In this guide, you will learn what inbound is and how to create an effective inbound marketing strategy of your very own. Start achieving more significant growth goals and watch your brand predictably increase performance.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is creating valuable content to attract your potential buyers. As opposed to outbound marketing, inbound marketing is about developing resources that your ideal buyers can find organically. This can be in the form of blog posts, content offers, website pages, or other media. If you’re trying to determine what the difference between inbound and outbound marketing is, make sure to read our article on Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Sales.
In order to attract prospects, your marketing department needs to generate content that your ideal buyer is looking for. Developing content is only scratching the surface, inbound marketing also entails: search query/keyword research, setting marketing objectives, developing buyer personas, competitor research, sales and marketing alignment, and so on.
To understand how your company will execute successful inbound marketing, it needs an inbound marketing strategy.
How to Develop an Inbound Marketing Strategy
There are hundreds and even thousands of resources that explain how to create an inbound marketing strategy.
So what makes our resource so unique?
I’m going to explain the process we take to develop an inbound marketing strategy for ourselves and some of the sections we use when creating our client strategies.
As you will soon realize, this strategy does not just cover what types of blog posts should be written or what conversion funnels your website needs. This inbound marketing strategy process is quite a comprehensive one.
Continue reading to find out how your marketing department can create a winning inbound marketing strategy that generates results!
Inbound Marketing Strategy Process
The following segments of this resource cover the sections that we include in our inbound marketing strategy documents. Each numbered header indicates a new section in the document.
The length, timeframe, and sections included in a strategy document vary from company to company. For example, a B2B technology company with $10M+ per year in revenue has a different strategy from that of a B2C ecommerce company with $2M+ per year in revenue. And the execution and recommendations greatly depend on the company objectives. Company objectives drive marketing objectives, and therefore dictate marketing strategy and execution.
Inbound Marketing Strategy Process Step 1. Business Overview
Define Your Business Goals
The first step to creating an inbound marketing strategy is to define your business goals. Once you decide where your company currently is and where you would like to take it, you can then begin creating a roadmap of how to get there.
To track progress toward your goal, be sure to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) that tell you how your inbound marketing initiatives are performing. Here are the top 10 KPIs you should be looking at:
- Total sales per [frequency]
- The lifetime value of a customer
- Your inbound marketing return-on-investment (ROI)
- New contact rate, or traffic-to-lead ratio
- Lead-to-customer ratio
- Conversion rates on your landing pages
- What organic traffic you are drawing
- Traffic to your site from social media
- Traffic, leads, and conversation rates derived from mobile
Furthermore, analyze your competitors, your industry market, and where your current standings are to create SMART goals—that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
PRO TIP: SMART goals are often not enough. Is it the RIGHT Goal—Relevant, Indicators, Gravity, Hype, Time? More on Goal Clarity from Dr. Jeff Spencer.
Hold a Discovery Meeting Between Departments
If this is the first time you’re discussing company metrics and goals, make sure to include the VP of sales, VP of marketing, and other stakeholders.
In this meeting, you will discuss key metrics, revenue goals, company objectives, and sales department lead goals for the next quarter, year, 5 years, and 10 years. This is a crucial meeting, as it sets the tone for the rest of the strategy document. If the focus is high growth and fast improvements, then the execution portion of the strategy should reflect just that. New market entries, new product releases, and website updates should be included in this discussion.
Think of this meeting as company alignment on goals and strategic objectives.
Conduct Competitor Research
An understanding of your competitors and what other companies are doing in your industry is essential to creating your inbound marketing strategy. You can pinpoint your company’s strengths and see where there are holes in your industry that could be filled.
When analyzing competitors for your inbound marketing strategy, there are two main categories: direct and online competitors. Make sure to review and document both, as they each serve a different purpose.
Direct Competitors: companies that directly compete with your product or service. These are most likely already documented, but it’s good to revise them.
Online Competitors: websites that compete with the keywords your website needs to rank for. These companies don’t need to be direct competitors to be online competitors. For example, a blog or different product or service could be an online competitor. The point of documenting online competitors is to analyze the websites you’re trying to outrank.
