Inbound marketing. Every brand’s doing it, why not yours?
Ok, so maybe not every brand is working inbound marketing. But there’s a lot evidence to suggest that every brand should be working this angle harder to reach consumers. For starters, 61 percent of global Internet users research products online and 44 percent of online shoppers start shopping online, according to inbound innovator HubSpot.
But your brand is already online, you say, proudly citing a snappy URL.
It’s a good start. But having a website has been table stakes for more than a decade. It’s the equivalent of having a store without a sign or advertising. You flick on the lights and hope people will trip into your space to buy something. Inbound marketing is so much more. When done well, inbound marketing is like a grand opening party 24/7, with bells and whistles that constantly attract a crowd.
How? With content—blogs, videos, posts, infographics, decks, webinars and more. People crave content. Half of consumers read blogs more than once a day. Why? Because content helps them make more informed decisions. Some 86 percent of consumers stated that using a search engine helped them learn something new or important that boosted their knowledge, according to Pew.
Need more reasons to get serious about inbound marketing? How about boosting leads and improving ROI? Here are a few more compelling stats compiled by HubSpot.
- 54 percent more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing.
- 2X as many marketers say inbound delivers below average cost per lead than outbound methods.
- 79 percent of companies that have a blog report a positive ROI for inbound marketing.
Go inbound, savvy marketer
So you believe in the power of content and are ready to put inbound in action for your brand. These five tips will help you lay a solid foundation with room for experimentation and growth.
1. Make personas your muse.
Think of your ideal consumer. What does she do for a living? What does her job look like? How does she measure success? What’s standing in her way? How does she consider new products and services at work? At home? What’s her favorite social media channel and how much time does she spend on it? Where does she go for advice, counsel, ideas?
Don’t just pull a demographic profile, go deeper. Personas are the difference between a target audience and a muse. It’s the difference between crafting content for women age 18-54, who have an average HHI of $75k, reside in urban areas, are married with 2.5 kids, and Mary, the 40-year-old divorced, mother of two active primary schoolers, who works full-time as a vice principal at an urban high school with low graduation rates.
When Mary’s not at her desk, she’s on the road shuttling her kids to lessons, practice and their dad’s house. She’s online—a lot—looking for advice, counsel and time savings, mostly from the convenience of her Droid. While most of her waking hours are productive, she falls asleep to HGTV. We know enough about Mary to order her favorite pizza and read her kids a bedtime story. The web has become increasingly personal and customized. Speak in general terms and you may get traffic. Speak in key persona language and you’ll get qualified leads.
2. Keywords: The long and short of it.
These are the coveted short- and long-tailed word strings that people type into search engines to find answers to their problems (Who’s the actor that starred in Jurassic World? Who’s the best cardiologist in my county? What’s the name of that organic pizza place? How do I motivate my staff?) We tend to start off with big ideas, and become increasingly focused when ready to make a decision or purchase. Both are equally important and impossible to conceive if you’re uncertain of your brand’s unique value proposition.
At Brogan, we’re particularly strong in creating advertising that emotionally connects—especially with the female decision maker—and have had much success and experience with healthcare, specialty retail and social marketing brands. So we produce copy that is rich with the keywords that our personas employ when shopping for information online, i.e. “marketing to women” or “healthcare trends in social media.” Leave a good trail of keywords and prospects will find you.
3. Editorial calendar: Plan before you post.
Editorial calendars are an excellent way to plan and organize content for the year. The most basic template starts with objectives, organized by month, followed by an editorial theme. So, if you’re a dog food brand, your January objective might be “$1 million net sales, specialty items.” With February and Valentine’s Day around the corner, an editorial theme might be “I Heart Fido.” The next step is building story ideas around your objective and theme. (Canine cardio health. Pampering your pooch. The fashionable pup. Dog Valentine’s Day greetings.)
Once you’ve honed in on the story ideas, cast the content accordingly across your marketing and sales channels—website (sliders/promo space, blogs, landing pages, etc.), social media, PR, advertising and in-store promotions, among others. Integration is critical. Not only does it help ensure consumers have a consistent brand experience from digital to doorstep, it can help boost engagement, SEO and ROI.
If you have limited resources, prioritize your channels. Blogs are popular because they can spark immediate interest and continue working to attract prospects for years to come (the compounding blog). They also provide fresh content for your website, aka search engine candy. Blogs are also easy to leverage across other channels, such as social media (hey, we posted a blog), email (we’re deeper than this space allows; read our blog) and web sites (we’ve looked at this from different angles; read this blog post). It’s so important, in fact, that blogging merits its own place on this list.
4. Blog and blog again.
Blogs are the third-most influential digital resource when making overall purchases, behind retail sites (56 percent) and brand sites (34 percent), according to Technorati. The same survey found blogs to be the fifth-most trustworthy source overall for information on the Internet. Finally, blogs give sites 434 percent more indexed pages, says Content Plus. The more indexed pages your site has, the greater your web prowess.
This content and link-building strategy is so well regarded, that it’s noted in Google’s SEO Starter Guide. In addition to building page strength, blogs provide a regular stream of fresh content, another factor search engines consider for evaluating rank and popularity of website pages.
Like with all web content, blogs should be strategically planned and executed. User personas, keywords and the brand value proposition should always dictate content creation. The most clever blog, absent of any clear relevance to the brand’s success, is simply a waste of resources. What’s more, reckless blogging may hurt the brand when visitors arrive to your site with expectations that are frustrated by a lack of focus and discipline.
5. Review, refine, repeat.
Measurable objectives are a critical part of any marketing endeavor, and inbound marketing is no different. Whether your goals surround building organic website traffic, capturing more leads online, growing social engagement or brand awareness, some combination thereof, or something altogether different, it is imperative to set realistic, but ambitious metrics—and rigorously track and analyze results.
The data is readily available, which makes digital marketing beautifully dynamic. If your blogs aren’t attracting visitors or links, adjust your editorial calendar accordingly. Maybe your personas need tweaking. Perhaps your blogging cadence needs to be revisited. Refine your plan and try again. And again. And again.
Inbound marketing strategy requires planning, integration and discipline. It can be difficult to measure ROI because visitors often take time to convert to consumers. But the overall value is unquestionable.
If you’re willing to invest in a website, shouldn’t it be working hard to sell your brand?
Brands with serious inbound marketing mojo
Inbound marketing is at its finest when it doesn’t feel like marketing, rather great customer service. Blackbaud is a good example. The fundraising software company’s online resources are rich with tips on how to write annual appeals, host events and manage volunteers, and more. The content anticipates the user’s needs. The site gives away just enough to spark additional interest from visitors, and invites further consideration with downloadable assets that require minimal user profile information—including an email address. Prospects are then invited to return for additional relevant content via email offers and promotions with clear and relevant calls to action, including whitepapers and webinars.
What brands do you lean on and lean into for inbound marketing?