Effective inbound marketing is almost always dependent on having a plan. Shotgun marketing (shoot out a bunch of random things and see what sticks) is a common but failed method we see all too often. The best secret to any marketing effort is to take the time to build a strategy and then stick to it. Marketing in today’s world is a bit of a moving target that can take some practice to hit consistently. We’re going to walk you through the steps to create an inbound marketing plan. These are the same steps we use to create award-winning strategies that have increased our clients’ business by over 30%.
It’s Easy to Get Overwhelmed
One of the main reason I believe the shotgun marketing method is so commonly employed is because it is so easy to get overwhelmed by all of the options out there! It seems like every other second another social media channel pops up and is the next best thing! The question then comes up, should you jump on that bandwagon? Are you missing out? Should your business be on Facebook or Twitter? Are your clients on Instagram or Snapchat? How does Periscope, Flickr, Vine, Reddit, and Medium play into it all? What are they anyway? These are very common questions we hear from every new client we sit down with. There is a lot of information coming our way, and it’s easy to get buried under it all.
The social media channels are one thing but to have a well-rounded plan; you also have to consider the other aspects of an inbound marketing strategy. There is blogging, your website, your search engine ranking (where you fall in the search results on Google), video marketing, landing pages, search engine optimization (SEO), and much more. Knowing which tools to use when and which to pass on is one of the biggest challenges. It’s right up there with trying to stay current with the marketing trends and best practices. Small business owners often take one look at all of these options and throw up their hands in understandable frustration!
“Where do I start? I don’t know what is going to help my business the most! I only have a limited amount of time and energy to do this, where do I invest it?”
If any of these questions have ever crossed your mind, know that you are not alone and you are at the right blog. Help is here.
Be Calm and Market On!
Not every plan works for every company. While there are essential pieces that work for many businesses in Anchorage and throughout Alaska, there isn’t exactly a one size fits all sort of plan. I say this because while a particular type of plan will work for 70-80% of businesses throughout the state, not every business owner will have the time or resources to implement it. In that case, they may have to adapt the plan to fit what they are comfortable with or look at hiring a company that offers inbound marketing business services.
There are four main steps to this whole thing:
- Set a goal
- Define Your Market
- Pick Your Marketing Tools
- Implement, measure, and revise as needed.
Set a Goal for Your Inbound Marketing Plan
Over the last five years at Beacon, we have found that there are different reasons businesses choose to market. While the most common reason is to increase sales, we have concluded that there are other reasons as well. Take a look below at a few of the common ones. Does your company fall into any of them?
- Increase sales
- Increase market share
- Increase brand awareness
- Introduce new products or services
- Connect to the community
Increase sales. As I mentioned before, this is the most common reason companies market themselves. They need to increase the amount of sales made each year. They need to bring in additional clients or customers. One thing to note, most of your inbound marketing efforts are not going to produce results immediately, and that applies to marketing in general. The best time to market is when you don’t need the sales. Inbound marketing is most effective and has the best ROI when you have time to let the momentum build on its self. It is a bit like a snowball effect as it gets going. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule that we will discuss later.
Increase market share. You may have a steady and stable stream of clients coming in, and we are thrilled for you! As I just mentioned, this is the best time to market! Typically though at this point, you will market a bit differently. The focus is on increasing brand awareness and thus your market share. You don’t want to leave any kind of void for your competition to fill. You want the public to see you everywhere and think of you first! You want to saturate the market and own the biggest share of it.
Increase brand awareness. This goes hand in hand with growing your market share, but it also has other uses. If you are a new company to the area, the first step is to let everyone know that you have arrived! Take a new restaurant for instance. Even before they open their doors for the first time, they need to create brand awareness in the community. Generating a buzz about the upcoming grand opening is a powerful way to leverage social media and inbound marketing and to have a great opening night!
Introduce new products or services. Launching a new product line is exciting and getting the word out there through marketing is critical to its success. You can create excitement around the release, starting everything off on the right foot. Marketing a new service or product strategically also reflects well on the rest of the company and can encourage previous customers to come back and check out old favorites as well as the new.
Connect to the community. There are a lot of organizations in Anchorage and the rest of the state that may not be selling anything. However, they do need to market themselves to keep up the steady stream of volunteers or donations they need to keep going. Often non-profits, charities, parks, etc. can benefit from inbound marketing to connect with their supporters and disseminate information.
