want to tackle the many popular social media platforms out there to gain traction. But if your potential customers are more apt to respond to an email than like a Facebook post, start by writing templates and testing versions.
  5. Develop a company blog. Here’s where all the parts start to come together. Take that keyword list you developed back at step 1, keep your target market in mind, along with your goals and content strategy (steps 2-4), and start writing. If you’re not a wordsmith (hey, some people just aren’t!) contract the work out to a web author, preferably someone who already has an online following and is familiar with your industry.

You might be thinking, “I get steps 1-4, but why do I need a blog? What if I’d rather just update social media pages instead of writing an actual article?” That’s a good question. But consider this: you can tell people you’re an expert in your industry, or you can show them.

Trust me; showing them is much more effective.

A blog is not just a space where words live. It’s a place where people go to get to know your company, a space where you can show off your insider industry expertise and prove yourself worthy of those potential customers who do come across it.

Well-written blogs help your website rank higher in search engine results. Blog articles give you something real, that you own, to share on social media. Blogs are one of the core concepts of all online content.

What do you think? Have you created a stellar inbound marketing strategy that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter and start a conversation!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stefan Erschwendner.

6 Ideas for Creating Blog Content to Gain New Business

 

business idea_May14_Post 1So you’re sold on the fact that blogs are a fantastic way to build traffic to your site and convert visitors to customers. You’ve written two or three posts, but now…well, let’s say you’re lacking inspiration for more content.

It can be daunting, having to continually come up with engaging topics that will attract readers to your blog. But take it from me, someone who has written hundreds of blog posts (seriously), it is entirely possible, with a little help. Here are some tips that will inspire you to come up with more blog post ideas than you know what to do with.

Idea 1: Read Your Competitors’ Blogs

There’s nothing wrong with seeing what your competition is blogging about. In fact, it can help you come up with even better content. Just don’t copy their posts. Instead, use them for inspiration.

Pay attention to the popular posts on their blogs, and consider how you might write an even more engaging post on a related topic to drive traffic to your blog.

Idea 2: Use Your Customer Data

The best blog posts are those that are highly targeted to your customer base. Knowing exactly what your audience cares about will help you create content people want to read, share, and comment on.

Use your small business CRM reporting platform to glean insightful data on your customers, their interests, and their behaviors. Also use your CRM system to skim through what your customers are talking about on social media, and leverage all this data to come up with really eye-catching content.

Idea 3: Create an Infographic

Some people are visual learners, meaning they would rather look at an image than read a written blog post. That’s where infographics come in handy. They visually interpret what otherwise would be dense data in an appealing way. They’re also mega viral marketing tools. You’ll often see one infographic shared far and wide across the blogosphere, so if you are the creator, you’ve got ample opportunity to get dozens of links back to your blog.

Again, focus on what your audience really cares about, then work with a designer who has experience in creating infographics.

Idea 4: Pay Attention to Trends

What’s happening in your industry, or even the world beyond it, is always great fodder for blog posts. If you’re in the air transportation industry, the missing Malaysian airplane is a trending topic right now. Celebrity news is also a trend worth incorporating in your content.

Your blog posts don’t always have to be about the trend, but you can use them to attract more readers with a really magnetic headline. The 2013 Olympics inspired plenty of posts. A quick search of “what the Olympics taught us about *” shows that people in every industry leveraged this topic for their content.

Look at Google Trends as well as trends on Twitter to see what’s hot right now.

Idea 5: Break Out a Post Into Subsequent Posts

A popular style of post is the Top 10 post. If you write a post on Top 10 Ways to Be More Productive, you could then write 10 additional posts really diving into each of those 10 ways. This is a great strategy in which you can link one post to another to keep people on your blog reading more content.

Idea 6: Keep an Idea File

Blog ideas strike me at the oddest times, like when I’m walking my dog, so I keep a spreadsheet where I can easily write my ideas and come back to them later when I’m suffering from blogger’s block.

With a little strategy, you too can have a steady stream of content ideas for your blog!

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s also the founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and contributes to several sites, including ChamberofCommerce.com, The Marketing Eggspert Blog, CorpNet, Small Business Trends, and BizLaunch. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.