When talking to prospective customers about Inbound Marketing, the number one question I get asked is: “Where do we start?”.
For many businesses, the thought of engaging in a new digital marketing and lead nurturing initiative is a bit scary. As marketers, we are asking our customers and prospects to consider a new paradigm in the way they approach sales and marketing. We are often asking for budgets to be created or pulled from other initiatives. We have an uphill road to climb over all of the lesser agencies that have failed for their clients and created a bad name in our industry. While Inbound Marketing is not really “new”, it is to many businesses that did not jump on board in the early days of digital communications.
So why do so many businesses embrace Inbound Marketing?
For the first time in history, we can now merge the efforts of sales and marketing teams in such a way that we can pinpoint what works, what does not and how to measure all of our collective efforts. Today, so many businesses are looking for a competitive edge. Sales are slow and the old way of doing business is not working as well as it used to. As the cost of doing business increases, businesses need a better way to reduce costs while driving more sales.
For a business to embrace Inbound Marketing they must place a lot of trust in the firm they have chosen to steer the ship, so to speak. There is no magic switch that automatically delivers a return on investment with Inbound Marketing. Rewards come from hard work, rigor and dedication to seeing it through. Integrating in-house sales teams with external agency teams takes a collaborative effort. However, those who do weather the storm typically see results far superior to traditional marketing and sales efforts and usually at a lower cost to the business.
So Where Do Businesses Start?
Choose a strong agency.
A strong agency will have experience and certified professionals in one or more of the marketing automation and lead nurturing systems, such as HubSpot, Pardot or Marketo to name a few. Choose an agency that you trust, get along with and puts your results first. Agencies can be large or small. Your primary goal in choosing an agency is to find one that takes the time to learn your business, understand the way you work, builds rapport with your sales team and then works with you to define measurable goals for your Inbound Marketing efforts.
Things to look for when choosing an agency:
- Expertise and case studies
- A results based approach
- Detailed tracking and reporting
- Willingness to get to know your business and your customers
Things to be leery of:
- Long term contracts
- Agencies that focus purely on the “look” of your website
- Hidden fees
- New agencies without a track record
- Agencies that over promise and don’t define measurable results
Define Inbound Marketing Goals.
You and your agency should take the necessary time to define measurable goals. Typically, these will be tied to sales, leads, prospects or other quantifiable measurement. A good agency will help you to understand what is possible and also define the key performance indicators to monitor to ensure you are on track to reach your goal.
Included in your goals should be high-level details such as:
- Target audiences required to reach goal
- Messaging requirements to reach goal
- Technical requirements to reach goal
Develop your messaging platform.
Once your goals have been defined and you know who your target audiences are, you must develop a thorough messaging strategy. The messaging strategy should align with your business’ goals and the goals of the Inbound Marketing strategy. Define what your target audiences are looking for and what information they need to make a buying decision.
A strong messaging platform should:
- Be consistent with your brand position
- Align with your business’ goals
- Cleary define your target audiences and their needs
- Be consistent, honest and truthful
- Position your business as a thought leader / expert
Create or enhance your messaging vehicles.
Early on in the process of gearing you up for a new or enhanced Inbound Marketing strategy, your agency should have completed a thorough assessment of your existing presence on the web. This assessment should include a detailed look into your social media presence, how you are currently communicating with customers and prospects and how your website is set up to deliver results.
During steps 2 and 3 above your agency can start to build out your digital communication infrastructure so that when your messaging platform is complete, you can quickly take your message to market. Key to building out your messaging vehicles is to create a leads funnel. This funnel is custom developed for each business and takes into consideration many communication venues, such as:
Social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest to name a few)
Email communications and marketing
Lead generation and lead nurturing systems
Website, landing pages
PR, advertising, trade shows, etc.
Once the funnel is created, the agency should be working hand in hand with your sales team to ensure communications are timely and integrated with all marketing and sales initiatives.
Content Publishing, Analysis & Reporting.
Once all of your components are in place, both your company and agency should be working in harmony to increase and improve your “voice” online. By publishing remarkable content and then marketing that content in the appropriate social media engines, you will begin to create awareness for your business, driving leads and opportunities for growth. Your agency should be analyzing what is working and what is not. At least once a month, a detailed report should be provided to the company to help them track the key performance indicators for your Inbound Marketing goals.