Conquer Your Inbound Marketing Strategy with this Process (+ 4 Templates)

Conquer your inbound marketing strategy with this process If you’re working in digital marketing in 2020, chances are the majority of your activities revolve around inbound marketing. Many marketing teams take an ad hoc approach to inbound with bits of PPC, content marketing, and social media sprinkled here and there. Rarely do teams have a full-fledged inbound marketing strategy and process in place. Laying a good foundation and process for your inbound strategy has a couple great benefits.
  • Drive more leads into your marketing funnel.
  • Better address target persona pain points.
  • Ensure all team members are working toward the same goals.
  • Align cross-channel messaging.
Before showing you how to create a bullet-proof inbound marketing strategy and process, you’ll want to download these templates. You’ll receive a:
  • Keyword planning spreadsheet to help drive better results for your inbound activities.
  • Content audit guide to help identify your content deficits.
  • Content mapping template to map your content to each funnel stage.
  • User persona worksheet to help you target the right people.

Conquer Your Inbound Marketing Strategy with this Process (+4 Templates)

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What is Inbound Marketing?

Let’s start with a quick definition of what exactly inbound marketing is. Hubspot defines inbound marketing as, “A method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust.” Think of it this way, rather than trying to push your products to those who haven’t expressed interest in an interruptive way (e.g. TV commercials), inbound marketing aims to attract people who have already expressed a need (e.g. an educational blog post found on a search engine). According to Optimizely, inbound marketing is about earning results organically, while traditional or outbound marketing typically involves paying for results. Here’s where it can get tricky because the definition of inbound versus outbound isn’t as clear as paid versus organic… especially when it comes to SEM and PPC. Some, including Larry Kim, maintain that inbound marketing should revolve around whether the marketing is interruptive.
Inbound marketing is any kind of marketing that reaches customers when they go looking for something to buy. – Larry Kim
Here’s an illustration: You’re the proud owner of a snow removal business. In order to get the word out about your business, you plaster up billboards, buy TV commercials, and send direct mail flyers to people’s homes. This is outbound marketing because you’re interrupting the individual as they go about their normal, daily activities. You have no idea whether or not they need your snow removal services. Interruption marketing is the same as outbound marketing Here’s the alternative: you buy PPC ads on Google for the keywords Snow Removal {City Name}. Your local ad pops up when they search for your service, thus giving them the information they were searching for. Your marketing was contextual, relevant, and non-interruptive (i.e. inbound). Contextual marketing is the same as inbound marketing

Elements of an Inbound Marketing Strategy

Inbound marketing is all about attracting individuals who have expressed purchase intent. You get more bang for your marketing buck because you’re not wasting time, money, and resources on individuals that aren’t interested. Here are the seven basic elements of an inbound marketing strategy that will help you reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time.

#1 – PPC (Pay Per Click)

As discussed above, not all forms of PPC are considered inbound marketing. The key is to consider whether or not your PPC marketing is disrupting the activity of the individual.
  • Paid Search = Inbound
  • Pre-roll = Outbound
  • Display = Outbound
As someone searches for a topic, you can bid on those keywords to be one of the top results. This is basically a way to pay for a short-cut for what your SEO would accomplish organically. Google search for snow removal in Chicago

#2 – SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO consists of activities that aim to help your content perform better in search engine results organically. You work in tactics like link-building, keywords, formatting, website structure, etc. to help search engines crawl and index your content more effectively. This means people will be more likely to find your business without having to pay for ad space. Organic search results for snow removal in Chicago

#3 – Social Media

Social media had its day in the sun. Remember back in 2014–2015 when you could easily reach fans of your business with organic posts? Those days are gone. It has been reported that as little as 2% of individuals following your business on Facebook will see your posts. Social Media is an increasingly pay-to-play platform, which, in a lot of ways, calls into question its applicability as an inbound tactic. For the sake of this post, social media is included, but it’s worth examining your cost to ROI ratio to determine the right amount of effort to devote to these channels. Here’s an example of a business that I follow on Facebook. I was one of the lucky (approximately 2%) of their followers who got served their post on my newsfeed. Organic Facebook post from WHYRED Organic social media is still effective for some types of businesses, like Hootsuite and Buffer, because it's a way for businesses to regularly make posts without the struggle of keeping up to create them. The amount of money spent to create social media ads continues to climb every year. Organic social media can be a great way for businesses to save money while still promoting their product or service.

#4 – Content Marketing

Content marketing is probably the most used tactic of the inbound marketing variety. Content is the vehicle to be found on search engines; it’s what brings in new leads and fills your marketing funnel. Blogs, videos, eBooks, white papers, or whatever option you choose for your content marketing, make sure that it is actionable, educational, inspiring, or entertaining.

