We have been writing about content marketing, also known as inbound marketing, for more than 18 months, and our clients are enjoying the greater exposure and qualified leads this marketing approach provides them. Yet we occasionally are invited to meet with prospective client firms that are reluctant in adopting the concept. I thought it might be a good time for those that are undecided about getting started with an inbound approach to have a look at what our firm considers to be the formula for online marketing success. Of course, those already using inbound marketing can use this as a checklist to measure the progress of their process.

roadmap_compassBegin with the end in mind

Make sure you know where your success lies presently, and then establish sound, conservative goals, yet those that require a stretch to achieve.

Perhaps your present online marketing strategy generates 500 to 800 unique visitors a month. From that historical average, let’s assume you generate approximately a 19% lead generation, and an 8% conversion from lead to sales. You have in-house resources of 5 people to generate content, each currently producing 1 blog piece per month, and you wish to double the visitors within a year.

Because every solution is found in the numbers, you can determine what it might take in terms of visitor gains to reach your goals. In this case, you generate approximately 10 sales transactions (500+800/2*.19*.08=9.88) a month from 25 (5*5) blog articles, viewed by an average of 650 visitors. If your goal is to double or triple conversions, the math should drive your goal setting.

You should monitor your results monthly, and tweak your production as necessary to reach your targets.

Create a blog offering best practices

Check your competition and the leaders of the industry or niche in which you operate to gauge the quality of what you will go up against. Industry leaders utilize large marketing firms to handle much of their brand marketing. Modeling from their process can offer insight into how you can respond to the market. Remember above all, it is quality and not necessarily quantity that will yield positive results.

Crafting headlines is an art form along with a bit of science. Newspaper editors are the second highest paid personnel at a major newspaper, and they have total control over the content, its headlines and images. These information psychologists understand how people think, what they tend to react to and what draws the reader’s eye toward an article rather than simply turning a page. When creating content in any of its variety, take time to consider what images should be included, and how the headline should read. This can make or break a blog as well as a newspaper.

By providing informative and engaging content about what it takes to be the best in your field, visitors will gravitate toward your site as your prominence grows. Becoming the expert in your field is the best way to generate If you choose to have your corporate blog stand on its own domain, make sure you have links from various sections of your website to draw readers to your site, and vice versa.

Offer content for a wide range of people

Not everyone checking out your site or blog is ready to purchase. Some people are casually looking for information, performing research on some of the products or services your company offers, or are narrowing their field of prospective “providers” of for what they are shopping. This is known as the stages of the purchaser. Understand the buying process of your target customers and provide relative content for each segment and buyer persona along the buying process. Some people find it easier to download a large piece of information and read offline (perhaps an eBook, Report or White Paper) while others learn best from visual explanation (video, webinar, slide show report). Still others use a variety of learning styles, so you may want to include video presentations and a webinar concurrently, each offering a downloadable piece.

To be most effective, each blog post could be made into a webinar, audio file, press release or eBook. Creating multiple formatted pieces improves the chances of visitor review, and each one listed in the search engines improve your brand image and site ranking.

Remember, the content, regardless of format, must be engaging, relative and appeal to each segment of your ideal, targeted customer base. It must also offer information to make their lives better in some fashion. Don’t worry about injecting some humor into your content; life gets a bit dull sometimes, and not everyone has a PhD. Don’t make it jargon-filled unless that is your target audience.

Create an online resource libraryContent Marketing Adoption and Success

As your bank of content grows, make sure to have an archival resource for your customers, prospects, industry experts and others. Organize it by topic, sub-topic, appeal, prominence and so forth. None of your content should fall by the wayside, fore it you have produced it and someone has viewed it, there may be a need to revert back to it in future. Your content library is also a great place to link current content; doing so will increase the chances of visitors staying on your website longer, thereby increasing your relationship chances. If your site grows to become the “go to source,” your sustainability is almost assured.

Establish a Guest Author program for like-minded professional experts – You might be surprised at people’s hidden talents. Just because you have 5 people dedicated to writing your content, open the task up to everyone on the staff; someone may surprise you. Additionally, hosting a guest author blog not only provides content of varying styles and formats, but increased your overall content piece count. This is especially effective when staffing and/or financial resources are scarce. You not only can meet your content and conversion goals, you also become better known from a brand standpoint.

Spread the word beyond the content piece

If you find that a particular piece of content is truly engaging and produces a large viewing audience, consider creating additional press releases to an audience beyond your industry or niche. Press releases offer great opportunities for advancing awareness of your brand, and can drive significant traffic to your site. Each piece of significant content should also be accompanies by a press release to improve readership.

Submitting articles to local or national news outlets can increase your brand awareness as well as your readership. When speaking publically about your company or its products or services, ensure to include commentary about the specific content piece and offer it as a free download, PDF copy or even an eBook available on Amazon.

Measure your results by segment and content medium – Data is one of the greatest benefits from a formalized content management system. Through the analysis of the data collected by an automated system (we use and recommend Hubspot® primarily for this reason), the tweaking of your content strategy is much easier and scientific than the old SWAG method. By identifying which format of content generates the highest level of participation, you can re-allocate resources to that particular medium from the less productive formats. This not only provides information about your customer preferences, it offers scientific tools with which to better manage your business.

Zen Shell Seperator

I certainly hope this article persuades someone in our blogosphere to take up the mantle of inbound marketing. We believe in it- in 2012 we were in the top 1% of profiles viewed on LinkedIn… out of 200 million! So it’s working! Zen Marketing is here to help you get started, analyze your present content marketing strategy or at least continue the conversation. Feel free to contact us and let’s review all the options.