A lot of things need to be in place for a digital marketing strategy to perform effectively. A clear understanding of your goals, audience, and tools at your disposal. A solid platform on which to launch your campaign. Lots and lots of good content.
There are plenty of articles out there that will outline exactly what you need and how to get it, but there are also certain issues that can pop up. Common problems that, if ignored, can sink a digital campaign before it even starts.
Here are three such issues and how you can tackle them up front, before you start investing in your digital marketing efforts.
If Your Website Gets Hit By a Google Penalty
Google rankings are the currency of digital marketing. If you want to drive more traffic to your website and generate more leads online, you need to rank in Google for certain keywords.
In some cases, however, it can be difficult to rank in Google because of what the search engine sees as unforgivable problems with your website. When this happens, your site can be penalized – tagged as “low quality” and held back in the rankings.
The most common penalties are for low quality or “thin” content (meaning not enough text on the page or duplicate content on your pages), and bad backlinks. If you are getting links from low quality websites, or if you hired an SEO firm in the past that didn’t do good work, this can be a problem.
An Unclear or too General Message
Online you can reach anyone, but that doesn’t mean you should try to reach everyone. A good marketing message is targeted and focused on the specific audience that you know you want to do business with.
While your messaging can be broad and general enough target a wide swath of prospects, there should be specific pages on the site that speak to each of your target personas. eBooks and white papers should be written strictly for personas, and possibly only a single problem or question those personas might have. The more specific you get, the better your campaign will be.
Too Much Content, Not Enough Promotion
The last problem sounds like a good one to have, but it can hurt your campaign as much as any of the others. I’ve run across many sites that were loaded with content. eBooks, white papers, case studies, blog posts – more content than the companies knew what to do with.
And that was the problem. They had content but no idea what to do with it, and as a result, they weren’t seeing more leads. Worse, they had invested in the content and were discouraged that this kind of marketing just didn’t work.
For every hour spent writing or developing content, there should be at least one hour spent promoting that piece. It’s all about quality over quantity – ensure you have a solid piece of content you can promote broadly and then build a promotional campaign that will generate as many leads as possible from that content piece.
Is Your Website Marketing Ready?
If you’re ready to invest in digital marketing or are getting ready to explore the possibility, the first step should be to determine if your site is ready for a full scale marketing campaign. Download our eBook below and learn what it will take to get marketing ready and how you can make small changes to put yourself in a position to succeed.
How many times have you received a promotional email from a company trying to sell you something?
How often do you actually care?
More often than not, these promotional emails sink or swim based on pure luck. Is the prospect in the frame of mind to discuss what’s being sold? If not, then the email gets deleted, or worse, flagged a spam.
But what if I told you that your own promotional emails (and everything else you publish) can be more effective at capturing attention – not only from cold prospects via email, but from a broader audience of prospects?
The truth is that outbound communications don’t have to fail. They fail because they often go out in a vacuum, ignoring the real needs of the people receiving them.
They are generic. Boring. Often highly aggressive.
And frankly, 99% of people just don’t care.
What they do care about are the problems that keep them up at night – the potential catastrophes faced in their business every single day and the ongoing issues that they just can’t figure out.
The kind of stuff that you are an expert at solving.
That’s where inbound marketing comes in.
The Role of Inbound Marketing in Your Company
Inbound marketing is a buzz word – so much so that most companies wave it away without thinking. It’s just another bit of jargon thrown about by agencies and consultants trying to land new business.
Marketing is marketing…right?
To some degree, you’re right. Inbound marketing is overused as much as “SEO” and “Brand Strategy” – it’s about capturing attention more than driving results.
But the idea behind inbound marketing isn’t buzzy. It’s highly effective – so much so that it frequently outpaces traditional marketing and sales tactics by as much as 60% when it comes to straight ROI.
A well-executed inbound campaign can drive traffic, increase lead conversion rates, and generate more sales for your business. The trick is that first part – making sure it’s well executed.
So, why is inbound so effective?
There are three reasons:
- It addresses the core concerns of your prospects instead of the USP of your product or service.
- It builds a relationship with people both during and ahead of the sales cycle.