#5 – Landing Pages

A landing page serves a different purpose for your inbound strategy than a blog post. You’ll want to direct traffic from your PPC ads to a landing page because they are optimized for conversions. If someone is searching for “snow removal Chicago,” you want to make it as easy as possible for them to schedule a call or get a quote, rather than sifting through a long-form blog post. Landing pages also offer a hosting page for you to collect email addresses on gated content like white papers and eBooks. Content marketing blog from Zillow

#6 – Link Building Outreach

Link building is one of the most important and most difficult areas of SEO. Let’s start by explaining why it’s important. A link is essentially a vote. As search engines crawl webpages, they determine if the page is high enough quality to rank for relevant keywords. Aside from looking at the content, they also look for the number of times external sites link back to the page. When a high-quality website links to your content, it tells the search engine that your content is legit.

Link building is one of the most important and most difficult areas of SEO.

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A lot of companies proactively reach out to encourage a link back. For example, say you saw a blog post about the five best snow removal companies in Chicago, and your snow removal company wasn’t on the list. You could reach out and provide a paragraph about why you should be included on this list and ask the author to update with a link back to your website. Here’s how to do it. I like to use BuzzSumo for my link building research. The first thing you’ll do is a search for the keyword you want to target by entering your keyword into BuzzSumo’s Content Analyzer. Here’s a list of the top performing pages about the keyword “Agile Marketing” according to BuzzSumo. "Agile marketing" keyword search in Buzzsumo This gives you an idea of who is producing articles about your targeted keywords so you can reach out and attempt to get them to link to your site/blog/content.

#7 Guest Blogging

If you want to dominate a keyword on search engines, you should try to show up as often as possible for that given keyword — while avoiding competing against yourself. What I mean by that is you don’t want two blog posts or content items competing against each other for the same keyword. This causes the search engine to divide traffic between the two items and will usually result in lackluster results. Recommended Reading: How to Write Landing Pages That Will Boost Your Conversions Providing content on other websites that targets the same keyword can circumvent this problem. It also means that you can expose your brand to an entirely new audience. Win-win!

The Best Inbound Marketing Process

Now that it’s clear what tactics will make up your inbound marketing, let’s talk strategy and how to get everything working together and moving in the same direction.

Figure Out Who Your Target Customers Are

It’s not enough to say on this step… “we’re targeting small business owners”. You’ve got to really do your research here. The rest of your inbound marketing strategy and process hinges on nailing this step (i.e. don’t half-ass it). By understanding who they are, what challenges they face, and what motivates them, you can create better messaging and increase the chances of covering them into customers. Let’s create an in-depth user persona for our snow removal business. Give the persona demographic and professional info; outline their challenges and motivations and write up a short bio.
  • Name: Samuel
  • Age: 42
  • Gender: Male
  • Job Title: Partner at an Accounting Firm
  • City: Suburb of Chicago
  • Income: $200,000/year
  • Education: CPA
  • Biggest Challenges: Stress, Overworked, Little spare time
Bio: Samuel is a 42-year-old CPA who has made partner at a large accounting firm. He works an average of 70 hour per week. He is also a husband and father of three young children. He misses many family activities, specifically during the months of January, February, and March because of tax season. These are also peak snowfall months in Chicago. The last thing he wants to do after a long day at work is deal with shoveling snow or firing up the snowblower. Customer persona graphic for Samuel

Conduct Persona Interviews

What’s even better than brainstorming your target user persona? Speaking to actual customers or prospective customers. This might sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply create a (very) short survey using Typeform, Survey Monkey, or the like. Here are a couple examples of questions you could include:
  1. Describe your challenges in your own words.
  2. What solutions have you tried before but ended up unsuccessful?

Craft Your Storyline From Customer Challenges

Here’s why understanding your customers is so important to your inbound strategy. Generic blog posts don’t resonate with potential customers because they don’t address their challenges. This creates a negative snowball effect for your marketing. If you’re not addressing customer challenges, you’re missing an opportunity to showcase how your product or service can help, which means your content isn’t selling your product, and less people will come into your marketing funnel. No matter how well you’re promoting your content... No matter how well you’re optimizing your posts for search... None of it matters unless your inbound strategy can attract, engage, and delight individuals. Quote from Leah about inbound marketing strategy If you want your inbound marketing strategy to be truly successful, make sure you integrate customer challenges into you talking points, content marketing, and marketing automation.

Keyword Research and Topic Domination

Here’s another way your customer research and target personas will drive your inbound strategy forward. Once you gain a deep understanding of who your customer is, you can start creating a massive list of keywords to start targeting with paid search ads, content marketing, etc. Let’s go back to our snow removal example. We know that our user persona, Samuel, is a busy dude. He wants time saving shortcuts and quick access to knowledge. We could also assume that he might not be the handiest of people.

How to use purchase intent and education intent to plan your #inbound strategy.

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Armed with this knowledge, begin brainstorming keyword topics. Here’s what that list might look like…
  • Fast snow removal techniques
  • Best snow shovels
  • Best snowblowers
  • Best oil for snowblowers
  • Tips for snowblower owners
  • How to store your snowblower in the summer
  • Snow removal Chicago
Now comes the fun part of your inbound strategy. You want all of your inbound techniques working together to dominate these keywords. Draw a line between which keywords should be landing pages for PPC and which should be blogs, ebooks, or guides. One way to delineate is between education intent and purchase intent. If Samuel is searching for "Snow removal Chicago," he’s already close to making a purchase decision, so you’ll want to hit him with a PPC ad that drives to a landing page that is optimized for purchasing your services. If Samuel is searching for the ultimate guide to the best snow shovels, he’s looking for some educational materials. You’ll want your content marketing to show up in his search organically.