To begin, as yourself: Why am I marketing? How will I know if I have succeeded?
As you sit down to start the process of putting together an inbound marketing plan, you will need to answer these two questions first (don’t worry, there will be more later). Knowing your goal will help you figure out how to measure your successes and see where you need to adjust your strategy (remember what I said about the moving target?)
If your answer is: increase sales, then the next question is how much? Do you want to add two new medium accounts and four small ones each month? To accomplish this, you could say that you need to increase Facebook impressions by 50% and your website traffic from social media by 20%.
If your answer is: increase brand awareness, then your goal could be to increase your Facebook reach by 1,000 people in the next four to five months and your impressions by 40%.
If your answer is: connect to the community, then your goal could be to increase your email mailing list by 10%, increase your social media engagement by 35%, and increase new volunteer applications by 7%.
Only you are going to know how many new accounts you can handle or how many new volunteers you need, so be realistic about what your business/organization wants to handle and needs. If you don’t know what realistic inbound marketing goals are, don’t worry, take your best guess at first and keep an eye on how things develop. You might need to adjust your goals along the way as you get the hang of this.
Who are You Trying to Reach? Define Your Ideal Client
After you answer the two questions: Why are you marketing? What are your goals? Then the next major question is WHO? More than ever before it is absolutely, positively, vitally important that you take the time to describe who you want your client to be. Inbound marketing in Anchorage or any other city is based around connecting to the individual you want to be a customer. The old demographics: “single, Hispanic female age 18-45 who likes clothes” just doesn’t work anymore. The challenge is to go so much deeper with the personas. Ask questions like:
- What are her hobbies?
- What are her interests? What does she do when she isn’t working?
- What does she like?
- What does she dislike?
- Is she married? How long? To whom?
- Does she have kids? How many? What are their ages?
- Does she have pets? How many? What kind?
- Where does she work? How long has she worked there?
- What are her aspirations?
- Does she drive? What does she drive?
- Does she carpool? Does she take the bus? Does she like to bike to work?
- What kind of home does she live in? For how long?
- What does she watch on TV? Does she watch TV?
I know this sounds like a lot of work and believe me, many of these questions could leave you wondering; “How would I know?” But trust me, it’s worth it. There are several ways to pull together this information. First, ask some of your existing customers. Pick your top 2-3 clients and ask if they are willing to share some information with you (all strictly confidential of course). This persona may be one you create from scratch; it may be someone you would like to sell to or connect with.
Here’s why it is so important to spend time perfecting your target persona. All of these pieces of information will help you craft the content and figure out which channels are going to be effective. Regardless of what the persona looks like when you are finished, you want to make sure your content includes material that will be interesting to them. This is important regardless of what products or services you provide. You always tailor the content to fit your audience. You must provide them with posts, blogs, videos, tweets, etc. that they will find interesting and engaging. This is how you connect and build trust with your prospects. Then when they are ready to buy, they are more likely to come to you. Again, this almost doesn’t matter if you are selling toilet paper or wool hiking socks. The messaging in the content has to be relatable to them. For example:
- If your target audience is an avid outdoors person, who enjoys spending their weekend hiking, exploring, backpacking, camping with their friends and pets and you are selling wool hiking socks, then make sure your social media content shows people of the appropriate age, gender, ethnicity, etc. enjoying the outdoors. Talk about good hiking trails in the area, share posts from the local health food store, write a blog about how to avoid blisters or how to treat them once you have them.
- If your target audience travels a lot for business and your product is membership in trendy airport lounges in key cities, then your content could include travel tips. Your posts could include things to do in the cities you had lounges, reviews of new luggage options, telecommunication tips with family and the office, tips to sleeping on a plane and much more.
The persona you create is the foundation for and guides the content you produce as part of your strategy, so it is worth investing the time to develop it.
Choose Your Inbound Marketing Tools
Now that you know why you are marketing, what your goals are, and who you are marketing to, it’s time to choose your marketing tools. In our blog later on this week, we are going to go into which tools are useful for building your inbound marketing plan for Anchorage and other cities across Alaska. We will also spend some time going into how to use each one and the time commitments involved. While you are waiting for that blog, check out our free guide that compliments these blogs to help you draft your inbound marketing strategy.