- It provides real value to people without the expectation of sale. You’re being a good digital citizen and your reputation benefits accordingly.
Unless you have a six-figure advertising budget, it’s to the point that you can’t really promote a business online without some elements of inbound marketing in place. And that’s a good thing, because it means better relationships with the people you want to do business with.
How to Build a Successful Inbound Marketing Campaign
Inbound works, but it’s not automatic. There’s a reason not everyone reports success with their campaigns – they aren’t always setup to be successful.
What’s missing from those failed campaigns?
- A clear understanding of the target audience and their needs
- Clearly defined language to communicate an understanding of those needs
- A well optimized website to capture attention and information from prospects
- Educational content in the form of both readily accessible and downloadable materials
- A well-defined followup procedure for nurturing new prospects
Without these five things, inbound marketing will fail. Period.
To ensure they work for your business, here are some of the specific things you should know and have built before you start heavily investing in new traffic to your website:
- Who are the top 3 personas you are targeting. More specifically, where do they live, what role do they hold in a company, what factors influence their decisions? How much information do they already have and what will they need from you? What are their most common questions?
- What are the specific words people use to describe their problems? Are there industry terms you should be sure to recognize? Common complaints you hear in the sales process? Spend time on industry blogs and forums to see how your target audience discusses these problems. Do some very real research here.
- Is your website setup for success? This means a mobile responsive design that works well on tablets and phones, high quality images, clearly laid out content that answers key questions, and downloadable offers and blog posts to educate visitors.
- Do you have eBooks, white papers, checklists, or webinars on your website that require a form to access? Provide high value content at the top of the marketing funnel to capture between 100-150% more of your traffic as leads.
- What do you do after someone fills out a form or calls you? Do they receive followup emails? If not, do you have a followup call procedure?
It’s common not to know the answers to a lot of these questions, even if you’ve been working in your industry for years. It’s also very easy to assume you know the answers only to find that things have changed over time to the point that your prospects are having completely different conversations than you might expect.
The bottom line is that, by doing the research and preparing the necessary foundational pieces in advance, you can target your audience more accurately and build an inbound marketing campaign that succeeds.
Ready to take the next step but not sure where to start? Download our eBook, 17 Things to Check Before Your Website is Marketing Ready and learn what might be missing from your website and marketing collateral to support an inbound campaign.
The most critical pages on your business website are the ones that tell visitors what your company can offer.
When creating the content for these pages, many people get intimidated and often resort to drab writing that turns readers off.
If done correctly, these pages allow you to connect with visitors, ultimately converting readers into customers.
Let’s see how to do it right.
Be Clear First, Creative Second
Some people choose to create a single page for products and services, while others opt for separate pages. In any case, it’s vital to balance clarity and creativity throughout.
Having a strong brand voice is important. You can let it shine through in the names of your products and services.
However, your first priority is to give visitors a crystal-clear message of what you offer.
This starts with the page titles.
Picking strategic titles like ‘What We Offer’ is more focused than a wide term like ‘Marketing Services’.
While showing your brand personality is a good idea, using commonly-used terms allows people to quickly understand your content.
Some keyword research will help you find commonly-searched words to use in your page titles. This will help your readers find you and also give you a little SEO boost!
Find a happy medium between common and creative, depending on your brand and audience.
Open With Your Elevator Pitch
When someone visits your services page, they’ll start reading the list and category headings to see if anything interests them. If they find something, they’ll stick around to dig deeper.
To hook them straight away, use this:
At the top of your products and services page, write a short and sweet summary of what you offer prospective clients. Focus on their pain points and explain how your company can solve them.
This is your opportunity to stand out from the pack and let the customer know why you are the answer to their problems.
Show Them You Can Be Trusted
Product pages are about landing the sale, while service pages are about getting the lead.
Here’s what they have in common:
Both pages need you to build trust between your company and prospective customers.
To do this, you should include three things after your ‘Elevator Pitch’.
- Explain who your ideal client is. This will allow readers a chance to identify with some of the traits to find a connection with your brand.
2) Use testimonials from past clients and satisfied customers.
But here’s the thing about testimonials.
