The internet has changed how businesses approach sales and the vast majority now prefer to generate leads and sales through inbound marketing, rather than the more direct, pushy approach which is often off-putting to the buyer.
In fact, a whopping 93% of companies now use inbound techniques to increase traffic, which of course turns into leads and eventually, sales. This relies heavily on content, SEO and digital marketing activities that ensure that the customer feels that they found you/your product, rather than direct selling.
However, whilst many companies use inbound marketing techniques, not all get it right, so today we’ll be looking at the most effective techniques to ensure inbound success.
1. Research, Research, Research
Firstly, in order for the marketing to be effective, it’s necessary to conduct in depth research.
This should encompass:
- Definition of business goals
- Competitor analysis
- Defining the audience and buyer personas
- Defining content and SEO strategies
- Identifying distribution methods and platforms
- Setting up landing pages and CTAs and defining these in analytics
- Planning budgets
This is a vital step and one that should be carried out thoroughly, especially with regard to target audience. In order to really understand who your customer is, study those that you have already done business with and really drill down the demographics. Do this right and the rest of what you need to do will fall more easily into place.
For example, the audience will dictate:
- Tone, style and use of language in content, whatever its form
- Design, especially with regard to landing pages and CTAs
- What social media sites to use
Once you have a clear idea of who you’re selling to, then you will be in a much better position when it comes to giving them what they want. It’s all about the customer.
2. Content Strategy and Production
Content is the king pin of all of your inbound marketing efforts and should be of an extremely high quality if you’re going to compete in a fast-moving internet environment. It also has to be highly relevant and useful to the audience and should never be overtly promotional.
According to a recent HubSpot survey, the most important aspect to increasing traffic to your website is going to be blogging.
With this in mind, when conducting content strategy, you should try to come up with blogging titles that will have high appeal to the audience.
Think about what your audience already reads and shares. Have you identified this in the planning stages?
Examine potential customer’s habits through social media and competitor research.
- Look through competitor blogs for what material gets the most attention
- Study social shares made by your target audience
- Identify high-share blogging titles and adapt
- Think about how you can make content appeal on an emotional level
- Identify industry influencers and produce the kind of content they will want to share
Of course, blogging isn’t the only content you will be producing, but it’s a highly useful tool both on site and off as it allows you the opportunity to get lots of content out there, ensuring better visibility for your company.
Blogging doesn’t have to be all about the written either, you can blog videos, infographics, industry news and more.
Webinars are also a great way to attract customers, as once they have signed up you have a captive audience. Think about what you can teach your audience and ensure that it’s something that they are desperate to learn. As a writer and business owner that’s internet based, I come across a huge amount of webinars designed to offer business or writing help, with (of course) a view to making more sales. Some of these are useful, but the majority work because they have a great ‘hook’ and don’t try too hard to sell you something.
Remember, your content should be excellent in order for it to attract followers, engagement, traffic and links back to it (which if they are good, will help with SEO too).
In order to make the most out of your inbound marketing strategy, it’s necessary to ensure that you’re on top of your game when it comes to SEO. Whilst keywords don’t carry the same weight that they once did, they are still important to your SEO and search visibility.
Keywords should be included:
- In page URLs, for static pages and the blog
- In H1, H2s etc.
- In the Meta description (you should take care not to overuse the same ones though)
- In image titles, descriptions and alt tags
It’s important that all keywords and phrases are used strategically throughout, and never stuffed unnaturally into the text. Use similar words and phrases that are relevant and this will give enough context to the search engine to ensure that it’s picked up. If you aim for a high keyword density, it’s highly likely that you’ll see your site plummeting down the ranks.
On and offsite SEO should be carried out to a high standard too and the site itself should perform well, have a logical structure, good navigation and a sitemap each for visitors and search engines. The latter will take the form of an xml file and can be submitted through Webmaster Tools or using an automated plugin.
Offsite SEO is a little trickier since Google cracked down on guest blogging activities, but really unless you were abusing the system in the first place, it shouldn’t make too much difference. Guest posting can still be done, but it’s essential that you develop relationships with editors and position yourself as a thought leader, rather than just ask for a one-off post. Aim to post regularly on industry sites, don’t trawl the net looking for random blogs to write for, look for respected blogs that will accept excellent content and use links in the bio only.
If you have a business that relies on local trade, then you should claim your listing on Google Places and Bing Places for Business. When setting this up it’s important that you list the business exactly the same as it appears elsewhere on the web, including your website.
Listings, known as citations, should have the NAP (name, address, phone number) in the same format wherever they appear. So if you use an international telephone number format on your site, do so on Places too; if you use the postcode, ensure that it appears the same on Places and so on.
Another way to boost local SEO is to ask for reviews. These can be made on Google Places and you should aim to gather as many as possible. Ask family and friends, as well as existing customers and your local SEO will receive a great boost.
4. Measurement and Analytics
Once you have your content and SEO doing the job, then the other most important aspect to your inbound marketing activities is measuring how well it’s working in order to further fine tune the process.
Look for ‘traffic assets’, what brings the most visitors to the site and how well they convert through taking some form of action which can be dictated by the CTA.
Pay particular attention to:
- Landing pages
- Blog content
- Keywords used in search
Once you can see in analytics what content is popular with your visitors (and what people are searching for), then you can further refine your strategy to suit. You can also adjust social media marketing activities depending on the number of social referrals you’re getting, as well as measure site performance so that you can ensure it’s loading quickly enough for mobile users.
Optimising for mobile is paramount, as visitors that don’t find the experience to be a good one will leave quickly and find another, better, site to follow.
Inbound Marketing is Ongoing
The steps outlined above are the essential first ones to make if you’re going to be successful when it comes to inbound marketing. Remember, you’re far from the only business to be using inbound, so it’s important to get it right. There are of course other steps that will help, such as:
- A strong social media presence and good management of accounts
- Lead nurturing to catch the buyer at the right stage of the process
- Consistency with regard to when content is produced and its quality
- A/B testing to discover which designs/CTAs work the best
It’s important to recognise that inbound marketing is an ongoing commitment and should be further studied and refined as the business grows. New strategies will always appear if you look closely at analytics, constantly redefine goals and perform competitive analysis.
However, the four tips we’ve covered here are the most important, especially the research and planning stage which should also be an ongoing and fluid process. It may be difficult at first to properly identify your target audience, but again, analytics will help you to refine this process and should be used for the site and social media for the best results.
Email marketing also shouldn’t be discounted as it’s still very effective and gives an opportunity as a further distribution point for your content. The latter should also always be the best that it can be if you really want to compete, so don’t skimp on the budget like many businesses do – the ROI on cracking content can be substantial.