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Inbound Marketing: 6 Steps for Success

Thanks to benefits like increased brand awareness and higher-quality leads, inbound marketing — attracting customers with highly desirable content instead of bombarding them with unsolicited advertisements — is becoming an industry standard.

If this approach is new to you, it may take some time for it to become intuitive. Fortunately, getting started is simple with the following six steps.

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1. Set goals

Every successful endeavor begins with a well-defined goal. Sure, you could stumble upon success accidentally, but you will waste time doing it — and you’ll have no way of knowing when you’ve succeeded.

Your goals should directly support your company’s purpose. If your company does not have a well-crafted statement of purpose, you may need to puzzle it out on your own. Why does the company exist? Who does it benefit (shareholders, employees, customers, etc.), and how? How will your inbound marketing campaign contribute to that purpose?

When you have a sense of the long-term outcome you want to see, break it down into short-term steps. It’s good to keep the big picture in mind, but when you’re on a road trip, you need a map, not a globe. (For more good insights on crafting effective goals, review Hubspot’s SMART goals model.)

2. Do your research

Before you begin creating and publishing content, you should have an idea of what people want. There are plenty of tools available to help you determine this. At the most basic level, you can ask directly through feedback surveys. It’s also useful to analyze the performance of your existing content. What platforms and topics have received the most traction? Try keyword research — what are people searching for? And though you never want to regurgitate another site’s content, it doesn’t hurt to check out what the competition is doing.

You should compile your findings into a buyer persona, one of the most important tools in the inbound marketing playbook. Combining these profiles with a breakdown of the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration and decision stages) allows you to create hyper-targeted content.

3. Distribute content strategically

Take the time to properly distribute your carefully crafted content instead of just pushing it to Facebook. If you’ve done your research, you should have an idea of where and when your audience is already searching. Let this information guide your publication strategy.

Social media is a great distribution option, but it’s not the only one. As you consider different platforms, don’t forget about newsletters, pay-per-click ads, and paid social. You should also give some thought to the medium of your content (such as text, video or audio recordings, and still images and graphics) and to the day and time that you post (editorial calendars are helpful here).

4. Collect leads

Don’t let people consume content and then leave. Return to your business goals. Your content ultimately exists to move people along the buyer’s journey, piquing the interest of people who might not previously have been aware of your brand, and turning casual followers into loyal customers.

The call to action (CTA) is an effective way to use your content to promote your goals. By explicitly spelling out what visitors should do next as a result of the content they’ve just consumed and why, you boost conversions. And if you are truly solving a problem for them — which should always be at the heart of the conversion exchange — the interaction will build trust. Open communication and alignment between sales and marketing teams is important here.

5. Nurture existing customers

While you’re trying to gain new customers, don’t forget the ones you already have. If you hope to retain someone’s interest and business long-term, you must continue to offer them something valuable.

Fortunately, many of the things you are already doing to attract new leads can also offer value to your existing followers. Build on your existing offerings; consider turning an especially successful post or video into a series. Continue to offer educational blogs and acknowledge current customers with newsletters and emails that contain information specifically tailored to them: special offers, new content, etc.

6. Analyze and refine your strategy

If you followed the SMART model, the goals you outlined previously should all be measurable. (“Reach millennials” is not measurable; “increase web engagement from millennial demographic by 20 percent” is.) Once your content is live, begin tracking the metrics that you will use to measure its performance and, ultimately, your campaign’s success.

Numbers not looking as good as you hoped? No problem — that’s normal. It takes a bit of tinkering to find the sweet spot. This is phase two: taking the data from the first round and using it to adjust your content and distribution strategy going forward. Every piece of information is a clue that you could potentially use to make your next piece a hit.

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Lindy Smellage
Lindy Smellage
Lindy Smellage is a Senior Content Specialist at Belo + Company. Lindy has experience working with clients in a variety of industries including Revlon Hair Tools, Terminix, Carter's, Fuzzy's Taco Shop and Daseke, Inc. When she is not executing work for her clients, she enjoys spending time with her dogs, playing soccer and knitting in her free time.