Inbound marketing can turn your website into a traffic magnet
There are a number of key reasons why we develop and create inbound marketing campaigns. The first reasons that normally spring to mind are to generate leads or increase sales. These tend to be short term activities aimed at achieving a specific aim such as promoting an individual product or product line or increasing sales opportunities in a particular market sector or geography. Of course these are important activities but marketing campaigns should also be viewed as small stepping stones towards achieving a longer term business objective such as:
- Increase brand awareness or brand reinforcement
- Getting found and chosen online
- Demonstrating your expertise by taking a thought leadership stance
- Developing your market
- Building and cleaning your database
While a great deal of marketing resource is spent launching campaigns, there can be a tendency towards getting something out there quickly with less time spent on planning to ensure the campaign delivers everything hoped for and more. Most Small to Medium sized Businesses (SMB’s) manage their marketing activities on an Ad Hoc basis with little or no long term planning. Investing a little time upfront understanding what you want to achieve from each of the following 6 inbound marketing campaign stages will improve the chances of campaign success and deliver a greater campaign ROI (Return On Investment).
Stage 1: Create the offer
A successful inbound marketing campaign needs to be aligned to the needs and wants of the target audience. By asking the right questions upfront you will build a picture of your ideal customer, understand the issues they face and how you can help solve their problems and be able to develop buyer personas and create content aligned to each stage of the buying cycle e.g.
- Who are your ideal customers and prospects?
- What keeps them awake at night?
- Where can they be found? Through search engines, blogging, email marketing or social networks?
- Do you know the type of content they prefer to receive or view?
- What’s the Call to Action (CTA) you want them to take?
Get feedback from the sales team and ensure they are on board with the whole process. Many inbound marketing campaigns are doomed from the very beginning because the objectives of marketing and sales are misaligned resulting in the wrong messages being targeted at the wrong audience and any leads captured end up sitting in a black hole through chaotic lead management systems. Appointing a campaign project manager with responsibility for the project plan ensures any issues can be quickly identified and conflicts resolved upfront. Brainstorming sessions can answer the following:
- What resource do we need?
- Do we need to outsource?
- What budget is required?
- What key phrases should we be targeting
- How will we handle the lead management process?
- How will we maximise our Return On Investment (ROI) by repurposing and recycling the content we produce?
Hints and tips
Personas: One way to help your campaign is to write content for your prospective buyer. How do you do this? Well put yourself in their shoes and list all of the issues you think they may have. Give them a “persona” and build a profile, a representation of a target customer. For more complex sales you may need to create several personas based on the key functions within the Decision Making Unit (DMU).
Buying cycle: Most people who visit your site won’t make an immediate purchase. Most people will be browsing, researching, comparing and they’ll be at very different stages within the buying cycle. Your content strategy needs to take this into account.
Call To Action: This is what you expect your prospect to do when they arrive at the landing page. Make it clear and concise and don’t offer too many option (one is best) e.g. register for our online newsletter.
Key phrases: These are the search terms that people key into the search engines e.g. Google, Bing and increasingly YouTube and Facebook in order to find what they’re looking for. Including these phrases in your content increases the chance of getting found. This is normally described as search engine optimisation (SEO).
Stage 2: The content engine
Content plays a key part in educating an audience, raising brand awareness, generating leads, helping to validate an offer and converting a prospect into a customer. The end result that we want to achieve is to generate a lead or a conversion, so we need to consider the most appropriate channels to reach our target audience. Today we’re spoilt for choice, digital marketing techniques such as inbound marketing and content marketing working with search marketing, social media AND traditional marketing techniques all have a part to play, they are all part of a marketer’s’ toolkit and shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. The critical issue is to create content to match each of the stages a prospect may progress through before becoming a paying customer e.g.
TOFU: Most marketers concentrate on driving traffic to the Top Of The sales Funnel (TOFU) through raising awareness of a brand and hoping that the leads somehow turn into prospects and customers through divine intervention. Sure some customers will fall out of the bottom of the funnel but with between only 5 and 25% of leads being sales ready that’s a risky strategy.
MOFU: By offering content targeted at the Middle Of The sales Funnel (MOFU) for those who have recognised they have a need and are aware of your offer but are now in the research or education stage we are keeping our audience engaged and helping them to move further through the funnel. This stage can account for up to 50% of our leads (the remaining 50% are not normally worth following up).
