Inbound Marketing. You’ve probably been hearing this phrase getting tossed around more and more. The digital world is changing, faster than we could have ever imagined. And with Google at the helm, we are all set on the course that this Silicon Valley behemoth guides us towards. Where are we headed? Well, Google isn’t too keen anymore on SEO-keyword-overload or extreme keyword density, or any of the other tricks of the trade that savvy marketers have been conjuring up for the last few years. Traditional outbound marketing isn’t working anymore, either. The average human today is inundated with more than 2,000 outbound marketing interruptions per day—not much room for your business to break through, huh?
Inbound Marketing is a response to this shift. Everything that we once considered a ‘best practice,’ isn’t considered as such today. In fact, Hubspot released a telling 2015 “State of Inbound” report that proved that the future is here.
Here are just a few zingers…
- “54 percent more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing.”
- “Twice as many marketers say inbound delivers below average cost per lead than outbound methods.”
- “$20K The average company saves $20k per year by investing more in inbound marketing vs. outbound.”
- “Leading marketers recognize that inbound is a long game. Both past success and past failure with inbound correlates with an inbound marketing budget increase.”
Why do modern marketers prefer inbound? Because it gets leads, of course. This is the most important part of running a business: getting more business. Oftentimes, as the last stat above clearly denotes, it’s hard for business owners to invest in inbound because it’s a long game. But it’s a long game with a really, really big payoff—not only will you generate leads, but you’ll be filling your sales pipelines in the process.
Throughout this post, I’d like to share with you the seven elements of an effective inbound marketing campaign. Nailing these seven elements will help you achieve a lot of those positive stats for your business. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get cracking.
No. 1: Identify & Understand Your Ideal Client
It’s funny, but sometimes we forget about all the little people that make our business tick. It’s not that we mean to, but it seems to happen all the time. We just forget to check-in with them. We spit out content at them, or service offerings, or whatever, and we never ask, “Hey, was that helpful?” or “Did you enjoy that, and if not, how could it be better?” You need to know what your customer’s pain points are in regards to your services or product.Most importantly, how do your services solve their problems. The first thing you and your team can do to uncover these important questions is by creating audience personas.
Personas are basically the core personalities of your readership, customer or client base. It is a representation of your ideal client or customer, their behaviors, needs, challenges and demographics.
To discover who these people are, meet with your sales, marketing and leadership teams, and any other teams in your organization that are customer-facing. This is a collaborative exercise, one where many members of your organization can provide the insights you need to create content, communication, services and products that your customers are craving and also to understand the types of people (personas) that your business attracts. Ask those teams to bring any and all information regarding their client/customer demographics and behaviors. Surveys, customer call center statistics and data, sales data—everything.
For instance, you may discover that you have four main personas, each with very distinct needs. Start with some simple questions to get the team going on segmenting them:
- What are your customer or visitors objectives when they engage with your brand or business? What are their challenges?
- How did they discover you?
- Where did they go first? (ie. your site, call you, your LinkedIn, brick-and-mortar, etc.)
- What information are they seeking? How do they decide to hire you?
- What is your objective for this particular visitor or customer (persona)?
If this sounds overwhelming to you, fear not: there’s literally tons of persona templates available online and free resources to get you off on the right foot. Buffer provides a great how-to guide to give you and your team help in defining and organizing this exercise, as well as some free templates. The whole exercise, of course, ‘takes a village,’ as they say, but you have to start exploring the village to find the help you need.
The finished product should look like this Hubspot example:
No. 2: Don’t Put Lipstick On a Pig
Say what? Yep, you heard correctly. Don’t put lipstick on a pig. Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you have a talented staff, killer know-how, amazing inbound chops… but your website, well, it leaves a lot to be imagined. It just, frankly, isn’t very pretty, or worse, isn’t functional. Don’t bother placing all your beautiful work and knowledge (the lipstick) on that site. Redesign your website to make sure itlooks and functions like a well-oiled machine. Having a great website design provides the framework for a successful inbound campaign.
But you think your site looks great… even though your closest friends say nay. Well, a good way to make absolutely certain that your friends are not right is to try User Testing. UserTesting is a great company that can help you see what your users are seeing, but without any influence from you to sway their thought process. The gist: you pay UserTesting, you tell them what your personas are and who you would like to view your site, and critique it. Provide questions to UserTesting for the participants, such as:
- “What do you think of the homepage?”
- “Do you know what the business does by reading just the homepage copy?”
- “Is the navigation intuitive?”
- “Was signing up/subscribing easy?”
If you can’t afford User Testing, just ask a friend of a friend to review your site. Give them your laptop, turn on the mic and start recording. Ask them questions while they cruise your site. Try this with three different people. You’ll most likely start to see some themes or trends emerge, some commonalities. Tackle those first. And capture any outliers to handle once you’re done remedying the big issues.
