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Posted by Fiona Stuart on 25 August 2016

How to guarantee success with your inbound marketing strategy

Are you a business taking full advantage of the powers of inbound marketing? Or are you one of the many who keeps hearing about it, thinks that it sounds like a great idea, but in reality doesn't really know where to start?!

If you've done any recent research into ways to improve the digital marketing performance of your business, then your findings will likely have uncovered multiple mentions of the value of inbound marketing.  And with the growing frequency that the subject is now discussed in blogs and articles (our blog included!), I don't think the term can even be referred to as a buzzword any more - the importance of inbound marketing has surpassed that.

So what exactly is inbound marketing, and most importantly how should your business go about getting started with an inbound strategy?  Well read on as this blog aims to make it all crystal clear...

Quick Recap: What is inbound marketing?

I think we can now safely say that the days of thinking it's a good idea to mass mail everything to everybody, cold call endless lists and shout loudly with adverts are now passed - these tactics will likely just annoy your prospective customers and position your brand as pushy, interruptive, or irrelevant. All characteristics I'm guessing that most businesses actively wish to avoid.

Inbound marketing by comparison is a major shift to the other end of the spectrum, and takes very much the opposite approach. It seeks to earn a prospect’s attention by providing helpful, useful and interesting content around an issue or challenge they're facing in an appropriate manner (so helping - not selling), at an appropriate time (depending on where the individual is in their buying journey) and via appropriate channels (based on a full understanding of where and how your target audience consumes information).

Inbound, is often described as ‘Pull’ marketing, and the reason for that is it's absolutely designed to earn the attention of your ideal target audience and make the content you're creating super easy for them to find.  

By taking a systematic and strategic approach inbound marketing will help your business carefully guide anonymous visitors through different stages;

  • Firstly into interested leads
  • Then into purchase-ready clients/customers
  • And finally into enthusiastic advocates for your business and all of the services/products which you offer

So a win win situation for both parties right? Your customers and prospects get the information they are looking for and an experience they value, and your business gets to engage closely with exactly the type of people you wish as customers.

7 steps to getting started with inbound marketing

The benefits of adopting an inbound marketing approach are clear, what often isn't so clear though is exactly how your business can get started and begin taking advantage of engaging more strategically with your customers and ideal prospects.

So, to help get your inbound marketing activities up and running we've put together a handy list of key steps that we recommend you follow to guarantee results;

1. Be audience aware

Understanding exactly who your content is aimed at and why, is possibly the most crucial part of getting an inbound strategy right. Identify exactly who your ideal target audience is by asking questions such as;

  • Which areas of your business are you wishing to grow
  • What type of customers will help make that happen?
  • What characteristics are these people identified by?

Once you have identified exactly who your target audience is then you need to make sure you fully understand them;

  • What do they want to know about?
  • What are the challenges / frustrations that they face?
  • What are their goals / objectives?
  • What will resonate with them?
  • What information sources do they use?

2. Align your content with different customer journey stages

You also need to make sure that you understand the journey which these buyers take (e.g. the active research process which a potential buyer of your services will go through leading up to a purchase).  

This will allow you to align your content with each different journey stage - as delivering the right content to the right person and at the right time, is an essential element of a successful content strategy.

Take time to carefully consider each of the different stages, and how best your content can match the need of the buyer - and in turn also achieve the specified goal for your marketing strategy;

Buying cycle stage Definition Goal
Awareness The prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity To attract your target audience through search engines, social channels & internet searching
Consideration The prospect identifies the problem and researches potential solutions, including your product or services To help prospects research the best solution to their problem and evaluate your particular offering
Decision The prospect decides who to buy from To help prospects buy your product or service and tech them how to make the most of it
Advocacy stage Your customer chooses whether to buy again, and whether to actively recommend your business To encourage customers to buy from you again and spread awareness of your business

Most importantly, by closely mapping the content you create to the different stages of your prospect's buyer journey then you can ensure that their behaviour, information needs and problems are kept central to your inbound strategy. 

3. Be keyword savvy

It’s vital that your content strategy focuses on search terms that are specific and relevant to your chosen target audience. These keyword phrases will help identify what topics you should write about and the relevant phrases which you should optimise your content for.  

Improving your SEO performance is an essential part of the first stage of the inbound marketing approach - helping you to attract strangers from search engines and turning them into new visitors on your website and ultimately leads, customers and then promoters of your brand.

There are a number of tools available that will help you identify relevant search terms such as SEM Rush and Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.

4. Be a content-publisher

Think like a publisher of high quality content. Relevant, interesting and useful content is a fundamental of an effective inbound marketing strategy and so crucial to its success.

The content which you produce ultimately defines why someone should consider placing their trust in the services or products which your business offers. It positions your business as, not just competent and capable of providing the necessary service, but of doing that with knowledge and an empathetic human side.

Take steps to ensure that your content is consistently published, written specifically for the target audience(s) whom you have identified, and fully reflects the unique selling points of your business.

5. Be methodical

Effective planning is vital to achieving success through inbound marketing.  We recommend that you create a content plan for a minimum 6-month advance period on the launch of your inbound strategy.

The intelligence which you have developed about your ideal audience, and where they hang-out online should allow you to plan what content topics you need to generate, by when, and in what form – blog, whitepaper, video, infographic etc. and which channels should be used to promote the content. For example - what social media channels does your target audience use, are there forums you can take advantage of, is your audience active in LinkedIn groups? 

6. Be analytical

One of the great things about a well-executed inbound marketing strategy is the amount of useful data that can be generated through digital analytics which can be easily tracked, and utilised, to gain valuable insight about what is and isn’t working.

It’s vital to monitor and evaluate the performance of all the different elements of your inbound strategy - this will allow you to do more of what’s working, and stop doing what isn’t.

7. Be patient

Finally, don’t get disheartened if you don't see overnight results from an inbound approach. It takes time to fully understand your audience and start building up a library of useful content, as well as a solid reputation for publishing it, and so returns can feel like they take longer to materialise than other switch on / switch off digital marketing such a Google AdWords etc.

This can mean that some marketers are tempted to give up mid-strategy and therefore miss out on the many benefits that will result if they stick with the approach - it's important to understand that you are investing in a long term strategy and whilst the results may not be instant, the considerable value which they bring will be well worth the investment in both time and budget. 

Next steps

Hopefully this blog will have provided some practical, useful advice to help you get started with your inbound strategy - if you're interested in keeping updated on our digital marketing news and insight, then please subscribe to our blog and you'll get all future posts delivered straight to your inbox.

And if you would like to know how your business can profit from an inbound marketing strategy or discuss any of the points covered in this post in more detail then please get in touch - we're always keen for a chat!

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