So you’ve heard all about how well inbound marketing works, and you are ready to go. Your first step is to get started writing blog posts, right?
Writing blog posts is definitely not the first step you should take if you want to succeed with inbound marketing.
Instead, you need first to figure out your inbound marketing game plan.
No One Builds a Custom House Without a Blueprint
Have you ever built a custom house? If you have, you already know that long before the foundation is poured, you need to make a significant investment made in creating a blueprint.
No one in their right mind would ever start construction prior to talking to architects, contractors, designers, and a host of other trades so that a detailed set of blueprints could be created. Only then, can construction begin.
Surprisingly, many people who are new to inbound marketing actually start writing blog posts without having invested the time needed to create a detailed inbound marketing game plan.
Want to take a guess at what happens for them? Nothing…except a lot of time & money goes down the tubes.
If you want to succeed with inbound marketing, just like building a house, you need a blueprint for success.
You cannot have a successful inbound marketing program without a great content strategy, just like you cannot have a symphony without a director leading multiple instruments into harmony. – Kasie Hilburn, Mojo Media Labs
How to Create an Inbound Marketing Game Plan
Creating a detailed inbound marketing game plan is an intensive process that requires diligent research, knowledge, and experience, and in the rest of this post, I’m going to do my best to teach you how to do it right.
(If this isn’t something you have the time or resources to do, you can just hire us to do it for you)
Step 1: Create a Map of Your Buyer’s Evaluation Journey
According to the CEB, today, thanks to the vast amount of freely available information available online, 57% of the buyer’s journey is completed before the buyer ever contacts your company.
Don’t believe me? Just think back to your own last meaningful purchase. How did you start? Did you call up companies and talk to their sales reps? I doubt it.
Instead, I’ll bet you started doing research online as well as asking a few of your friends and colleagues for their input.
If you started your research online, chances are you started with a search engine and started typing in queries. Then, as you looked at the search results, you got ideas for new queries, right?
In fact, you probably went several layers deep to find the really good stuff.
Perhaps you also ran some searches on Twitter using hashtags and various keywords that you might have uncovered during your Google search?
Once they start down their journey, most buyers are going to go through the 5 major steps shown below.
Do you have content to address each step? If you don’t, you have gaps that need to be filled.
Step 2: Define Your Buyer Personas
If you’re creating content for your blog and you don’t take the time to define exactly who you’re writing for, and who you want to attract to your blog, ultimately you’re going to fail in three really important areas:
If you fail in these areas, your results will suffer mightily.
To be relevant, create engagement, and stimulate sharing, you need to know exactly whom you are writing for. When you get this figured out, you will have created what is commonly referred to as a buyer persona.
Having one figured out is good…but chances are you will need more than one.
For example, the decision maker might be the CEO, or a VP, etc…but in virtually all cases, they aren’t the ones that started the research process. Most likely, they delegated that to a member of their team. This person then spent a few days/weeks diligently gathering information on potential solutions, and then presented their findings in a summary report of some kind.
If that is the case, you don’t need to write for just one buyer persona, you need to write for every buyer persona that is involved in the buying process. (which is part of the buyer evaluation journey)
When creating your buyer personas, the things you want to specify are much more than just demographics like age, income level, education, etc…
In addition to the demographics (who), you are also going to need to address psychographics. These are the reasons why they are looking for information to help them make a buying decision. Understanding why people want to do things is absolutely critical.
My Groove co-founder, Trent, explains more in the video in this post.
To sum up, you want to have a very clear idea of what problems each of your personas has, what motivates them, and the types of information they are looking for.
Step 3: Create Premium Content Offers
Now that you know whom you are writing for, you are going to need to plan your inbound campaigns around several pieces of cornerstone content. We call these premium content offers.
Most commonly, premium content offers come in the form of eBooks..but you could also use webinars, industry reports, how-to-guides, or virtually anything else you think would be of interest to each of your buyer personas.
The goal is to create premium content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. As you can see on the right, there are 3 stages:
In the Awareness stage, buyers don’t yet care about you. Instead, they are focused on finding answers to their questions.
To be successful in attracting traffic, you need to publish blog posts (which we’ll talk more about in a minute), and Top-Of-Funnel (TOFU) premium content offers that can be used to capture leads.
If you get these offers wrong, or do a poor job of creating them, failure awaits.
Some percentage of people that are in the Awareness stage will start to become interested in your brand and then move down into the Consideration stage. This is the stage where you can start to use content to help you sell the merits of working with your company.
In Consideration stage, you will need to know each buyer persona well enough to know their common questions and objections so that you can automatically deliver relevant content to address these questions before they ever come up in conversation.
If you do this correctly, and have properly designed automated workflows, some portion of the people in the Consideration stage will move down into the Decision stage without ever speaking to your sales team.
The people that move into the Decision stage are now what we call Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). SQLs are where the money is. These people actually want to talk to your sales team and are largely pre-disposed to buying.
Step 4: Lead Nurturing
As you might guess, when you first capture a lead, they are at the top of the funnel, in the Awareness stage. 99% of the time these leads are not ready to buy…or even talk to you.
So how do you get buyers to progress through your funnel automatically? That is done with lead nurturing and is something that we’ll help you create if you hire us to create an Inbound Marketing Game Plan for you.
If you decide to do it on your own, just make sure that you create email sequences that address all the most common pre-sales questions and objections for each buyer persona.
These sequences of emails should also link to additional pieces of content (video is very powerful here) that help to answer questions and remove objections to moving forward.
Step 5: Three Month Blogging Strategy
Having gone through steps 1 to 4, now it’s time to start blogging; assuming you have already built a lead capture and nurture system (which is what we use HubSpot for). If you haven’t, we can build this for you.
Once you are ready to start blogging, you need to ensure that you create blog posts that your target buyer personas actually want to read. For our clients, we normally suggest enough blog post titles to last them for their first 90 days.
At the end of the 90 days, you will have gathered enough data from analytics to know which content was most popular and that will then guide you on what to write more about in the future.
Warning: If your blog posts are all about your company’s products & services, you will not generate much interest.
Instead, you need to start blogging about things that your target personas are interested in reading!
Typically, topics that work in this regard are topics that answer frequently asked questions.
For example, in the post that you are reading now (which, for us is a piece of middle of funnel content), I have spent most of my effort to teach you how to succeed with inbound marketing.
The only reason that this post contains any links that suggest you hire us is because this post was created as a middle of funnel (Consideration stage) content piece.
Most of the people that read this post will have discovered it by clicking on the link in an email that they received after downloading one of our eBooks.
Just like the undertaking of any major project (like building a custom house), achieving success with inbound marketing requires that you start out with a detailed Inbound Marketing Game Plan that will address the following items:
- Your buyer’s evaluation journey
- Your target buyer persona(s) and the problems they want to solve
- The premium content offers you need to create to capture leads
- The automated nurture sequences you need to create to nurture your leads to the point of purchase
- The blog post topics you need to attract the right traffic to your blog
If you skip any of these steps, the results you achieve (or lack thereof) will be underwhelming at best.
Can We Help?
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