There’s a lot of buzz these days about inbound marketing as a lead generation strategy. Whereas traditional advertising is a “push” technique – that is you rent an existing medium (e.g. newspaper, television time, website space) to advertise and drive traffic to your business – inbound marketing uses the advantages of the Internet to “pull” people to your website organically.
At its best, inbound marketing is a valuable earned media strategy that allows you to:
- Lower your customer acquisition costs by building a marketing channel that you own, control and that delivers quality traffic to your website over and over.
- Build rapport with your customers by demonstrating your knowledge, capabilities and utility.
- Cut through the clutter and noise in the marketplace by becoming a trusted resource for your customers.
- Better measure return on investment by utilizing the wide range of web analytics tools available in the marketplace.
Sounds great, right? Well, yes, but for inbound marketing to work you need to have a strong content strategy… and that’s where many businesses start to run into problems.
Content Marketing Isn’t As Hard As It Sounds
If you’re not a content marketer by trade then developing high quality content can, at first, seem a little daunting. It’s not uncommon for businesses new to the strategy to have questions about the process, measuring return on investment and time/cost allocation.
While I can’t address all of these questions without writing a book on the subject, I do want to say that with a good strategic framework and a few tactical must-haves, content marketing isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. How? Let me elaborate:
Step #1 – Make Your Website Easy To Find & Use
Chances are that a decent chunk of your content is going to live on your website, and at the very least you are going to want your prospects to visit your website to learn more about your company and products. With that in mind, you first need to make sure that your website is optimized for organic search. Without diving too deeply into the weeds, search engine optimization makes it easier for Google, Bing, Yahoo, et. al. to index and drive traffic to your website. There are a wide range of SEO opportunities, but at minimum you’ll want to tackle the basics including: Title and Meta tags, link/site structure and proper use of H-tags. If your team doesn’t have SEO experience, please contact us. We’re always happy to help.
Once your website is optimized for search engines, review your landing pages and look for ways to make it as east as possible for prospects to contact you. There’s pros and cons to various landing page strategies, but in general if you keep your calls-to-action clear, not overly sales-y and don’t obstruct your content (unless its gated content, of course) then you’ll have 80% of the challenge completed.
Step #2 – Create an Editorial Calendar
Good content marketing isn’t about a single article, video or presentation deck. Rather its about using assets to tell a compelling brand story over time that demonstrates competence and value to your prospects. In order to achieve that goal we recommend that you establish an editorial calendar to guide your storytelling. At minimum, plan 30 days into the future and keep your content focused on answering a simple question, “how can we help our customers?”
Here’s four more pro tips for you:
- If you’re stuck for content ideas, talk to your prospects and existing clients about their top questions and challenges. Chances are they’ll give you a nice long list of subjects to tackle, and it’ll make it easier for you to take a customer focused position with your content.
- Content means more than just blog posts and white papers. Your content can, and should, include other types of media including but not limited to presentations, videos and audio.
- There’s no such thing as the “right” amount of content to publish. Start with as much as you feel is manageable to start (for example, twice per month) and increase as you feel is appropriate. The trick is to be consistent in your delivery. Don’t post new content two or three times then stop of several months. Keep to a schedule and you’ll incentivize users to repeat visit.
- There’s nothing wrong with repurposing content into new forms. For instance, did you write a series of blog posts about a particular subject? Good, you can package them together as an ebook. Or did you do a presentation at an event? Great, record it and post the video as well as share your slide deck. With a little creativity it’s amazing how many pieces you can get from one content session.
Step #3 – Create a Syndication Strategy
You know the phrase, “build it and they will come?” Well, that’s usually not the case for content marketing. Yes, if you’ve optimized your website for search engines and have compelling content you’ll generate a certain level of traffic. However its much more likely that it will take multiple impressions on a single prospect before you’ll capture them as a lead… which means you need to get your brand, and content, out into the world to increase the likelihood of those multiple impressions.
As an extension of your editorial calendar, develop and implement a syndication strategy that places your content on sites that are relevant to your target audience. For instance, you can leverage your content in email marketing campaigns, across various social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Slideshare, etc.), make reference to your content in your public relations efforts and even run pay per click advertising campaigns to drive traffic to your content landing pages. The more places your content is available and discoverable the better your lead generation results will be.
Step #4 – Have Someone “Own” The Content Marketing Program
The fastest way to kill a content marketing program is to have it lead by committee. All of us are already busy, and often times when you have a group of subject matter experts independently responsible for a content marketing program it will either not get done or there won’t be much strategy behind it.
Instead, designate a single person to be in charge of the program. Allow this person to lead topic brainstorming sessions, organize the editorial calendar, follow up with the subject matter experts to make sure they meet their deadlines and work with the tech team to syndicate the content.
That’s not to say you need a full-time person to own the content marketing program, especially if you’re starting out modestly. But having one person to lead the charge will help you achieve your goals that much more quickly.
Step #5 – Pay Attention To Your Analytics & Learn From Them
This is an often overlooked aspect of a content marketing program, but one that is incredibly important. It is vital that you have proper analytics and reporting systems in place to measure the effectiveness of the content you’re creating. This means more than just installing Google Analytics on your website (although that’s a good start). Rather you should look to:
- Set up conversion tracking so you can analyze the value and frequency of organic traffic converting into a lead.
- Analyze the organic search terms that are bringing the most valuable traffic to your website, and integrate related topics into your content calendar.
- Utilize social media analytics (Facebook Insights, Hootsuite, Argyle Social, etc.) to better understand multi-channel conversion paths and explore the content that is generating the most traffic and discussion.
- Monitor your organic search engine ranking and build additional content around keywords for which you wish to perform better.
The Hardest Part Is To Keep Going Once You Start
All 5 of these steps are important to undertake as you’re getting started with your content marketing program. But allow me to give you one more piece of advice. If you don’t have an experienced content marketer or writer in your organization then chances are the first batch of content you release to the public isn’t going to be your best. Don’t let it discourage you if at first you don’t receive a lot of traffic or an avalanche of response from prospects. All inbound marketing campaigns take a little time to really get going. Think about it like a roller coaster – the first few weeks or months you may be climbing the hill, but once you get to the peak (that special place where you’ve defined your brand voice, clearly communicate your unique selling proposition and have established repeat traffic) then you’ll see first hand why inbound marketing is so popular for online lead generation.
Want to learn more about how your company can use content and inbound marketing to improve lead generation and lower customer acquisition costs? Please contact us. We’d love to discuss how we can help you build a repeatable, cost effective process for revenue growth.