No matter how real the story is, some risk coming off as fabricated or downright fake. Ensure your examples use full names and likeable people. This will boost credibility and make it easier for people to relate.
- Be transparent with pricing.
If people can’t find prices for your products or services, they most likely won’t contact you to find out. They’ll simply leave your site and search for a competitor.
Simple & Solid Structure
The last thing you want to do is scare readers off with a confusing array of options. Make it easy for prospective buyers to find their way around with a clear and simple design.
The descriptions of your products or services are a major factor in your sales volume. But keep them concise.
All you need is:
- The most important benefits;
- The features that enable these benefits;
- Frequently asked questions about it;
- Any unique characteristics the reader may not know about.
Include a Strong Call-to-Action
Your products and services pages present a natural conversion opportunity.
After reading your irresistible elevator pitch followed by your testimonials and pricing transparency, the prospective customer will know two things:
- You have the answer to their troubles.
- You will deliver top quality at a price they can afford.
This is the perfect chance for you to persuade visitors to take the next step.
Include a clickable button such as ‘Get a Quote’ or ‘Contact Us Now’ at the bottom of the page.
The Thing People Really Care About It
If you want to make sales from your website, you should treat it as an interactive salesperson. However, all efforts must be customer-centric.
But here’s what many people don’t realize:
Customers don’t want to read a list of features. What they care about most is finding answers to their problems.
Focus on the benefits to people and how the products and services you offer will benefit their lives.
Your biggest benefits need to be all over your website, on every single page! Whether it’s free express shipping or hands-on customer service, make sure it’s obvious.
Anything that sets you apart from the competition should be made loud and clear.
By stating your unique sales proposition, you can grab the readers’ interest, which will leave them in no doubt that you are the right choice.
This isn’t your first rodeo. You know your business and you know your customers, so why is that every article about digital or inbound marketing starts with what seems like a no brainer?
Define your ideal customer persona
You’ve been told to build these persona profiles time and again, but for most small business owners, it feels redundant. But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, writing a short description of your ideal customer doesn’t do much, unless you are training new sales and marketing professionals, but what about an in-depth persona profile that really gets to the heart of what the people you want on your website actually need?
That’s why this is so important. Let’s take a closer look at what a persona is, and more importantly, how to write content that targets them effectively.
The Definition of an Inbound Marketing Persona
An inbound marketing persona is an avatar of sorts. It’s a high level “bucket” that captures everything that matters about the ideal customer you want to engage with.
More importantly, it puts a name and a face to that avatar, building out a fictional character who can interact with your brand.
Why is this so important?
Because it vastly improves the quality of the content you produce. Think about how differently you talk on a conference call with eight other people vs a quick call to a good friend or a family member. You open up, you relax, you know your audience and you stop being so careful.
The biggest problem with poor performing marketing campaigns is that they play it safe. They use a scattershot approach that never commits. It’s written for everyone, and as such it’s written for no one.
The solution is to write for one person – the ideal persona you’ve defined who should be being your content.
This doesn’t need to be a brain burning exercise, either. A good inbound marketing persona is short – no more than a page and a half – and touches only shortly on background and demographics. The heart of what you need to know is how this person asks questions and how they get answers to those questions.
Here’s a summary of what a good persona profile looks like:
- Background – Who is this person. Where do they live, how old are they, do they have children, what are their life goals and major job duties.
- Primary Concerns – What are the biggest problems and concerns that keep this prospect up at night? Your sales team is a gold mine for these types of problems and questions.
- Content Desired – What kind of content are they most likely to want? Again, your sales team can help here, but so too can your competitors who are likely already creating some of it.
- Decision Making Influence – Can this persona make a buying decision? If not, what influence do they have?
- Where Does This Person Gather News? – What websites, magazines, social media sites, and forums does this person visit to gather information and answer their questions?
- When Do They Consider What You Offer? – When does what you offer cross their mind? It’s not a problem if it doesn’t at all, but it’s important to know that now, so you can create content that educates them.
- What Industry Knowledge Do They Have? – Will jargon work or do you need to take a few steps back to explain what you provide and why?
