What You Need to Have in Place for Your Inbound Marketing Strategy to Be Successful
When a marketing agency begins working with a client to implement a marketing program, it will cover a long list of elements needed to ensure that company’s readiness to undertake inbound marketing strategies. There are four foundational items that need to be working properly to even begin.
These items are essential cornerstones of an inbound marketing program. We can tell you this from experience. We know what happens when all these foundational elements are in place … and what happens—or doesn’t happen—when they aren’t.
Here are the four pillars on which your inbound marketing program depends to help you get noticed, forge your online identity, and cultivate and capture visitors who come as strangers and, hopefully, evolve into customers.
- Updated website: responsive design (mobile-ready)
- Blogs and blogging program
- Calls to action (CTAs) and forms to capture prospect contact info
- Use a customer relationship management platform (CRM)
1) Update your website to a mobile-ready, responsive design
There are a host of improvements you can make to your website to, literally, bring it up to speed. (Read about them here!) As Sean Robinson, Grant Marketing’s Senior Web Developer, reminds us regarding the latest Google algorithm update, Google gives a mobile-friendly website more “weight” when rating it for the SERP (search engine results page). Robinson warns: “In the weeks and months since that update, many a website has ignored that decree at its own peril. If your site is not optimized for mobile, it WILL be demoted in the Google rankings.” While his admonition may sound doomy and gloomy, remember that Google’s main customer is you. And you want the best, fastest, most relevant and contemporary information … and you now want it on the move more than ever before.
This new methodology in web development, known as “mobile-first,” is also putting the mobile user first, regardless of what company or product he or she is searching for. The upshot is that web design is leaning towards a cleaner, simpler look, so pages and scrolling are less cluttered and information retrieval is quicker and more efficient.
TIP: If you are a business that has a local distribution network or depends on regional customers and physical or web traffic, being mobile-ready is vital to your continued success. And if you happen to use AdWords, even more so for that campaign to be effective.
2) Get blogging … now!
“But I’m not a writer!” We know—we get it. We hear that every time we run a Content Marketing Workshop with clients. Newsflash: if you can talk, you can write. (Thanks, Marcus Sheridan.) Your website is the new digital front door and people come knocking at their convenience—any time of day or night, all year long. You might be closed on the weekends, but that’s when Joe has free time to catch up on reading. Or it might be an airport layover for Jill—trying to get the latest stats on industry trends so she can impress the stakeholders at the meeting she’s en route to.
Prospects and customers demand to be informed and want to do their research prior to contacting someone on the sales team. Prospects research options prior to contacting you, leaving your company only 30% of the buyers’ time within the sales funnel to interact with them. If you have not educated prospects up front with relevant content on a contemporary website, you are losing business.
The business model has changed, and fight it as you may, you need to have content available for people when they need it. The buyer’s journey is now dictated by the customer and inbound marketing works precisely because customers and consumers have driven this change—and we give them what they want, when and how they want it. Blogs and long-form content (often “gated” behind a call-to-action form that collects their contact information) are your best frontline strategy.
It is important to have a blogging program so you are not simply writing articles on a whim. You need to be clear on who your target audience is (personas) and write to their pain points; write about the things they are searching for online. This requires creating an editorial calendar so you can proceed with a plan. It isn’t as daunting as it sounds. The information you and your co-workers hold—from the production line through C-suite—is replete with the valuable insights, insider tips, and legacy and tribal knowledge that is fodder for the content your company should be creating.
TIP: Think like the customer; write like the teacher. Knowing your audience means understanding their pain points, issues, challenges, and curiosities, and how to “instruct” them towards their solutions. Yes, of course, their solution is your products and services, but when you write blogs, white papers, infographics, or make videos, the limelight is on your customer and their issues—not on your company and its solutions. In fact, more and more companies are writing “informational only” content with barely a mention of their own products or services on page. The bottom line is to let the content (education) be one of the services you provide.
