For decades, marketing and advertising professionals relied on conventional marketing to get the job done. Picture Don Draper from Mad Men. It wasn’t so much who had the best advertising. It was mostly about who had the most money to spend. Now, these archaic practices are verging on useless. Marketing has shifted towards inbound methods, where good content and relationship-building are the name of the game.

In order to help you lay out your inbound marketing plan, we have put together a list of 6 best practices that will help you build out your game plan. 

Define your Brand

The first part of any marketing plan, whether it is inbound or outbound, is to clearly define your brand and differentiate yourself from other companies through your messaging. Follow these steps in order to do this:

  1. Make an inventory of your assets and skills: List out what you are good at and what you believe makes you valuable to your customers.
  2. Define your customers’ needs: From your list of assets and skills, decide which of them your customers are in need of and define your brand based on how you can fulfill their needs.
  3. Make differentiation a focus: What makes you better than your competitors? You should be able to answer this question and have evidence to back up your claims.

Once you have gone through the process of defining your brand, you are now ready to get started taking steps toward spreading the message of your brand to the world.

Design a Content-Driven Website

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Content is what makes up everything you love about the Internet. Content marketing has taken over the inbound space and is going to be a big part of your inbound marketing plan.

The new king of SEO is content. Quality content is the difference between good marketing and great marketing. Keep these things in mind as you plan out both the design of your website and the content you are going to fill it with:

  • Always provide relevant and up-to-date information in your content. In the same way that you should differentiate your brand, your content should be unique and original to you.
  • Consider the keywords you want to use on your website. Research search terms that you want to show up for and opportunities you can take advantage of using SEO.
  • When you create your website layout, make sure you are highlighting the content and making it easy for the visitors to find what they are looking for. 

Finally, use blog posts to increase the depth of your website and improve search rankings.

Understand your Audience

The best way to fully understand who your audience is and exactly why you are doing marketing in the first place is by creating buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictionalized representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data. Basically, you should have a specific buyer persona in mind for every new portion of your website that you add and each piece of content that you publish.

We could talk for hours about how to craft these different buyer personas, but for now here are some helpful first steps.

  • Look through you current customers to understand trends within your existing audience. If you see something enough, that might be a good starting point for creating a persona.
  • Ask you sales team what kind of personalities they deal with and see if there are generalizations that can be lumped together and used for a persona’s information.
  • Interview your customers to discover what they like about your product or service. This kind of feedback is incredibly valuable when deciding how to approach these different types of customers.

If you want to learn more about buyer personas, check out this helpful guide here.

Establish Campaign Objectives

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Benchmarking and SMART goals are going to become your best friend as you plan out your inbound marketing plan. If you aren’t already familiar, benchmarking is the process of establishing goals by comparing yourself to industry or company standards. It is a good way of making sure that your campaign is effective.

Along with that, SMART is a way to make sure that your goals are clear and reachable. Create a SMART goals plan in order to make sure your plan can be accomplished:

  • Specific: Keep your objectives simple and specific.
  • Measurable: This is more important than ever in the age of Big Data, so make sure that you have a way of measuring your results.
  • Achievable: You need to be capable of attaining your goals, so make sure and set your objectives within reach. This is the part of the planning process where benchmarking is important.
  • Relevant: Are some of your goals superfluous to your key objectives? Make sure that everything you are planning makes sense within the larger campaign.
  • Time bound: In order to avoid procrastination and hang ups on deadlines, give yourself enough time to complete your goals while ensuring the objectives will be met in a timely fashion.

Integrate Everything

Build out an integrated campaign based upon core inbound marketing strategies for search marketing, social media, content marketing, and public relations. Ensuring that each of these different areas are working well for you will give your organization the momentum it needs for success.

Search Marketing

If you have built your website with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) in mind, then you are off to a good start. However, Google specifically updates their requirements for showing up on the first page more than once per day. What this means is that search marketing is not a one-time deal, but something that needs to be consistently tended to so that you aren’t missing opportunities.

Social Media

Consistency is important not only for search marketing, but for social media as well. This is why laying out your specific and measurable goals is such a vital step to your marketing plan. You need to make sure that all of the messaging from your company is on the same page.

When it comes to social media, you want to make sure that you are being consistent across each of the different platforms out there, while still playing to the unique parts of each medium. Treat each social media channel like buyer personas, in that some will be better for attracting certain types of customers than others. Do the research and use your customer data to be as efficient as possible.

Content Marketing

Content marketing, as we discussed earlier, is the best way to keep your website up-to-date and keep it from sliding back down to the bottom of the search rankings. However, Google and other search engines don’t only want to see new content, but relevant and well-written content as well.

Before you start a blog on your site, first create a calendar for what days of the week you are going to post, how often you are going to release new material, and what purpose you are hoping the content will serve by being there. If you are just writing content in order to fill up your site, you simply won’t be hitting the goals that you want to. By creating a calendar with a clear keyword plan before beginning your blog, you will be giving yourself an enormous leg-up on the competition.

Public Relations

Public Relations is definitely more on the advertising and outbound side of things, but is important to any inbound marketing plan as well. Good PR can do wonders for your inbound efforts. Reaching out to news sites to write about your company or writing a guest-blog for another company are great PR strategies to utilize. Creating more inbound links to your website will only increase your online presence and the authority that search engines associate with your page.

Budgets, both of Time and Money

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Defining the timelines and budget restraints that your team is going to be working within creates clear guidelines for you to follow as you flush out your marketing plan. When it comes to time, make sure to not only set an end date for the campaign. Put together milestones you want your team to hit, assign tasks you need completed, and delegated responsibilities to different members of your team.

However, when it comes to money, establish a dynamic budget for your campaign that can easily be shifted based on overall performance and analytics. If you aren’t seeing the growth or results you want in certain areas, don’t be afraid to shift your budget to match your progress. Setting a static budget can leave your team hamstrung and opportunities will be missed.

Final Measures

Finally, as it should be with any project, measure everything and be willing to adapt and evolve as needed. All of the planning in the world won’t matter unless you actually get out there and start your campaign. There will be some aspects that don’t go according to plan and there will be others that exceed your wildest expectations.

Inbound Marketing Lead Gen