To say that marketing has come a long way in the past few years would be an understatement. The industry has gone from being mistaken as advertising a couple of decades ago to one of the faster growing industries across different verticals.
While there have been a number of historical turning points that changed the direction of how marketing would progress in the future, the advent of the Internet has been the most influential.
In fact, the web gave birth to a brand new form of marketing- digital marketing.
Since its inception in the form of email marketing and display ads, even the digital marketing landscape has grown dramatically during its relatively short lifespan. As a result of this growth, we now have different forms of digital marketing like search engine marketing, digital advertising, and social media marketing (among many others).
One such type of marketing that is relatively new is inbound marketing.
This guide is dedicated to help you better understand the ins and outs of inbound marketing.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is Inbound Marketing? How Is It Different? What Is the Inbound Methodology? Using the Inbound Methodology in Marketing
Before we can talk about inbound marketing, we must understand the inbound methodology. The inbound methodology is not a marketing technique. Think of it like an approach you use to grow your business. Inbound methodology helps you grow your business by building authentic, long lasting, and mutually beneficial relationships with your customers and prospects.
The objective of this method is to approach business with a customer-centric mindset. According to the inbound methodology, you must help your customers and prospects succeed if you want your business to succeed. To make this approach work, a ‘flywheel approach’ is used for inbound marketing.
The ‘flywheel’ has three parts or stages:
Attract: The first part of the inbound methodology flywheel is the attract stage where your brand starts building relationships with prospects with the help of valuable content and meaningful conversations.
Engage: This is where you present insights and solutions that address the pain points of your audience. This helps by positioning you as a credible source of valuable information and it strengthens your relationship with your prospects.
Delight: This stage comes after your prospects have turned into paying customers. This is where you continue to delight them by ensuring they are able to achieve success with your product or service.
Following this flywheel will ensure that anyone interacting with your business at any stage is delighted with their experience. Slowly but surely, these delightful experiences will become more and more well known, pushing your brand to new heights of success.
Keeping the inbound methodology in mind, it becomes much easier to define inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is marketing that attracts, engages, and delights customers by providing them value in the form of helpful or entertaining content and experiences that are tailored to their needs. Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing does not disrupt your audience’s lives with advertising and other intrusive forms of communication. Instead, the methodology is aimed at presenting your business as a solution for potential customers that are troubled by the pain points you address.
Inbound Marketing Strategies
Now that we have understood what inbound marketing is, let’s look at why this methodology is worth writing a guide about.
How Inbound Marketing Differs From Other Forms Of Marketing
As mentioned earlier, inbound marketing is all about attracting prospects that may be interested. This is quite a change from the traditional marketing methods that involved shouting your marketing message at customers and hoping someone converts.
Don’t get me wrong, outbound marketing is very much alive and effective in a lot of cases. However, inbound is simply better. This isn’t just an opinion you are reading because this guide is about inbound marketing. The numbers support this notion:
- In a Hubspot survey of marketers that was conducted last year, 40% of respondents said that inbound marketing is “very important” in their overall marketing strategy.
- Inbound marketing has been a popular strategy for quite some time now. 76% of marketers surveyed in 2017 were using inbound marketing strategies. It is a safe assumption that this number has grown in the four years that have followed.
- In another survey, 30% marketers said that outbound marketing tactics are overrated.
- According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing, which is a subset of inbound marketing, produces three times more leads for every dollar spent than traditional marketing methods.
So, what makes inbound marketing so different from traditional marketing? Here’s a table highlighting the major differences between the two:
|Inbound Marketing||Outbound Marketing|
|Attracts users that are likely to be interested||Sells to a targeted group of individuals|
|Messaging revolves around customer pain points||Messaging usually revolves around features of product or service|
|Adds value for prospects by providing access to helpful information||Disrupts the content that the user is consuming to deliver the marketing message|
|Examples of content used for inbound marketing include blog articles, guides, ebooks, and social media content||Examples of content used for outbound marketing include TV ads, print ads, display and banner ads, social media ads, PPC ads n search engine results|
It is evident from the popularity of inbound marketing that the above-mentioned differences translate to marketing advantages. Let’s look at what these are:
What Inbound Marketing Can Help You Achieve//Common Problems That Can Be Solved With Inbound Marketing
Improved Brand Visibility: When you produce content to attract your visitors and market that content, it automatically improves the online visibility of your brand. Not only that, focusing on producing and distributing truly valuable content will also allow you to build a brand image of a dependable expert.
