It doesn’t matter whether 2016 is your first year of inbound marketing or you’re simply ready to step up last year’s game to improve your results. The first step towards success is perfect planning.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll no doubt be putting together a cohesive content and promotion strategy for at least the first quarter of 2016. We’ve broken this process down into five major steps and produced a comprehensive checklist and toolkit so you don’t miss a thing. Along the way, we have also included videos from HubSpot's Stephen Higgins' keynote at our What's the Future in Digital Marketing event.
1. Set your goals
Your goals form the foundation of your strategy. Everything in your content calendar, including your promotion via social media and advertising campaigns, will be built around achieving these targets.
What are you trying to achieve through your inbound marketing? Most likely more visitors, leads, customers and brand evangelists. Also consider brand awareness, PR, content downloads, blog/email subscriptions and social follower counts. Look to your biggest opportunities for growth and most prominent challenges based on 2015’s performance. These will inform your focus areas for 2016.
To make your goals measurable, set KPIs related to your goals and monitor your success and progress throughout the year. Examples might be number of blog posts per week, content output, social media engagement or the number of ‘ready to call’ leads passed to the sales team (people at the decision phase of the buyer’s journey.)
2. Know your buyer personas inside out
Who are your ideal buyers, what makes them tick and how do they consume content? If you haven’t yet done so, create buyer persona profiles for 3-4 types of buyer, based on your existing customer segments and ideal targets.
The most important thing to know about each buyer persona is their main challenges. Knowing these means understanding the types of questions they are likely to ask, and how you can gear your entire content calendar around them.
HubSpot's Stephen Higgins detailed the importance of buyer personas in any inbound marketing strategy at our What's the Future in Digital Marketing event:
Always plan, write and promote with your buyer personas in mind; pick up the habit of knowing who you are addressing and why.
If it helps, write out the answers to the following 5 questions every time you brainstorm a new idea or begin producing a fresh piece of content.
- Which buyer persona is this for?
- What will they learn/what problem does this solve?
- Why does my buyer persona care?
- Where are they going to find this content?
- What search terms are they likely to use?
3. Produce a content calendar
It’s time to develop ideas for content and plan your schedule for Q1. It’s always a good idea to start planning out the roadmap for each quarter at least a couple of weeks in advance.
Based on the solutions and information coveted by your buyer personas, brainstorm and collect ideas for content pieces. Blog posts, ebooks, templates, calculators and case studies are common formats. Choose those that best fit your business and your buyers’ needs.
Make sure you cover all of your buyer personas at each stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision. During his keynote, Stephen also delved into why marketers should let these buyer's journey stages inform their content strategy and calendar:
Remember the areas of improvement you identified when setting your goals (website visits, conversions, sales, etc.) and place particular emphasis on these when planning your content marketing activity.
Organise your content ideas into a three-month plan. For each week in your calendar, decide which blog posts will be published. Research the best keywords to target for SEO purposes, and add associated gated content offers and calls to action for each blog post.
Plan your promotion strategy; how are you going to spread the word? Details of social media, email marketing, PPC and remarketing activity should all be included within your content calendar.
While building your content calendar, bear in mind some content cannot be planned. In order to be current and relevant, sometimes your output needs to be reactionary. Stay in the know about trends, content and Twitter influencers for relevant topics or verticals, such as aerospace engineering, education or cloud computing. Perform Google News searches, use Followerwonk or try out EpicBeat’s invaluable Epictions tool for free insights about what’s being said in your field and who is saying it.
4. Create seamless workflows
Goals? Check. Buyer personas? Check. Content calendar? Check.
What about the workflows that actually move your customers through the buyer journey? Great content usually can't accomplish this alone.
Decide which automated emails get sent out to which segments of buyers (depending on their stage within the buyer journey or buyer persona) and when (on the day they download a piece of content and two days later, for example).
When you see what works well and what could work better over the course of the year, you can alter your workflows accordingly, optimising based on conversions or the number of leads passed to your sales team, for example.
Plan out the design and content of your landing pages and thank you pages for all of your gated content, and decide on the details you’ll collect via your website forms. You can base your choices on whether the content piece is aimed at the awareness, consideration or decision phase of the buyer’s journey.
Automating your marketing with workflows means you can stay in touch with those leads who are not ready to buy from you yet, send more relevant, engaging emails that are tailored to the recipients and send higher quality leads to your sales team. Workflows are all about nurturing your leads, and saving time and effort while doing so.
5. Make it happen
That’s all there is to planning your strategy for next year. All that’s needed is to put your plan into action.
Keep your marketing team in the know about 2016, define everyone’s roles and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Make sure you know the tools you’ll be using to research, plan, publish your content, as well as track and optimise your performance against your pre-defined KPIs.
Use our new planning toolkit to get started with your inbound marketing strategy for 2016.