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Luke Summerfield

Beyond Links: A Total Inbound Marketing Strategy

Luke Summerfield

For years digital marketing was easy: Build a ton of links, send out targeted emails and get involved in some industry forums. The problem is that over the last few years what we as marketers think of as digital marketing has started to rapidly change. And we are just at the tip of the iceberg.

In this blog we will take a look at how digital marketing has changed, and how you need to adapt your marketing strategy to ensure success.

For years, the bread and butter for all internet marketers was link building and SEO. The more links you could get coming into your website, the higher it would rank in search results and the more visitors you’d get to your website. It was easy being a marketer in those days.

With all the updates to the way Google indexes pages and with the shifts in the customer buying process, these days the game is much more complicated. Many of the tactics used by SEOs such as gaining thousands of links from comments, forums, article submission sites, link networks, etc. are not only not helping anymore, in some cases they are actually hurting SEO rank.

We must also recognize as marketers that all SEO and link building allows us to do is to be found on search results. So we can use SEO to build traffic; however, what happens once people have landed on your website? How are you converting them and nurturing them down the funnel? If you’re putting all your eggs in the SEO basket, there’s a good chance you’re leaving a lot of marketing and conversion opportunity out on the table.

Let’s Expand Our Thinking…

With all this being said, SEO is not dying. Link building is not going away anytime soon. It’s still the #1 factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. What’s happening is that in order to do marketing that works and produces the best results, you have to expand your efforts and have complete and strategic marketing systems. This is where Inbound Marketing comes in.

What is Inbound Marketing?

There is a huge misconception between marketers on what Inbound Marketing really is. For most, they believe that Inbound Marketing is a mix of blogging, ebooks, SEO and some social media.

While these are definitely important elements to Inbound Marketing, simply employing these tactics is falling short on what a complete Inbound Marketing strategy is.

what-is-inboundmarketing

As you can see, Inbound Marketing is broken into three different pieces: Tactics, Strategy and Culture. It’s only until you have all three of these working in sync that you will maximize what you can achieve and skyrocket your results.

  • Strategy. One of the most overlooked parts of Inbound Marketing is the underlying strategy and philosophy that drives everything you do. This is the foundation to all of the tactics (blogging, social, etc.) that make Inbound Marketing successful. A company could be implementing many of the tactics, but without a solid strategy driving them all in a clear direction, you experience limited or no results.

An Inbound Marketing strategy starts with developing your buyer personas. A persona is a fictional profile of your ideal customer that is created and grouped based on common characteristics, needs or goals.

Once you have buyer personas created, everything you do from there will revolve around those buyer personas and be tailored toward them. This includes all the other pieces of your Inbound Marketing strategy including content mapping and topics, social media strategy, lead nurturing, etc.

  • Tactics. Here is where the rubber hits the road and you start making things happen. All of the strategy that was planned out can start being implemented in various tactics. I’m sure you’re familiar with many of the tactics used in Inbound Marketing such as SEO, social media, landing pages, call-to-actions, email marketing, etc.

The heart of the Inbound Marketing engine is blogging and content. Blogging is an awesome catalyst to help boost your website traffic, attract relevant leads and establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Blogging also has the flywheel effect of building your SEO reach over time. The more blogs you write, the more searchable content is out there for your personas to find on Google.

It’s important to keep in mind that all of these tactics feed off each other and are built on top of the strategy “foundation” you built. When you write a blog, you must keep SEO and keywords in mind. You can promote it on your social channels and within your email marketing. The goal is to connect all your activities so they can help feed and grow from each other.

  • Culture. The third piece of this is the culture of your organization. Now you may be saying, “Luke, since when is culture a part of marketing?” The reality is that the businesses who incorporate culture into their marketing and sales are the ones who will make true, long-lasting connections with prospects, leads and customers.

We are not going to talk in-depth about this topic in this post; however, if you’re interested in learning more about how culture affects marketing, please read my blog: "Creating an Inbound Culture at Your Business"

How to Get Started in Inbound Marketing

By now you’re probably wondering how to get started with Inbound Marketing. For the rest of the blog we’re going to focus on the strategy piece of this equation since I find this to be less complete in most businesses. There are three main areas we like to focus on when first starting a client on an Inbound Marketing plan:

  • Develop Personas

Like we talked about, the first step in developing out your Inbound Marketing strategy is to create your buyer personas. These will be built:

persona-example

For more information on personas, read my blog, Personas Will Rock Your Inbound Marketing & Sales.”

  • Evaluate Your Funnels [for each persona]

After you have developed your personas, you then need to take a step back and examine the buying process for each persona and evaluate each.

Look at each stage and put yourself in your persona’s shoes. What were they thinking? What questions do they have? What specifically are they looking for from you? This will all be very helpful when moving to your next step and looking at content mapping.

The graphic below breaks down the buying stages and the various mindsets and content offers you should be thinking about when examining your personas.

inbound-marketing-buying-cycle-savvypanda

  • Content Mapping

The third step in developing your Inbound Marketing strategy is to start thinking about the different types of content that would fit each persona at each stage.

For each persona, in each stage, you will want to have a premium piece of content (ebook, webinar, etc) developed to help convert, educate and move that lead down the funnel towards the sale.

To help with this, we’ve created a basic template that you can use to start mapping out your content for your personas. You can download the template here.

These are just three of many steps you will need to go through to get your Inbound Marketing strategy developed. Once your strategy is complete, you can then dive into the implementation of the tactics side of the equation. Keep in mind, everything we talked about today is just the starting point of understanding why you and your organization must start thinking beyond simply link building.

Making the shift to an Inbound Marketing strategy is an intensive journey; however, it’s an essential shift you must make, and in the long run it will greatly impact your business and skyrocket you toward success in the future.

If you have questions, please ask in the comments below. I love connecting and helping, so questions and feedback are very welcome.

Author bio:

Luke Summerfield is the Director of Inbound Marketing at Savvy Panda where he helps lead web and marketing success stories for medium to Fortune 100 companies. Additionally, Luke is also the head instructor of Master Inbound, a comprehensive online Inbound Marketing training course. You can find Luke on Google Plus.

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