Inbound marketing is an exciting and rapidly growing field partially because it is relatively inexpensive. Anyone can pick up the tools and try their hand at it. However just like football, there is a lot more to the game than a ball, pads, and a pair of cleats. Strategy and execution make all the difference in the world.
Here are 5 steps to executing an inbound marketing strategy:
#1 Tools and Functionality
Get all of your digital ducks in a row when it comes to setting up your blog, social media platforms, search engine optimization, landing pages, forms, databases, and email platforms. This is a functional step, not a strategic one. However it lays the foundation for the strategy. Most blog posts and whitepapers stop here.
#2 The Big Four
Inbound marketing is a flow of content, communication, conversions, and relationships. Make sure you understand these areas and how each can be used effectively.
- Content: The blog posts, articles, emails, social media posts, and comments that make up the heart of every inbound marketing effort. Every other step hinges on this one.
- Communication: Getting your message out there, understood, and recognized by the search engines. This involves the keywords and the channels that your content goes out through.
- Conversions: The all important process of building a prospect’s interest and enticing them to engage with your brand in order to become lead. The name of the game is to get more leads and more highly qualified leads.
- Relationships: This is the combination of emails, social media interactions, and phone calls that nurture the connection that your organization has with a lead on their path to becoming a customer. It’s the sales process at its finest.
Find out who is actually going to write all of those blog posts and how the content will flow through the internal chain of command at your organization. It’s quite common to decide to do inbound marketing but when it comes to allocating personnel and resources the ball is quickly dropped. Decide how your internal process is going to work and dedicate the personnel and man hours to make it work.
In every organization that uses inbound marketing there are two types of people. People whose job description includes inbound marketing and everyone else who contributes to the inbound marketing effort. You need both people in every organization; one or the other won’t cut it. Someone needs to spend hours managing the campaign, while everyone in the company needs to contribute content in their areas of expertise.
Research and decide who your inbound marketing campaign will target. This includes the population, their demographics, interests, activities, and opinions etc. as well as the products you are trying to sell. Now be careful here, it’s easy to drift off base. You are not deciding what products to promote or market. You are deciding which ones you want the trail of bread crumbs to lead back to.
For example, say you’re a software company that makes word processing and graphic design software. You may decide that the market for word processing software is less elastic and hard to generate buzz within, so you build your inbound marketing campaign around the graphic software. You begin by writing blog posts about graphic design, software skills, design tips, and market trends. The focus of your social media outlets and lead nurturing campaigns shift with this content direction and you are now attracting prospects and leads with interests in graphic design.
Inbound marketing is a long term investment that requires long term vision. It typically takes six months from your first blog post to build some momentum and establish your initial following, especially if you’re a small or quiet company. Your first fully targeted inbound marketing campaign can then commence, but you’re still looking at a long cycle before you begin to really reap the benefits. Certainly brands with more visibility which are already entrenched in the social media arena will be able to move faster, but they will still need to look far in advance when creating their campaigns.
Here is the beauty of inbound marketing. The differences between a good campaign and a bad one are strategy and execution. Even if you’re late to the game, you can still level the playing field with great strategy.