Better Top-Of-The-Mind Recall: This is one of the objectives of doing inbound marketing. When you consistently produce and publish content on channels where your audience is present, you build top-of-the-mind brand recall value. This means whenever a person in your audience faces a problem that your brand solves, it will be the first brand they think of (instead of your competitors).
Achieve A Lower Cost-Per-Lead: Getting results from inbound marketing can take time. Achieving a positive ROI with inbound marketing will also take anywhere between a few months to a year, provided that you do it right. Despite all this, the returns of inbound marketing are incredibly lucrative and affordable. 3 out of 4 inbound marketing channels cost less than the cheapest outbound marketing channel.
So how can you start enjoying all these excellent advantages offered by inbound marketing?
Let’s talk strategy:
Planning, implementing, and optimizing your inbound marketing program
Developing Inbound Marketing Goals
The first step of developing an inbound marketing strategy is to determine your goals.
The definitive goals that you decide in this step will inform the decisions you take in the steps that follow. Moreover, having specific goals will also enable you to track your progress.
Then, from time to time, you can check your progress and see whether the tactics and strategy that you have implemented is working as it should. If they are not, you will have the data to determine which areas need optimizations and improvements in order to achieve better results.
Common inbound marketing goals are usually focused at conversion, like getting more customers or convincing more customers to subscribe to a more expensive plan (upsell). However, the problem with such goals is that they lack specificity. Without which, tracking progress can become difficult.
Sure, more sales is your objective but ask yourself:
- If you offer multiple products or services, for which ones do you want more sales?
- How many more sales are you expecting from your inbound marketing campaign?
- By when are you expecting to achieve your desired sales target?
Answering these questions will help you ensure that your inbound marketing goals are specific and measurable. However, there are two additional attributes of an inbound marketing goal that you need to get right. These are attainability and relevance.
Attainability: In order to determine whether your goals are attainable, you must first look at the current condition of your marketing mix. If, for instance, you are just starting out with inbound marketing, expecting too many improvements in a short span of time will only lead to disappointments.
If, however, your website is already attracting a good amount of traffic and some inbound leads, and you have access to enough resources, you can think about ambitious goals for your inbound campaigns.
Relevance: In the case of marketing goals, relevance should be determined in terms of their alignment with the overall business goals. This will not just help you ensure a more cohesive marketing plan, it will also help you determine whether you are indeed selecting the right goals. For instance, many businesses are seasonal in nature. If the next few months are going to be the ‘low season’ for your business, focusing on sales may not be the best option. Maybe, during such times, you can think about using inbound marketing to establish better brand awareness.
Understanding Buyer Personas and Stages Of Buyer’s Journey
After you have determined your goals, it is time to look at the most important aspect of any inbound strategy- the audience.
As mentioned earlier, inbound marketing is customer-centric and in order to get results from inbound, you must develop an in-depth understanding of who you are marketing to.
Your understanding of your audience, their pain points, their preferences, and their behaviours will enable you to create an inbound marketing strategy that resonates with them. Understanding these attributes will help you:
- Determine the right channels for marketing
- Get the messaging and tone right
- Create the content that they are likely to be interested in
- Craft offers that your audience finds attractive
- Create experiences that delight them
So how do you figure out who your audience is and what their preferences are? You may already have certain information about them, like their job position, their genders, and their age.
If, however, your customer base is relatively small, you may find scattered information and may not be able to find realistic averages. If this is the case, you can refer to the audience insights of your brand’s social media accounts. Here’s how you can do it on Facebook:
Go to your Facebook page and click on ‘Insights’ in the menu on the right side of the screen.
On the next page, scroll to the bottom on the right-hand-side menu and click on ‘People’.
The next page will display the demographic information of your fans and followers on Facebook. Something like this:
Similar insights are available on every other major social media platform.
If you are working with a totally new brand that doesn’t yet have a social media presence, you will have to make assumptions about who your audience is.
