Who Wants A Powerful Inbound Marketing Plan For Free?

Written on
March 21, 2014
by
Jeremiah Smith
in
SaaS Marketing
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This article was originally posted on Medium.

Do you want a simple Inbound Marketing plan?

Why not learn a perfect plan first before paying a dime for help?

In  this post I’m going to pour out the same plan I’ve told countless clients while they were insisting on just an SEO campaign. I’m going to show you how simple it really is to craft a bullet proof Inbound  Marketing plan that almost any business can do on almost any budget and  how SEO is really just one part of the process.

I’ll follow this outline in this order which is important if you want it to work correctly:

  • Brand Messaging
  • Developing Personas
  • Analysis, Research & Goal Setting
  • Getting Traffic
  • SEO & How It Fits
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Networking

Brand Messaging

It all starts with your offering.

Good  branding should be done at the offering level. Let’s take your offering  and wrap it in a message that people can understand.

The key to good brand messaging is to keep it simple, stupid.

There are 2 rules to branding;
Be clear, not clever.
Be different, not better.

You’ll  never be the best so get off of it. And what the hell am I buying from  you? Honestly. Just tell me. Don’t beat around the bush or try to woo  me.

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Be  ruthlessly clear and different in every way you can. No one should be  able to out you, you. How about you buy this weight loss pill, it’s the  best and it’s shaped like a diamond! No go? Ok, how about you buy this  weight loss pill, it’s the only one that normalizes irregular hormones  so you’ll burn fat safely. I just made that up. Don’t buy weight loss  pills, silly.

To make an elephant statue from a single block of  marble you simply cut away what isn’t the elephant. So in your branding,  cut away what doesn’t matter and leave only what truly does.

Developing Personas

Now you need personas.

So what is a persona and how does it work?

A  persona is a marketing concept for a grouping of people in your target  audience that share the same marketing characteristics. For instance, a  large portion of your audience may be C level executives at large  corporations that have a pain point of financial trust, or middle  managers at ad agencies that need creative help.

You need someone  you’re pretending to tell your story to. Behind that persona is real  people who we’ll be talking directly to later.

When you’re  defining your personas I recommend naming them something memorable. For  example; Jaded Jessica the ad agency middle manager who’s jaded because  they don’t have a creative solution to offer their clients. Or Timid  Tim, the CEO of a major corporation who needs a financial planner he can  fully trust.

Grab this worksheet and fill it out for each different persona you might sell to. This is what it looks like:

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Personas can be as simple or as complex as your offering and the pain points it addresses.

How many personas should you have?

I recommend no less than 3 personas.

If  you have 3, then those are your 3 customers. That’s it. Think about  them when you do anything for your business. How will it help them  specifically?

Why 3? It’s a good number.

For real though, if  you just have two you’ll notice through an 80/20 analysis that one  means more than the other and you’ll end up focusing on one persona.

What happens if that persona no longer needs what you have?

If you’ve diversified your personas then you’ll always have someone who can use what you have.

Analysis, Research & Goal Setting

Let’s setup analytics on your site.

Which analytics platform should you use?

You’ve got options. Tons of them.

Just make sure it can track goals and specific events. We’ll call these conversions throughout the site.

Let’s say that again: Conversions

Set  them up on your site so you can track progress on what works and what  doesn’t. I recommend monitoring contact form submissions, purchase  links, download links, anything of value. These are all conversions.

Landing Pages
Setup  some landing pages on your site, at least one for each persona. Whether  you’re using WordPress, SquareSpace, or some other CMS, you should be  able to create landing pages on your site. If not, or if you just don’t  want the technical hassle, do your self a favor and get an Unbounceaccount. You can create lot’s of amazing landing pages and get super nerdy with ‘em.

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Unbounce is hands-down my favorite tool for building landing pages regardless of what site platform you’re on.

Once you’ve created said landing pages you need to have contact forms on  them and set conversion metrics (e.g. goals) in your analytics  platform. The contact form not only offers opportunities for your sales  pipeline, but it should also subscribe new users to a lead nurturing  program. Lead nurturing is just pedantic jargon for an email marketing  campaign. Setup a MailChimpaccount and nag up to 2,000 people monthly with your emails for free,dude.

