At Quintain, we specialize in helping clients design and implement inbound marketing strategies. This approach represents a fundamental shift in the way companies market themselves, and is a fantastic opportunity for businesses of any size to fine tune their marketing strategy and attract new customers.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing flips traditional marketing theory around and instead of trying to push your brand or message out to your target audience, it focuses on making sure your business “gets found” by people who are already interested in buying whatever it is that you are selling. This is accomplished by ensuring that your website attracts visitors through search engines, social media, and the blogosphere.
Think of your sales and marketing process as a funnel. Fresh prospects come in at the top of the funnel; happy customers go out the bottom. As a marketer, your goal is to maximize both the number of people you attract at the top of your funnel as website visitors and the number that come out the bottom as customers.
Inbound marketers use three types of tactics to do this:
- Get Found: Tactics like blogging and search engine optimization that aim to attract quality prospects to your website.
- Convert: Tactics like landing pages and lead nurturing that aim to convert website visitors to leads and long-term customers.
- Analyze:Tactics that aim to improve the efficiency of the entire process — to get more of the right people in the top and out the bottom.
Here is what this looks like in practice:
Building Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Like most other business initiatives, the most successful inbound marketing efforts begin with a clear strategy which can act as the marketing roadmap for your business. While each company's roadmap is unique, and designed to grow a specific business, there are certain elements that every inbound marketing strategy should include.
One of our first tasks when we begin work with clients is to identify and create profiles for one or two of their ideal customers. These are the people in decision making roles that you wish to sign as clients. We then build a comprehensive profile of each of these persona “types”, including their role and responsibilities, challenges and frustrations, pain points, and motivating factors. We also profile them personally, mapping out their education profile, what their career/life trajectory has been, and how they spend their free time. Before we finish, we’ll pick a name and a photo to use to represent each persona. The finished product is a complete audience persona - a fictional portrait that seems like a real person and can be used to develop and evaluate your marketing efforts, and refine your messaging.
Getting found online begins with understanding what terms people are using to search for your services. The best keywords are relevant to your business, searched often, and non-competitive. Using your audience personas as a guide, you can identify the keywords your audience is already using to find you online and find opportunities to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). There are a number of helpful tools you can use to figure out what your target keywords are. Our favorite is the Keyword Planner tool within Google Adwords.
Odds are, if you use a tool like Keyword Planner, its going to give you a LONG list of potential keywords. Unless you are a huge company with a giant budget, you won't be able to tackle all of them so the key is to prioritize those keywords that have high search volumes but are less competitive. Those should be the focus of your inbound marketing strategy.
Inbound marketing starts with blogging. Not only is a blog the single best way to attract new visitors to your website, companies that blog get 55% more leads than those who don't. The best blogs are written with the objective of answering your audience’s questions and solving their problems. Use your audience personas to build a list of the questions that your ideal clients are likely to be asking and then write blogs that answer those questions. Make sure, when you're writing your blogs, you consult your list of target keywords and incorporate them (as naturally as possible) into your blogs. Read our blog on Optimizing Your Blog for SEO for tips on how to do this.
Once you have your list of blogs, lay them out in an editorial calendar that details exactly which topics will be published on what days (you can download a template for this by clicking here). With this, you'll have a clear plan in place that you can share with your staff and any freelancers that are helping with your inbound marketing efforts.
Content marketing is another effective tactic for ensuring your website gets found. Like blogging, it means publishing content that will attract people to your website. Unlike blogging, Content Marketing is not restricted to a specific channel — it's the general idea of using content to attract people to your site. Content can take many forms including videos, whitepapers, webinars, industry research or other forms.
Your marketing roadmap should include a comprehensive plan detailing how you will use content to drive leads. This plan should map the journey of your prospects throughout the buying cycle and reflect their changing information needs as they move closer to a purchasing decision. The result should be specific offers for each persona at the top, middle and bottom of the funnel (read more about the sales funnel in our blogs on top of the funnel offers, middle of the funnel offers, and bottom of the funnel offers). You can use our buying process stage template to plan these all out.
Social Media Monitoring and Publishing
When people go online today they're interacting with friends, asking and answering questions, sharing content and discussing an infinite range of topics. As a marketer, you want your content to be a central part of the discussion in your industry. If your content is a part of that conversion, it can help you pull people back to your site and to the top of your marketing and sales funnel. The best way to do this is to share your content on the social media sites that your audience uses. Are you targeting a B2B crowd? LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups may be the right fit for you. Trying to reach the media or a 20-something audience? Make sure you're on Twitter.