With that said, simply knowing demographics is not nearly enough to truly understand your audience. Here are a couple of other things that you can do:
- Send Out SurveysIf you have a sizable customer base, a survey is perhaps the most dependable way to get accurate insights about your audience. Even if you don’t have a large base of customers, you can execute this tactic by sending out simple survey forms to your email list.
The objective here is to understand one thing- your audiences’ biggest relevant (to your business) struggle. For instance, if you are an email marketing brand, you want to understand your audiences’ biggest struggles with email.
Of course, you must include follow-up questions about the solutions that they have tried and about the apprehensions they may have regarding possible solutions to their problems.
- Conduct InterviewsTo conduct interviews, it is best to start when you have a solid base of customers. Out of your existing customers, you should aim to identify your “best” customers, kind people that you really want to work with, and interview them.
The objective of the interview should be to understand how they realised they have a problem and how they determined your brand is the solution.
Make sure you are being granular with the details and find out the platforms where your customers discovered your brands, ask about their research and decision making process, and find out why they choose to keep using your product. Don’t forget to ask about what frustrates them about your current customer acquisition experience and about your product or service.
If your business is new and doesn’t have any customers or a following on social media, you will have to make educated assumptions about your audience traits. Then, when you start producing content and observing how it is being consumed, you can make changes to your assumptions. New business owners will be able to build a more accurate understanding of their buyers only once they actually have a few buyers. Till then, you will have to make do with assumptions and insights from researching competitors.
Content Creation For Inbound Marketing
Awesome content is at the heart of every successful inbound marketing campaign.
With your goals and your audiences’ pain points in mind, you can start creating content tailored to their needs and preferences. However, simply understanding those two things is not enough to accurately create the right content. For this, we will have to dive a little deeper into the inbound marketing flywheel:
Understanding Customer Journey
As mentioned earlier, the inbound marketing flywheel has three parts, each representing a stage in a prospects journey to becoming a customer and then an advocate of your brand. Let’s understand the customer’s (or prospect’s) mindset in each stage and how content can be used to nudge them into the next one:
This is the stage where your prospect realises that they have a problem and starts researching more about the problem in hopes of finding a solution. This is why this stage is also called the awareness stage.
In this stage, your prospect is investigating and thus, uses informational search terms such as “how to do X” or “how to do X more efficiently”. They are trying to learn more about their problem and its possible solutions.
Naturally, if you want to attract prospects at this stage, you will have to produce educational and informational content. This may include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Educational/instructional videos
The objectives of content production at this stage is to:
Attract targeted traffic of users that are most likely to purchase from you.
Educate prospects about their problem and subtly positioning your service or product as the ideal solution.
Position your brand as a trustworthy source of valuable information for your target audience.
To achieve these objectives, however, simply producing awesome content is not enough. You must pair your content production efforts with well-planned publishing and distribution efforts to ensure ample visibility.
A few things that you can do to ensure this kind of visibility are:
- Search Engine Optimization: When you want to learn more about a subject or a problem, which is the first place you go? If you are anything like most of the people that use the web, your answer must be “Google” or, in some cases “Bing search”.Just like you, your prospects also often begin their research with a search query on Google. That’s why, it is strongly recommended that you identify the keywords they are using to start researching your product or service and start optimizing your content for the same. (More on keyword research in the next section of this guide)
- Guest Posting: Guest posting is an excellent strategy for building backlinks to improve SEO visibility. However, another great and relatively overlooked benefit of guest posting is the targeted visibility it offers.When you appear as a guest contributor on one of the blogs that your audience follows, you automatically position yourself as a trustworthy expert. However, even if that doesn’t work, the content of your guest contribution is sure to create interest about your and your business within at least a few readers. Not to forget the most obvious benefit of guest posting- visibility in front of an untapped section of your target audience.
You can not only use the guest posts to produce even more content suited for the ‘attract’ stage, you can literally attract website visitors by contextually adding links to relevant content on your website.
- Social Media Promotion: No digital business presence is complete without a social media presence. If your brand already has an audience on social media, make sure you are sharing your content with them.If you currently don’t have much of a social media following, you can consider backing your awesome content with a paid advertising campaign. Most paid ads platforms, including search engines like Google, will allow you to show your content to targeted users, giving it the attention that it deserves.