If you need a more involved platform there are marketing automation tools such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua and  I’m sure many more to follow. Most of these don’t just do email, but  landing pages, conversion forms, CTAs, analytics, blogs, CMSs, the whole  nine yards.

I recommend taking your product or service offering  and writing your best sales pitch into a simple ebook or PDF document  that’ll sit behind your contact form. When I say sales pitch I really  just mean if you could only get one customer and you had to give them  everything in order to get that one sale, give it to them. Don’t  schmooze them with silly gimmicks. I mean sell to them like you sell to a  bored teenager in today’s Netflix, DVR, Twitter, ad-less, 1 second  load-time impatiensphere.

Your  PDF should speak to the persona by answering each one of their major  pain points, or contentions about your product/service/industry.

Finally, it should offer a gentle nudge in the right direction, a CTA if you will. (CTA = Call To Action)

Buy Some Traffic

Now  that we’ve got our personas targeted with landing pages and answers to  their problems, let’s bring in some people who fit those personas.

Though I’ve been “doing” SEO over 8 years, I highly recommend you start with an AdWords campaign. Even more so now that Google (not provided) is among us.

Trust  me, you don’t want to invest 6-9 months and tens of thousands of  dollars in genius content creation and social network back-and-forth,  link building efforts, etc. only to find out the keywords you targeted  don’t convert.

It’s better to spend a couple thousand dollars and a month or so to find outspecifically which keywords will bring you sales. You  should run ads to get enough clicks so that you close a few conversions  from your site. Then track down the source of those conversions in your  analytics and focus all efforts on those few keywords, ad-copy  variations, etc.

Go back to your landing page solution and run  some A/B tests on design variations. If you’re not using something sweet  like HubSpot or Unbounce then sign up for Optimizely and generate multiple versions of your landing pages without knowing jack about code.

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Optimizely offers idiot proof CRO and A/B testing.

Optimize  your ad campaigns by bringing them from either broad to phrase, or  phrase to exact match if you’re getting plenty of traffic, or the other  way around if you’re not getting enough traffic. Also, run a negative keywords query report to  find any BS keywords you need to exclude from showing your ad. This’ll  drop your average CPC. There are lot’s of other things you can do to  optimize your AdWords campaigns as well including:

Lowering  your ad position to decrease CPC. This one is often overlooked as  people tend to think you should be #1 but it can cost 10x more to be  there for not 10x more clicks.

Launch a remarketing campaign and install the script on your site to bring back visitors who may have forgotten about you.

Optimize  your landing pages from an SEO perspective in order to increase your  Quality Score and lower CPC. We’ll get into a little more SEO stuff  shortly. ;)

Now you’re probably wondering “Jeremiah, you  just recommended buying ads, but I thought this article was about  Inbound Marketing!” Well spank you for asking helpy helperton!  The type of ads I’m recommending are only on search engines and only  after people have searched for keywords that are directly relevant to  your business. This means they’re ultimately Inbound.

SEO — How It Fits

There’s really no voodoo to SEO anymore.

Back in the day I’d tweak a few title tags and watch my clients roll in cash.

Not  really, but it used to be a lot easier than it is now. Now you have to  be totally legitimate if you want to win. There’s no quick and easy way,  but there are shortcuts. I’ll get into some of those in a bit.

SEO nowadays is pretty much made up of three major buckets, each representing a different weight to the search engines:

Onsite Technical = ~25% of  the search algorithms but if your site isn’t crawlable or accessible to  the engines then it should be 100% of your concern. No amount of  further optimization or marketing will save you from your site being  completely inaccessible to the engines. Stroll over toWooRank and  give your site a quick once-over. They’ll list a few major technical  issues on your site and a few ways to address them. This should never be  a replacement for a quality technical site audit from a company likemine. ;) But it’s a great place to check for free and quickly.

