Growth hacking and Inbound marketing derive from the same basic idea: the successful launch of a new product through innovative pull-marketing techniques. Both concepts use several tools and methods to achieve this, from SEO to Social Media and Content marketing.
However, neither growth hacking nor inbound marketing are overnight miracle techniques that will generate the desired results in a couple of weeks with limited or no budget at all. They are smart marketing techniques that will deliver qualitative results in a relative short timespan, if properly planned and implemented.
The advantage of inbound is that it’s a very well defined methodology. One that leaves no room for confusion and the constant “But what is it really?” online buzz, but that allows enough room for creativity and innovation.
If you’re just starting to outline an inbound marketing strategy for your business, here are the essential steps you need to go through:
1. What do you want to achieve?
Define what you want to achieve with this marketing strategy – what business goals are you trying to realize?
Marketing for the sake of marketing is a critical mistake that usually brings about frustration for you, the business owner, and for your marketing team who worked aimlessly. The most solid base for every strategy is defining the right goals. With the right correlation between desired business objectives and subsequent marketing targets, you’ve won half the battle.
2. Start with a keyword research and SEO audit
Find out what people are actively searching for and how your product can be defined using these key terms.
Start by defining a list of 4-5 keywords relevant to your business. Try to think like your prospects – what would they search on search engines or social media networks? Now, it’s important to keep in mind that your brand name is not the keyword we’re looking for at this point; right now, you want to get to the core of what your product/service is about.
Some of these keywords will be more broad (general) than others, which means it will be more difficult to rank well for them in search results. The greater the volume of searches
on a keyword, the more competitive it is. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are more specifically related to your business and less competitive. Here are some tools you can use to find keywords, assess their competitiveness, get long-tail ideas or analyze keyword density on a page:
- Google Keyword Tool
- HubSpot’s Keyword Tool
- Keyword density analyzer
Optimize or design your website around the keywords you’ve selected for your business, in order to get found by search engines. Use them in meta descriptions, page titles, headings, images and content. Circle back and constantly update your keyword strategy, in order to keep up with industry trends and prospects’ behaviour.
You’ll want to rank in the first two pages for your selected keyword, which means you’ll have to amplify your SEO efforts. Sidenote: Keywords are important, especially in key places on your website or in image ALT descriptions; however, they are not the most important success factor to consider. Qualitative and accessible information is. Your website should be designed for visitors, not search engines, as the almighty Google informs us.
Next up – Analyze both your on-page SEO as well as your off-page SEO – on-page SEO refers to how well your website’s content is presented to search engines and off-page SEO refers to your site’s overall “authority” on the web, which is determined by what other websites say about your site. You can test your SEO using:
3. Create great content
If the previous step was more focused on the technical aspect of your strategy, this one combines technology and creativity. Content marketing is the no.1 lead generation technique in inbound marketing. It gives you the means to practice that outstanding, helpful marketing that pulls prospects towards your business and converts them into customers and promoters.
Begin by creating buyer personas for your business. Buyer personas are ideal customers who you want to address in your marketing efforts. They are those visitors most likely to interact with your product and become valuable customers. Knowing who these people are will help you create relevant content. Go into as much detail as you possibly can – who are these people, what are their main goals and aspirations, their challenges, the opportunities they would most likely respond to, where do they spend their time, what do they spend their money on, etc. Get inside their head and think like they would.
Every buyer persona will have a buyer’s journey ahead of them – a journey that you have to map out in order to figure out what type of content you should create for each step. Your buyer persona will go through 3 stages : Awareness, Consideration and Decision. Your content strategy will focus on these stages, aiming to answer specific questions and offer the right solutions.
Here’s a visual representation of how you can map your content efforts to your buyer’ persona along their journey:
Image credit: HubSpot
Start by creating a company blog and some content offers. Now that you’ve defined the keywords you want to rank for, you’ll want to attract visitors to your website, and not just any visitors, but the right ones, the ones most likely to convert. Blogging and content creation will help you do just that. Companies that generate 15 blog posts per month average 1,200 new leads per month with a 55 percent increase in website traffic. (Business2Community)
Having an active blog can help your business attract new website visitors, convert them into leads and ultimately into clients. With every new article you post, you give search engines a chance to make your business more visible and help you attract potential customers or promoters.
Here are some content management platforms you can use:
With some of these platforms, you’ll need to use additional tools and plugins. Make sure you have a commenting system for your articles, a Social Media plugin that connects your accounts and enables content sharing and an SEO-verifying plugin to keep an eye on your keywords and meta data.
As you embark on a business blogging adventure, you have to start with a purpose in mind- your blog is not about promoting your business; instead, it’s about creating thought leadership and educating your prospects and potential customers. Design an editorial calendar with the topics you want to blog about, such as industry challenges and problems, news and updates, innovative solutions, controversial ideas etc. You can start with the most common questions your buyer personas would ask. Write as much as you can, but always focus on quality first.
The final outcome of your business blogging efforts should be lead generation. To achieve that, every blog post should have a relevant call-to-action, directing visitors towards the next logical step. In content marketing, that would be accessing more in-depth content offers such as ebooks, white papers, courses or webinars. Your call-to action should take visitors to a landing page that hosts this content offer and contains a form. This form will provide you with some key information about your prospects such as email address, industry, company website etc.
Make sure you maintain coherence throughout your website and content offers – keep in mind the flow your visitors will go through and link the appropriate pages with the appropriate calls-to-action and resources.