If your content is truly valuable, there is a good chance that you will not have to depend on paid promotions for long. After it gets its initial visibility with paid promotions, the experience associated with your content should help you build a tribe of followers that love consuming your content. When this happens, you can switch to depending completely on organic traffic.
The paid strategy works especially well for gated content or pillar pages that allow you to collect the contact information of your prospects.
At the end of this stage, your prospects should be aware of your brand. Ideally, they should now identify your product or service as one of the potential solutions to their problems. They should have visited your website at least once and you should have collected the contact information of some.
Once a customer has passed the attract stage, they enter the nurture or engagement stage. Let’s see what it is like:
This is the stage where your prospect has done the preliminary research and identified a set of possible solutions. At this stage, they are weighing their options, doing a cost-benefit analysis, and figuring out which product best suits their needs.
Obviously, at this stage, your objective is to present your product or service at the most appropriate and efficient solution to their problem. How do you do that?
With content, of course.
The good news is, certain content types that were discussed in the previous stage also work quite well in this stage. For instance, in this stage, a prospect may search the web for a “comparison between product X and product Z”.
You can target such keywords with comparison articles in your own blog.
Similarly, if you notice that your customers are searching the web for “top ten X products”, you can make a list on the subject and publish it on your blog. Alternatively, you can contribute such a listicle as a guest article.
With that said, there are certain content types that are simply perfect for nurturing your prospects into becoming customers. These include (but are not limited to):
- Email nurturing campaigns
- Retargeting ads
- Conversational bots on websites and social media channels
- Case studies
With these, you can continue providing your customers with valuable content and experiences without having to sound or appear salesy.
One of the most common confusions regarding the nurturing stage revolves around distribution of content.
How do you distribute content to ensure it is reaching your prospects that have graduated from the ‘attract’ stage?
Here are a few ideas that have worked for us in the past:
- Email Distribution: Your email subscribers are interested in what you have to share. That’s (probaby) why they have subscribed for your emails. Distributing your content through emails can take several forms and each one is incredibly effective when used right.For instance, you can deliver short courses through a series of emails, with one module or lesson contained within one email. Depending on the nature of your product or service, such courses can enable your subscribers to know your product better or to simply get a glimpse of what your business has to offer.
Similarly, you can also use email newsletters to share targeted website articles with your audience.
- Ads: One feature of digital advertising that has contributed immensely to its popularity is the ability to retarget users. If you don’t already know about this feature, it does exactly what the name suggests, it allows you to target the specific people that have already visited your website with specific ads.Retargeting works well when you want to nurture the prospects that only visited your website or social media profiles but did not share any contact information in the ‘attract’ stage.
In fact, you can use social media retargeting ads to show such visitors a tailored content offer that will allow you to collect their contact information. For instance, you can attract and obtain information from B2B buyers in exchange for a whitepaper that enables them to make an informed decision. Surveys show that 71% of B2B buyers use white papers to research purchases and 75% would give up their contact information to access a whitepaper.
- Search Engine Optimization: Weighing different solutions and choosing the right one involves a lot of questions. Just like in the ‘attract’ stage, your prospects will ask these questions from search engines.That’s why, it makes sense for you to publish some ‘nurturing’ content on your blog and optimize it for question keywords relevant to this stage of your customers’ journeys. Using the same logic, it may also be a good idea to use topics fit for this stage for guest contributions as well.
Besides producing and distributing content, there is another, very important aspect of the nurture stage.
See, this is where the prospects are supposed to convert into customers. Prospects that don’t convert cannot be considered to have moved to the ‘delight’ stage of their journey.
This means, while content is going to help nudge your prospects into making the right purchase decision, you must ensure that your sales process is aligned with your content production efforts and is optimized to deliver a consistent experience.
This can be done in two ways:
- Establishing a Service Level Agreement (SLA) Between The Sales And Marketing TeamsIf your marketing keeps producing leads that are not converted, then their efforts are actually going in-vain. Similarly, if your sales team keeps getting unqualified leads to pursue, they will not be able to remain effective at their job.
In both cases, the result will be a disappointing conversion rate.
The best way to avoid this is to make both teams sign an agreement that lays out their responsibilities. For instance, the agreement can outline the actions that a prospect must take in order to actually qualify as a lead and be introduced to the sales team. On the other hand, the contract will also outline a specific outreach and follow up timeline for each lead that is qualified and sent to the sales team by the marketing team.
