12 Steps for Inbound Marketing Domination

Building Campaigns that Convert

By: Marc Acton, Associate Creative Director

The term "inbound marketing" has more than doubled in popularity as a Google search term over the last five years. But, the concept itself is nothing new. In fact, it’s been around since the early days of the World Wide Web—as companies figured out that if they produced the right content, visitors would come.

But, what is it?

Think of outbound marketers as the early 1900s newspaper slingers, hawking their wares on the corner, shouting about the latest headlines (there will never be another Newsies). Historically speaking, outbound marketing is more traditional advertising, where companies take to their soapboxes and extol their product’s benefits, trying to attract whoever will buy.

Inbound marketing is like one of those candied nut dealers in the middle of a present-day mall, the ones who are always roasting their most delicious candied delights right in the middle of mall rush hour. Inbound marketing says that if I create an appealing product, and then waft its tasty scent around the interwebs, I will eventually draw a crowd ready for a taste of what I’m selling. And, like the nut samplers, I also don’t mind giving the first taste away for free because I know they’ll love my product.

For most businesses, inbound marketing strategies include an integrated web of content marketing pieces, including blog posts, social media, email marketing, native and social video, and value-based marketing tools like lead magnets. But, while it’s not hard to crank out blog posts by the dozens, real results come from comprehensive, data-based strategies, where every effort serves a specific purpose. After all, inbound marketing is all about earning your way into your customer’s purchasesphere, the relatively small circle of information your customers trust enough to base their buys on. Find your way into that circle, and they’ll find their way to you.

Here’s how we do it at iostudio:

  1. Decide on a singular objective. You’re not going to solve all of your business objectives with one campaign. Pick one—the more specific, the better. You can run multiple
    campaigns simultaneously, but each one campaign should ideally have one goal.
     
  2. Develop a hyper-targeted audience. The more specific, the better.
     
  3. Figure out where your audience is. That’s where you’ll serve your content.
     
  4. Figure out what’s motivating them. This could be a problem they have that you can solve, a deal they can benefit from, or a feature or benefit that your competitors don’t have. We’ll call this motivating factor the nut of your value proposition.
     
  5. Determine your success criteria. This data-first principle is missed by so many of our clients, who have to go back after the fact and try to recreate data because they didn’t decide up-front what business dials they were trying to move, which means they weren’t tracking the right numbers.
     
  6. Figure out several different ways your value proposition nut can be expressed, and then develop content titles for each. Whether you’re writing blog posts, or emails, or white papers, what’s important is that each content title shines a light on the same feature or benefit. Here are two examples:

    a) Let’s say your nut is that the radiology equipment you produce is the cheapest way to ensure that radiologists aren’t exposed to harmful X-rays. You could discuss the technology behind your products, the production techniques that your company uses to produce the affordable equipment you sell, or the health benefits that radiologists receive from your product. Each of these three topics speaks to the same value nut.

    b) Or, imagine you’re the VP of marketing at a college whose music business program has the highest post-graduation hire rate in the country. You might shine a light on your professors’ real-world experience, talk about mentorship programs your program has, or even feature photos of your student-run studios (but, when you do, you’re going to talk about how it sets your students up for future success by introducing current technology.)
     
  7. Create a cohesive content development strategy to maximize ROI of development cost. Don’t rebuild the wheel for every piece of your content vehicle. The more you centralize content production to one team, with one product owner, the more cohesive your strategy will be. In a perfect world, the same people should produce email and social posts supporting your titles.
     
  8. Create enough content for multiple impressions. Writing one blog post on anything rarely convinces people to buy what you’re selling. Instead, develop themes that echo your value proposition nut(s), and, then, produce content around them.
     
  9. Make sure all of your content channels are sending the same message. This is another great reason to single source your content production, as disparate production teams create disjointed content messaging. Ideally, your content producers will provide support for all channels of content (email, web, social, etc.)
     
  10. Give your audience the opportunity to find similar content you’ve created. Whether it’s through emailed wrap-ups of monthly content, or something as simple as a “related posts” widget on your blog, you should always give your readers the opportunity to interact with more of your content than what they came to your site to read.
     
  11. Watch the numbers. After launching your content program (with titles based on your value proposition and efficiently-produced content), go back to the business dials you decided you wanted to move. SEE IF THEY’VE MOVED. You’d be surprised how many of our clients forget this step, too.
     
  12. Iterate. You’re never going to get it perfect the first time. When iostudio launched this POV blog, we didn’t get it exactly right. But, about three months in, we took a serious look at our data and adjusted course. We did the same after six months. Now, we feel like we’re on a pretty good track. But we’ll never stop adjusting.

If you’re creating an inbound marketing program for your company, this list is only a starting point with only major milestones on the list. In reality, each step could have several sub-steps (like how to pick your content production team, for example.) But, if you go through this 12-step program, your inbound marketing game will be strong.

If you don’t have time for all 12 steps, though, you could just hire us. Here’s our value proposition nut: Our data-first inbound marketing programs drive more results than our competitors.


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Marc Acton was born at a very young age in a moderately old town in Florida. Some other stuff happened, and then he became iostudio’s Associate Creative Director. For us, he proudly pokes and prods projects for the Army National Guard including social media and web, writing and strategizing content that converts. He is a fan of the Oxford comma, saying more with less, and helping write bios for extremely talented iostudians. He also flies helicopters for the Army National Guard. Which reminds us, how can you tell if a helicopter pilot is at your party? (He’ll tell you.)