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The Essentials of Inbound Marketing for Startups

Sep 5, 2019
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The Essentials of Inbound Marketing for Startups

As the founder of a startup, there’s one thing you’re sure of – you offer a unique solution to the problem your customer is facing. You’re so sure of it that you have put your heart and money on the line bringing your product to market. Now, you need to get your product in front of as many people as possible. Fortunately, inbound marketing makes it possible to do just that.

The Unique Challenges of Startups

The internet has leveled the playing field for entrepreneurs and billion-dollar companies, giving you access to the same pool of customers. However, startups do face unique challenges. A lack of money, staff, and time typically hinders you in scaling your businesses. And, when those three resources are in short supply, marketing takes a backseat to product development and seeking funding.

On top of the lack of resources, pressures can mount when startups lack the knowledge, organizational processes, and technology to carry out marketing effectively. Oftentimes, money is wasted on expensive ad campaigns that yield little return. And, improper on-page optimization and a lack of analytics leave startups shooting blindly when trying to reach their target market online.

Inbound Marketing for Startups

Despite the challenges, you have unique opportunities to disrupt the market. By listening closely to your customers and developing products that address the failings of legacy solutions, you can grab a piece of the market share for yourself.

Inbound marketing helps entrepreneurs achieve their goals by attracting the right buyers and providing value-added content that informs and educates them on their path to making a purchasing decision.

Below I’ve laid out the Inbound Marketing roadmap that you can use to attract potential buyers, convert them into leads, and close more sales.

Define Your Inbound Marketing Goals

MagePlaza recommends the following steps to set marketing goals based on your business goals. Basically, start with your revenue goals and work backward:

  1.       Identify revenue goals
  2.       Determine the number of sales you need to achieve your revenue goals
  3.       Determine the closing rate and number of opportunities needed
  4.       Identify the required number of sales qualified leads and marketing qualified leads
  5.       Estimate the number of visitors to your website needed to collect those leads
  6.       Determine what channels will drive traffic
  7.       Estimate your time and budget needed across those channels

Once you’ve determined your marketing goals, get to work identifying your audience and the channels where they can be reached.

Identify Your Audience

Understanding who you are trying to reach is key in creating value-added marketing campaigns for your business. Each business and industry is unique and so are the people searching for the products and services from those businesses. Defining your buyer persona will help you target your audience with the right message at the right time.

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are semi-fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. To create content, messaging, products and services to meet the specific needs of your audience, you first have to understand who they are. So often we focus on delivering our products and services without stepping back to ask ourselves, “Is this the best solution for my customer?” Creating personas will not only help you create better messaging but also help you create solutions that your customers will enjoy.

When creating your buyer personas, research is key. The internet is a great place to find marketing research information, but there is no substitute for the insights you can collect from your actual customer base. To get started, ask a few of your customers if they would do an interview or create a simple survey for them to fill out on your website.

Not sure how to create a buyer persona for your business?

Download our Buyer Persona Template.

Building personas also helps you to map out your content to make sure that you have a clear path to conversion. By understanding the specific needs of your audience you can create messaging that encourages your prospects to continue along the buyer’s journey. Use the questions that your target buyers are asking while researching their options and making a decision as the basis for the content you will use on your blog, in your downloadable resources, and in your social media and email marketing campaigns.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a broad term that encompasses the words and images you use on the internet to promote products or services. In today’s digital world, excellent content marketing connects customers with the businesses and services they want to find. Content Marketing feeds search engines, social media channels, online media outlets, and brand blogs. Content is the fuel that powers the internet.

To create focused content that will connect with your buyers at each stage of their buyer’s journey, consider the questions they are asking at each step. This infographic will help you deliver the right content at the right time. It’s important to consider that each buyer’s journey will move at its own pace and some customers will have more pain points than others.

Buyer’s Journey Content Strategy infographic

Inbound marketing is about creating a personal connection with the people who will benefit from your product or service. By developing content that humanizes the sales process you can make a deeper connection with your ideal customer and earn their trust. One way to do this is by producing helpful and informative content for your buyer persona that helps them make buying decisions.

Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm content that you can create that will attract your target buyers.

Content Ideas for Content Marketing


Create Compelling Offers

To generate leads, you first need to have something to offer in exchange for your potential customers’ contact information. The goal of lead generation is to build your email list. People aren’t going to just hand over their contact information for nothing, you need to give them a compelling reason.

Think of something you can give away that will help your customer solve a problem. While many people are afraid to give away their “trade secrets,” they are really only hurting themselves. Our prospects and customers want to know what goes into the products and services we create. The more we educate and share with them, the more they become connected with us and our process. 

Share tips and knowledge in the form of an eBook, checklist, exclusive video, or template. Make it so valuable that they perceive that giving you their contact information is a small price to pay for the value they will receive from the information you’re giving away for free. You will use their contact information to continue the relationship and build their trust.

Learn more about crafting the perfect offer for your persona.

Converting Visitors into Leads

Too often, we assume people will naturally go to the pages we want them to go to. Rather than assuming, make the conversion process simple and straightforward. In order to have our visitors go deeper into our site and convert, we must give them clear directions. This is where a call-to-action (CTA) comes in. A call-to-action is a simple, yet direct way to lead your visitors in the right direction. Below is an example, but there are many other ways to encourage your website visitors to take action. Read this blog on calls-to-action to learn more.

After clicking the CTA, your visitor will be taken to a landing page, which is created for the sole purpose of conversion. Your landing pages need to have an offer that creates value for the visitor (remember the previous section). This establishes your business as a trusted source for information and gives you more leverage as you nurture your lead through the buyer’s journey.

Each landing page will include a form, which is how you are going to collect information from your visitor. When creating a form, it's important that we use best practices to improve our conversion rate. One of the biggest mistakes we see are forms that require too much information. By optimizing your forms, you can increase conversions and begin the relationship with your new contact on the right foot!

Leverage Social Media

Marketing using social media can be very powerful and we need to respect it and the people we are marketing to. Effective social media marketing begins and ends with your audience. What you have to say and sell isn’t for everyone. Being able to narrow your focus, determine your audience and share your story in a clear and effective way is a must for success on social, or any other marketing channel for that matter.

Start by looking at your buyer persona again. Then take it a step further. Write out a “day in the life” of your persona. When do they get up? What social media do they use and what time of day are they most likely engaged on their favorite social channels? What do they do before, during or after work? The more detailed you get, the better you’ll be able to frame your story.

Every social media channel is different. So approaching them from one frame of mind is dangerous. If you post to Facebook like it's Twitter, you’re going to annoy people. If you use LinkedIn like it’s Facebook, you’re going to look unprofessional.

Make sure that you are mixing up your content as well. Don’t sell, be social. Share your content and resources. Be yourself, use your unique voice, and let your personality shine through. Mix in content from other companies and thought leaders in your industry, as well. A rule we follow for social posting is 10-4-1. For every 15 posts we make, 10 are other people’s content, 4 posts are promoting our own content and 1 is a direct offer. We don’t follow this strictly but use it as a guideline to make sure we are adding value.

Email Marketing – Nurturing Your Leads

The goal of lead nurturing is to help buyers make a decision and to close the sale. To do that you need to build a relationship with your buyers and stay in front of them, ready to help when the time is right to purchase.

Understanding the buyer’s journey is essential to the nurturing process. Knowing where our leads are in their decision-making process will help us to determine how we engage with them and what actions we can take to further them along. Email marketing plays a crucial role in connecting with and building a relationship with your leads.

After you have received contact information from your leads, and they have given you permission to contact them with marketing information, nurture them via email. A well-organized drip email campaign will enable you to stay in touch and gently move them through the buyer’s journey.

List segmentation and tracking email engagement help us deliver the right message to the right contacts at the right time. Automation can be extremely useful in this step. We use HubSpot to track and run all of our marketing campaigns so that all of our efforts are under one roof.