There is no one "right" social media strategy for everyone. Instead, your audience personas should help you determine where and how to reach the best leads. You can also download our ebook on Mastering Social Media: A Three Step Process.
Search Engine Optimization
Your customers begin their buying process online, usually at a search engine, so you need to make sure your company is listed prominently when they search. To get there, you need to carefully analyze and select keywords, optimize your website and landing pages, create content and build links.
Start by optimizing for your best keywords and finding alternatives for keywords that aren’t working to deliver high level organic search results. Do this by reviewing the performance of your existing website and landing pages to determine which pages are underperforming and test alternative approaches to improve their performance and boost visitor traffic and conversion rates.
In addition, for all pages (including landing pages and blog posts), make sure to:
- Optimize page titles, meta-tags and meta descriptions
- Ensure use of target keywords in the copy of all pages and posts
- Include internal links (to other pages on your site) where appropriate
Page optimization is an ongoing process that you can continue to refine as you implement your inbound marketing strategy.
One of the most critical factors to ranking at or near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) is the number of high quality domains that are linking to your website. Each link into your website acts as a "vote" that tells the search engines your site is reputable. Your inbound strategy should include a plan to build the number of back links that your website has in order to increase its visibility. A few simple ways to get started with this include:
- Submitting your site to online directories (ex. Yahoo, Joe Ant, AboutUs.org, Manta.com, etc.) - try using a service such as Yext (you'll save lots of time)
- Ensuring your business is set up and optimized on all major social media sites (ex. LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) and that appropriate backlinks are built into your business profile on those sites
- Syndicating your blog posts to appropriate social media sites and posting to discussion groups (ex. LinkedIn Groups, etc.)
Search engines such as Google are constantly adjusting their algorithms and fine tuning the criterion they use to determine where your firm ranks in the SERPs. Recent changes have made it more important than ever to establish Google Authorship for your website and blogs. Why? Authorship is more important than your website because Google is now grading and ranking authors instead of websites. Your website will ultimately get ranked by the ‘authority’ that the author has. This means that an author who has been well ranked by Google will help to raise the profile of any website that they are associated with.
How do you begin to engage website visitors in a sales process? You use calls-to-action (CTAs) to encourage them to take a desired action, such as downloading a whitepaper or signing up for a webinar. CTAs are buttons or links that encourage your visitors to take action, e.g. "Download Our Checklist", or "Attend a Webinar". If you don't have enough calls to action or your calls to action aren't valued by your audience, you won’t convert visitors to leads.
Email Marketing and Lead Nurturing
What do you do if a visitor clicks on your call to action, fills out a landing page, downloads your eBook, but still isn’t ready to become a customer? You need to nurture a longer-term relationship with that lead. Email marketing is one way to do this. A series of appropriately timed emails focused on useful, relevant content will build trust with a prospect and move them through your sales funnel.
A well-designed lead nurturing program enables you to send a cadence of targeted personal emails to new online leads, easing them through the decision process and improving your lead-to-customer conversions. If you're struggling with how to increase your conversion rate, download our ebook on 30 Tips for Mastering Lead Generation.
Regular monitoring and measurement is critical to the success of any marketing campaign, with inbound marketing being no exception. The marketing analytics you track should include:
- Website Analytics: Analyzing your web traffic and seeing what sources are generating qualified leads
- Blog Analytics: Seeing what posts are having the greatest impact and developing the right blogging strategy for your audience
- Lead Conversions: Evaluating which offers have the best conversion rates, whether specific landing pages and CTAs are more effective, and analyzing how we can improve your website and content assets in order to boost conversions
- Social media measurement: Understand how social media is contributing to your bottom line
I recommend that you evaluate these metrics monthly so that you can see what is working, what is not, and adjust course accordingly.
Ready to Get Started?
There's a lot to think about here, but hopefully you've also taken advantage of all the free tips and resource I've included (we spent a ton of time developing all these templates and ebooks, so please USE THEM!).
My last bit of sage advice? If you're serious about inbound marketing, give HubSpot's inbound marketing software a test drive. We use it for our own marketing and, in the interest of full disclosure, are a reseller. But I can tell you in all honesty that we wouldn't recommend it if it didn't work. The beautiful thing about HubSpot is that you can try it out for free. Just click below to get a 30 day free trial and see for yourself why it makes inbound marketing so easy!