As an inbound marketing consultant, I have the pleasure of working each day with companies across a variety of industries to create and improve their inbound marketing efforts. Doing so provides a unique perspective into which key activities and steps are needed to build a successful inbound marketing culture that not only increases leads but also establishes thought leadership and online visibility.
It became evident after speaking with a number of companies at INBOUND, that were just getting started with inbound marketing, that the process for actually getting started and how it all works is somewhat confusing and difficult to follow. Most companies looking to start an inbound marketing program understand that writing blogs and creating landing pages are part of the process but they don’t understand everything that needs to happen outside of those key areas.
Below is the 7-Step Lead Generation Process that LeadG2 uses to help clients navigate and embrace an inbound marketing culture. Over the next few weeks we are going to take a look at each stage of the 7 Step Lead Generation process and offer some tips and tricks at each stage. We hope that by detailing each step in the process it can help clarify the steps needed for inbound marketing success.
7-Step Lead Generation Process
Step 1: Plan
The first step, “Plan,” is one of the most challenging aspects of getting started with inbound marketing and embracing an inbound culture. Why is this so challenging for companies to grasp? Well, for most companies, inbound marketing is a new way of doing things and it takes a fair amount of education and understanding to truly see the potential and how it can fundamentally change the way a company markets themselves.
Crucial at this early stage is not just buy in from management but also buy in from everyone within the company that has something to do with sales and marketing. Because inbound marketing works so much better when it’s part of a company’s DNA and not just a program, it’s important that everyone has a very good understanding of what inbound marketing is, the benefits and the challenges. Getting everyone on the same page and using the same terminology can really lay a solid groundwork for what’s to come.
After a solid base of knowledge is in place it’s then important to identify and delineate responsibilities for certain key roles such as “Blog Manager” and to establish who your team of bloggers will be.
TIP: While the “Blog Manager” doesn’t have to be an inbound marketing or digital marketing expert, they should have a solid understanding of using a CMS (content management system such as WordPress), publishing to social media, understand the basics of SEO, and know a little bit of HTML. Having to learn HubSpot in addition to learning how to manage social media accounts all at the same time can sometimes be overwhelming. So having someone as Blog Manager who is a “digital native” is recommended.
The next step in creating your inbound marketing plan is to determine who your target audience is. Having an accurate understanding of your target persona is vital to the success of your inbound marketing efforts. The better you know your prospects and customers, the better you can generate content that addresses their needs and questions.
After sitting in dozens of inbound marketing planning meetings, you would be surprised at how many times I have seen companies just guessing at who their target persona is and not really have any data or research on their most important prospects.
There are a number of ways to create Target Personas including customer surveys, internal surveys and market research to name just a few. We recommend that this is done prior to your planning day so that you can use this information in the next phase of planning: content brainstorming.
Now that you have a good idea of who you are creating content for, the next step is determining what content you are going to create for them. The main types of content that is created for inbound marketing includes: blog posts and offers.
Take note that a blog post could be more than just text and include a video or podcast and that offers can be anything that you present as value ranging from white papers to signing up for a webinar.
TIP: At this stage of the planning process including key players from sales, marketing, customer service and other areas of the company that touch prospects and clients is recommended. Asking the team that you have assembled what questions they frequently hear from prospects and customers can help you get a better understanding of what information you can provide.
Determining your content strategy is one of the most important things that you can do while mapping out your content strategy as 54% of companies surveyed by Ascend2 said that “content creation is not only the most effective tactic for Inbound Marketing purposes, it is also the most difficult tactic to execute.”
Once you have determined what content your target persona would be most interested in you can start to brainstorm blog post titles and offers with your team and come up with your content strategy.
TIP: For each “offer” that you create you will want to have at least 5 - 10 blog posts that can tie back to the offer. So if you had a “Download a Sample Widget” as an offer you would want to have several blog posts about “Why Widgets Matter,” “Top 5 Greatest Things about Widgets,” and so forth.
Note that this is just Step 1: Plan and that it’s where companies come up short, and, as indicated by 46% of companies stating that, “the lack of an effective strategy and the creation of content are the most challenging obstacles to reaching the next level of Inbound Marketing performance.”
Step 2: Create
Create will be addressed in the next blog posts and will get into more detail about how to write blog posts, what the different types of blog posts are and more about premium content. Stay tuned and make sure that you subscribe to the blog so you can be notified when the next one is published.