I talk to a lot of business owners and managers about how marketing has evolved in the past decade and why their efforts aren’t producing the same, or as much, fruit as they used to. This is because of the profound changes we’ve seen in technology in recent years.
As I wrote in my post about frozen yogurt, “When you’re home in your kitchen, you infoorder a TV, sneakers, a bathing suit, power tools, books or movies online – and you typically have a great experience doing it. What happens next is that you take that experience with you to work the next day; it doesn’t stay compartmentalized at home. So when it comes time to look for a new laser printer, or office supplies, or lawyer or accountant, you’re likely to want – or outright expect – the same kind of experience researching and making the business purchase. Our culture has unequivocally shifted to the digital and it’s not going back.”
Inbound Marketing has become the antidote to old, increasingly ineffective ways of marketing. (If you haven’t heard about Inbound Marketing yet, read this post and then come back. I’ll wait for you.)
At Savoir Faire, we have a four-step framework that we like to use with companies who are just making their way into inbound.
Step 1: Assess Your Current Position
Most companies we talk to these days already have some kind of website. It may have been revised two years ago, or it may not have gotten much attention for a decade. Either way, we’re going to take a look at your website and the rest of your digital presence. This includes the existing social media, analytics and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
In this assessment, we’re going to determine what’s in place and what needs attention. The strongest attribute of inbound marketing is its ability to be measured, analyzed and improved. However, if the foundation is weak, the measurements won’t be accurate and you’ll have a hard time making good decisions based on that data.
Step 2: Educate and Prepare for Change
Implementing an inbound marketing strategy can be challenging. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Traditional marketing could be completed from inside the silo of the marketing manager’s or marketing coordinator’s office. However, inbound marketing requires a commitment from the company leadership specifically because it will call for contributions from other departments in the company. We all know that a successful change only comes about if it’s embraced at the top.
Our process includes talking with the company leadership – owner, general manager, VPs – to educate them on how and why marketing has changed. We believe that, when the leadership understands what we’re trying to accomplish, and what these changes will not only entail, but bring about, then they have an easier time embracing and championing the changes.
During this stage we may involve people from different departments in the company through surveys, meetings or discussions to assess how and how much they might contribute to an inbound program. This could mean that someone from engineering or sales or customer service writes blog posts once a month. Or, maybe he or she simply helps to brainstorm content topics and reviews or edits any content developed in their area of expertise. Maybe it means that an administrative person helps with uploading blog posts into the software, or pulling regular measurements down and sharing the reports. There are many aspects to an inbound program and many ways – large and small – for people throughout the company to contribute to its success.
Step 3: Build (or Rebuild) the Machine
Whether you have an old, new, revised, spiffed up or reimagined website, we’re going to take a look at it. There are a handful of things that we’re looking to do to your online presence in order to turn it into the engine that will produce results and impact your bottom line.
First and foremost, your website needs to be structured – both front and back end – the way Google wants to see it. Your first and ultimate goal for a website should be to make it easy to be found online. Google – and to a lesser extent, other search engines – are looking for a complex mix of elements on your website. From how the navigation is laid out and the terminology used on it, to the user experience, to the copy on your site and, yes, even the keywords, there is both a science and an art involved in setting the machine up to generate results.
Another important element of “the machine,” is your content strategy. Your online machine is the venue to serve content to your website visitors and social followers. What kind of content will you develop, publish and promote? What type? On what schedule? How will it be promoted? Google wants to see dynamic content on your site and original content, from blog posts to videos and e-books, can do that job.
When your program is running well, every page is a weapon, used to engage website visitors and convert them to leads that can be nurtured through the purchase process.
One last thing you want to do when you build “the machine,” is plan for growth. Six months or a year from now, you’re going to have a lot more content on that site than you do now. You may have landing pages and blog posts and educational downloads. It’s important to build – or rebuild – knowing that, over time, you’ll have more content to handle. Your site should be able to handle the content additions over time, as well as the traffic growth that the content will lead to.
A well-built machine will facilitate the execution of your program in the short term, and evolve as results demand over the long term.
Step 4: Run the Machine
Once the machine is built, and you have a strategy and schedule developed for content development and social media usage, then it’s time to put all that planning into practice. While the first three steps are typically discrete and have a start and end, this phase is ongoing since any fine-tuned machine needs fuel to keep it running at peak performance.
The “fuel” in this scenario is typically your content: educational downloads; tip sheets; ROI calculators; case studies; white papers; e-books; blog posts; email marketing campaigns; videos. Each piece of content can require a number of related elements, like landing pages and calls to action, that turn a simple piece of content into a conversion opportunity. Then, it needs to be promoted, whether via social media, paid advertising, public relations or another method. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Running the machine also means measuring and analyzing your efforts to identify which are showing results and which aren’t. The benefit of the digital channels is that they are more measurable than many traditional marketing tactics you may be accustomed to. You’ll be able to measure, down to the tweet, landing page, form, email or website page, what worked and what didn’t. This means you’ll soon be making decisions about your marketing efforts based on data, versus on hunches or guesses.
The final piece of running the machine is website maintenance. We recently launched an e-book about website planning, development and maintenance that outlines why maintenance is such an important piece of your marketing strategy.
Use your car as an example: Every 5,000 miles, you bring your car to your dealer or trusted mechanic for regular maintenance. They change the oil and filter, check the tires, inspect the brake pads and top off the fluids. At other times, it needs more in-depth maintenance, like tire rotation or manufacturer-recommended software updates, recalls or repairs. You take care of your car to make sure it works and continues to perform at its best. Your website represents a significant investment and an important tool for your business. It warrants the same type of attention and regular maintenance.
I know that sounds like a lot, but now you have the lay of the land and an idea of how we approach working with businesses who are transitioning into inbound marketing or sharpening their digital marketing strategies.
If you’ve got any questions or comments about how we approach inbound marketing strategies for businesses, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or reach out to me directly at Stephanie (at) savoirfaire-us.com.