BOFU: Content targeted at those deemed to be at the Bottom Of The sales Funnel (BOFU) should consist of case studies, testimonials or endorsements to help validate a prospects decision or to compare your offering against the competition thus supporting a positive conversion.
The final stage of the sales cycle is the purchase whereby the prospect becomes a customer. Many businesses spend most of their time and effort trying to generate business from new prospects and neglect the opportunities to cross sell and up sell to their current customer base.
Identifying the right content and the right format
Content can be produced in many formats from text based content like eBooks, blog posts, whitepapers and case studies to media based content such as videos, webinars, podcasts and infographics. The rise of image and video based social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, Vimeo and YouTube coupled with the fact that video is far more likely to show up in the search results means that video should play an integral part of your campaign. The type of content and the topics that your audience are interested in should be identified in stage 1 of this process. Checking on past history of what was successful and what wasn’t in conjunction with your web analytics data will help you conclude what’s right.
Keep the rule of 5 at the forefront of your planning
This is where your upfront planning begins to pay off because the campaign content can be repurposed and recycled reducing your total marketing costs and improving your ROI. How does this work? Well let’s say the main content hook in your campaign is an ebook. As well as offering your ebook in exchange for an email address, you can tweet about your eBook, the eBook can become a slidedeck and uploaded to Slideshare, a voiceover can be added to the slidedeck and uploaded to YouTube, the voiceover can be turned into a podcast, extracts of the eBook can become Blog posts or enewsletter articles increasing the coverage and longevity of your campaign.
Hints and tips
The sales funnel: Is a model used by sales & marketing teams to try to identify how close a prospect is to making a purchase for lead nurturing and forecasting purposes. It is related to the buying cycle.
A key takeaway is to always plan upfront and reuse any content you produce in at least 5 different ways (the rule of 5). Great content can differentiate your offering from the competition, help you gain credibility in your marketplace and position you as a “thought leader”
Stage 3: The campaign landing page
In order to start generating leads from your inbound marketing campaign you will need to be driving traffic to a dedicated page on your website called a campaign landing page. This is where you promote the offer in a way that maximises the chances of a conversion.
This is the key aspect of the whole campaign
The offer needs to be appealing enough that a visitor will happily convert by:
- Clicking the Buy Now button
- Clicking the Book Now button
- Completing a contact form and providing their contact details in exchange for downloading your ebook, registering for your blog or regular enewsletter etc.
By collecting those contact details you are helping convert this visitor from a contact to a lead that can then be nurtured within the sales funnel, normally through an email marketing process.
Note 1: It’s important to offer a dedicated landing page for each offer you create.
A good landing page will make the difference between a conversion and a bounce. It should consist of a visual related to the campaign, a strong headline, a brief reason why the conversion should be made including the benefits and value offered with bullet points to make the offer clear and concise, a Call to Action (CTA) e.g. download our eBook or register for our free webinar and a contact form to capture visitor information in exchange for the offer.
The more contact information you ask for the lower your conversion rate will be so make sure you only ask the visitor to enter the information you really need for qualification e.g. it might be useful to have a physical address but if you only ever intend to email the contact, do you really need it?
The sales team will always want a telephone number but this is something that people are very wary to provide. It may be best to try to acquire this at a later stage.
On completion of the conversion don’t forget to offer a “Thank You” page where you have a second chance to engage with your visitor by offering an opportunity to e.g. sign up for your blog or eNewsletter and connect with you via social media. If your system allows it, auto-responders and workflows can be setup to automatically schedule follow up mails to each new lead.
Don’t forget to make sure that you’ve maximized the chances of your content being “shared” or passed on by the reader via their social networks by incorporating social media share buttons within the content.
Hints and tips
Unless there is no other option I strongly urge you NOT to drive people to your website’s home page. This dilutes the main aim of the campaign and places the emphasis on the visitor to make the right decision or choice.
One way to decide the best layout and design of your landing page is to use A/B or multivariate testing
Video: A small video clip, hosted on the landing page, explaining the benefits of making a conversion has been shown to increase conversion rates.
A Google AdWords remarketing campaign will allow you to target ads at people who have previously visited your site or landing page (but not yet converted) as they browse the web
Stage 4: Campaign promotion
You’ve done a great job so far, the offer is known, the content is ready and the landing pages are waiting for the incoming traffic. However, you can have the most exciting, relevant, educational campaign in the world but you still need to give it a kick up the backside and promote it through the appropriate channels.
