On March 17th, 2014 I set out on a journey. A journey that would change my agency... and, quite frankly, my life.
I have been an introverted A-Type personality overachiever all my life. I knew early on, I was the happiest when writing, not when talking. So, it is not surprising that I chose inbound marketing as the method to grow my business - because the alternative (networking and speaking engagements) would have made me very uncomfortable - to say the least.
But this is not to say, I took the easy route and stayed in my comfort zone - I just played to my strengths.
The goal was to strategically implement the Inbound Marketing methodology and execute it for one year.
I planned to writing and publishing at least 1-2 blog post per week, engaging in social media daily, building and nurturing a lead pipeline and analyse the results on an ongoing basis -- all this within a strategically planned framework.
I had no idea what results to expect yet but I was 100% committed to trying because I was convinced Inbound was the way to go.
Why Inbound Marketing?
If you are not familiar with the term, Inbound Marketing is a revolutionary approach to marketing.
It takes ineffective, traditional marketing principles and flips them upside-down. Instead of interrupting dinner with unsolicited phone calls from recordings, Inbound marketing provides helpful content when people are looking for it. Instead of spamming your mail and inbox, inbound marketers earn permission to get in contact with their recipients. You get the idea.
The results after 12 months of consistent, hard work have been tremendous:
- Increased organic search traffic by 1271%
- Grew overall website traffic by 969%
- Built my Twitter following 120% on average every month
- Generated 20 times more leads than just 1 year ago
- Achieved average 41% open rate with targeted email messages
I did this by consistently pursueing my inbound marketing strategy:
- I published more than 100 blog posts in 52 weeks
- I crafted more than 25 conversion paths
- I created about a dozen premium content offers
- I posted more than 1,500 social media messages
Here is how I did it:
Define Buyer Personas & Develop An Inbound Marketing Game Plan
One of the goals was to implement my marketing activities within a well thought-out framework. Since the Inbound Marketing methodology is all about personalized marketing, it puts my buyer or target personas
Research & Define Buyer Personas
Since the Inbound Marketing methodology is all about personalized marketing, it puts buyer or target personas front and center of this game plan.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of my ideal customer. It represents a group of people with similar demographics and preferences.
The research can be done by conducting lots of primary (e.g., interviews) and secondary research (e.g., reports, statistics).
Within this research, you are answering questions such as:
- How much time does Peggy spent online?
- Is she primarily online on her smart phone or desktop?
- Which social media channels does she prefer?
- Does she mainly share or contribute there?
- Many more...
Once I defined and researched my buyer personas, I entered them into my HubSpot dashboard.
You don't have to use HubSpot to use buyer personas. It is however a great tool to keep them front and center.
Now, that I had my buyer personas defined, I knew how to build my strategy around their needs and wants.
Even though I had a general idea, I needed to dive deeper and find out what terms my ideal customers are typing into search engines to find me.
As a team we brainstormed about 100 seed keywords and then I used the Google Keyword Planner, RavenTools, MarketSamurai and the HubSpot Keyword Tool to come up with about 1000 keywords that I organized in my keyword tool. We have made it a priority to review these keywords every month and delete keywords that do not fit into our keyword strategy and add more relevant search terms.
I started by reviewing my existing content and decided which website pages (I decided not to touch the blog posts for the time being) needed to be completely rebuilt and rewritten from scratch, which could be reused and which could stay. I also reviewed content on my hard drive and Google Drive that I had written previously that could be reused in some way of form. This includes for example brochures, white papers, contracts and proposals.
For more information on how to conduct a content audit using the HubSpot Page Performance Tool read this blog post.
After I know who my ideal customers are, what they are looking for and what content I already have in my arsenal, I had a look at my competitors. There are other HubSpot partner agencies, traditional PR firms, web designers and SEO companies. I decided to focus on the inbound marketing agencies that also offered HubSpot because that was my sweet spot.
After looking at about 25-30 websites, I realized that there are 2 kinds of competitors: the ones that really understood inbound and the ones that got the idea but their website nor their service offering reflected that. The great ones had amazing websites that made their value proposition clear, that offered conversion opportunities for every stage of the funnel as well as plenty of resources on a resource page and their service offering and pricing model was client need-focus and value-based. That is where I needed to be as well.
