According to HubSpot’s 2017 “State of Inbound,” 59 percent of respondents reported seeing the highest quality of leads from inbound practices. Why? For one thing, leads are actively seeking information to help solve their problem or discover opportunities and, as a result, are more receptive to marketing and sales messages. But success with inbound marketing campaigns doesn’t come automatically. It depends heavily on these 10 critical components:
- Goal-setting and validation
Unless you hit a stroke of luck, no inbound marketing campaign will be effective and successful if it neglects to set specific goals up front. Start the planning process by deciding on campaign objectives. More than likely, you have financial goals in mind, but you have to set specific marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) to completely define what campaign success is.
MarTech like Google Analytics, HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot or whatever tool you utilize to measure marketing performance is also critical for going beyond defining KPIs to then measuring them.
At the same time, you have to validate if these KPIs and goals are realistic. For instance, suppose the goal of a campaign is to drive at least 50 sales-qualified leads. Before building the campaign, you would need to assess if this goal is viable by assessing gaps. An assessment of gaps also reveals what your inbound marketing campaign will need to focus on. Is there sufficient traffic to your company’s website or content to help reach this goal? Will you be able to leverage your existing database or have to reach a new audience through various channels?
- An understanding of your buyer persona and buyer’s journey
In order to set goals, it’s imperative to develop and consider your company’s buyer personas. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your target customer, based on market research and data about your existing customers. It takes into account customer demographics, behavior patterns (including how the customer finds information), motivations, goals, and more. Identify the buyer personas that your campaign will target but also consider the buyer’s journey.
A buyer’s journey is the process that buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate and purchase a new service or product. Inbound methodology outlines three stages to this journey: awareness (the buyer realizes that he or she has a problem), consideration (the buyer defines his or her problem and looks into options for solving it), and decision (the buyer chooses a solution). You must understand what area or areas of the buyer’s journey you should focus on with the inbound marketing campaign.
- The medium
Both your buyer personas and the buyer’s journey, along with overarching campaign goals and gaps, will dictate the content of your inbound marketing campaign, including the medium of your content in the campaign. For example, if the objective of a campaign is to help potential buyers understand marketing automation software because you need to focus on the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, the content might be a comparison guide that covers the benefits of the software, how its various features work, what to look for in marketing automation solutions, and the like. Some other examples of common media are:
- Case studies
- Product specs
You may find, through your initial planning, that one or many of these media are required to make your campaign a success.
- Strategic content distribution plans
Once you have great content built, you have to effectively help your audience find and consume it. Content distribution is critical but so often overlooked or ineffectively planned for. Your choice of channels through which to distribute inbound marketing collateral (e.g., email blasts, social media posts, paid media placements [advertorials], paid searches) should be predicated on your audience. Specifically, it must take into account how individuals who fit your buyer persona prefer to find information (e.g., via Google searches, through networking).
- Lead capture
In the digital world, a visitor or viewer who consumes your content but never does anything beyond that is the equivalent of a window shopper outside a department store. Gating content behind a landing page and form is critical to ensuring that you capture just enough data to carefully nurture this inbound lead into a customer.
That said, it is all about equal exchange and perceived value with gating content. If you can effectively persuade your audience to give a bit of information in exchange for your content, you are golden. Moreover, gating content isn’t necessary or effective for all content media or audiences. In these situations, it’s best to entice the audience with a small bit of content that will have them wanting more. Show them value and they will eventually give you information you need to nurture or they might just give you a ring to move themselves ahead in the buying process.
- Competitive landscape
There’s a good reason why NFL teams intensely study the game film of their competitors. It informs the offensive and defensive plays they need to make to win the game. It isn’t any different when it comes to an inbound marketing campaign and its associated content: to “beat” or “one-up” that content. For example, suppose your company sells marketing automation software, and you’re planning an inbound marketing campaign to generate qualified sales leads for that solution. You discover that a competitor with seemingly the same goal has published a blog post outlining 10 reasons for purchasing this type of software. So you develop a similar blog post—but with double the number of reasons to invest in a marketing automation solution because people will be drawn to the idea of more information.
Not many years ago companies could get away with building inbound marketing campaigns that were status quo and far from the top in terms of quality because the internet was a lot less saturated. Fast-forward to today and content proliferates to the extent that companies have no choice but to ensure that their collateral is more valuable and compelling than that of anything else out there.
Another cornerstone of “stand-out” inbound marketing campaign performance is industry knowledge or expertise, which can’t be faked. It isn’t necessary for your company’s subject-matter experts to suddenly become renowned journalists and write campaign content. However, they should play a major role in its development—for instance, by conducting interviews with members of the creative team who are responsible for developing collateral.
Frequently, marketers will neglect to or insufficiently follow up on the leads they obtain from inbound marketing campaigns. Failure to do this, in large part, defeats the purpose of these campaigns.
Emails, social outreach, remarketing and newsletters are all excellent forms of lead-nurturing, as long as you remember that the object here is to build a long-term relationship and ensure that the nurturing tactic will truly appeal to your target audience (i.e., jibe with the buyer persona and buyer journey).
Inbound marketing campaigns can’t be mistaken as a short-term strategy. You can’t expect to see an overnight success, especially for campaigns that rely heavily on SEO. It’s not unusual for companies to take six months or more to see their inbound marketing campaigns truly “take off”—no matter how carefully planned and executed these campaigns may be. Yes, there are ways to accelerate performance for some campaigns, but I wouldn’t write off your inbound marketing campaign if success isn’t immediately evident, because good things come to those who wait, especially for inbound marketing.
Properly planned and executed inbound marketing campaigns can be just as effective as other types of marketing initiatives in helping companies achieve revenue goals. The more attention paid to content, components, and distinguishing these campaigns from the pack, the more successful they will be.