Publish your content on your website and distribute if through the appropriate social networks by tweeting about it, posting a Facebook status update or LinkedIn activity update etc. to gain traction and raise the possibility of getting it shared by your network. A great deal of the campaign promotion will be achieved through this external promotion but make sure you take the opportunity of converting visitors browsing your own website by adding a strong Call to Action (CTA) block on the relevant pages of your website that links through to the campaign landing page.
If you already have a segmented up-to-date database then you can target those relevant segments via email. Social media activity through personal participation can also drive traffic to your landing page. Pay Per Click advertising through Google and Bing and targeted Facebook and LinkedIn ads can also give your campaign an immediate boost and quick return.
Hints and tips
Mobile devices: With the number of searches undertaken on mobile devices now overtaking those taken on desktops and laptops it would be prudent to consider mobile and tablet users within your campaign audience. Your Google Analytics report will tell you the percentage of mobile and tablet users visiting your website.
Stage 5: Lead management
As leads are captured they need to be prioritised and nurtured. Remember they’re not all in buying mode (yet). This stage depends upon your Call to Action (CTA) and your contact form. If your CTA is “fill in this form if you want a personal demo of our product or service” then this lead should go straight to sales as it would be deemed “sales ready”
If you’ve only asked for an email address in exchange for your offer then these emails would be fed into the email nurturing process e.g. if someone has downloaded an ebook then that event on its own could be allocated a score of let’s say 20 points. The pre-determined follow up email might invite that person to register for a relevant webinar or download a related ebook. If there is a subsequent conversion then this might be worth a further 30 points etc. This lead scoring and nurturing would continue until each lead reached a pre-agreed score and would then be handed over to sales for further qualification or follow up. Some software management platforms have this capability built-in but for most of us the process needs to be carried out manually.
If you have received a telephone number as part of the exchange then a follow up call will ascertain the sales probability.
This lead management process has two advantages, it prevents every lead being immediately handed over to sales as they probably won’t have the time or resource to follow up every lead and as the pre-qualification is handled by marketing until the lead is deemed sales ready, the lead will be “warm” when handed over to sales which should improve the chances of the lead becoming a prospect and then a customer.
Stage 6: Measure everything
Once your campaign has gone live you can measure and analyse each element of the campaign. The advantage of operating in a digital world is that almost everything can be tracked and measured.
Ensure that you have the capability to track this traffic by installing a package such as Google Analytics on your website. It’s free and can be added quite easily. You need to sign up to a Google account and Google provide you with a piece of code that your webmaster can add to the pages on your site (or blog).
Google Analytics will enable you to track visitors to your campaign landing page or any specific webpages on your site, identify where those visitors have come from, how they moved through your site, any actions they took (downloaded an eBook), how long they stayed on your site, what pages are popular (or not) and the list goes on. The analysis of this information is very useful for tweaking your campaign activities, working out what worked and what was less successful or identifying content for future development. Incorporate your findings into improving your content and processes in order to increase future ROI.
Google also allows you to set up alerts that can be emailed to you enabling you to track activity on keywords or phrases, competitor activities, your own brand, URL or company name etc. highlighting conversations your content may have kicked off.
A tool with a similar purpose is Social Mention, this provides real time social media search results for keywords or phrases important to you. Alternatively you could use Hootsuite which lets you monitor multiple social network pages from one platform.
Additional information can be found from social media sharing and bookmarking widgets such as “sharethis” or “Addthis” that you may have on your web or blog pages. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Slideshare also offer statistics and counts and engagement feedback and don’t forget blog comments.
If you’ve been promoting your campaign through Google AdWords make sure you’ve linked your AdWords and Analytics accounts to ensure your AdWords results can be tracked in the Analytics report. Google Analytics can now also be linked to your YouTube account.
The key point to understand is don’t just measure for measurements sake. Determine the purpose of your content up front and use the appropriate platforms/packages to measure the interaction relevant to your goals and objectives. Remember that your visitors will be at differing stages within the buying cycle and you will need to consider different metrics for each of those stages.
Hopefully this process has given you some useful information regarding the set up, implementation and management of an inbound marketing campaign. However, the only way to really determine if it works for you is to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. Don’t forget to test, tweak and test again until you get it right for you and your audience. Once you’re happy with the results you can use this template for further marketing campaigns.
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Download 6 Stages to inbound marketing success a pdf ebook.
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