4. Promote your content using Social Media
Create a Social Media strategy to distribute your content and create community of advocates for your business or industry. Social networks are great platforms for direct communication with your prospects. You can leverage them when conducting keyword research, when defining your buyer persona and buyer’s journey, when you’re creating new content you want to amplify and when you’re pursuing advocacy for your product/service.
It’s important that you choose the right channels – the ones where your buyer personas spend time and engage in conversations. Every social network has their demographic, conversational style, content type and general purpose. The smart way of utilizing these networks is to align their general goals and audiences with your own. You won’t get many results selling business consultancy services on Pinterest and you definitely won’t create an advocacy community on Snapchat.
The big players like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN abide by the same rule but, at the same time, they have vast and diverse audiences because of their size and reach. In this case, you’ll want to leverage their segmentation potential through promoted posts and native ads.
Apart from distributing content, your Social Media strategy should aim to connect you to the people in your industry – the influencers, the ones who’ve established themselves as the best and brightest and prospects, the ones who have an issue, an opinion, a desire or a question related to your type of business. Join industry-related conversations, follow lists of influencers, use hashtags, curate relevant content and alway respond when engage with.
These are some of the tools that can help you curate, schedule and track your Social Media activity:
5. Manage your leads and convert them
We’ve already discussed the lead generation flow but let’s do a quick recap. You’ve created an educational content offer for your buyer persona in the Awareness Stage, let’s say an ebook. This ebook should have a call-to-action that can be displayed at the bottom of related articles, in the sidebar or even on your homepage. When clicking on that call-to-action, the visitor should be directed to a dedicated landing page that hosts that content offer. There, they will find a short description of what that content offer is all about and how it could help them achieve their goals, along with a form requesting certain personal information, in exchange for a copy of the ebook. After submitting their information, visitors will be directed to a Thank You page or will receive an in-line Thank You message and a copy of the ebook they were interested in downloading. At this point, you can entice them with other content assets that they might be interested in.
Now, what happens next? Many marketers stop here and contemplate their lists as they grow in number, when, in fact, the finish line is not even in viewing range. These precious leads have trusted you with personal information in the hope that you will use it wisely and contact them cautiously with relevant content or updates. Marketing automation tools are essential at this point. They can enable you to collect data from the forms, organize it in lists and segment it based on your goals.
Set-up an email drip campaign that delivers the right content, at the right time to leads along the funnel, driving conversions. As they enter your funnel, most leads are not ready to buy, that’s why you need to nurture them with targeted messages. Build relationships with your leads over time, so that you stay top-of-mind and, when they’re finally ready to buy, you can convert them into customers.
These are some of the email marketing tools you can try:
Lead nurturing has significant business advantages, such as giving marketing teams the ability to segment prospects based on interests/behaviors, better response to campaigns due to targeting/relevancy and lower cost for qualified leads.
Have your Marketing and Sales teams work together, in order to qualify leads and convert them into customers. Both teams need to understand the Buyer’s Journey, which is divided into 3 main stages: Awareness, Consideration and Decision, as well as the Sales Funnel, which is divided into: Prospects, Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Qualified Leads, Opportunity and Customer, and bring them together to create a complete inbound marketing strategy.
Image credit: EmergeStudio
6. Measure and optimize
If it’s not measured, it didn’t happen. And you wouldn’t want that after 6 months of content creation and promotion, right?
Over the past few years agile has gained popularity outside the software development fraternity and has become a popular approach for improving the way businesses execute and deliver just about everything – including marketing. This approach enables marketers to analyze and optimize their efforts as they go.
Stay on top of your strategy by setting SMART objectives and measuring them periodically but remember that every business is unique. Regardless of how efficient one marketing approach might be for one business, another business might not have the same success. Test and optimize everything you can to get the best results for your product/service. You can use one platform for both content and CRM or separate ones; if you chose the later, make sure you connect the two so that you don’t cut off the funnel midway.
Here are some key metrics you should be following: traffic, conversion rates, contacts, leads, customers, social reach and social engagement.
And some tools you can use to measure them:
- Google Analytics
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Colibri- Online Marketing & SEO Tool
One other important aspect to keep in mind here is mobile optimizations. Currently, there are around 3649 billion unique mobile users, at a 51% market penetration. Mobile phones and tablets now account for 38% of Internet traffic around the world and, by next year, eMarketer estimates that there will be more than 2 billion smartphone users worldwide. You can opt to have a separate mobile website or make your existing website responsive and mobile-ready.
When you’re designing your inbound strategy, it’s important to remember that Google’s ranking algorithm favors mobile-optimized websites when displaying search results for mobile users. That being the case, if you want to be easily found, you have to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly so that Google recognizes as a qualitative result to your prospect’s query.
Mobile optimization is also crucial from a UX standpoint; you want your visitors to have a seamless experience that enables them to consume your content, regardless of the device they’re on. Mobile users are usually time-poor and aim to achieve their objectives as fast as they can. Simplicity, accessibility and speed are key.
As you go through each of these steps, you might begin to feel overwhelmed (and this is just the short version). The truth is it’s not an easy task but it is a rewarding one.
Embarking on an inbound journey is a success of its own. You can re-define the steps, change tactics, innovate with tools and ideas, as long as you practice a helpful, responsible marketing that bring values to your prospects and your customers.
An inside tip: don’t expect fast results; like I said, neither inbound marketing nor growth hacking are overnight lottery tickets but they are winning tickets nonetheless. The first results with content marketing should start to show in about 6 months or so that’s when you’ll have enough data to start optimizing and re-planning.
Best of luck with your inbound strategy and looking forward to hearing some useful tips from your experience!