Inbound marketing may be the most effective way to promote your business, but setting up a campaign can be a daunting task. The sheer mass of content that needs to be created can look like a formidable wall to climb, but it’s actually more like a set of stairs. One reason inbound marketing can seem so overwhelming is that it’s never really finished. It’s an ongoing strategy that keeps going and going.

The best way to avoid feeling discouraged is by looking at your marketing in a completely different way. It’s no longer a process with a distinct beginning and end. Instead, think of it as a journey with a succession of milestones along the way. Every time you reach another significant point, you’ll begin to see better results. There will always be more steps in the journey, but that means you can continue increasing your bottom line through inbound marketing.

Once you change your perception of inbound marketing and how you plan to identify results, you’re ready to start implementing an inbound marketing strategy for your business. The following are some steps to take to ensure you do so effectively.

1. Know Your Audience

Every marketing campaign begins with establishing your ideal customer. In the past, there were general audience outlines that helped steer the direction of campaigns. For example, an ideal customer may have been a mother in her mid-30’s living in a suburb, or a 20-something male just out of college with a sudden influx of disposable income.

Inbound marketing campaigns rely on more detailed customer views known as buyer personas. They assign a backstory and face to members of an audience you want to reach, giving you the ability to craft personalized emails in each part of the campaign that speaks to their needs.

Here’s an example of a  buyer persona:

Name: Billy Buyer

Occupation: Manager of a midsize restaurant

Details: Billy’s been with the same company for ten years. He’s 32 years old, married, and has a 2-year-old daughter with his wife. Their household income is $95,000 a year. They own their own home and have two cars. Billy isn’t impulsive. He researches online before buying and often takes weeks to comparison shop for large purchases.

To get as much information as possible on and find your ideal customers, do some research. Look and see who your competitors are speaking to and ask yourself, in a perfect world, who would be buying your product. Once you know the buyer personas of most of your customer base, you can create content that speaks to them.

2. Create Your Website

The decision to create your website versus hiring someone to do it for you is often a financial one. Either way, having a website is a must, especially one that is structured for content marketing, which is the fuel for your inbound marketing efforts. Your website is the hub around which all your inbound marketing will spin. Be strategic when it comes to what you put on your site, and at the very least, include:

  • An informative and consistently updated blog
  • The ability for visitors to download more valuable content, such as whitepapers, guides, and ebooks
  • A homepage that explains what your company is and does, and has a clear call-to-action
  • Designated landing pages for each piece of downloadable content, complete with a form that asks for visitor information in exchange for that content
  • SEO tactics based on keywords your audience uses to search for information relating to your industry

Creating your website is likely to be the most complicated part of this entire process, but it’s crucial that you get it right before moving on to the next steps. Having a way to capture the information of on-site visitors will enable you to send them personalized content and email nurture, and essentially move them through the funnel till they’re ready to buy.

3. Begin Writing Your Blog

Ideally, your blog will appeal to your buyer personas, filling a need they have and offering value. This is easier in some industries than others, but every business has something to offer potential customers. Create a blog around topics that answer questions your audience asks in their customer journey, and make each blog post stellar so that each helps people every time.

If you’re a carpenter, do a series of DIY posts. If you sell widgets, do a blog on different ways widgets help people or creative ways people are using widgets. Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain a bit and share your expertise. It’s the best way to show your audience that you’re knowledgeable and can help them.

Consistency is key. If your blog regularly publishes content, readers will begin to rely on it. But if you miss a post, you risk breaking their trust. You don’t have to post daily, but set a schedule and stick to it, no matter what. Build a content marketing team so that they can manage and stick to your editorial calendar.

4. Be Active On Social Media

When it comes to social media, the scattershot approach never works as well as a concentrated game plan. Create a social media calendar that helps you determine a consistent posting schedule and stay in touch with your followers and audience. Determine how often you should be posting on each platform, and prioritize the platforms that you know your audience is active on. It sounds like a lot of effort, but there are ways to manage your social media without overloading your schedule.

Every social media outlet has an average user. Your buyers will tell you where you should hang out. No matter what venue you choose, follow some simple rules:

  • Publish often, using the ideal frequency for your social media outlet.
  • Use visual content as much as possible. Add those attractive, funny, or engaging pictures.
  • Share your blog posts, which invites your followers to click through to your website, read them, and get added to your inbound funnel.
  • Answer questions and make comments. Engaging with your audience is key to building relationships.

5. Create Long-Form Content

Long-form content, like whitepapers or ebooks, is very important for your inbound marketing strategy. It gives customers a sense of your knowledge and expertise in your industry, and it provides them with a valuable resource they can use.

I mentioned earlier creating landing pages that include website forms for this type of content. By gating your long-form content, you’re asking for visitors to enroll in your inbound marketing. You’re obtaining their name and email address (and more, if you want) so you can get an idea of who they are and send them more personalized content.

6. Use a CRM and Marketing Automation Tool

There are various marketing automation tools out there for you to review as viable options, but using one is an absolute must. These tools help you get a better idea of where your prospects are in their buyer’s journey so you can send them personalized content that actually corresponds with their needs. However, I’ll get more in-depth on marketing automation and other inbound marketing tools in part three. Stay tuned!

7. Nurture Your Leads

Once people come to your website, you can use lead nurturing to gently push them toward a purchase. This process uses their information, like job title, industry, region, and website activity, to drill down their interests and needs so you can better serve them. Through informational newsletters or email drip campaigns, you can create an even deeper sense of belonging and loyalty between your customers and your company. You’re the one they look to for advice, and now you’re providing them with free help in their inboxes. The key here, like in all inbound marketing, is to emphasize connection and information and to downplay any selling. With this long-tail strategy, you’re able to keep your prospects informed and stay top-of-mind so that when they’re ready to buy, your company is the one they think of.

It can take a little bit of effort to implement an inbound marketing plan into your existing structure, but the results are totally worth it. Stay tuned for part three, where I’ll outline the various tools you’ll need to help pull it all off.

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by Benchmark Team