3) Calls to action (CTAs) and forms to capture prospect contact info
In keeping with the “informational only” approach to providing online content, some companies are paying very careful attention to the placement CTAs—and even using them sparingly in some instances. Either way, they are essential tools in gathering information and are the pivot that turns a visitor into a lead. So they won’t be going away anytime soon. The CTA is the call to action, enticing you (we've all been on the website visitor's side of this) to download a document or watch a video or sign-up for a subscription. Once you click on the CTA button, you are generally prompted to fill out a form. This form, at the very least, will have a field for your email address, and often will ask for more information to give you access (the gate) to whatever content you deem valuable enough to give up your personal data for.
It’s common to see companies that are struggling with online lead generation have little or no gated content. Or they may have it and the offer behind the gate may not be deemed valuable enough to give up personal information. Another possibility is that the content is not aligned to that person’s stage in the buyer’s journey. This gets trickier to anticipate, as people are more savvy about how to navigate around websites and avoid forms until they are ready to make the digital commitment (which we all know means that we are now on sales’ radar). As well, the buyer’s journey and sales funnel are no longer linear in nature, and a website visitor may cruise around your website over a stretch of time and read many different “levels” of content before making a decision—either for or against your company. In fact, on the flipside of the statement made above, prospects generally do at least 70% of their research online before reaching out to you. If they are spending all that time on your website and you don’t have a way to “capture” them while they are interested, you’ve missed some great opportunities.
TIP: Make your CTAs as frictionless as possible. Ask for as little information as needed. If you do not need company name, phone number, and job title for a white paper download, don’t ask for it. If it’s an RFQ or a general “Contact Us” page, then you need more context and people generally expect to provide more information. Use language that is direct, action-oriented, and inclusive. “Create My Account” will be more effective than “Create Your Account.” And banish the word “Submit” on a CTA button. That one speaks for itself.
4) Use a customer relationship management platform (CRM)—have an interface that seamlessly combines the marketing and sales process
Hard to believe, but there are still companies out there using Excel spreadsheets to manage their database, lead statuses, and sales pipeline among sales teams. And if you are one of the many still doing so, know you aren’t alone, but you aren’t being as productive as you could be either. We also see many companies that use CRMs, but do not integrate them with the marketing software they have. We are partial to HubSpot because we use the software and love its fully integrative functions. Real-time data, intel, and metrics inform us on what works, what doesn’t, and what might. Most platforms have integration capabilities, so you should be able to get them to speak to each other in some capacity, if not robustly. It’s worth looking into. The pushback on learning yet another technology or software program is a major detractor in many companies.
From our vantage point—we wonder how much productivity is being wasted on not taking the time to:
- Use a robust CRM, and/or
- Follow through so the sales and marketing functions are integrated and optimized to help you get the most out of them
A good CRM is designed so you can work efficiently and productively with all the intel about your prospects and customers readily available to you. Without a proper CRM function and process in place to maintain and manage leads and customers, the progress that inbound marketing makes increasing leads can be (and we’ve seen this) severely compromised by inefficient management of the leads-to-sales-to-closing process. A primary strength of inbound marketing is that it produces qualified leads; without a process in place to bring leads further down the sales funnel, they drop off. Marketing, sales, and prospects all lose in that scenario.
TIP: Embrace new technology—whatever system you have or decide to bring on. Learn it—inside and out. CRM platforms can often be tailored to your work “style.” Work with it and make it work for you. And an important one: work with the marketing team. The divide between the two functions is but a blur in this new business model. Your marketing team is your ally, a part of your team. Truly. EXTRA TIP: Get a powerful CRM for free! Ask us about it.
Are You Inbound-Ready?
There is plenty of buzz about inbound marketing, and for good reason. The nature of how business is being done has changed and inbound methodologies are the currencies. Many manufacturing companies have made the switch—but many more still have not. To help you assess where you are and how prepared you may already be to begin an inbound marketing program, we’ve created a quick, do-it-yourself assessment that focuses on the areas of your business that contribute to executing a successful inbound marketing strategy. This snapshot “inventory” of your resources, structures, and processes helps to gauge your readiness quotient for establishing an inbound marketing program.
Are you inbound-ready? The assessment is quick, easy, and offers valuable insights to where your company’s infrastructure is ... and needs to be.