A lot of people think they've adopted inbound marketing because they started blogging and writing an eBook. If you start without a comprehensive plan in place, most likely you'll be frustrated in 12 months, having spent a ton of effort and still having nothing to show for it.
Before you start digging or building cement forms, you have to know what you're building.
Long before the hard hats come out, there's a substantial amount of time spent at a table, drawing lines and making strategic decisions. Then, that blueprint has to be approved and signed off on by those in authority.
Once everyone is satisfied, the building can start.
You need a plan! In this lesson, we're going to talk about how to make that plan.
How to Make an Inbound Marketing Blueprint
Think of inbound marketing as an entire structure, with many different pieces. There are many considerations that go into your inbound marketing strategy before you take off building pieces that might not fit together.
Set Challenging Goals
The first step in creating a plan is to have a very detailed idea of what the finished product should look like. Before you create your inbound strategy, take the time to determine what Key Performance Indicators will signify success. This could be the number of sales generated, new leads acquired, or website traffic numbers.
Consider the current state of affairs. If you're getting no leads through your website currently, don't think you're going to bring in millions in your first year. Goals should be challenging, but still attainable.
A goal that is impossible to achieve is not a goal, it's a dream. (Tweet This)
At Lean Labs, we always set goals based on a 12-month period. We consider current KPIs and determine how much we think we can achieve on the
Here are the KPI's we focus on for most of our inbound clients:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
Create Your Buyer Personas
Having a deep understanding of your ideal customers allows you to build your inbound strategy specifically to attract them. Before you can do this, you have to know who they are, what they want, and how they want it.
The best way to do this is to create 3-5 dossiers of fictional characters based on your best customers. For some companies with a lot of different services, the number of personas could increase. For most companies, we've found 4 to be the magic number. You don't want to get too complex, but you do want to capture your target audience in depth.
Here are some of the information we look for in creating buyer personas:
We want to know their age, their gender, and their income level, and where they live. This will give us insight into the kind of media and content they will be looking for.
Executives behave much differently than everyday consumers. And, depending on your product or service, how they approach buying is much different too. You should figure out their job titles, the company size they work for, their industry, as well as their goals and challenges in their job.
Where do they spend time on the internet and how do they learn new information. You'll find some types of people spend most of their time in forums and discussions. Others will spend time searching google for answers.
Once you determine how they consume new information and do their research, you can reach them where they are looking.
What are their interests and what do they like? What excites them, and what annoys them?
For instance, when a limousine company understands one of their personas enjoys leaf peeping (yes, it's really a thing) they can create content about leaf peeping. Because their personas enjoy that past time, they can be introduced to a company that they may have never known about otherwise. The next time they plan a leaf peeping trip, they just might book with that limousine company.
How do your target customers make buying decisions? Is it a quick process, or does it take multiple channels and approvals to complete a purchase? This is important to know, as it stacks up exactly with your sales funnel, and the content you create for each stage of the funnel.
This is the most critical area to identify. You need to fundamentally understand the customer's viewpoint, their pains and frustrations, and their needs.
This is essential to a solid inbound marketing plan. With this information, you can speak directly to the drivers that make your customers buy. Solve their problems, and they'll convert. Period.
We also create a Unique Value Proposition Map we reference as much as our buyer personas. Our UVP map includes:
SEO Audit and Strategy
You'll hear a lot of people preaching ignoring search engines, and instead focus on the people. While this sounds wise, and it is to a point, without a solid SEO strategy, you won't have those real people finding your content.
Forget about SEO gimmicks, and don't hire SEO companies to increase your rankings. Instead, understand the factors you can control on your site, and use them to your advantage. The rest is up to the quality of content you create.
Before we start working with a client, we check their on-site SEO to see how well they've been doing already. We run their website through ahrefs.com and download a report on their content.
These are 5 on-site SEO items we look at:
The page title is the headline that shows in search results. This should be compelling, not bland and unexciting. You should make them unique for each page, and focus them on including common search terms. As a general rule, they should be less than 60 characters in length to show completely in Google.
This is the unique address of each article. This should be heavily geared toward your keywords, those terms your personas will be searching for. Don't include value-less words, such as "the" or "and," in your URL.
These are the main headings on your pages, and they are very influential in Google's estimation of your content. Consider using keywords in these tags to get the best results.
While not considered directly by Google for SEO, it still plays a major role in your traffic and SEO. It's the preview people read when they are looking through the search results. This quick preview is what ultimately determines if they are going to give your content a shot or not. Better, more compelling Meta Descriptions result in more click throughs to your content.
