The tree of inbound marketing has diverse branches—inbound content marketing, sales enablement, social media marketing, et al.—that all need planning and setup. The early months of an inbound marketing campaign revolve around defining the strategy for each. It’s a time to study your market, your customers, and yourself, then use the insights to launch a successful inbound marketing campaign across all your brand’s relevant channels.
The first 90 days of your inbound marketing strategy are filled with big questions. In particular, you’ve got to address these six:
- Who are your customers?
- What is the problem they need to solve?
- When are they contacting you in their buying process?
- Where are they finding your brand?
- How can you reach more customers?
- Why is your product or service the ideal solution?
This trail of breadcrumbs will lead you towards your ideal customers and the high-impact channels where they’re hanging out. For example, you could discover that your consumers heavily prefer short videos for learning about new products and services:
Data like this helps you pinpoint weaknesses in your inbound marketing campaign and address them accordingly.
Think of these initial 3 months as a progressive “kick-off” period that lays down the essential groundwork needed for future successes. One wick at a time, you’ve got to light the fireworks show. But it will be a while before you get to enjoy the big finale.
1st Month — Define Your Market, Set a Course
Much of the first three months is based on setup, analysis, and research. The first 30 days are certainly not the time to look for results—leads, sales, and ROI will all come later. You’ll be starting by:
- Identifying challenges in your market niche
- Studying competitor inbound marketing examples
- Researching your target audience
- Setting tentative, achievable goals
- Crafting fictional buyer personas to guide your campaign
Build Buyer Personas
These 1-5 fictional “ideal customers” represent the leading trends in your customer base and act as the cornerstone of an inbound marketing campaign. Customer research, surveys, and interviews can help you pick out:
- Their roles and responsibilities
- Challenges they face on a daily basis
- Goals and desires
- Preferred methods of consumption (blogs, videos, TV, social media)
- Potential objections
HubSpot has free templates for organizing your insights into persona profiles. The first page of a basic template looks something like this:
After the “Who” overview, the Make My Persona generator can add sections on their goals, challenges, what you can do for them, common statements and objections, and even your “elevator pitch.”
Map the Buyer’s Journey
After you’ve got your personas laid out, it’s time to define the buyer’s journey in your company’s sales funnel. This is the cycle that your customers go through as they realize they have a problem, do research on it, and decide to purchase a solution. There are three broad stages:
- Awareness: At this point, you’re learning about the problem(s) the buyer is facing.
- Consideration: The buyer is now actively looking for, and comparing, potential solutions.
- Decision: Finally, the buyer is deciding where to purchase their preferred solution.
Many marketers still aim at the final stage of this journey, but according to HubSpot, only 3% of your market is actively buying at a given time. This is where competition is highest. 56% are not ready to buy yet, but a healthy 40% are starting their research—that’s the sweet spot for marketing.
Since inbound marketing campaigns rely heavily on digital content and SEO, you’ll need to do some digging into keywords. You want to find keywords that offer you the best chance to connect with your buyer personas when they type a search into Google. Build a bank with a list of:
- Short tail keywords that users put into quick searches, like “google email.”
- Medium tail keywords with a bit more context and specificity, like “set up a Gmail account.”
- Long-tail keywords that are thorough, precise, and sometimes phrased as questions. For example, “how to create a google email with your own domain.”
The typical user crafts searches that are about three words long. However, medium and long-tail keywords can help you gather more visitors than if you target widely searched short phrases where competition is huge. Short tails are great for on-page SEO and PPC campaigns, while longer keywords should be worked into blog content, titles, and descriptions.
Frame Your Strategy
In addition to all of the above, you’ll have to:
- Establish benchmarks and set SMART goals
- Create social accounts (including social signal buttons for sharing)
- Audit and consolidate pre-existing content
- Plan an editorial calendar for each channel (e.g., blog, social, email)
Social media pages are an essential tool for inbound marketing campaigns, but they are meant to complement your company website, not replace it. If you’ve overlooked one of the major social networks, it’s time to fire up an account.