Onsite Content & Usability =~25% of  the search algorithms look at content for relevance meaning anything  from text and blog articles to videos, images, ebooks, web apps, etc.  We’ll dive into the world of content momentarily. The delivery of that  content is increasingly important. Search engines can see how people use  your website and determine whether or not your users are having a good  experience. Engines will reward those sites with good usability with  high rankings. Think Amazon or Wikipedia.

Offsite Everything Else =~50%+ of  the remaining search algorithm and that + means it’s increasing. If you  think about it, the first half of the equation; onsite technical,  content and usability can all be easily controlled and manipulated. But  building inbound links from relevant trusted domains and getting  original followers to share and mention your brand on the various social  networks is much harder to manipulate. That’s why it’s so important to  the algorithms. The best part about this difficult element is that if  you build the best content you can find, they will link and share it.

Invest In The Best Content You Can Find

When  I say the best content you can find I’m putting an emphasis on “find”.  In the end, we’re going to create good content that people on social  networks will be happy to share, search engines will be happy to promote  and your target personas will find.

People will “bubble up”  whatever they’re interested in and they find valuable on social  networks. That’s exactly what Google wants too. They want to know what  we’re talking about and what we like.

Now that we know our target  personas, what keywords those personas are using to drive sales due to  our ad campaigns, we know our landing pages convert into leads, and our  site is well optimized for search, it’s time to start building some  content to bring traffic in from organic and social sources.

Where should you start building quality content?

I  recommend looking at your sales process first. What are some of the  questions everyone seems to ask about your offering or industry? Chances  are there are more people that have those same questions. You should  answer them with a blog article.

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Conversion Rate Experts helped SEOmoz jack up their revenue by breaking down Rand Fishkin’s bulletproof sales process into one long landing page.

Then  when someone asks that question online in the form of a search query  (which more people are doing now than ever before proven byHummingbird’s Conversational Search) odds are they’ll find your post.

There  are so many opportunities to write about your offering. For starters,  get a stranger who truly doesn’t care about your business to critique it  for you. Write down everything that comes to mind, you’ll find a list  of blog articles.

There’s definitely a science to writing effective headlines and  you should start your blog articles there. Why? They make a promise the  article needs to keep. You’ll find it easier to stay on track with a  good headline leading you, and readers will be more likely to look for  that promise to be fulfilled by reading your post.

Write a long  list of headlines and consider each of those a new blog article. Then  come up with ways to argue against some of the headlines you’ve started,  or maybe dive deeper into specific elements of each article with a new  article.

The goal here is to completely cover every area  of your business with information unique to you and answering the  problems of your personas.

Part of this content process  can actually take us back to our PDF we created before. Maybe by now we  have all kinds of interesting info we can add to it. Beef that page  count up and pitch it on your landing pages and ads as “37 Pages On Home Energy Savings” for example.

One  of my favorite ideas is after you feel your blog has exhausted a topic,  take all the articles on that topic and reformat them into a big sexy  PDF document. Now pitch this to your email subscribers with a new  landing page built specifically for this document and topic.

Hang Out With People On Social Networks

Don’t go try to lock down every damn social network,  spreading yourself thin. Odds are your target users are only in a  couple places. If it’s Twitter, then go to Twitter. If it’s LinkedIn, go  to LinkedIn. You may not know for sure at first, try them all until you  do know. But at some point, you’ll realize there’s one or maybe two  social networks that really bring you the most quality traffic, sales,  influence, content shares, etc. Maybe you get content shares on Twitter,  but sales on FaceBook. Tweak your strategy to reflect this reality.

Ultimately,  the best way to choose the one or two social networks you really need  to be on is to find out which ones you like the most. It’s not rocket  surgery.

If you like Twitter more than any other network  odds are you’ll participate on Twitter more than any other network. If  you really don’t care then survey some people that fit your personas and  ask them what social networks they look at most for business related  stuff. Keep in mind, just because I use FaceBook 32 times a day doesn’t  mean I want to see SEO solutions there. I keep it personal on FaceBook  and Twitter is more business for me.

Now that you’ve found your target network(s), what’s next?