Some tools we like to use are Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Deepcrawl.
- Ahrefs can be used to conduct keyword research, see what your competitors are doing, and get an edge over them. You can also perform a backlink profile search, which has proven to be quite valuable in your comprehensive competitor analysis. Using this tool to website plan can help your business tremendously.
- SEMRush is great for organic traffic research and tracking your performance compared to competitors. Its robust reporting and analytics tools make it relatively simple to use. Findings are presented in a clear, easy-to-process way so you won’t waste your time.
- Deepcrawl is an all-inclusive search engine crawler that provides complete SEO insights and highlights technical issues that could be impeding results. It’s no surprise that it’s trusted by some of the biggest brands out there and has a flexible range of packages designed to custom-fit a business’s needs.
PRO TIP: Use sites like Owler.com to gain a stronger understanding of the business engine behind your competitors.
Document Your Sales Process
Take a look at your sales process. Understanding and documenting your current sales process will help the marketing department understand what a prospect goes through after they become a lead. It also gives insight to the marketers on what to keep in mind when creating content.
You can look at the inbound sales process the same way you look at sales. It’s all about the customer journey and making sure you’re addressing their needs. Stay relevant and keep analyzing. Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand here when it comes to finding and nurturing leads with content. They need each other for the process to work most effectively. Measurement is also crucial to both—if you don’t document where you’ve been, how will you know where you’re going?
This brings us to our next point about the importance of crafting a user-centric experience.
Inbound Marketing Strategy Process Step 2. Develop Buyer Personas For Targeting
A deeper understanding of your audience provides direction for the content you create and keeps your visitors coming back for more. You can create a research-based representation of who your buyers are, what they want to accomplish, pain points that shape their behavior, and how they make buying decisions.
One of the reasons companies struggle with their inbound marketing strategy is because they fail to speak to the right audience. The development of buyer personas is an essential part of any inbound marketing strategy. But what exactly are buyer personas, and which aspects of the persona can you absolutely not afford to disregard?
Creating Buyer Persona Profiles
First, let’s take a look at the essential components of the buyer persona. Here is the most important thing to know:
A buyer persona is a semi-fictitious representation of your ideal customer.
To create accurate personas for your inbound marketing strategy, you need to research, interview, and survey members of your target audience. By doing so, you will get an in-depth look at their wants, needs, pain points, and more!
Here is a rundown of the key areas you will want to focus on during this process:
Buyer Personas Key Areas
Buyer Persona Age: While age is not always an essential variable in your inbound marketing strategy, it can be highly useful. By clearly identifying the age of your persona, you can more easily and effectively communicate and target them directly via email marketing, ads, etc.
Buyer Persona Interests and Hobbies: Discover the interests and hobbies for your ideal buyers. In doing so, you increase your ability to develop an effective marketing message that will easily reach potential clients on a personal level. And when launching PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, you’ll be able to narrow down your target by interests.
Buyer Persona Job Title: By generating a list of job titles, the content and campaigns you develop can speak directly to the pain points of those positions. Knowing your persona’s job title is very important for PPC targeting on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Buyer Persona Pain Points: One of the most important goals of your inbound marketing strategy is to provide your customers with a solution to overcome their frustrations and challenges. These pain points serve as topics for website blog posts, pages, and content offers. If you understand what keeps your persona up at night, you can better use verbiage that sparks interest and makes them click on your resources.
Goals and Motivators: This overlaps with—and, in a way, is an extension of—the sections about their job title, their personal hobbies, and their pain points. Don’t skip this step. You’re backing off from some of the more specific attributes and making educated assumptions here. Ensure you fully understand your personas and what they really want. Until you can really put yourself in their shoes and think like them, your buyer personas will fail to be fully actionable and goal-driven.
Now that you have your information, you can begin to build out your buyer personas. By creating at least one detailed persona that represents your ideal buyer, you will greatly increase the likelihood of success with your inbound marketing strategy.
You can have more than one buyer persona—in fact, you can have up to five or six—but make sure to develop the most important one first. Which persona contributes to the most revenue? Start there, then make your way through the rest.