This will not just help you keep your sales and marketing teams more accountable, it will also help you deliver a real life experience to your prospects that is consistent with their experience on your website and their experience with your awesome content.
- Enabling Your Sales Teams With The Right ContentAnother way to make the conversion process more consistent with the experiences provided by your brand is to equip your sales teams with content. This can be anything ranging from whitepapers that prove the effectiveness of your product or service to demo videos that show your products in action.
If you haven’t already figured it out, the objective of these two steps is also to make your sales process less ‘salesy’. Instead of putting the prospect’s focus on the features of your product or service, the way sales have been conducted historically, your sales team is also informing them into converting. Informing them not just about your products or services and their features, but also how they address the prospects’ pain points in real world situations.
All this is done because when your prospects make an informed purchase decision, you start building a customer base of users that can truly benefit from your product or service. At the same time, your customers also feel the positivity associated with research followed by making ‘the right’ purchase decision, making it easier to keep them happy.
Speaking of keeping customers happy, that is where the next part of the inbound flywheel begins.
By this stage, your prospects should have become paying customers. This is where the (arguably) most difficult part of inbound marketing begins- delighting customers.
This part is difficult because whatever amazing things you are offering with your product or service, your customers already expect them. Delivering these amazing benefits is part of the deal, your customers won’t be delighted simply because you gave them everything that was promised before they made the purchase.
In order to truly delight your customers, you must go the extra mile.
Not knowing what this involves is perhaps the reason executing the right steps in this stage is so difficult.
Before we talk about how you can start delighting customers, let’s take a moment to talk about why it is important to delight customers.
The answer is quite straightforward actually- it is more profitable to retain customers (or encourage return purchases) than acquiring new customers.
This is not an opinion, it is a fact. Acquiring new customers is not just more expensive than retaining existing ones, it is actually six to seven times more expensive.
Another great benefit of delighting customers is the improved likeliness of turning them into brand advocates. Once customers are delighted with your service and/or product, they are more likely to recommend you to their friends and families.
Delighted customers also write positive and detailed reviews, which can actually make your job in the ‘nurture’ stage much easier. In fact, delighted customers can also be incentivised to appear on video for video testimonials that you can use to ‘nurture’ future prospects into becoming customers.
Now that we know why you must delight your customers, let’s see how you can do it:
Design A Proactive Support Experience
In the age of digital products and services, the quality of support is a decisive factor in determining whether a customer’s experience with a brand has been positive or negative. Thankfully, the availability of social media platforms and digital content makes it easier for brands to improve the quality of their support and make it more approachable and accessible.
Here are a few ideas that you can start implementing:
- Make support available on multiple channels, including social media. This way, customers don’t have to work with a support channel that they are not comfortable with. Moreover, customers nowadays expect brands to be present on social media.A survey showed that 75% of Twitter users have interacted with brands on the platform. Out of these interactions, more than half involved obtaining more information about the brands’ products or services.
Providing support on social media will also let you publicly show how well your team handles support requests, and handling social media support requests promptly is almost an unsaid norm.
Surveys show that 42% of customers that seek support on a social media channel expect the brand to reply within an hour. 32% expect a reply within 30 minutes.
- Invest in creating customer support literature. From a question bank to guides dedicated to solving common challenges that your customers may face with your product or service, there are a lot of options that suit different content production and technical capabilities of different brands.The objective of producing support content is simple- to reduce the number of queries your support team has to handle. When this happens, the obvious benefit is that your support team faces less pressure and has more bandwidth to address serious problems faced by customers.
The less obvious benefit of doing this is that your customers don’t have to wait for your support team to get answers to common support queries. At the same time, customers that are facing serious issues will not have to wait for long to get support as your team will be free from handling common support queries.
While the above mentioned ways are delightful ways of offering support, the support is still not really a ‘delighter’. It is among the bare minimum necessities that brands offer to their customers.
In order to truly delight your customers, you must ensure that they are able to achieve ‘success’ with your product or service. While support content is aimed at helping them use your product or service, content that delights is aimed at helping them push your product to achieving its absolute potential while providing them with the benefits of the same.