Email marketing allows you to stay on your prospects’ radar, to continue to drive them back to your website, and to deliver valuable content that earns their trust. Learn more about building relationships using email marketing here.

Optimize Your Content for Search Engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is more than just ranking; it’s about connecting and converting as well. An optimized website will help ensure that you not only rank for the terms you want but also convert the traffic that lands on your page.

What you write about and how you write about it has a huge impact on your website's rankings. Google is always working to make sure that the best answer is being delivered to the searcher in the fewest clicks possible. This means your content needs to be user-driven and deliver the answers to the questions they are looking for.

The “rules” of SEO have changed a lot over the years, but there are still a few core components that every business owner needs to have in mind when optimizing the pages on their site. So on-page optimization comes down to meeting the requirements of Google's crawlers and matching the expectations of the end-user.

To help Google understand the content on your web pages, be sure each page is optimized with the correct title tags, heading tags, alt tags on images, and meta descriptions which include the keywords you are trying to rank for. The content on your pages should also contain keywords that are semantically related to your core keywords.

Another key component of your SEO strategy is linking. You want your web pages to be linked to each other internally (for example link within a blog article to one of the core solutions pages of your site), and link to external pages that are related to the content on your pages. This helps Google understand the context of your content.

You also want to earn backlinks to your site from other authoritative websites. For more information on link building, please read our article Why is Link Building so Important to Your SEO Strategy.

Measure Your Progress to Learn and Improve

In order for your website and your inbound marketing campaigns to work for you, you need to track your efforts. Knowing what metrics to look for and what they mean is essential to making the right next move in your strategy. HubSpot is a great all-in-one tool that connects everything to your website’s marketing efforts. Other tools that are extremely helpful are Google Analytics, SEMrush, and Hotjar.

Think about tracking and measuring the performance of your inbound marketing campaigns in six areas.

  1. Brand awareness – backlinks, reach on social channels, media coverage, mentions on social media, branded keyword rankings, reviews, referral and direct traffic to your website
  2. Engagement – share, likes, comments, and retweets help determine the most popular and effective pieces, topics, channels, and formats
  3. Lead generation – leads generated, where they are in the funnel, what content they downloaded, number of blog subscribers, and qualified leads
  4. Customer conversion and sales – cost to acquire leads, length of sales cycle, and revenue, where are leads dropping out of the funnel
  5. Customer loyalty and retention - customer lifetime value, comparison of the lifetime value of customers from various sources, repeat purchases, what segment has highest retention rate and lifetime value
  6. Website performance – unique visitors, page views, traffic sources, highest converting traffic source, conversion rate of pages, and search rankings

(Source: HubSpot)

Getting Started with Inbound Marketing

I realize that the above information is a lot to take in and your head may be spinning right now thinking of all the different pieces of the inbound marketing puzzle. But, take it one step at a time. Start with developing your buyer persona, making sure your website content contains the information they need to know to help them make a decision. Optimize your website for search engines. Then, layer in offers, landing pages, and CTAs. Use forms to gather the leads and set up email automation to nurture those leads. 

Be sure your sales department follows up with leads who are engaging with your content. Measure everything so you can make adjustments when necessary. Be consistent and persistent. Over time, you’ll see the fruits of your inbound marketing labors as you see buyers find you online because of the value you are adding through your content.

We wish you tons of success in marketing your startup. If you need help, give us a holler and let’s see how we can work together to achieve your business goals.

Inbound Marketing Campaign Launch Guide

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Rhonda Bavaro

By Rhonda Bavaro

As an Inbound Marketing Strategist for Shelley Media Arts, Rhonda helps our clients grow their audience through content marketing. A self-professed grammar geek and word nerd, Rhonda enjoys writing about social media, productivity, and remote work. Working from her home office in Queens, NY, she is an enthusiastic evangelist for the virtual office lifestyle.

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