3 Steps of Inbound Marketing

A- Inbound Marketing versus Outbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is important. Wikipedia describes Inbound Marketing

“A marketing strategy that focuses on getting found by customers…. in contrast to outbound marketing where they used to have to buy, beg, or bug their way in”

To understand inbound marketing, we should tabulate the differences between the two types of marketing

Inbound Marketing Outbound Marketing
-Publish useful information/content
-SEO
-Free and useful download-able gift
-Social media
-RSS
-And so on
-Paid advertising
-Press Releases
-Tradeshows
-Cold calls
-Use commission sales people
-And so on

Clay Schossow, in his article on newmediacampaign.com, describes inbound marketing

“The practice of bringing warm, qualified leads into your sales funnel rather than reaching outward to cold, questionable targets”

Buyers have increasingly used search engines to research before making their purchases. And this practice makes inbound marketing important. It is risky for any company not spending resources on inbound marketing.

B- No pain no gain in Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marathon not a sprint. Steady efforts must be spent weekly to make steady progress. For example, no company can expect its website to appear on the first result search page after one week of search engine optimization. In addition, no company should expect to have numerous followers for its FaceBook page in the first week.

C- 3 steps of Inbound Marketing

If a company decides to join the inbound marketing revolution, one should do  the following three steps

  1. Establish on-going strategic plan for inbound marketing
  2. Form and execute a tactical plan for inbound marketing
  3. Measure results and enhance the inbound marketing plan

Step 1 – Establish on-going strategic plan for inbound marketing

Many companies have strategic plans that are adjusted every year. The strategic plan should be created before an inbound marketing plan is created

The strategic plan should list and prioritize company strategic objectives. Below are some possible objectives that a company may set for itself.

  • Becoming a technology leader of the industry
  • Becoming a quality leader
  • Becoming a cost leader
  • Becoming a technology leader of the industry
  • Acquiring additional market share
  • Retaining customers
  • Increase average sales amount
  • Promoting new product lines
  • Promoting brand awareness

Once top three objectives are identified, management team should evaluate the company website’s effectiveness in respect to these objectives. For example, if a company wants to become a quality leader, its website should have valuable and unique content about quality topic.

Additionally, a company should to define its ideal customers. This is important because  the website content should address the needs of its ideal customers. For example, a B2B company may define its ideal customers to be small and medium companies in Southern California.  A B2C company may define its ideal customers as college students who enjoy homemade style Italian food at good prices.

Competitor’s websites should also be analyzed and compared. Traffic records of these websites should be noted. Strengths and weaknesses of these websites should be tabulated related to the top 3 objectives.

Next, inbound marketing goals should be set. Below are some goals that might be set.

  • 30% increase in traffic every quarter
  • 50% increase in the collection lead email addresses per month
  • 50% increase in contacts through company web form per month.

Step 2 – Form and execute a tactical plan for inbound marketing

There are four activities in this step.

a- Fundamental SEO:

Many websites are created without considerations for search engine robots. There are design errors and other errors which must be corrected. For example, web page names are cryptic like “index.html?catid=2&id=2”, instead of “our-services.html. Or, image names are in format like “12376.jpg”, instead of “apex-engagement-ring.jpg”.  These SEO negative issues must be replaced with implementation which are more search-engine-friendly.

Description and title meta tags should be created for search engines robots to read. If a company does not have a SEO expert in-house, the SEO task should be outsourced to an experienced IT company.

b – Advanced Content

Blogs are important to inbound marketing. Ideally, a new blog should be posted weekly, or as frequently as possible. Avoid duplicating the exact content in multiple websites; this may be considered spamming by search engines.

Other advanced contents are e-books, webinars, videos and white papers. These contents are important. For example, a free e-book can be given to a visitor when he/she registers with his/her email address.

The goal of advanced content is to make visitors to perceive that the website has useful information and will have more useful information.

c- Social Media Networking

Social media is important because of two reasons.

  • It spread the website’s advanced contents.
  • Social media influence the ranking of a company website.

Search engines use voting information on trusted social networks and bookmarks on established social bookmark sites to determine the quality of a website.

Companies should dedicate resources to build links, voting, rating, reviews and bookmarks on various social networks: FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, StumbleUpon, and so on

d- Mobile Technology

Mobil technology is important because the fast growing number of mobile devices. This brings a significant growth of mobile searches. Also, FaceBook users increasingly use mobile phones to access FaceBook.

Many websites have been designed with no or limited consideration for mobile phone users. This presents opportunities for companies that have websites optimized for mobile phones, and for desktop/laptop computers.

Incidentally, if a company mobile URLs are not viewable by mobile devices, Google will not deliver these pages.

Search engine robots visit mobile web pages; so a sitemap should be created for these bots.  Companies should make sure its websites have proper pages for mobile users. For example, mobile users should not be sent to a contact form that is not optimized for mobile devices.

Step 3 – Measure results and modify the inbound marketing plan

Again, inbound market is a marathon, not a sprint. There are external and internal reasons that an inbound marketing plan needs to be adjusted.

Companies should measure the success of its inbound marketing plan against established metrics. When an objective is under-achieved, the plan should be revised. Also, as companies gain more insight about inbound marketing, new approaches may be adapted.

D- Suggested reading list

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One thought on “3 Steps of Inbound Marketing

  1. August 11, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Hubert,

    Very informative article. Thank you for sharing.

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