The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing Strategy
by Mike Khorev
We have surely seen all the buzz surrounding inbound marketing, with many claiming it to be the most effective marketing strategy available. Yet, just because it’s effective, doesn’t mean we won’t need to execute it right, and in this guide, we will learn how.
In this guide to inbound marketing strategy, we will divide our discussion into three big parts. By the end, you can develop a sound inbound marketing strategy and start implementing it.
Let us begin with the first one.
Targeting The Right Audience
Knowing who to target and understanding their needs are very important factors for the success of your inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is ultimately about delivering valuable content to your target audience. Without knowing their needs, you simply can’t deliver value.
The market is also rapidly changing, as do the behaviors and needs of your audience. Focusing on the target audience that matters will also help you in dealing with this changes. So, how can we effectively determine the right audience? Below, we will share some of our methods:
1. Social media insights
If your business already have performing social media profiles with several hundreds followers for each, you can analyze their demographic data to figure out your existing customer base.
Most major social media platforms offer features to analyze the demographic data of your followers, especially their gender, age, and location. For example, if you have a Facebook Page, there’s the “Insights” tab on the top of the page for this purpose.
This is also why social media should be one of your main ways of publishing and promoting content.The more followers and fans you have, the more data you’ll have, and the better you can understand your audience.
2. Conducting Online Surveys
Conducting surveys can be very effective to know your target prospects, and you can easily do this if you already have a growing email database. Also, there are many different tools that can assist you in this process.
The main goal here is to find out your target audience’s needs and problems, so you can ask a question like “what is your current biggest issue related to X (your niche/industry)”. By figuring out their problems, you can then develop content pieces providing solutions to these issues.
3. Conducting Interviews
While broadcasting surveys can be an effective way to figure out the general picture of your target market, it is fairly difficult to capture an in-depth data with it. This is where phone or even in-person interviews can fill in the gap.
Select a few of your existing customers (it’s better to conduct interviews with existing customers compared to prospects, since generally they are more willing), and ask them if it’s okay to conduct short phone calls or video chats (a maximum of 10 minutes). Again, your main goal here is to find out their current problems: ask their current struggles, the solutions they’ve tried in the past, and what are they looking in a solution.
You can then use this data to develop your content.
4. Content Development
Content quality is obviously the core of any inbound marketing strategy. In fact, in theory, if your content quality is excellent, you won’t need any strategy at all.
On the other hand, no amount of promotion can help low-quality content pieces. Even when a low-quality content somehow rank on the top of search engine results, it won’t bring any business, period.
The value of your content is directly tied to your audience’s needs: a good inbound marketer should always adapt their content according to the current needs of their audience. Yet, it’s not the only thing you should consider when developing your content.
Here are a few areas you should focus on:
First, understand that textual content, especially blog posts, is still the most effective content form in generating new leads.
However, more and more businesses are shifting towards podcasts and videos, and not without its reasons:you can’t consume textual content while driving or while working out in the gym. Podcasts and videos tackled that issue.
Yet, when researching for services and products, people trust textual content more, especially due to its ability to cover in-depth information.
So, a majority of your content should be textual, while podcasts, videos, and webinars can assist these textual content pieces. For example, you can create a podcast covering an outline for a topic, and offer a link to a more in-depth blog posts covering the same topic. If necessary, you can offer e-books or white papers for even more in-depth information.
This is the main principle you should understand: the longer is always the better, as long as you can maintain engagement throughout the whole content. Yet, we all know that maintaining quality will be more difficult with longer content pieces. The key is finding that balance.
Titles, or headlines, if you will, are the first thing people read when they stumbled upon your content, and so they are the ones determining your click-through rate (CTR).
Optimized titles are also important for SEO purposes. You should include your target keyword in the title while making sure the title is also appealing to human readers. Putting the target keyword at the front of the title will also help. For example, if your focus keyword is “Local SEO”, you can make a title like “Local SEO:Top 10 Tactics for Higher Google Maps Results”.
You might want to check this guide by QuickSprout on optimizing headlines.
Similar to titles, your snippet (META description) is very important not only to improve CTR, but for SEO purposes. Include your target keywords, but make sure the description is comprehensive and engaging for human readers.
You might want to check this guide by Neil Patel on how to optimize META description.
Diversify your media
Even if you should focus on primarily textual content pieces, you should utilize other media like images, infographics, audio, and even videos to enrich your content.
Remember that these additional media should support your core content, do not use them just for the sake of it. You can also optimize these images and videos for SEO benefits.
Tell a compelling story
Every human being is attracted to great story: we either spend our lives consuming exciting stories (through books, movies and so on) or writing our own (literally, or by living a successful life).
So, even if your content is technical and data-driven, doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting and fun. Use storytelling techniques to enhance your content, use a conversational approach to engage your audience, and aim to create an interactive story.
No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring value if no one consumes it. This is why content development is just half of the process, and you shouldn’t neglect content promotion as the core part of your inbound marketing strategy.
There are various ways to promote your content, and below, we will list some of the most popular (and effective) ones:
1. Social Media Marketing
Quite obvious, with so many people using social media nowadays, it is one of the most effective platforms to promote anything.
The thing is, organic reach on major social media platforms have declined rapidly in recent years. So, you will need to consider paid promotional options. Your main goal here is to have more people sharing your content, which can bring exponential benefits both for short-term and long-term basis.