Remember, some important things that a good Inbound Marketing website should have are:
- Content Strategy: Blog, podcasts, webinars, white papers, gated content, etc.
- Opportunities to Make a Sale: forms, calls-to-action and landing pages
- Responsive Design: make sure the experience is the same whether your customer or site visitor is on their smartphone, laptop or desktop.
No. 3: Help Prospects Find You
SEO can be a tricky part of the Inbound ecosystem, but it’s highly necessary. Organic traffic, meaning the folks who find you just by typing a query into their browser, is a huge part of scoring leads. You want potential leads to purposely and intentionally find you. As Search Engine Watch aptly notes: “Quite simply, SEO is the umbrella term for all the methods you can use to ensure the visibility of your website and its content on search engine results pages (SERPs).”
But how do you ensure visibility using SEO is the bigger question…
Here are the best tips and tricks that I find the simplest to execute:
Meta Descriptions: This is that little nugget of text that appears under your page’s URL in the search results. You can control this content within your sites’ CMS. For instance, if you’re using WordPress, it would be the text that goes here: [SHOW SCREENSHOT OF YOUR BLOG META AREA].This gives organic searchers the ability to read a snippet of your post or site so they can see that they’ve indeed discovered what they were seeking.
- Link to your other pages in content: Linking to other blog posts or content on your site, or even other landing pages on your site, is an excellent way to cue Google that your content is rich and trustworthy. It can help improve your keyword rankings, but also gives readers more of what they love: your stuff!
- Permalinks: Once again, this is a simple tip you can execute from within your CMS. It’s simple. Check out the URL for this blog post on our site: http://blog.41orange.com/the-smart-marketers-guide-to-blogging-for-business
We control what this URL says.We chose to match the title of the article with the URL permalink, because we carefully crafted the title with our keywords in mind. Consider structuring the permalink to reflect what you ‘think’ people would search for in regards to this topic. This little trick, well, might help them find the piece more easily due to Google’s indexing prowess.
No. 4: Give Your Audience Amazing, Original Content
This is where a lot of folks try to cut corners. Amazing, original content is actually really important to your users—and Google. Google cares about people. People go to Google’s browser millions and millions of times per day to wonder and ask and receive. Google’s job is to provide seekers of knowledge the most sophisticated responses. That’s where your quality content comes in.
Let’s define quality content.
Outsourcing content using some of the cheap content service providers is becoming increasingly common, but it’s important to note that this content isn’t necessarily amazing. It may be written by someone who is not a native speaker of the language you prefer your content to be written in, or the language of your audience and customers. In addition, cheap content is just that: cheap. It may not be composed by a Subject Matter Expert, so make sure that the content lives up to its promises. Cutting corners with content development is frankly a waste of money. Instead, consider investing in rich content by hiring an agency or subject matter expert to write it for you. If you want to try it yourself, here’s a helpful blog post we wrote that can help you start your business blog off on the right foot. Lots of meaty tips, tricks and takeaways, plus a handy editorial calendar template. See, it takes a village…
One last point to ponder, is some research from Searchmetrics. They discovered in 2013, the top ranking sites on Google had an average of 500 to 600 words per post. In 2014, the top sites posted content that falls between 900 and 1,000 words. Nowadays, one should assume that longer content is ruling the day. This isn’t cheap. A long, robust article with actionable advice, gated content, resources, interviews with influencers and a dialed-in call-to-action, all help in pushing Google to recognize your content as worthy of being on the first page of results from an organic search query—but, like we said, this type of quality ain’t cheap. This is why a lot of businesses try to cut corners. Remember, high quality content is an important piece of the inbound puzzle. Content is your lynchpin for success. Without it, everything feels like a wobbly game of Jenga!
No. 5: Comin’ in for a Landing... Page!
Here’s an interesting stat from our friends at Hubspot:
“Companies see a 55 percent increase in leads when increasing their number of landing pages from just 10 to 15, according to our 2012 Marketing Benchmarks Report.”
A landing page is an integral facet of inbound and as the research shows, is an important method for increasing lead generation. Landing pages, at least the type that Hubspot is analyzing and the ones we are encouraging you to create, are places for you to drive site visitors, or potential leads, towards a call to action. This call to action can be placed within a blog post, such as this example below from our site:
These types of call to actions, such as the “Tell Me More” example above, drive site visitors to lead generation landing pages. These types of landing pages are used to capture all the nitty gritty about your potential lead, such as name, role, needs, or merely their email address. This is the purpose of the landing page: to collect information that will allow you to market to and connect with the lead. It’s all about converting your traffic into a lead, the first step in generating business from your website through inbound marketing.
As such, a landing page will contain a form along with a description of what you’ll get in return for submitting your personal data. Here’s an example straight from our site below. When you choose to download our Free Blog Editorial Calendar Template, you’re driven to this lead generation landing page. As you can see, it’s pretty straightforward. Visitors fill it out, give up their anonymity and then get something for nothing. This is the logic of lead generation landing pages. By providing value to your readers—by giving away your knowledge, in a sense—you create a lead and build trust with that person. And this lead, well, they keep reading, they keep coming back for more free ‘stuff,’ and perhaps they decide to hire you for their next marketing project. This is the essence of inbound. They come in, you entice them with great content, they become a lead, you nurture them, and then they become your customer.
