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8 Steps to a Rock-Solid Inbound Marketing Plan

  |  March 27, 2014   |  Comments

To build an effective inbound marketing plan, start by building a solid foundation with these eight helpful steps, which include laying out measurable goals and getting specific.

Inbound Marketing: The Big Picture

Overwhelming is the first word that comes to mind when I think about the work involved in setting up an initial foundation for a solid inbound marketing plan. First, you have to figure out a seamless way to connect all of your brand's various Web properties and assets - website, social media sites, landing pages, blog, email lists, etc.

Then, there's the process of producing a steady stream of high-quality content that will resonate with the needs and desires of your brand's various buyer personas.

So where do you get started with a project of this magnitude? You build a solid foundation.

Build a Solid Foundation in Eight Steps

Your inbound marketing strategy will only be as strong as the foundation you build upon. Creating a solid base involves research and effort, as well as planning for a built-in feedback loop to help improve processes as you move along.

  1. Get clear on who the campaign is geared for. We're not talking about broad target audiences here. Before you can start building an inbound marketing campaign, you'll need to get crystal clear on the specific types of people who buy from your organization. Buyer personas move past general assumptions and get into the specific psychology of your customers. Here are five reasons why you need to think through buyer personas.
  2. Lay out measurable goals. This step is an easy one to skip over, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's a keystone in being able to continue your inbound marketing efforts in an intelligent, calculated way when you get to the last step in the cycle. If you don't set benchmarks (conversion rates for different CTAs, email open rates, number of downloads, etc.) it will be difficult to make heads or tails of the data when you check in on analytics later on down the line.
  3. Create landing pages that are synced up to each piece of content. Have you ever clicked on an advertisement or email offer that led you to a landing page with totally different design or messaging elements? It's totally jarring and leaves you with a feeling of disconnect. For me, I even begin to question the legitimacy of the organization behind the content and whether or not they're adept at providing whatever product or service they're trying to sell. It's important to flow through each step of your content plan and double-check that all elements are tied together both from an aesthetic and marcom perspective.
  4. Plan out and build nurturing flows. If you haven't spoken with a sales rep on your team or individual customers who use your products and services, now is the time to do it. By asking specific questions about the sales process and your customers' typical buying behaviors and paths, you will be able to identify the different challenges and opportunities that naturally arise in a typical sales cycle with your business. This will give huge insight into planning an effective nurturing campaign. This step is a little bit like writing a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. You'll discover not only what kind of content will resonate with your customers, but also the number of emails you might want to send, along with the order in which you deliver different pieces of content and how often you should communicate with a prospect or lead.
  5. Send targeted emails to your contacts. Take a minute to think about your own habits with email. If you're like most people, you're inundated with an insane amount of email every day and end up trashing most newsletter or subscription-based emails that come in without ever opening to review the contents. Now, think about those emails you do choose to open. These emails probably avoid the instant-delete death for three main reasons: 1) They come in at a time when you're less busy and more available to pay attention; 2) They provide something that meets a specific need or desire you have; and/or 3) They come from an organization that emails only when there is something super important to share that they know will be relevant to you. Moral of the story? Segment your contact list into specific buyer personas and only email those segments of your audience when you have content that makes perfect sense to send to them.
  6. Spread the word. You've taken an incredible amount of time to put together a plan, understand your audience, produce content, and set the whole campaign in motion. Don't waste the opportunity you've created by stopping here. This is the point where it's important to publicize your work and get the word out to everyone who may not yet be on your mailing list. Write blog posts, post photos on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and share links to the content over social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Budget for paid media options that can target individuals searching for content like the kind you're creating.
  7. Get specific. Use long-tail keywords to increase your chances of being found by search engines and, in turn, potential customers. Find out what phrases people use when they look for the products/services you offer. Be specific by using narrowly targeted phrases and you'll draw higher-quality prospects into your marketing funnel.
  8. Track. Analyze. Tweak. Repeat. Your first attempts at inbound marketing will be largely a guessing game. No big deal. You have to get out there and try something before you'll have information about what works best and what's not likely to garner the results you're looking to achieve. Learn from your mistakes. Build out on success. Adjust and tweak as you go along.

Inbound Marketing: The Devil Is in the Details

Effectively creating an inbound marketing campaign involves planning with the big picture in mind, without forgetting to attend to the details. Here's a quick checklist to make sure you don't forget the "little" things when you roll out a new campaign:

  • Research and interview sales reps and customers to get clear documentation on your buyer personas' pain points and desires.
  • Map out a nurture plan that hits all the key points in a buyer persona's typical sales cycle.
  • Move step-by-step through your content marketing plan (from CTAs and CPC ad copy to landing pages and content design) to ensure that all messaging and design aspects are in sync.
  • Segment your email contacts as granularly as possible in order to build lists that target specific needs in a truly customized way.
  • Set aside resources to distribute each piece of content across all available channels (owned, paid, social).
  • Take time to incorporate long-tail keywords into the appropriate Web pages.
  • Start each campaign cycle with clear goals and end it with a review of the data to contemplate what worked and what didn't.

Image via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aubrey Beck

Aubrey is the marketing communications manager at Salted Stone, an award-winning digital marketing agency in Southern California. She specializes in inbound marketing and brand strategy, working mostly with emerging tech companies and start-ups to identify their voice and create revenue-driving content plans.

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