2. Guest Posting
When done right, guest posting can be very effective inbound marketing strategy. Why? Because you get many different benefits with one action: you get backlinks (probably not immediately, but very possible), you get awareness and authority, and you develop relationships with influencers and high-quality sites.
There are several key principles to a proper guest posting campaign:
- Consistency is key, find as many sites accepting guest posting,and approach all of them
- Take notes on sites with high engagement rates, these are your priorities
- Build relationships before you pitch them with your blog post: engage in their conversations, comment on their previous posts, and so on
- Don’t focus on getting backlinks at first, aim to get authority
3. Influencer Marketing
Utilizing influencers not only can effectively promote your content pieces, but you will also get the benefit of getting backlinks from their authority sites.
Again, here are some key principles for a successful influencer marketing campaign:
- The most important step is finding the right influencers for you. There are many tools that can assist you in this process, for example, Buzzsumo.
- Gradually build a relationship with these influencers. Engage them on their social media profiles, join their conversations, and only after gaining their trust, you can propose them for a content promotion opportunity
- Don’t solely focus on major influencers and celebrities, micro-influencers can also provide values
4. Host a Webinar
You can utilize webinars to promote your brand or your personality, while also indirectly promote your content. Host a free webinar session in exchange for their email address, which can be an effective lead generation device.
If you can provide value, people who attended your webinar might also be interested in future content, as you establish your position as the thought leader of your niche.
5. Email Marketing
Email marketing is still a very effective tactic not only to promote your content, but also to encourage those who have consumed your content to convert.
Here are some important principles for a successful email marketing campaign:
- Be consistent and think long-term, regularly provide excellent content through email marketing. Don’t focus on hard-selling your products, but focus on providing value
- Understand the behavior and needs of your email subscribers (back to section I). You simply need to provide them with proper values, a reason to stay subscribed
- Personalize your email marketing by using first names. Many email marketing tools can help with this
- Use an interesting, engaging subject line.
- Keep your email messages to-the-point and engaging, you can use animated gifs, images, and even videos, but make sure they have decent loading speed
- Make sure all email messages are mobile-responsive
SEO is obviously an inseparable aspect of inbound marketing, and the primary way you can increase your content’s visibility.
To maximize your SEO results, there are three main areas to focus on:
- Make sure your content is targeting a proper keyword with enough search volume. Check the top-ranking content pieces of this keyword, and aim to develop a better content
- Optimize these keywords on your content, but don’t overstuff the keywords. Include keyword variants and make sure they occur naturally
- Use various content promotion techniques discussed above to generate more backlinks
Remember, however, that SEO is a long-term game. Be consistent with your SEO optimizations, and expect at least 6 to 12 months before you see your content on the first page of search results.
Utilizing Your Content to Achieve Results
Inbound marketing won’t bring any value on its own, unless it can generate traffic (leads), educate customers (lead nurturing) or encourage conversions.
Below, we will discuss how to optimize inbound marketing in those three different areas.
1. Lead Generation
The most common practice in this aspect is to offer free but valuable content to acquire leads. You can offer well-researched reports, white papers, e-books, or even in-depth videos and webinar sessions in exchange of their email address.
The key here is obviously the value of your content: the more valuable it is, the more leads you can capture. Check out some of the best examples of this practice, as compiled by Contently.
There are other tactics you can try, for example, offering your readers to subscribe to your email newsletter within your blog post.
2. Lead Nurturing
This is the stage where most inbound marketing practices shine the brightest. Your content will be a powerful weapon to nurture your prospects until they are finally ready to purchase. There are two main goals here:
- Establish trust and credibility. The thing is, people only want to purchase from brands they can trust. This is the most important purpose of inbound marketing.
- Educating your audience about your product or service, especially your unique value proposition. Only when people realize your unique values, they will purchase your product and not your competitor’s.
In this stage, inbound marketing will be even more effective when combined with other lead nurturing campaigns like email marketing and social media marketing among others.
The key here is to refer to the two main goals discussed above when planning and developing your content pieces.
There are two different conversions to discuss here: converting visitors to prospects/leads, and converting leads into actual customers.
Inbound marketing is very effective in driving blog visitors into leads, as we have discussed on the lead generation section above. However, inbound marketing is less effective at converting leads into actual customers, although it’s not impossible.
Here are some key tactics you can implement to optimize conversions:
- Optimize your site and landing pages
Make sure all your pages, including your email content is mobile-responsive and have fast loading speeds.
If you include links, make sure it is easy enough to click on mobile device.Similarly, make sure all forms are easy to fill on phone screens, and don’t use too many fields (4-5 is the maximum).
- Optimize CTA placements
You can include CTA buttons within your content. Yet, make sure the placement doesn’t disrupt the user in consuming the content. You might want to check this guide by Crazy Egg (written by Neil Patel) on optimizing CTA buttons.
- Monitor and Refine
Monitor the performance of your content, and aim to refine future content pieces according to this data. You can also re-optimize or even leverage existing content pieces.
As you can see,although inbound marketing seemed like a simple strategy at first, there are many different tactics and optimizations you can implement to maximize your results.
Inbound marketing is a very effective way especially to generate and nurture leads. The key here is to understand your audience, especially their needs and behaviors, and provide values and solutions according to their needs and problems.
If you implement inbound marketing properly, you will see sustainable growth in your business.
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Mike Khorev is an SEO expert and digital marketing consultant who helps small and mid-size businesses generate more leads, sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO digital marketing, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter
February 17, 2020