Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO at HubSpot, has said that if inbound marketing was easy, everyone would be doing it. As those of us who tread into the murky waters know, inbound marketing success can be an enigma wrapped in a mystery and tied up with a big question mark. So what is it that’s holding us back while others are wildly successful? The answer could be in a few simple structures that are broken in many businesses in the technology industry.
To see success with inbound marketing, you don’t necessarily need to do A/B testing on every word of every web page or email, or even have all of the possible inbound pieces in place. It only needs the primary elements to begin seeing a difference.
The four places that are often broken or not even there are
- Buyer personas
- (S.M.A.R.T.) Goals
- Consistent blogging (and planning)
- Automation and testing
One of the most fundamental tasks of beginning with inbound marketing is creating buyer personas. Ironically, this subject is often overlooked completely or thought to be an academic exercise and therefore unnecessary when actually implementing inbound.
Last week, a small team here at Sigma sat down (virtually) to discuss redesign ideas for our website. We got all of two minutes in to the meeting when we had to stop. We couldn’t move forward because we didn’t have the appropriate buyer persona. We needed it to tell us what our potential clients’ problems, challenges and needs are. We needed to know what positions these people hold in their company, what kinds of companies they work for, and how big those companies are. Without this information, we can’t possibly understand them and without understanding them, we can’t be effective at marketing or sales.
Buyer personas provide the basis for every piece of content we create, including blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks, social media, emails, and website content.
If you’ve been doing inbound marketing for a while now without developing buyer personas, don’t panic. It’s not too late to start! In fact, it will be much easier because you have much more information to take into consideration for your persona. If you are new to inbound or still considering, this is the perfect place to start.
I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by illuminating the importance of goal-setting. However, it surprises me how often I hear goals that have either have no basis in reality or are not measurable. That’s why we use S.M.A.R.T. goals for marketing. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. “I want to increase the number of leads to the website,” is not a good goal. By how much do you want to increase leads? How long will it take you to that? How will you know if you’ve met that goal? Is that the biggest issue to be addressing?
SMART goals for marketing is not always as easy as it sounds. It can be difficult to define exactly what you want to accomplish or to know if that is even possible given the amount of time you have. Our team has been practicing goal setting at our weekly meetings. We all take turns discussing whether we accomplished the week’s goals and choosing goals for the following week.
By voicing them out loud, we can easily hold one another accountable to our goals and also listen for whether they need to be defined further to be truly SMART.
Not only do we need goals for ourselves, but our marketing efforts need goals, too. Does your next big campaign have a goal? What about your home page, latest blog post, conversation with your client? I’ve found that our practice in weekly goal setting has made goals a more integral part of everything I do, and I don’t start any new project or task without knowing what I’m trying to accomplish.
Even with multiple writers on our team, we constantly struggle to get blog posts out consistently. We know how crucial it is to inbound marketing, but getting organized and gittin’ ‘er done on a consistent basis always seems to be just out of reach. And we’re definitely not the only ones with this problem.
There are many answers to this dilemma, but the biggest problem is usually that there’s no editorial calendar. An editorial calendar allows you to schedule out what blog posts are going to be published, and when. It also helps you keep a regular publishing routine. We have gone through quite a few variations of our editorial calendar, most of which lived on our shared Google Drive. But we didn’t check this on a normal basis and never made great use of it.
Our new editorial calendar is housed right in our Google Calendar. Because we use this tool to schedule other meetings and keep with what others are doing, this was a natural step for us. We can keep a separate calendar for each client and easily track who’s writing on each day.
Software and technology companies need to do a lot of education on their product or service, so finding topics to write about shouldn’t be a problem. If you do find it difficult to come up with blogging ideas, try these tactics:
- Write out the 20 most frequently asked questions you or your sales team gets. That’s 20 blog posts right there.
- Use HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator
It’s true that software company blogging is often quite technical and you can’t have any Joe Schmoe write your content. However, if your company doesn’t have the writing skills or time internally, there are many great writers out there who do have extensive technology experience and are good at research. We like to use Zerys when we outsource writing.
Finally, you need to have a plan to get your blogs scheduled and published on a regular basis. Like I mentioned before, we really like using Google Calendar to plan our publishing. Find out how to create an editorial calendar on Google Calendar here.
Automation and Testing
I’m not going to lie, testing is one of my least favorite parts of inbound marketing, and, not surprisingly, I’m not the most adept at it. However, I will start working on that more as we focus on refining our own inbound marketing strategies.
Inbound marketers know that automated marketing doesn’t mean you can set it and leave it. It is a continuous process of improving and refining the craft to create a highy effective marketing machine. However, successful automation begins at a more fundamental level. For each piece of content, you need to make sure links are working, proper grammar is used everywhere, and that all of the pieces come together properly.
Once all the pieces are conntected in a workflow, have a coworker click from the CTA and go through each of the steps, checking links, messaging, and that the emails and offers flow in a natural way. One thing that helps me is to visually map out the sequence of each landing page, form, and email.
If you need some more motivation to do this not-so-sexy side of inbound marketing, consider this: in the first ever Marketing Automation Index from VentureBeat, HubSpot is #1! On top of that, in an article by Mike Volpe, HubSpot’s CMO, about the survey, only 3% of B2B companies are using marketing automation. So, not only do you have the best tool available, but you’re a forerunner in a pretty new industry (that’s likely to grow 50% this year)! That’s pretty sexy if you ask me.
Need some help setting up and mastering these fundamental inbound marketing structures? Start with our Buyer Persona Toolkit below or leave a comment with your specific question. We reply to every comment!