Let’s look at a few ways you can continue delighting customers after they convert:
This one is a no brainer. Taking feedback will enable you to improve the quality of your product or service, and it is not hard to imagine how that will delight your customers.
With that said, another hidden aspect of this delight lies in the customers feeling valued. Why would they feel valued? Because unlike most brands, your brand cares enough to ask about their opinion.
This ‘special’ feeling will be even more amplified when you actually implement the feedback you get from your clients.
How do you collect feedback?
The simplest option is to use surveys and feedback forms but depending on the availability of resources and the number of clients you have, you can even arrange feedback collection calls. The only advantage of using calls instead of survey forms is that calls will feel more personal and memorable, making them more ‘delightful’ than a form.
Produce Customer Success Content
Just like you can produce content to attract, nurture, and support customers, you can also use content to help them make the most of your product or service. Depending on the preferences of your audience, your content production ability, and the kind of instructions you are sharing, you can pick and choose from a number of different content types.
For instance, if your product is a digital tool, you can make a guide about a little known use of one of your features.
A good example of this kind of content is Mailshake’s video guide to cold email outreach. Notice how this guide is publicly available and also acts as great marketing material for MailShake. The first video in the playlist alone has over 8,000 views on YouTube.
If you cannot invest time in producing instructional videos, you can do what LinkedIn does. You can create a “help resource”. Here’s an example of a LinkedIn help page that is dedicated to helping LinkedIn Premium users make the most of the search feature of Sales Navigator with boolean searches.
Besides videos and help centers, another great way to deliver delightful customer success content is through email courses. Email courses are nothing but a series of emails with each containing a short and focused lesson about a feature or process related to your product.
Establish A Loyalty Program And A Referral Program
In a consumer survey over 58% of respondents rated loyalty programs as one of the most important reasons for frequently purchasing from a brand. Surveys have also revealed that a good chunk of online purchasers look for loyalty and reward programs before they make a purchase.
The web is filled with countless examples of amazing loyalty programs and the equally amazing results they have driven for various brands. From Starbucks to Amazon, a lot of well-known brands use their loyalty programs beautifully. For instance, besides the extra revenue from the membership of Amazon Prime, Amazon also earns extra revenue from the amplified spending of Prime members. On an average, Amazon Prime members spend 4.6 times more than non-members that shop on Amazon.
You should take inspiration to build one for your brand, especially if you are running an ecommerce business.
Delighting your customers with savings and freebies will provide your brand with dual benefits. One, the loyalty programs and reward systems will encourage them to keep coming back for more. This benefit is not just limited for stores selling products. Loyalty programs can also be used by service and membership businesses to upsell to their customers.
The second benefit of a loyalty program and the delight it brings to your customers is the improved likeliness of them turning into brand advocates and referring you to their family and friends.
However, you don’t have to depend on chance to enjoy the second benefit. You can pair your loyalty program with a referral program that rewards customers for bringing in new customers.
With that said, regardless of whether you are only thinking of implementing a loyalty program or are convinced about pairing it with a referral program, make sure you are choosing the right types of programs.
From point systems to tier-based systems, loyalty programs can take many forms. Make sure the one that you use is suited to the nature of your business. Similarly, make sure the payout terms of your referral program are designed such that they don’t end up costing you money and still seem fair to your customers.
Most importantly, when implementing such programs, make sure you are absolutely transparent about the terms and conditions of these programs from the get go. If your customers find out about these conditions after making the purchase, your loyalty or referral programs may end up frustrating the customers instead of delighting them.
Send Out Email Delighters
Another way to use emails to delight your customers is to send out delighter emails. The objective of these emails is to.. well, delight your customers (duh!). These emails don’t talk about your offerings at all, except when they are thanking them for being your customer. These don’t teach your customers anything or even help them in any way.
So, how do they delight them?
By letting them know that they are valued. In many cases, even educational emails, like the email course we discussed in one of the previous points, are included in the category of delighter emails.
Sure, educating customers does delight them, it helps them make the most of your product. However, in order to enjoy this delight, the customer must consume your educational content and then apply what they learnt to how they use your product or service. They have to take action in order to be delighted.
The delighter emails that I want to talk about don’t demand action. They just delight.
