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.

Creating Results Based Content Strategy

There is a proliferation of new content management tools being launched to assist digital marketers, large organizations and SMEs.  The good news is that managing your content mix and scheduling the planned dispersion of your informatics through all channels is now accepted to be equally as important as the quality and quantity of your communications.  But how much of an impact does content management have on the success of online campaigns and penetration?  What benchmarks should be set to measure the promotional performance of your content?  Let’s discuss content from a new angle and evaluate strategic elements to design and implement effective enterprise content.

Content Strategy Results

Getting Started

For those not using a content management system it is important to understand that you are achieving only a fraction of the results than you could with a strategic approach.  Long gone are the days where simply providing content assured traffic when daily numbers were enough.  Metrics have changed and the value of content is no longer based on volume of visits alone, but strongly reliant on conversion of traffic to calls-to-action from the audience and readership.  You are competing with millions of websites around the world providing a steady stream of information.  So how do you grasp your audience and engage them?  By creating a content strategy that addresses a variety of factors.

 

Seasonality

The first and perhaps easiest item to add to your content strategy plan is to acknowledge various seasons and holidays of importance.  The dates that you acknowledge in your posts and supplemental social media feeds must always reflect your target market, but not be mutually exclusive and eliminate other opportunities to draw audience from additional social, religious or economic groups.

Geography plays a part in helping you decide which events to acknowledge in your content.  If your business enterprise operates on a national level you may acknowledge the accepted holidays and important dates for the country in which you do business.  However, if sales activities are worldwide you may choose to acknowledge a variety of dates, but avoid feeling compelled to note all of them.  In fact, attempting to do so can compromise the integrity of your intention and communications from participation to pandering and have the opposite effect.

 

Topic Mix

Do you watch the same television episode or movie more than once?  For most people it is futile to revisit content that they have already endorsed by visiting your site to read it.  Even if the enterprise is highly specialized, avoid creating excessive content on the same topic matter if you wish to retain and grow your audience.  No one likes to read the same thing twice, and truthfully if your readers formulate the opinion that you are recycling content without putting a sincere effort into creating items of interest they will go somewhere else.  They are not lacking for other options. Topic Mix

Large multinational entities know the value of creating interesting content that relates to their audience but which may not always directly link back to the product or brand they are promoting.  In other words, your readers want to relate to your product or brand.   Assuming a broadcast mentality (or one directional communication) is necessary to inform however fun and entertaining posts can also create loyalty and brand ambassadors for your product.  The digital consumer (inundated with unlimited sensory and content options online) is a discerning one that is looking to make a connection.  Include informal posts that address lifestyle, health and wellness, trends and other items of interest to keep your readers engaged and coming back for more.
 

Interactivity

A rule that many content strategists forget when developing their monthly or annual plans is to include elements of interactivity in their posts.   Most children have a hard time sitting still and doing little, which is why parents are eager to keep them busy and entertained.  Without condescension your readers are the same.  Web 2.0 is interactive.  People want to engage with their minds and their mouse when they visit your site, and there are many advantages to building in a variety of interactive opportunities.

Retention is a goal of your strategic plan.  That is where the return on investment for digital marketing is born.  Achieving visits to your website is only one small part of content management.  Providing an element that requires thought and participation has the ability to formulate a lasting impression and recollection of your website, content and your brand.   And that impression has the probability of creating a call-to-action, whether referring your website to friends and family for a centrifugal viral effect or a purchase decision regarding your product or service.   These rewards create a memorable experience which translates into tangible measurements such as brand loyalty and sales.

Explore online promotional applications such as WildFire and integrate content with a contest.   Engage your readers in opinion polls directly on the website and direct participation through social media channels.  Drive coupon and other incentives to reward direct engagement, and most importantly converse with your audience, respond to questions and with gratitude for their interaction.  Remember that if you do not take the time to appreciate their efforts your competitors definitely will.  Comments, reactions, moderation and responses are all part of creating an environment of responsive interactivity with your audience.

 

Is This Thing Working?

Digital marketing professionals are frequently asked for evidence of the efficacy of their programs.  While none of the measurements can round to the nearest dollar to valuate content and online engagement, there are a number of metrics that can be monitored to note what works for your audience and what does not.Is Social Working?

Social media activity and content quality work synchronously.  If your content mix is creating an impact with your target market you will note a surge in your social media metrics.  Shares and ‘Likes” on Facebook will increase, Twitter metrics such as retweet and sharing of links will start to climb. Naturally other site related traffic statistics will bear an increase in readership including page views or website subscriptions to RSS feed.

Remember that it is important to utilize all reporting available and analyze your “hits and misses” and tailor your content strategically throughout the year based on what is meaningful to your readers. Position your content plan as a framework to guide your organized communication throughout the year, but revisit it on a monthly basis to modify based on overall performance and promotional objectives.

Digital marketers are in the business of encouraging people to visit, engage and purchase. If you write it qualitatively and intuitively they will come (and bring their friends and family) and be drawn to content that is intelligent, relevant and meaningful to their lives. Today, all marketing is relationship marketing.  Remember to feed that relationship with high quality content through all channels of your communication for optimal results.

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Pratik Dholakiya is a Lead SEO Strategist at E2M Solutions, a full service internet marketing company specializing in ethical and advanced SEO services. Pratik has analyzed all the recent Google search algorithm updates very closely and seen success in defining and implementing SEO strategy that works in the current era to see sustainable results that stay last longer and produce high ROI.