- What Are the Most Common Objections? – From a sales perspective, what kind of push back do they most commonly give?
It seems like a lot, but you likely already know 75% of this. It just hasn’t been written down before. And more likely than not, you’ve mixed and matched what you know about the different personas your company has.
Yes, I said personas.
The average small business has at least two inbound marketing personas and as many as five. The decision makers you target, verticals you work within, industries you sell to, and people you engage with on a regular basis likely cross a spectrum of different life stages and positions.
Your marketing should do the same.
Creating Content that Targets People Based on Inbound Marketing Persona
Once you know the answers to the eight questions above, the rest gets a lot easier. Instead of wondering what types of blog posts or emails could possibly be interesting to these people, you now have lists of:
- Their most pressing problems and questions
- The places they go to find answers to these issues
- The types of content they look for to answer them
- The objections they make to your sales team
That’s a whole lot of information, and without doing any additional research, you should have a half dozen or more content ideas. But we can go deeper. Here are three steps that get to the heart of what these people want:
- Let’s see what other people are publishing
Step one is to do a bit of light research. There are some very powerful free tools out there that will help us understand:
- Which keywords people are searching for – AHREFs, SEMRush and Moz.com all offer keyword search tools, or you can go to Google AdWords Keyword Planner for their ad data. Watch our short video about how to get this data.
- What competitors are writing about – These same tools can give you an idea of what your competitors are writing about and which topics are working best. Watch the video here.
- What competitors are advertising for – Similarly, you can pull a list of what keywords your competitors are paying money to show up for in Google. Watch the video here.
- The most shared content on these topics – Finally, what are people sharing and engaging with in social media. BuzzSumo is a great tool for this.
With this information, we now know the top 10-15 topics related to your persona’s problem. If you wrote responses to all of these topics, you’d be set right there, but more likely than not, you’ll have new ideas to go with them.
- Build at least three content pillars
If you use Hubspot, open the Content Strategy tool. If not, you can do this in a mindmap or on a piece of paper. We’re going to build Content Pillars that help to structure the campaign.
What is a content pillar? It’s a central focal point around which we can write four or more pieces of content that relate to the key concerns of our persona.
For example, if you are a startup offering real estate search services to millennials on their smart phones, you know that they have questions around things like how to get a mortgage, how to evaluate neighborhoods, what type of real estate agent to work with, and similar questions about buying and moving into a home. If your persona is a 31-year-old millennial professional who has been married for two years and is ready to move to the suburbs and start a family, your first content pillar could be:
This content cluster will deal exclusively with choosing the right neighborhood based on a number of important questions that our inbound marketing persona may not have thought of yet. Related topics could include:
- Amenities to look for when moving to the suburbs
- Common questions about the suburbs for city-dwellers
- How to evaluate schools before buying a home
- Does it cost more to live near mass transit?
- Suburb moving guide for New York City/Los Angeles/Chicago/Houston, etc.
These topics all relate to our core content cluster and provide value to the reader who may not have lived in a suburb since high school (or never if they grew in the city).
- Build content around singular actions
Good inbound marketing content is actionable and designed to help your visitors. It should certainly lead them to your products and services, showcasing items that you want them to engage with – whether an app download, a software demo, or a contact form – but that is not the primary goal.
To ensure your content meets these minimum requirements and speaks to the needs of your audience, write content that solves at least one problem and drives them to take a singular action. Want to do more? Great. But don’t write short, high level information they could find on a dozen other websites and then link to your consultation form. It won’t work.
Engaging with Inbound Marketing Prospects to Drive Sales
Content is all fine and good, but the goal here is to make sales, right?
It’s a fine line we walk when building a content strategy. It needs to be actionable, interesting, and educational, but no matter how much people like that content, if it doesn’t drive action, it’s hard to justify the time or money spent.
That’s why inbound marketing persona identification and optimization is so important. Your personas will allow you to speak directly to the core needs of your target audience, address their key problems and concerns, and provide a viable solution they will be more eager to engage with. Generic, high level sales speak may feel like a better use of these resources, but it’s instantly forgettable. Be an authority who is legitimately in it to help and you’ll drive much better results for your prospects.