If you've never run a marathon, and I have not, the whole thing seems like torture. The training, the diet, the race itself, and let's be real - the recovery - all seem like exercises in bodily pain all for the sake of a t-shirt.
Sprinting by comparison seems easy. You can see the start and finish line clearly, the other runners aren't stacked on top of one another, and you'll sometimes see runners - albeit well trained ones - sprint in several races per day.
Long before the race. You know, the decision part?
Runners make decisions about what type of race, what distance and what location they want to run. Similarly, for marketing and communications professionals, the decision around marketing versus advertising and further, inbound marketing involves a lot of internal knowledge, competitor research and skills analysis. We break them down into three steps to help jump start your Inbound Marketing marathon training plan:
- Know yourself. Do a thorough assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Share this with your executive leadership team - it's essential that senior leaders buy into the value of Inbound Marketing as well as the marketing automation platforms required to make it a truly successful undertaking.
- Do a content audit - you need 2 to 4 strong offers per year. Do you have these on hand or do they need to be created? Based on your SWOT analysis do you have internal subject matter experts who can either, (1) pen content offers from scratch, or (2) edit those written by outsourced talent. Furthermore, you need to think about how you will create the social media headlines and imagery needed to attract strangers and convert visitors at the beginning of your race.
- Do a customer analysis - who are your ideal customers or buyers? Create personas, ideally only one or two to start that represent the best of your best customers or the folks who will not only buy your products or services, but fall in love with them along the way. Give those personas names, a picture and really develop a personality for them. Doing this will allow your writers and content producers to craft the best possible offers to keep your marathon going well past the finish line (because there really isn't one in Inbound Marketing - it's a continuous process!).
You're at the starting line and....you're off!
In a perfect world, you would have chosen your ideal buyer (persona), content offer, and mapped the run through all four stages of the inbound methodology. However, customers have a funny way of taking your best laid plans and laying waste to them. But you have already started the race and are determined to finish, so now what?
Stick to the Inbound Methodology and take advantage of all the digital world has to offer to help your buyers find your course.
- Develop a social media plan that supports getting your content offer into the race and in front of your buyers.
- Look at paid search and constantly evaluate your top performing keywords and phrases.
- Evaluate your traditional media spend and focus on what is working - but integrate into your overall Inbound Marketing plan.
There is a lot going on in this marathon so it is important to stick to the basics - breathe, hydrate and evaluate your content and plan against all four pillars of the Inbound Methodology.
- Attract - are your blog posts and social media headlines written for humans, but recognize SEO best practices?
- Convert - are your forms asking for too much info? Do your calls to action make logical sense to keep the buyer interested and involved? Are your landing pages free from distractions and optimized for mobile?
- Close - do you have a true lead nurturing plan in place to help guide careful buyers into that all important product demo or in-store visit?
- Delight - does your social media presence invite community and engagement with current customers? Are you listening to social signals and using those to inform the earlier parts of your Inbound Marketing plan?
Stay hydrated and remember to have fun!
When you see strangers arrive at your website, blog posts and landing pages and begin to take action you'll no doubt want to start popping bottles and celebrating. It's natural - after all, if you've been relying on expensive advertising spends in a sprint mentality - seeing qualified buyers show up instead of casual browsers is certainly reason to celebrate. However, Inbound Marketing takes work. The day to day tasks of researching and writing blog posts is tedious. Extracting one more social media headline on a list of ten is exasperating. Testing one call to action versus another can seem like pure drudgery.
All that preparation and work is the surest way to not only finish the inbound marketing marathon, it's the way to win. And, if your organization is truly goal oriented and disciplined, you'll see why we say inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
In conclusion, successful Inbound Marketing campaigns require lots of self assessment and preparation as well as a disciplined approach for when you hit the wall and have to make adjustments during the race. Just like in a marathon versus a sprint, Inbound forces you to think long term and plan appropriately for advertising "sprints" to stay fueled for the long haul.
Now that you understand the overall strategy and structure of Inbound Marketing, you'll no doubt want to start planning your first campaign. Lucky for you, we're well trained here at Verge Pipe Media and have created an efficient checklist to get you started. Even better than a gold medal? It's FREE, just tap the download button below.VX1_0214 via photopin (license)