Most commonly, delighter emails take two forms. One, birthday wish emails and the other, thank you emails.
While these may seem painfully cliched or obvious, these emails will go a long way in helping you build lasting relationships with your clients and inbound marketing is all about building relationships.
Think about it, a random thank you message or call from a friend warms your heart.
When a brand does the same for you, even when you know that the email was probably automated and is the result of a date trigger, you know that someone took the time to make sure the email is sent to you.
The same goes for birthday emails. As ‘scripted’ as they may feel when coming from a brand, they will help your brand move away from the ‘cold corporation’ image and humanise its presence.
These little delighters can also be instances about your brand that your customers share with their friends and family. Maybe they aren’t (yet) impressed enough to tell them about your awesome product or service, but when they receive a random email from you that simply says thank you, at least a few will be motivated to share the same with someone close to them.
One way to make your delighter emails even more delightful is to pair them with your loyalty program, like Starbucks does. If you have signed up for the Starbucks loyalty program, you get a free drink from them on your birthday.
The offer is quite simple and (probably) doesn’t cost Starbucks a lot of money but it is one of the biggest selling points for their loyalty program.
Creating A Long Term Content Strategy To Support Inbound Goals
As you may have realised by now, your inbound marketing campaign is heavily dependent on content for its success. Right from the attract stage to after a prospect is converted into a customer, your content is present at multiple customer touch points, encouraging them to move to the next stage of the inbound flywheel.
Naturally, this means that if you want your inbound efforts to make a difference, you must be ready to produce a lot of content.
However, simply producing large amounts of content will not result in success. In fact, you can start experiencing success with a relatively smaller number of content assets, if you pair your content production efforts with consistency.
That’s right, when it comes to getting any sort of success with content, be it better SEO visibility or inbound marketing success, consistency is one of the most important factors (besides the quality of content, of course).
In order to enable yourself or your team to produce quality content consistently, you will need a plan. However, before you can make a content production plan, there are a couple of important aspects of producing content that we must discuss.
This is not an SEO guide so will not be diving too deep into how keywords are researched. Instead, this section is actually dedicated to understanding how different keywords are used for content dedicated to different parts of your inbound marketing flywheel.
To understand this, we will first have to learn a little about search intent. See, these days, Google’s algorithm has become smarter and it doesn’t just rely on keywords to understand a search query.
Instead, modern search engine algorithms utilise the data they have collected over decades to understand the intent behind a search query. Naturally, in order to keep up, you have to develop the same understanding.
Luckily, understanding the intent behind different keywords involves the application of common sense and unlike algorithms, we can understand the concept in a matter of minutes. Let’s see the common intent behind the search terms that your prospects may use in different stages of their purchase journey:
Understanding Keyword Intent
Imagine you are a prospect at the attract stage, partially aware about your problem. You open up your favorite search engine and type in a query related to your problem. What is your intent here? What are you looking for?
In most cases, prospects in the attract stage are looking for information and thus, use keywords with informational intent behind them.
Different types of intents behind different search terms can be categorized as informational, transactional, and navigational. Understanding intent will allow you to produce the content that your audience wants to consume at different stages of their purchase journey.
We have already discussed what informational keywords are. Transactional keywords are those with a purchase intent behind them. Navigational keywords are actually brand or product names. These are usually entered when a user already knows exactly what they are looking for.
While this may seem like obvious advice, things will quickly become grey and confusing when you actually get down to researching keywords. Let’s understand why with an example.
Here’s what Google gives me when I look up “email marketing”:
From the perspective of a company that sells an email marketing tool, this keyword may seem like a transactional keyword. However, Google doesn’t think the same. Google considers “email marketing” an informational keyword and has based its notion on data collected from millions of users.
You are of course, free to have a difference in your opinion but then that may mean ranking your pages well in the search engine result pages (SERPs) will be exponentially more difficult.
On the other hand, if you understand the intent behind different keywords and then decide where they fit in your inbound marketing flywheel, you will be able to produce content that Google wants to display for your target keywords and your users (probably) want to see.
Revealing the intent behind different keywords is quite an easy task. Just do what I did and perform a search with your target keyword and analyse the results to accurately understand the intent behind that specific search term.