How does it impact SEO? Google measures click-through rate. If a site is ranked highly in their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS), and people never click on it, it will soon fall down the rankings. So while not directly affecting the original rankings, horrible Meta Descriptions will cause your SEO to fail.
Google loves the multi in multimedia. If you have images in your content, the search engine considers it of higher quality than plain text only. However, to really see a bump from this item, you must have a description Google can consider in their SEO algorithm.
Build a 90-Day Marketing Plan
This is where you start putting all the discovery work to good use. Decide what kind of marketing plan you will run for an entire quarter, and what you will produce. Usually, this is a complete list of the blog articles, and in some cases social media posts, you will produce over the next 3 months.
Here is how we create our 90-day marketing calendars:
Start With Persona Research
Going back to each persona, identify the goals and drivers from their primary pain points. What motivates them to need a solution and what considerations goes into vetting their chosen solution?
Build a List of Goals & Questions
Once you have a good idea of their drivers, list their primary goals. Then, list 10 questions or searches they would enter into Google to achieve each goal.
For instance, one of our personas has a driver of, “I need more traffic for my website.” A question they may enter into Google would be “what is the best way to promote my blog articles?”
This is a very painful and arduous task. Stick with it until you have a huge list of questions your personas are asking.
Build a Content List To Address Each Question
Now, choose a theme for each month based on your persona’s primary goals. Then, consider how many articles you will write in a 30-day period, and choose that many topics to answer those questions.
For each question, create a blog topic to address it.
Plan Premium Deliverables
For each month, at least, create a premium content offer that focuses directly on the theme goal for that month.
Continuing the example above, our premium offer for “The best way to promote my blog articles,” could be the eBook, “The Ultimate Guide to Driving Traffic To Your Website.”
Decide on a premium offer for each month’s theme, and put a plan in place of how you will get this created, and the resources it will take to complete it. For these, having a graphic designer available is almost a necessity.
Plan Automated Lead Nurturing Campaigns
This is where you have to put a very large thinking cap on. Ask yourself, how do I get my customer from introduction, to the buying decision? Then, create the content from that answer.
Depending on your service or product, this can be super-simple, and it can be very complex. The ultimate goal is to educate your leads until they feel buying from you is the smartest choice they can make.
Here’s how we plan our lead nurturing campaigns:
When you sign up for one of our premium offers, like “Starting Up the Inbound Marketing Mountain,” you are entered into a workflow. After you download the eBook, you’ll get an email from us, saying thank you, and giving you the download link to the PDF.
Then, a few days later, we’ll send you an email with links to other content we’ve created that will help people adopt inbound marketing from scratch. And a few days after that, another email will arrive with more information, taking you deeper into the process.
Eventually, we will offer you another eBook or premium offer. This is the goal of the automated workflow. The goal isn’t to get you to sign up as a client, the goal is to get you to download our next offer.
Because if you’re just now interested in inbound, the general rule is, you’re not ready to pay an agency. First, you need to understand the benefits of inbound, and the benefits of having experts implement these plans for you.
So the goal for that workflow may be to have you download an eBook that shows the results inbound marketing can bring. Now, we’re showing you why you should continue to consider inbound marketing.
After 2-3 stages of this, we’ve found a lot of our leads are wanting to discuss pricing and options with our experts. So the goal of setting up a sales conversation is not on any of our premium content until the Bottom-of-the-Funnel piece.
The goals of your content offer workflows should be to walk your leads down the funnel of education. Not on pitching your products.
Setup a Publishing Calendar
Now that you have a list of everything you’re going to create over the next 90 days, it’s time to knuckle down and start building. The last essential piece of the blueprint is a schedule plan of when each piece is going to be built.i
Create a calendar with hard-line dates of when each piece of content will be published. Then, do your best to stick with it and make sure you get the content created on time to publish on time.
At Lean Labs, we try to go through this process at least a month ahead. We aim to start working on month 3 when month 2 starts publishing.
Whatever your rate of publishing is, put publishing dates on each piece of content, or you will find that your rate falls low and you miss your goals. These dates will keep you focused on working on the things that really matter.
Putting together this plan isn’t something you can do overnight. It will take time, just as it takes an architect a lot of time to create a building blueprint.
The bigger and more elaborate a building, the longer it takes to create a sufficient blueprint.
Don’t build a shack. Build a highrise!
Ryan's experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.