With 70% of B2B marketers producing more content this year than last, Inbound marketing is on the rise - but is it always understood? Because here’s the rub: when an inbound marketing plan is new to your business, when you’re convincing a board of decision makers or when you’re senior team has landed you with this mighty challenge, knowing that your plan will hit the mark is crucial to confidently moving in the direction of your ROI dreams.
How do you know your inbound plan is suitable for your business? The truth is: you don’t. A test and adjust approach is vital. BUT, there are six questions central to Inbound marketing success that you can answer before you step onto the parapet.
Does your plan pass this 6-question test? Let’s find out.
Q1. Do you understand your marketing efforts to date?
How do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we are? Understanding the lay of the land is a fundamental activity before you develop a marketing plan.
Have you completed a SWOT analysis on your content marketing efforts? Do you know how, where and why you need to improve? Do you understand what you competitors and associates are doing? What is your audience reading? Where are they reading it? And who’s reading what you’re creating too?
Painting a vivid picture of your content landscape reveals the opportunities and threats available. This must inform your marketing strategy development. Armed with this information, you’re able to harness those tactics that offer the best chance of success, while convincing internal stakeholders of the strategy with research and evidence.
- SWOT analysis has been conducted
- Competitors and associates have been profiled
- Content landscape has been understood
- Opportunities and challenges have been clearly articulated
Q2. Have you defined the right objectives and KPIs for your plan?
You can’t start developing marketing strategies and plans without this information behind you. The board won’t back you if you’re not working towards company growth.
Your objectives need to be directly tied to your business growth plans and, if a separate department, your sales team’s targets. These high-level metrics will inform the KPIs you put in place to measure activities such as content, website development, opt-ins and email marketing.
You’ll know you’ve defined the right objectives and KPIs if you can measure them, and the best way to ensure that is to create SMART goals. That’s goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Sense-check your ambitions. If you’re planning to grow a 2000-strong subscriber list in two months when you’re starting at zero you are probably going to be disappointed.
You also need to be crystal clear about WHY each goal is important. Success is driven by motivation which is spurred on by the clarity of intent. If you understand the importance of each goal, so will your team. Inspire them with purpose and they’ll be right by your side.
- Business objectives have been understood
- Sales targets have been considered
- SMART objectives have been built
- Motivators are clearly articulated to the team
Q3. Have you profiled your audience?
And I mean, really profiled them. Have you laid out each persona, understood which are most relevant to your business right now, got under their skin, observed, listened and spoken to a group of people in each area?
Intuition, guess work and existing knowledge are fantastic starting points for audience profiling. But confirmation bias pulls us in all sorts of directions, meaning our intel is never objective. We have a responsibility to build our personas based on both intuition and evidence, and other people’s experiences.
Have you done enough to discover the facts about your audience? Stakeholder interviews and industry research are strong sources of this kind of information. Combine them with your intuition and that of your team to build multi-dimensional portraits of your ideal customers.
- Audience personas have been built with both intuition and evidence
- Stakeholder interviews were conducted
- Industry evidence has been utilised
- At least 3 members of staff have been involved in the profiling process
Q4. Do you know what keywords you need to rank for?
If SEO is an objective, you’ll no doubt have already considered this. A core part of an inbound plan is to understand not only what the content marketplace looks like, but also what people are searching for. Do you understand this and have you analysed the keyword options and efforts needed for your business to make incremental gains in terms of search rankings?
- Conduct in-depth keyword research and have a power list of terms to rank for
Q5. Have you brainstormed content ideas and mapped these across your funnel?
With a vault of research, audience pains and promising keywords, generating ideas should come easily to you and your team. The crucial component here, however, is to map content across the sales funnel. You’ll need content that connects with readers at awareness, consideration and decision level stages. A variety of visual, audio and written content should also be scoped and prepared for.
When generating ideas, go beyond the subject area. Create at least a draft title while you’re ideating; one that incorporates keywords tackles audience pain and promises a benefit.
- Generated a host of relevant content ideas and titles
- Mapped a balanced variety of content across the sales funnel
Q6. Have you created a timeline for your content plans?
Almost a third of marketing teams underestimate how long something is going to take. Effectively mapping out your content plans ensures you have a firm grasp on the project at hand and what’s involved in making it a success.
Your plan should include: when you’ll create your content, who will create it, what resources are needed, what visuals are required, where the content will appear when it will go live and how it will be broadcast. Detail keywords, persona and CTA for a truly comprehensive plan.
Make sure you sense-check you timeline with other team members or your line manager. Look for all the things that might go wrong. It sounds depressing, I know, but mitigating risks before you begin helps you plan for the worst case scenario. You might find you need extra time or resource to make the plan a success – it’s best to know that in advance.
- Built comprehensive editorial calendar
- Shared it with team and/or management
- Planned for things that might go wrong
Q7. Have you got tracking systems in place to monitor performance?
The culmination of all this research and preparation is a bulletproof plan you’re ready to put into action. But before you hit ‘go’, be sure you have the right systems in place to track and monitor your success.
Software plays a vital role in Inbound, as it enables you to test and adjust your plan quickly and easily while providing you with essential marketing intelligence to take to the decision makers. You might prefer a best-of-breed approach, using a combination of tracking software such as Google Analytics and social monitoring software. Or you might consider a full-service solution that connects all your inbound marketing dots, from content to site visits, CTA effectiveness, to leads.
- Understood what needs to be measured and how
- Implemented an effective tracking and/or monitoring system
So, how did you get on?
Need a nudge in the right direction? This 4-step content marketing template will help you build, test, action and measure your inbound marketing plan.