I  can’t tell you how many clients I work with that don’t have their  Twitter bio filled out, or they’re using the default background and  theme colors. Twitter literally gives you an inbound link in your bio,  just type in your URL and it links it. It may not be an SEO friendly  direct link, but it makes it easier for your followers to jump over to  your site.

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Fill  out your Twitter bios! You won’t believe how many people don’t realize  it can link to any site you want, just type in the URL!

Jab Jab Jab

Take it from Vaynerchuk; jab jab jab right hook.

A  right hook in boxing is often the finishing move, but it’s made up of a  series of well placed and timed jabs beforehand. If you just go in  throwing right hooks you leave yourself open for a simple takedown from  your opponent. The same is true in social networks. If you stumble in  like a cocain charged sales junky hocking your shit at everyone they’ll  make you look so stupid your brand will be tarnished and you’ll lose  followers.

Say fun human stuff, be a normal person, link to  something silly then share something important that you want to promote.  Chit chat chit and then ask for help.

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I totally recommend Gary Vee’s new book
Jab Jab Jab Right Hook

Think  about it like this; you walk into a Starbucks and without making eye  contact with your barista or even saying “hi” you just place your order.  Sure you’ll probably get your order and be happy with it (if you even  know what happiness is you antisocial dick.)

But what if  instead you looked right at her and said “Hey there! How’s your day  going so far?”, you’ll get a response and after 10 seconds of totally  innocent banter you ask “What do you recommend?”. Sure you may know what  you want to order already, but take a step outside your little comfort  zone and find you might enjoy something different. The best part is the  next time you come to this place, she’ll probably remember you.

That’s  how social networks operate. They give you a chance to get outside your  comfort zone, talk to real humans like a real human, learn something,  share something, and grow with your community.

If a blog is a  place for a business to let it’s proverbial hair down, then a social  network is a porch for you to sit on with a beer and holler at your  neighbors that stroll by.

Right Hook

Now your strategy can’t be all jabs. At some point you’re going to have to land a right hook.

Jabs are short, simple and repetitive, light impact. Right hooks are long, fully invested and should be well thought out and crafted before executed.

This  is where you start to push your own blog articles, videos, ebooks,  guides, web apps, calculators, tools, landing pages, etc. You answer  people’s questions in short form on social networks and back up your  answers with links to long form answers on your blog.

One of my  role models Tim Ferriss is very good at delivering strong right hooks  when he needs them. He has his audience so enraptured by what he says  that when he asks for something we chomp at the bit to help him out.

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Tim Ferriss delivering knock-out right hooks to a thriving audience.

For  example; Tim will promote a book he truly likes and believes in on his  own site where he gets a kickback of all sales. He’ll promote a startup  that he’s invested in by recommending it to people who are looking to  learn French for example.

An interesting thing to note here is that he’s helping himself by helping others more.

Once  you deliver that right hook and give someone a link to one of your  pieces of content or ask them to do something for you, switch back to  jabs. Don’t bludgeon the shit out of your personas with right hook after  right hook or they’ll delete you.

Every time you post a new blog  article, carefully construct your right hook. Think about social proofs,  psychological triggers, promises you can make with the least amount of  words, etc.

Conclusion

Now you’ve gone through the entire process of building an Inbound Marketing campaign.

But wait…

Remember  that landing page we created a while back? Well now it needs to be  optimized a bit more to see if we can get more conversions from all this  traffic we’re bringing in.

But once you’ve optimized your landing  pages, you notice they don’t fully match your site anymore. Time for a  quick UI redesign on your site.

But through the site redesign process a few technical issues have cropped up that need SEO attention.

While  looking at your analytics for SEO indicators of performance you notice  some interesting new search queries you haven’t seen before. This leads  you to create some new content ideas!

Now you have more to share with your audience of followers who are all sliding down your funnel.

You’ll  realize about Inbound Marketing that it’s a cycle that needs attention  on an ongoing basis, and you’ve built the foundation. Just rinse and  repeat.

Enjoy!

Simply effective marketing.