Set Your Inbound Marketing Goals

Most marketers know that your goals should be S.M.A.R.T.
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound.
I’m not gonna waste your time by outlining that in detail. Instead, let’s talk about examples of inbound marketing goals, and you can make sure you’re measuring the right things. This is one of the more challenging areas for marketers. Lots of marketers complain that they have no idea how their activities contribute to the success of the business. In fact, 29% of respondents included in this study said they found no clear relation between their role and the overarching company strategy. Each team/individual should have their own goals, but there should be clear and consistent communication regarding how these are all working together towards a common goal. Here’s an example of how to tie your inbound goals to the company’s strategy:
  • Company’s main goal: $50 million in sales by 2020
  • Content Marketing: Bring in 10,000 prospects per month
By bringing in 10,000 prospects per month, your content marketing team is filling the top of your marketing funnel, which means more people have the potential to become customers. Thus contributing to the $50 million sales goal.
  • Paid Search: $5–8 ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)
For every dollar spent on paid search ads, your inbound team is bringing in $5–8 in sales. This proves that the ROI on your paid search ads is well worth the outgoing expenditure and contributes to the $50 million sales goal.

Execute Your Content Marketing Strategy

Now that you’ve set your goals and you know what keywords will resonate with your target user personas, it’s time to nail down your content strategy. To start, take all the education intent keywords and map them out on your editorial or marketing calendar. Here’s how you can do it in CoSchedule… Create a new content marketing project in CoSchedule by clicking the plus sign on any day select a day on your calendar. Creating a content marketing project in CoSchedule Choose one of the content marketing project types… OR create your own customer project. Content marketing project types After you’ve created the content type on your marketing calendar, you can add and assign tasks to individuals on your marketing team. How to assign tasks to your team members CoSchedule also allows users to create reusable project to-dos with Task Templates. Simply create your project task list once and add it as a reusable template in CoSchedule. You can add custom due dates and assignees to automatically populate every time you start a new project. Once you’ve assigned someone a task, they will see the task due date on their calendar, so they know exactly what their priorities are for the week. Assigned due dates for each task

Content Marketing Tips for Your Inbound Process

On average, conversion rates are six times higher for companies and brands using content marketing than those that aren’t. What if you’re not in that camp? What if you’re constantly pumping out content, but sales and revenue are flat. You’re not seeing your content drive leads like you need it to. You probably have one of two problems. You’re suffering from a traffic trap. This trap is when your marketing team is creating content your audience cares about but fails to convert traffic into customers. Your content is getting great traffic, but revenue doesn’t increase proportionally. You’re stuck in a promotional trap. This trap is when your content marketing is too promotional and fails to connect with your audience’s needs, pains, and interests. Here’s what you can do to fix these problems…

Focus on Your Content Core

The content core is the center of where the value of your product intersects with that your audience cares about. Focusing on your content core allows you to go beyond traffic and audience building and actually create content that contributes to the company’s bottom line. Circle graph of covering core content

Use the Skyscraper Technique

This is an SEO and content marketing technique that consists of three steps:
  1. Find top performing content by searching for a topic.
  2. Create better content than the current top performers.
  3. Try to get a bunch of people to link to your new content.
By taking stock of top performing content, you can understand what it takes to make your posts rank. Look for things like:
  • Average content length.
  • Average number of images.
  • Overall quality of content (rank from 1–10).
  • Specific keywords/key-phrases used.

By taking stock of top performing content, you can understand what it takes to make your posts rank.

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Now the hard work starts. You’ve got to go out and produce content that is 10x better than what’s out there. Start by making your content longer and more in-depth than what’s available. Make sure you’re creating the most exhaustive resources on any topic. You can also add additional value with videos, custom graphics, and infographics. This increases the chances of sharing and linking too, which, in turn, adds a massive boost to your SEO performance. Skyscraper technique for inbound marketing

Looking At the Inbound Marketing Process From Start to Finish

Who doesn’t love an infographic to explain the end-to-end inbound marketing process? Bookmark this summary for future reference.

It's Your Turn

That's it! Now that you have all the tips and templates you need to conquer inbound marketing strategy, try it out for yourself and see the benefits of these techniques first-hand. Recommended Reading: How to Improve Your Content With the Skyscraper Technique This was originally posted May 8, 2019. This post was updated and republished June 17, 2020.
About the Author

Leah Johanna is currently the digital director at North Dakota United. Previously, she was the Customer Marketing Lead at CoSchedule. Outside of work, she loves hunting for cool stuff at thrift stores. If not for marketing, Leah would be a psychiatrist, given her fascination with Dateline NBC, true-crime podcasts, and Netflix documentaries about cults.