"You Guys Are Everywhere"
When a client starts hearing this type of feedback we know their inbound program is gaining traction; especially when they're hearing it from their competition.
Do you want your competition to turn green with envy? Here's our 10-step process for achieving breakthrough awareness for a brand ... and then turning that awareness into revenue.
Step 1: Zero In On Your Audience
A clearly defined audience undergirds every successful inbound marketing program. Without it, steps 2-10 are just wasted energy.
The Business Case For A Clearly Defined Audience
Potential clients often say they've never received a quality lead from their website. Often, it's because they don't have a clear idea of their target audience. They're creating content for the whole world rather than focusing on their ideal customer. Don't know who your ideal customer is? Here's a hint: they're the ones who buy everything from you, over and over again.
One of our clients is a trade show exhibit house. It would be tempting to target anyone who does trade show marketing with our efforts. It would also be a big mistake. They've defined the specific role, booth size, and the budget required for someone to be a high quality lead. This kind of focus allows you to create very specific content for each stage of this ideal customer's buyers journey.
The Technical Case For A Clearly Defined Audience
We live in the era of the semantic web. Keywords aren't as important as they used to be. Writing about the right topic is. When you have an ideal customer persona in place, you can think through their specific needs and desires. Once these are written down, you can conduct research to identify which of the topics that your persona cares about align with search trends. These topics should drive your content program.
How Should You Define Your Audience?
You can probably identify who buys the most from you. This may be as easy as going back through your CRM, finding a list of people who have bought from you in the last year, and doing some analysis to identify similarities. Once you know who this audience is, you then need talk to them so you can learn what they care about. Take the time to ask questions and listen. Then, build a persona.
Step 2: Write Smart Blog Content
Once you have a clear idea about your audience it's time to create a bunch of smart blog content that speaks to the very things that they care about. There are a few keys to think about here:
- Blog about all the topics your audience cares about. Your goal is to position your business to show up in search results whenever someone is Googling about the work you do.
- Be helpful rather than salesy. Blog content is focused on making people aware of your expertise, not selling them on your services. Focus on giving your reader one practical thing that they can do as a result of reading your blog so they'll want to come back again and again.
- Invite other voices in. If you're just establishing your blogging efforts it can be helpful to identify someone who is a little further down the path than you and see if you can do a guest post trade on each other's blogs. This will help increase the overall brand visibility.
Step 3: Create Resources People Care About
Once people are spending time on your site, you need to capture their email address. People usually don't give up their email easily, so you need an incentive. A valuable piece of content (content offer) is a perfect incentive. We use a lot of white papers and eBooks.
For our client who provides on-site clinics to large employers, one of the best performing resources we've produced focuses on the pros and cons of investing in an on-site clinic. This resource isn't focused on selling the client's services. It's really focused in on helping their core audience answer a thorny or complicated question that they may already be trying to answer. Again, this builds trust.
Step 4: Promote Your Brand
The next step in our process is making a small investment in ensuring that your brand is visible whenever someone looks for you on the web. Buying your brand's name in Google and Bing PPC is pretty affordable. By doing this you ensure that you can control the message when someone searches for you.
Step 5: Generate Demand Through Paid Digital Media
It will take time for your blogging strategy to take hold. SEO is a long game. We usually tell clients it will take 6 months for organic results to really start to grow, even if they have solid personas and execute consistently. In the meantime, it's smart to take that clear understanding of your audience and advertise to them in digital media. We recommend getting started with Facebook and LinkedIn. Promote both your blog content and the resources you've created to see what is the most attractive to your ideal audience. If you're wondering how to create an effective ad, you can check out our post on that same topic.
Step 6: Build Active Social Channels To Balance Digital Media
Paid promotion is great, but to achieve breakthrough growth you also need to grow a strong network of engaged people in social media. If you are able to deliver value and create a community around your content you'll benefit from having others promote your content which, in turn, will expand your reach. We like to schedule out a conversation calendar with lots of engagement built in. Think about video, polls, giveaways, etc.
Step 7: Leverage Influencers & Third Party Content Distribution
Influencer marketing is huge today. When someone speaks up on your behalf, they pass more credibility to you than you could ever generate on your own. But, how do you find those influencers? Here's a hint, it's a long-term relationship game. But, it will pay off. Your ideal customer respects influencers much more than they respect brands, even if said influencer is being paid by the brand to promote a product.
The corollary to influencers is content distribution. Explore channels like LinkedIn , Medium, and Quora to share valuable content more broadly than the reach of your website. You can start by slightly modifying a blog post and posting it on LinkedIn or Medium. Make sure you link back your blog from the posts to both establish that the blog is the canonical place Google should be indexing.
Step 8: Stay In Touch With Email
One of the biggest mistakes we make with prospects is only communicating with them when they are new. We must be in touch with them on an ongoing basis. A monthly newsletter that points them back to blog content is a great way to be able to stay in touch with them and drive them into the site to expose them to content they might care about. You can sign up for our email newsletter here.
Step 9: Follow Up In Relevant Ways Using Triggered Email
Once someone has provided their information it's vital to follow up with them. It's also vital that that follow up be relevant. We recommend creating customized email nurture pathways that move people through the stages of the buying cycle from awareness to consideration to a decision. This type of automated nurture pathway will help prepare them to make a purchase without requiring tons of people hours before the prospect is qualified to buy.
Step 10: Optimize. Optimize. Optimize.
Once you have the system up and running it's time to optimize. We recommend identifying a few tasks to focus on each week. Try meeting weekly with your team to celebrate the work you've done and assign new tasks. These incremental changes will add up over time.