What's the first thing to come to mind when you think of your house?
The decor? The tables? What about the windows... or the lights? These things may be the most visible and noteable components, but what about the roof, the floor, and the walls that hold everything up and together? Let's face it – without those, the contents of the building wouldn't be of much use, right?
Now, when you think of marketing, you may think of the visible glitz of a quality website, the glamour of a popular social media campaign, or the laudable end results of a job well done. But when you get down to it, your inbound marketing efforts are essentially the invisible support beams of your business.
Your inbound marketing results are carefully and intentionally built around six key components. These "brass tacks" are what hold everything together and eventually provide you with the foundation, the roof, and the four walls that "house" your ROI results.
The Foundation: Offers
Offers are a key piece of inbound marketing campaigns. They should be aimed at educating your marketing persona, providing them with something that helps them solve a problem that is within your area of expertise. However, make sure this offer has value whether they do business with you or not. If your new lead feels that they were just suckered into giving you their contact information in exchange for a piece of your company's sales literature, you will instantly lose your credibility and the trust of that lead. They showed themselves to be a marketing qualified lead that could have been nurtured into a sales qualitifed lead... but you lost them. Bummer.
Here's how this looks:
Say you are a nursery that specializes in low maintenance plants (go ahead, put on your gloves). A potential lead does a Google search for one of your keywords, "yard manicuring." Your article titled "Keeping Your Yard Well Manicured Makes Your Neighbors Love You" appears on the first page of their search results... they click it.
Your fascinating article shares some great ideas and insights about having a nice lawn and leads your reader towards an offer that provides "10 Low Maintenance Landscaping Tips to Help You Avoid Yard Work." Your reader is intrigued and clicks to download the offer.
They immediately arrive at a simple landing page that offers them access to this helpful piece of content in exchange for their name and email address. They provide this info, and voila! By providing this contact information, your reader is demonstrating their interest in the content within that offer and is letting you know that they are a good prospect for your services.
Avoid being "salesy" with your content and offers. Save that business for your website.
The Roof: Marketing Personas
Your inbound marketing efforts should support you in attracting and leading your dream customers through the buyers' journey with you. In keeping with the nursery situation example given above (put your gloves back on), how did you know what kind of content would catch the attention of that specific lead who was already looking for you?
This is where your marketing personas come into play.
Marketing personas are fictional people who represent actual potential leads for you. These fictional people for your nursery could be based on:
- That friendly gentleman who retired from a career in sales that kept him away from home all the time, so now he's spending all his spare time puttering around in his front yard soaking up the sun. You love seeing him come through your doors because you know that he wants to be able to fill his buggy with the latest and greatest things that you have to offer for him to try in his yard, and he'll leave delighted that he shopped with you.
- That lovely stay-at-home mom who wants to keep her yard safe and comfortable for her three young kids who play catch and jump in the sprinklers in the backyard in the summertime. She doesn't have a whole lot of extra time for anything fancy that requires much maintenance, but she's consistent with what she needs. You can count on her as a return customer every year as she starts preparing her lawn for the spring.
- That owner of the popular landscaping company in your community. He keeps busy year round and has high-paying customers who want things done, done right, and done right now. He's under a lot of pressure, so when he comes in, he knows just what he's looking for, and knows that he can count on you to have it for him.
- That no-nonsense CEO who lives in a subdivision with strict HOA rules. She needs to maintain a well manicured yard but doesn't have the time to fuss over the yard herself, so she needs to hire someone else with your expertise to come do it for her.
Once you know who you're talking to, you are then able to present your content in a way that appeals to them, answers the questions that they would have in each of their unique positions, and helps them feel confident in coming to you for answers. By avoiding the shotgun approach of trying to sell everything to anyone, you are essentially aiming to attract only the leads to your website that will result in your best ROI.
Wall #1: Keywords
There are now literally billions of pages on the internet. What if your article "Keeping Your Yard Well Manicured Makes Your Neighbors Love You" hadn't popped up on the first page of that search result? What if it would've been sitting on page 12 or page 157 or page 3,938 (or worse!) of search results? Do you really think the lead would have kept thumbing through articles long enough to reach that page?
This is why it is essential for your nursery (are you still wearing your gloves?) to find a mix of valuable keywords that keep your inbound marketing efforts clear and concise. These words, like "yard manicuring," "lawn maintenance," or "easy landscaping projects," help search engines better understand what overall value your business offers. It takes this value – plus lots of other bits, pieces, and moving parts – and plugs it into an algorithm that determines which search result page your content will appear on for that specific lead. It can be challenging to find the perfect combination to earn your way to the first page, but if you're not making any effort towards that end goal at all... you've already lost.
Wall #2: Article Content
Once you have created a content offer that will attract interest and inspire action from your personas, it's time to use your established keywords to write blog articles to promote your offers. Forget the old days of having the article be all about the keyword though – the purpose for the keword these days is to simply guide your efforts and to keep your content focused and concise. Your keywords should be used in your article, certainly, but only as a starting point for addressing the real world problems that people are searching online to resolve.
As with your content offers, articles should serve the purpose of educating your marketing personas, not trying to sell them something that you can provide. The articles published in the blog section of your website should provide your potential leads with something interesting or helpful that establishes you as an expert in your field and effectively sets the stage for them to want more information from you.
You are writing these articles to help your personas examine their pain points and then to explore possible solutions. Sure, you might be a possible solution, but allow them to come to that conclusion on their own. Articles and content offers are meant to inform and inspire. Your website content, separate from the blog, does the selling.
Wall #3: Email Workflows
The landing page that collects your lead's name and email address in exchange for the content offer is a gold mine for your business. Build email workflows for those who download your content offer. Those leads who provide their contact information and download the offer are placed into an email workflow. This workflow consistently helps point them to other content you provide that is aimed at helping them solve that initial problem or related problems. By observing their patterns of engagement with these emails, you can then further identify when or if someone from sales should more directly engage with that lead.
Workflows nurture your newly aquired lead and help you determine the nature of their need and the business value of that lead. By creating a standard monthly email campaign to nurture all of your inbound leads, you help lead them further down the buyers' journey and guide them deeper into the sales funnel.
Wall #4: Social Media
Social media has become a key component in the inbound marketing strategy. There are innumerable ways of engaging with your audience, including, but certainly not limited to:
- promoting offers
- more specifically identifying persona characteristics
- sharing informative content (i.e. your articles)
- responding to questions/feedback
- cultivating leads
- ...and much, much more!
Be sure to follow the 80/20 rule of mixing in 80% social sharing that's not specifically about you and 20% that is your own content.
Create a Sustainable, Repetitious, Successful Process
This process of creating content around strategically selected keywords and consistently promoting that content to your specific marketing personas via blog articles, email campaigns, and social media is the essential structure that "houses" your website's lead generation success.
While decorations, tables, windows, and lamps are important and nice to have in your home, they, like outbound campaigns and short-term initiatives (which can certainly also be layered into your overall marketing strategy), should come into play only after the structure is firmly in place.