Starting inbound marketing is like preparing a ship and its crew to go on a long sea voyage. Once underway, here's what needs to happen.
If you’re considering an inbound marketing effort, you’ve probably heard that results aren’t immediate, but that they will come over time. So once you’ve started, what happens next? Kick back and wait for the leads to come rolling in?
Sadly, no. At that point you’ve really only just crossed the starting line.
Launching an around-the-world sailing trip involves a lot of preparation. You have to make sure the ship is seaworthy, find the crew, get provisions and equipment, buy rum, do sea trials, chart your course, etc.
Launching an inbound marketing effort is similar. You have lots of preparation to do beforehand like setting goals, researching buyer personas, doing keyword research, setting up your site with calls-to-action and landing pages, writing blog articles and premium content, setting up lead nurturing sequences, and so on.
Once you’re underway with inbound marketing, the work never really stops. That’s because of the iterative, trial and error nature of inbound marketing. Just like with sailing, you want to always monitor your position as it relates to your course, and make continuous corrections.
So what are the types of things you should be doing once you’re underway with inbound marketing? Your time and effort should include:
Aligning Sales and Marketing
In B2B sales, one authoritative study has found that buyers are now at least 57% through their purchase before they first contact the seller. As a result, marketing is now playing a bigger role in the sales process as the customer comes down the sales funnel before engaging with sales.
With the changing way that customers now buy, sales and marketing are being forced to work more closely together. And when they do, good things happen: companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieved 20% annual revenue growth, according to an Aberdeen Group study.
It’s content that will first bring visitors to your site who are looking for solutions to their problems. New content has to continue in order to increase your traffic and leads. Don’t start an inbound marketing effort unless you can commit to an ongoing content creation effort. Inbound marketing without new content is like trying to sail without wind.
The content should include frequent blogging, premium content (requiring registration on a landing page) like eBooks, whitepapers, buying guides, tip sheets, webinars, etc.
Researching Your Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are a profile of what your ideal customers are really like. What challenges do they face? What would make them successful? What objections do they have to buying a product like yours? What’s keeping them up at night?
Your buyer personas are the people around whom your business is built. The more that you understand them, the better your content and products will be. An ongoing dialogue with your buyer personas will give your company a competitive edge.
Measuring and Analyzing
In a nutshell, inbound marketing has three key aspects: 1) Getting found online, 2) Converting visitors & leads, and 3) Analyzing and improving. The importance of #3 is so that you can iterate and do more of what’s working to get #1 and #2, and less of what’s not working. If you stop measuring your inbound marketing, you will go off course.
Engaging on Social Media
Think about social media like Jay Baer describes it: “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” Use social media to extend the reach of your content, get it shared and draw even more traffic back to your site. But don’t stop there – engage with your prospective customers on social media and put a human face on your company.
Sales expert Trish Bertuzzi describes the changing world of sales this way: “It’s the ‘cold’ that’s dead – not the ‘calling.’” Just because you are generating leads online does not mean your need to prospect will go away.
Instead, you will still need to reach out to prospects, but with inbound marketing your sales efforts will be better informed and you can be more helpful.
If you’ve been doing outbound marketing in the past to generate leads, while you might want to eliminate it once you start doing inbound marketing, don’t do it. During the time that your inbound marketing efforts are picking up wind, you’ll want to look at slowly, judiciously drawing down your outbound marketing.
And while outbound marketing’s power is declining precipitously, the need for it won’t go away. There will be instances where it will still be helpful for lead generation.