Develop An Inbound Marketing Strategy
Armed with my new-found knowledge, I set out to develop an aggressive inbound marketing game plan. This strategy consisted of blogging, social media, content marketing, lead generation and nurturing.
I created an editorial calendar first in Google Sheets, then in Trello, mapping out the blog posts, website content and premium content I wanted to produce in the next 2-6 months.
I completely redesigned my website (actually I redesigned my website three times in the last 12 months) and worked on the website content that needed to be addressed first.
Then I launched into a monthly inbound marketing execution program, which I sometimes call a rinse & repeat.
Consistent Inbound Marketing Gets The Results
After a few months of strategizing, website designing, general SEO improvements and content writing, it was time to launch into a complete inbound marketing programs. It consisted of:
- Craft outstanding blog posts that are worth linking and sharing
- Build relationships based on value I provide
- Engage with my audience on social media daily
- Publish highly relevent and helpful resources
- Build a lead generation process that is the best it can possibly be
- Use HubSpot to its fullest to create marketing that feels personal
Craft Outstanding Blog Posts That Are Worth Sharing & Linking To
Not every single bog post I created is outstanding or link worthy. Given that I do client facing work every day and I have a small team, my own marketing had to fit into my schedule somehow. However, I made it a priority create unique, valuable blog posts.
Here are some of my best:
- 10 Common Mistakes That Kill Your Blog & How To Fix Them
- 4 Ways to Use Houzz for Your Marketing [Infographic]
- The Biggest Lie in Inbound Marketing
There are so many different types of blog posts you can write: specific how-to blog posts, creative list posts, short-form articles accompanying infographics, videos or podcasts, blog posts introducing new resources, or long-form explanatory blog posts - just to name a few.
Build Relationships Based On Value
Once I got into the habit of creating value with my blog posts, I started engaging into conversations. I commented on blog posts, I replied to tweets and responded to LinkedIn posts. Without asking for anything in return, I offered my opinion, asked an insightful question, provided feedback.
Since the HubSpot partner ecosystem is friendly and helpful and my engagement was genuine, the responses have been tremendous. Only now after 10-12 months have I started to reach out to ask for something or share a piece of my content. But often times, I get asked.
However, the relationship building of course also extends to my leads. When a lead downloads a resource or engages with me, I make sure I follow-up in a timely and personal manner.
Engage With My Audience On Social Media Daily
Engaging in social media as a marketing agency can be a challenge. Often times, you end up marketing to marketers. Now say that three times fast!
Of course there has to be a part of your social media scheduling where you schedule your social media posts ahead of time or auto-pubilsh your social media posts telling the world you have just published a new blog posts.
But social media management is most successful if it is SOCIAL. Imagine you are at a party and you are only talking about yourself to every person you meet. It will be a very boring party. Not only will you soon have noone to talk to but you will also go home having learned nothing new.
Publish Highly Relevent & Helpful Resources
Because I spend a lot of energy, time and resources on thorough buyer persona research, I know what resources my prospects crave. And my strategic planning allows my to provide offers for every stage of the buyer's cycle: checklists, tool kits, white papers, eBooks, Customer case studies and so on.
In order to make them accessible, I have created a resource page and I place call to actions strategically on my website.
Build The Best Possible Lead Generation Process
Ultimately, all the work I do is to attract and convert the best possible clients. To do this, I have set out to build the best possible lead generation process. From the moment, you click on a call-to-action, you see a landing page or you read a follow-up email, I want my prospects experience to be personal, clear, uncluttered, organized and professional.
I went through three iterations with my web design and landing page layouts to finally arrive at the design you see today.
Use HubSpot To It's Fullest To Create Marketing That Is Personal
When you hear the term marketing automation, you don't necessarily think of one-to-one marketing. But if planned out properly, marketing automation can feel almost like a one on one conversation.
HubSpot not only allows you to personalize your emails, but you can also use all that you know about your visitor or lead to customize their experience.
Measure & Analyse Everything
One of the best things about Inbound Marketing is that it is highly measurable.
And I have to admit, I live in my HubSpot portal: I check it 1275 times a day. I know what is going on at all times with my website traffic, my lead pipeline, social media channels and so much more.
My analytics allow me to have my finger on the pulse. I know how each and every blog post performs, what website pages attract or convert the most traffic and which social media messages performed better than others.