Understanding topic clusters and pillar pages
This section is dedicated to creating a structure for your blog. Creating pillar pages and focusing on topic clusters will result in two advantages. One, it will be easier to establish yourself as an authority on relevant subjects in the eyes of Google (and other search engines). Secondly, it will make it easier to create a realistic content production plan for your website.
Doing this is important because the success of your inbound strategy hinges on your ability to bring targeted prospects to your website and one of the best sources of such targeted traffic is a search engine.
So what are pillar pages and topic clusters?
A pillar page usually broadly covers a topic. It can be any form of content but in most cases, pillar pages are in-depth guides (like this one). Topic clusters, on the other hand, are focused pieces of content about specific subtopics. For instance, a topic cluster for this guide can be about ‘keyword research for inbound marketing’.
Using this approach to plan your website content means your content strategy will be focused on topics instead of keywords. This approach is beneficial because search engine algorithms seem to understand the relevance between topic clusters and pillar pages.
This means, when you create a pillar page and support it with enough topic clusters, the search engine realises that you are producing a lot of high quality content about the topic covered on your pillar page. This will prompt the algorithm to view you as an authority on the subject.
This means, if you have multiple topics that you want to focus on, you can prioritise each and create pillar pages and topic clusters for each topic one by one. Here’s the difference between the structure of a traditional blog and the structure of a blog built on pillar pages:
Traditional blog structure. (Source)
Pillar pages and topic clusters. (Source)
Create A Content Publishing Plan
By now, you already should know about pillar pages, topic clusters, and keyword intent. Based on the goals that we determined at the beginning of this guide, you should be able to prioritise which keywords and topics are more immediately important for your business.
Once you know what’s more important right now, all that is left is to create a long term publishing plan.
Why long term you ask?
Because long term content plans make it easier for you to plan your calendar and ensure that your content production efforts stay consistent.
Another reason you need a long term content plan to support your inbound marketing plan is because it takes a few weeks and sometimes months to get results from your inbound strategy.
Consistently producing content can be challenging when you are not seeing results. However, when you have a plan you need to stick to, being consistent is easier. Not to forget, having specific goals will help you stay on track while also giving you that extra pinch of gratification that you need to keep going.
Some people think that they don’t need a plan because they have more than enough resources to take care of their content production needs.
The reality is that if there are multiple individuals involved in your content production efforts, the need for a plan is a lot more critical. This is because in the case of a team, a content plan not only offers all the benefits we just discussed, but also keeps the entire team accountable while helping minimise instances of miscommunication.
Creating a content plan can turn out to be a time consuming task but it is actually quite simple. Moreover, the time consuming aspect of this task usually only needs to be taken care of once. It’s a simple three step process:
Step 1: Conduct a content analysis
A content analysis is aimed at identifying all of your existing content assets. If your business has never produced any content before, you can obviously skip this step.
However, if you have produced content before, the task now is quite straightforward. First, think of the categories or topics under which you can file your existing content.
Then, make a list of all your content assets and make sure they are properly categorized.
Doing this will help you find content ‘gaps’ that you can address in your content publishing plan. At the same time, it will also help you ensure you are not repeating any of the topics that you may have already covered before.
Step 2: Conduct an event analysis
An event analysis is to identify all the upcoming events that are relevant to your business. This will, of course, include company events. However, it may also include the events that the top management is going to attend or just generally special days (like the Black Friday Sale or Christmas) that may be relevant to your business from the perspective of producing content.
The idea here is to become aware about all the upcoming events in the foreseeable future and make sure you produce and publish the right kind of content to support said events.
Step 3: Use the intelligence from the previous steps to create a publishing calendar
The title of this step is quite self explanatory. Once you are aware about all your existing content assets and upcoming events, you can easily create a content calendar that addresses the ongoing content needs of your business.
Moving towards an inbound marketing methodology for acquiring and retaining clients may be the best business decision you will take this year, given that you are able to implement your inbound marketing plan correctly.
I hope that this guide will help you in doing the same. With that said, I have tried my best to make this guide as complete as I could. However, if you have any questions or queries about inbound marketing, please drop them in the comments and I’ll get back to you with an answer. On the other hand, if I forgot to mention an inbound marketing tactic that has worked for you, share it with me and with everyone else in the form of a comment.