Inbound Marketing Prerequisites to a Successful Program

For several years now, Inbound Marketing has taken the helm as our most “talked about” strategy for driving interest and leads. Why? Because it works!

This is how we built up our own demand and lead gen efforts. Content driven Inbound is a proven way to accomplish these things, and my agency has witnessed firsthand just how true that statement is.

But it’s not all roses and candy. Inbound Marketing in and of itself is great. Assuming you already have some other marketing decisions and processes in place.

Inbound Marketing Prerequisites: Things To Figure Out Before You Start

So you are all jazzed up to start blogging, tweeting, building links, and more. That’s great.

But have you considered these inbound marketing prerequisites first? If not, take a step back and ensure they are all in place from the beginning. You’ll be glad you did it later.

Branding

We are often surprised at how many prospects tell us they want to start doing “content marketing and SEO,” yet have no official branding in place. Most of them have pulled together a logo and maybe a tagline. But precious few of them have taken the time to really think about the brand.

Some things to consider when building your own brand:

  1. What need does our product or service offer in the market?
  2. How prepared are we to meet the demand for that product or service?
  3. What is our value proposition to potential customers (more on customers later)
  4. What does our company stand for overall?
  5. What mission or long term vision will help us make tradeoffs when building new growth strategies in the future?
  6. What do we want our brand to “stand for?” Is that realistic and achievable?
  7. What feelings or other reactions do we want our prospects to have? How can we make that happen?

These are the basics, but there are many more pieces to consider. If you want to read more about branding, check out my Internet Marketing 101 presentation that I have presented many times to various workshops and meetup groups. It includes some great tips for how to build an elevator pitch and boiler plate. These will be instrumental in helping grow a sustained and consistent brand as you step out into the world of Inbound to promote yourself.

Messaging

Once your brand is locked down and ready to roll, the next prerequisite is messaging. This digs deeper into the way you will craft descriptions of your business, team, products, and more.

Messaging goes much deeper than branding does. Whereas a brand is the overarching position of the company, your messaging should then filter down that brand into several deeper, more focused areas. We often see these areas referred to as “messaging pillars,” which help support your brand much like pillars help hold up the roof on the Parthenon.

Target Markets and Audiences

Although you really can’t decouple understanding of your target audience from branding and messaging themselves, I felt it was important to call it out on an equal level for prioritization purposes. We often see this step moved to before branding, and that can certainly be the right way to do it for some industries.

However, defining your target markets and audiences is never complete. You will want to have a starting point, but then revisit that on a regular basis, perhaps annually.

Even more importantly, knowing your target audience intimately will help you create better messages and content, build out your customer profiles for data collection more accurately, and find them online when you are out there trying to garner their attention.

So don’t just focus on what you’ll say about you. Know who you’re planning to woo, and factor that into branding and messaging as well as your overall Inbound Marketing strategy.

Current Baseline Metrics

Before you can set realistic SMART goals, you need to know where you are starting. Of course, you’ll want to think through what types of metrics are most important for measuring progress and success.

Once you know what you’ll set as your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), then you can analyze historical data. Pull out the historical stats, trends, and current volumes. You want to come out of this exercise having an abundantly clear view of exactly what you are trying to expand upon. Afterward, you’ll be ready to set…

Goals and Objectives

Goals and objectives are often discussed, but often overlooked come execution time. Let me just state this – if you fail to set goals up front, you won’t be able to determine success down the road.

This could be as simple as saying “Grow overall organic traffic by 10 percent per quarter.” Or you could get more granular, analyzing where that traffic goes and measuring growth on a specific blog post or product page.

When you get really good at this part, you’ll be setting revenue targets. But Inbound Marketing doesn’t generate interest, convert leads, AND close sales for most business types. What will you do with all of those inquiries once you get them?

Lead Collection and Nurturing Processes

This is where your Inbound Marketing efforts will truly show impact on the business. It’s not enough to simply drive traffic or conversions and hope they buy.

No, you need to think through how you value or score your leads. What are you offering them to convert? What data do you collect? Where is that stored? How are you reaching out to them to move them along to a sale (email marketing, sales calls, etc.)?

This is almost always underestimated in complexity for smaller and mid-sized businesses, particularly those companies in industries that operate offline the most. Maybe you have a simple manual process. Good, at least you have something in mind. When you start growing out a bigger team or budgets to hire outside help, you can step up your Marketing Automation and Lead Gen efforts accordingly.

Exit Strategy

Is Inbound Marketing for every business? No. Many businesses either can’t access their target audience online, or can’t follow through on execution of Inbound due to lack of staff, funds, or prioritization internally.

When you start your Inbound Marketing program, you need to be realistic. Have a plan in place for how you will pull back from it if you find that it is not working, or that it is placing an undue stress on your employees and internal processes.

Yes, it would be a disappointment to backtrack. But it will sting much less than if you already have ideas about how to gracefully exit Inbound, just in case you need to do so.

Summary

We are huge proponents of Inbound Marketing, and I believe most businesses today can benefit from it. But don’t just jump in head first without looking.

A little pre-planning will help position you better to succeed at Inbound, and will help you derive the most possible value from the work you do to drive SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing improvements for your website. Be sure to check off that you’ve completed these inbound marketing prerequisites before you roll up your sleeves and start writing and promoting content.