There are many uses for lead generation landing pages, you don’t have to just supply templates. In fact, if you’re looking for more intent-to-hire leads, then you might create case studies for your potential customers to download and read. When someone downloads this type of content, it can be assumed that they’re an intent-to-hire. (I mean, who else reads case studies in their spare time?) Webinars, a free trial offer, a discount, etc. These are all offers you can utilize in a landing page, and depending on the type of content you’re gating, you may notice the quality of the leads change. Pay attention to any activity on these pages to try and understand what makes one more successful than the other.
WORDS OF WISDOM: Unbounce recommends that the depth of the information your form requests can have a negative impact on converting that potential lead into a qualified one.
“Try to ask for the absolute minimum amount of information that will enable you to market to your prospects effectively. For instance, don’t ask for a phone or fax number if you only need to contact them via email.” If you use marketing automation software like Hubsoft you can always swap out the basic questions for deeper inquiries if they return to download another resource.
No. 6: Be a Social Butterfly
You simply cannot pat yourself on the back for creating a killer inbound strategy and a fancy sales funnel if you don’t promote your campaign on social channels—LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, etc. This is how you drive traffic to your site, outside of organic traffic. Social media can also be a powerful word of mouth tool, helping your content reach more people.
We mentioned a good example of why this works in our last post, The Smart Marketer’s Guide to Blogging for Business. Basically, let’s say you’re in the business of trying to grow your business. You decide to interview influencers in your industry. Then you share the interview/quote/blog post on Twitter, and the influencer shares it on all their social streams, and before you know it, your shares on the article are soaring and you’ve got a bunch of leads knocking on your door. Doesn’t that sound nice? It can happen.
Kissmetrics provides some other tips to nurture this type of social campaign, here are a couple of my favorites:
Direct message your source, or your influencer, via direct message on Twitter or LinkedIn or directly email them and let them know their post is live and ask them to share with their friends on all their social streams. Give them a big thank you. This tactic works well, because let’s face it, people have egos and this type of strategy is an ego-stroker. You’ll have them eagerly sharing in no time. It’s pure psychology.
- This tip is really simple, and really hip: Not many marketers are actively doing this yet, but those who are, are winning. Add your content to Slideshare thereby turning it into a slide deck, or modern-day PowerPoint, as I like to coin it. Here’s what Kissmetrics has to say about the technique: “It’s estimated that SlideShare receives tens of millions of unique visitors each month. That’s one of the biggest audiences on the Web. According to Alexa, it’s in the Top 150 sites in the world. SlideShare presentations, like YouTube videos, often rank very high in search results so you’re giving your content an even better chance of being found.”
No. 7: Last But Not Least, Nurture Those Leads
Getting leads is one thing, turning them to customers is another. You need an email strategy with resources and content that will help build trust with leads and educate them about your services. Back in No. 5, we explained that you can score lots of leads with gated content on landing pages. Well, what happens after you capture that info on the form and your potential lead gets their little freebie?Don’t let them sink into the abyss. Funnel your contacts into a CRM. Whether that be Hubspot, Salesforce, MailChimp,Insightly, or another CRM—make sure leads are being captured and organized by importance or significance and start nurturing them by sending them more content.
Once you capture their personal contact information,try to subscribe them to your site’s blog, too. Consider adding a checkbox on your landing page forms, and add a static subscribe form on your site. Or try HubSpot's free tool called LeadIn, pictured here:
This keeps your ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for your services’ visitor a potential lead, and engaged with all the great things you’re doing. You’re now a part of that person’s email inbox. Every week, boom, there’s your business in their inbox reminding them:hey, you two are friends. You gave them free stuff to help them do their job more effectively: If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.
Hubspot calls this type of strategy a “Subscriber Workflow.” We highly recommend this as a great first step to nurturing. But remember, that’s only part of the game. If you have a more interested lead, someone who keeps reading, who keeps downloading your landing page resources, someone who just keeps engaging, well, it’s time to move them into a more aggressive funnel. Clearly, they like you.
“Offer your lead a free service, such as a consultation, demo or review for what they need help with. If they took advantage of the free service, the next and final email should aim to get the lead on a call with your sales team.”
These are just the essentials of an effective inbound marketing campaign. There are four parts to inbound: Attracting website visitors, converting leads, nurturing those leads and closing them as customers.
You may find these articles helpful, as well:
- How to Increase Website Traffic Without Advertising
- Lead Generation: How to Convert Website Traffic into Leads
- 4 Easy Ways to Turn More Leads Into Paying Customers
Ready to get started? Download this campaign checklist: