How to create an inbound marketing strategy

By Ben Fitton, Thursday August 27, 2020
7 minutes

Delivering a successful inbound marketing strategy isn’t easy. It takes time, skill and a business-wide commitment to get it right. But if done successfully, inbound marketing will deliver results that will change your business.

Inbound marketing makes more people aware of your brand and turns more leads into customers. To help you along the way to inbound marketing strategy success, we’ve written a guide that outlines eight steps you need to take.

Step 1. Building buyer personas

Buyer personas are essential to your inbound marketing strategy. As a representation of your ideal customer, they allow you to understand exactly who you’re marketing to: 

  • Their ambitions, and how you can make them come true 
  • Their problems, and how you can solve them
  • Their tone of voice (formal vs conversational, the social platforms they use), so you can talk to them in their language

Within your target market, you’ll have numerous types of buyers – your product or service might be purchased by CEOs, marketing managers, sales directors and so on.

Buyers in each of these roles have different interests, priorities and goals. Taking the time to define and understand the characteristics and motivations of each of your buyer personas is crucial in creating content that resonates, that inspires trust with your potential customers and that convinces them to open a dialogue with you.

Our blog on the importance of buyer personas explains more.

Step 2. Set your inbound marketing strategy objectives

You can’t measure the success of your inbound marketing strategy without first identifying what you want it to achieve and when you expect to see the results.

So that you can easily gauge the success of your inbound strategy, your objectives should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

To learn more, take a look at HubSpot’s handy guide to setting SMART objectives.

To set your inbound marketing goals, start by assessing your website’s current ability to attract traffic, convert leads and close business. (Whilst your website isn’t your only source of business in inbound marketing, it is the most important.)

Some of the key performance indicators for your website may include:

  • Number of unique website visitors per month
  • Number of times a specific call to action was clicked
  • Number of times a form was completed
  • Number of inbound leads gained per month
  • Sources of website traffic. You may want your strategy to focus on improving leads from PPC, SEO, blogs, social channels or email

Of course, all of these objectives relate to – and will influence – the most crucial metric of all: sales and revenue.

A successful inbound marketing strategy needs just as much buy-in from your sales team as your marketing team.

That’s why when setting your objectives, it’s important to have input from both the marketing and sales teams to ensure you’re setting goals that both agree with and can work together to achieve. 

It might be called inbound marketing but this process is just as important to sales, whose success depends on the quality of the leads generated by your marketing strategies and campaigns. 

In turn, your sales team can inform your marketers as to the standard of the leads and make suggestions to improve marketing messages or targeting based on what they’re seeing.

Once you’ve chosen your metrics, you can then judge what you consider to be a conservative improvement, a successful improvement and a beyond-your-wildest-dreams improvement (even if just for fun), against which you’ll measure your inbound marketing strategy’s success.

Step 3. Outline your customers’ marketing triggers

Now you know who your ideal customers are and what makes them tick, you then need to identify the events and pain points in their lives that cause them to seek out products like yours. 

Knowing these marketing triggers allows you to position yourself at your customers’ point of need via highly targeted and relevant messaging, rather than scatter-gunning content out to large, amorphous audiences.

Let’s take an example. What might be the triggers of a property development company’s customers? 

  • A growing family, creating the need for a bigger house
  • Retirement, creating the need to downsize and free up equity in their current home
  • The need to be nearer to good schools, work or other amenities
  • A move from the city to the countryside 

Understanding these triggers helps you determine which topics you should create content around. Which for our property developer might mean producing blog content, social posts and video about how their homes are perfect for retirees. (They’re within leisurely walking distance to shops and supermarkets and there are all manner of classes to take at the local college.)

Understand what makes your audience tick and then create content based on their motivations.

Understanding barriers to action is also important, as it allows you to be the solution to your audience’s problems.

So, our savvy property developer understands that moving day can be a logistical headache. As such, they create a moving-day checklist for users to download, print out and use to navigate through this tricky day. 

They support this download with a How To video seeded out over social channels. On top of that, they write a more detailed blog that educates their readers whilst boosting their SEO ranking, as it contains a number of crucial keywords (more on that in the next step). This they send out over email, as they know their click-through rate is high and its users have a proclivity for long-form content.

Hey presto, three pieces of cross-channel messaging that help their customers on the most important day in the moving-house process, whilst painting them as a trustworthy, value-adding and memorable company to do business with.

Step 4. Create a list of keywords

With your buyer personas in place and their marketing triggers understood, the next step is to work out how people are searching for information about your product. This is where keyword research comes in.

Keyword research shows the search volume of a keyword or phrase by internet users. It’s important to understand the terms your potential customers are searching for so that you can create keyword-rich content around them – content that speaks to the common questions and everyday challenges your buyer personas face.

An inbound marketing strategy helps your entire business work as one to meet both your goals and those of your customers.

Not only will your customers appreciate this, Google and Bing will like it, too, as you’ll be creating content that brings value to its readers. This helps improve your content’s performance on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Just remember, the key to keywords isn’t going overboard with them. Focus first on creating content that your potential customers want to read – stuff that’s useful to them, that solves a problem. The keywords follow on from the topic, not the other way around.

Step 5. Align content to the buyer’s journey

Leads typically fall into one of three stages:

Top-of-the-funnel awareness: your leads are searching for general information about a subject.

Middle-of-the-funnel evaluation: your leads need to be introduced to your brand and learn what it’s like to do business with you.

Bottom-of-the-funnel buying decision: your leads are looking for information that communicates the functions and benefits of your product.

  • The goal of top-of-the-funnel content is to attract as much awareness as possible and convert visitors into leads. Social media, blogs, video marketing, white papers and infographics are all examples of top-of-funnel content that can spread to a large audience. Identifying your buyer personas’ online preferences here will help you decide which channel to prioritise.
  • Middle-of-the-funnel content positions your product to those who have trickled down from the top or who are repeat customers. Targeted newsletters, blogs (again), ebooks, case studies, branded webinars, white papers (again) and email campaigns are types of middle-funnel content that explain your brand further whilst adding value to an already-intrigued reader.
  • Bottom-of-the-funnel leads have shown signs that they’re interested in your product or service offering and are serious about doing business with you. As such, now is a good time to offer them a free trial, a live demo, a discounted deal or a free consultation.

A lot of brands tend to focus on top-of-funnel content but if you don’t have anything engaging to offer your leads in the middle and bottom stages of the funnel, you stand less chance of moving them through to conversion. 

Don’t just focus on top-of-funnel content otherwise you won’t move leads through your sales cycle.

To avoid losing valuable leads during the buyer’s journey, ask yourself: are we delivering all the information that our potential customers need at each stage in order to move them further down the funnel? 

Understanding the questions, concerns and objections that each of your buyer personas has during the three stages of the inbound funnel will help you formulate a content strategy that converts.

Step 6. Create a lead nurturing process

Most leads are lost because they’re not given enough information. And usually this is because you don’t give it to them when they need it. This is where sales automation can help.

So that your leads don’t go cold and seek the information they need elsewhere, you should automate your lead-nurturing process. 

This could be via a series of automated emails sent at predetermined times reminding leads that you can offer something of value to them. It could be a timely phone call when you notice that a lead has returned to your website. It could also be retargeting advertising, where your online ads target those who have visited your site over the past month but didn’t complete a specific conversion.

Give your customers the information they need when they need it by automating your lead-nurturing.

You can treat what the content of your automated message should say in the same way as you plan your content – via the funnel.

Top-of-funnel automated messages should answer the most common questions your leads have, which will make them more receptive to further information about what you offer. For example, a gym might send an email about how a ten-minute workout can help super busy parents stay fit.

Middle-funnel messages deliver brand-specific information that positions your brand as the answer. So the gym might send an email with an embedded Ten-Minute Tummy Toner YouTube video and a call-to-action discount on Tummy Toner sessions running at the lead’s local gym. And if they don’t convert? Then schedule an automated phone call reminder to contact the lead for three days later.

At the bottom end of the funnel, your leads are sales-qualified. They’re interested in the solutions you’re providing. At this point, leads should be handed over to your sales team, who have a strong chance of converting these leads into customers.

Step 7. Conversion-focused blogging

A conversion-focused blogging strategy is designed to attract qualified traffic to your website. Each blog post is centred on an offer or a service you provide, with a call to action encouraging readers to find out more about it. Often, the call to action will link to some gated content – an exclusive offer that a user can gain access to once they’ve provided their contact details and their permission to be marketed at in the future.

Let’s go back to the gym example. They have a buyer persona of post-pregnancy mums who want to get fit again. So the gym writes a top-of-funnel ebook guide that talks about the benefits of post-pregnancy exercise.

They then support this guide with a series of related blog posts:

“How exercise can combat the postnatal blues.”

“The top ten post-pregnancy exercises.”

“Five foods to boost your post-pregnancy workout.”

Within each of these blogs is included a link (or several links) to the ebook guide. Once the person has downloaded it, the gym knows they are receptive to their service and can target them with gym subscription offers or pass them onto the sales team.

Step 8. Build a team of inbound marketing strategy experts

Getting your inbound marketing strategy right takes a diverse range of skills. It’s important that you map the skills you’ll need against those you have available to you.

Do you have the skills in-house to make it work or do you need to recruit? Do you need training from the experts? Or is it more time- and cost-effective to outsource your inbound marketing strategy to an agency?

Whether you go in-house or decide to outsource, you’ll need experts in the following:

  • Inbound marketing strategy
  • Digital design
  • Blogging
  • Web analytics / data analysis
  • Front & back end web development
  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay-per-click marketing
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Email marketing
  • Social media management
  • Project management
  • Copywriting

Which is quite the list. But, as we said at the start, inbound is a strategy that influences your business’ entire marketing- and sales-driven processes and requires everyone’s buy-in, from your strategists to your content creators.

This, however, is a good thing, because an inbound marketing strategy done right means your entire business is pulling together as one to meet your goals and those of your customers.

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