2nd Month — Build Your Digital Presence
Okay, now that the self-study and high-level strategy are built out, it’s time to fine-tune your digital footprint. This is where you work on website upgrades, set up content platforms, and calibrate/integrate your various accounts and software.
SEO and Website Optimization
Did you know that 32.5% of traffic share goes to the first Google organic search result? Or that 91.5% of traffic share is on the first page of results? Getting into the #1 spot on that first page is the holy grail of an inbound marketing campaign. Careful work on your keyword mixture and density can help make it search-engine-friendly (as will frequent content updates, down the line). However, high search results won’t make a difference if the traffic bounces in seconds. As a result, your front page will have to:
- Look professional
- Navigate smoothly
- Read well on mobile
- Be easy to update
Google uses algorithms to promote pages with user-friendly layouts, but be careful about “top-heavy” ad layouts. It could help to take a careful look at Google’s best practices for ad placements. Ads in the example below are outlined in red:
(Source: Online Shouter)
If your layout makes it tough for users to find the content they want without scrolling, Google will push you down in the search results. The second month of your evolving inbound strategy is the time to:
- Optimize each web page with appropriate titles, descriptions, and image titles
- Redesign problem areas
- Make your site more responsive for a variety of devices
Set Up Your Content Platform(s)
Your inbound marketing campaign might call for a basic, open-source platform like Wordpress or a more robust one like HubSpot. Either way, your content engines won’t be fully fired up until you:
- Load in your buyer personas
- Install tracking codes on your website
- Give landing pages their own subdomain
- Set up email marketing templates (with CAN-SPAM compliance)
- Hook in your social media platforms
- Build workflows, CTAs, forms, and landing pages
- Integrate your CRM (If you don’t have one, HubSpot’s is free!)
- Connect analytics and other support tools
After all that, it’s finally time to launch your first wave of test content with top priority pieces. Your strategy—and the status of your pre-existing content—might call for an initial burst of blogs, fresh gated content (like an eBook), or a newsletter to keep you top of mind with loyal customers.
3rd Month — Roll Out Content & Grow Traffic
By this point, all your machinery will be in place, which means you can start focusing on churning out valuable content pieces that are personalized:
⇒ For each of your personas
⇒ On their favorite channels
⇒ At each stage of their buyer’s journey
Spread the Word
Content can only grow your traffic if you get it out to the people who want to consume it. Make sure to use:
- A Variety of Formats: Content is much more than written pieces to post on your website (although blogs, FAQs, and service pages are essential). Your audience might want to interact with vlogs, webinars, podcasts, tutorial videos, infographics, and much more.
- Top to Bottom Content: Top-of-funnel leads may read your blogs, whitepapers, and newsletters, but buyers who are ready to close will want product demos, case studies, sell sheets, and testimonials.
- Multiple Channels: Attach content to social media posts and email campaigns in addition to your website. Don’t forget to use platform-optimized image dimensions, links to your website, and social sharing/follow buttons.
- Frequent Updates: A constant flow of new material on your website or a busy social media cadence will improve your SEO and engagement rates. There are lots of ways to organize an active publishing schedule.
Carry Your Momentum
This is still just the beginning of your inbound marketing campaign, but it is a solid foundation. By the end of these first 90 days, you’ll start to see more visitors to your website and social pages. Leads, conversions, and revenue are on the way, and you’ve already kickstarted traffic and increased the visibility of your brand and its offering. Your new prospects are just beginning the first steps of their buyer’s journey.
At the end of three months, deliverables you should expect include:
- A better understanding of your business niche and audience
- Strategic vision; a marketing plan
- Infrastructure—accounts, content platforms, templates, web domains
- Optimization—on-page SEO, backlinks, keyword lists, CTAs, landing pages
- 1-2 months of content as a baseline
- Analytics from quarter one of your strategy
This momentum can all be carried forward into the next 3 months of your strategy. Keep learning from your progress so that you can tweak the campaigns as traffic and engagement continue to grow your visitors into leads, customers, and—eventually—advocates for your brand.