So, where do we even begin? Inbound marketing can seem overwhelming if you are insanely busy running your business or are new to the marketing game. But you can do it with planning and an investment of your time. If you missed our previous articles “ Marketing Your Business in the Digital Age; What it is and Why it Matters” and “How Does Inbound Marketing Work?,” be sure to read those before starting on your plan.

Building an Inbound Marketing Plan—Let’s get started!

First of all, decide on your primary marketing goal. Once that is in place, you’ll develop a plan of action, consistently apply those actions, and then evaluate the outcomes. Here is a sample inbound marketing plan to get you started:

Step #1: Select your primary goals

  • What do you need your inbound marketing to accomplish? To attract the right visitors to your company website (where most of your inbound marketing will play out), you need to select a purpose for the effort.
  • You’ll want to be sure your marketing goal is a SMART goal. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
  • Most of the time, a company’s marketing efforts center around increasing sales or improving the quality of your product. What is your inbound marketing goal?
  • Download our Goal Planning Worksheet for Businesses.
Buyer persona development

Step #2: Develop your customers’ personas

A persona is a composite of your existing (or ideal) customer’s characteristics. They will be the foundation for all of the content you will develop for your inbound marketing. By understanding your ideal customer’s characteristics and needs, you become the right solution—the best match for them.

  • Create personas for your target audience. You may have more than one target, and as they have different needs, this will require different messaging. Detailing each one will let you create a personalized marketing approach. Creating a persona for each target is a common practice.
  • If you are just getting started with inbound marketing, try to keep this step to no more than two or three personas as your primary targets. You can add others later.
  • The personas you develop can and should be highly customized. If your company is geared towards children, you will ask very different questions to flesh out your personas than if a company targeting senior citizens. You need to understand what your personas’ needs are, the problems they must solve, and goals they have in mind. Basically, you need to have a clear understanding of why a customer would want to hire you or buy your product and speak to them.
  • Download our Persona Development Worksheet to get started. Or, check out this list of a variety of persona templates from the complex to the simple.

Step #3: Document your customer’s journey

Marketers call the process that someone goes through before deciding to purchase a product or service “the buyer’s journey.” There are four stages in their journey:

  1. Awareness stage: they realize they have a problem.
  2. Consideration stage: they mentally define the problem and research options to solve it. (This should come as no surprise, but company websites and a Google search are the go-to options for this research.)
  3. Decision stage: they choose a solution.
  4. Delighted stage: they are your customer and are delighted with their decision.
Customer journey stages

It is during the buyer’s journey that you will discover possible triggers that will push them from the awareness stage to the decision stage.

A simple example might be a need for a service (accounting, construction contracting, etc) Before this, they were curious about what was available, but now they are ready to proceed and start their project, say a custom home. Your content should include the type of information that will be that call to action to move them toward a desirable conclusion. For a more detailed explanation, use the Customer’s Journey Worksheet.

search engine optimization - search bar

Step #4: Select keyword phrases for search engine optimization (SEO)

Now that you created target personas, you better understand their problems and concerns. So, what content can you create that will address their concerns or that your solutions will alleviate? What types of information are they looking for that you can deliver? You’ll need a list of possible topics that your company is uniquely positioned to answer. For example, if you are a small or mid-size company competing against large businesses, create answers to questions on your website and as content in a video, eBook, or a checklist called “Big Benefits of Working with a Small Business.” Or, if you are targeting customers with specific interests, consider content that engages your ideal client, like “Why Choosing the Right Contractor Will Provide Peace of Mind During Building and the Years to Come”

Consider what clients would put into an online search to get the answers they need or to solve their problems. Those are the keyword phrases you will use on your website so they will find your business. You will use the targeted keywords on your website, social media posts, emails, landing pages, and content downloads. Start with a list of about 100 relevant keywords. Those keywords will NOT be the name of your company. Use keywords and phrases related to the interests you have identified in their personas. Your content should provide information about those interests and topics. If you aren’t sure, ask your existing clients what information they used, or could have used, when they were deciding on the right service or product.

For example, you will use identified keywords in longer phrases (called long-tail keywords) for which your ideal personas might search:

“Start building a dream home.”

“Benefits of an energy-efficient home”

“Smart tech in the home”

Step #5: Create persona- and journey-specific content

Now, begin to create informative content that provides answers to problems your ideal customers need. Help them become knowledgeable. Remember, your content shouldn’t be about you, but about the customer’s needs. You want to position your business as the experts to do that, but not by a hard sales pitch. Use stories, examples, and valuable tips to help them see your business as a possible match, or provide them with information that lets them form that opinion through your content.

You are providing this helpful information in exchange for their contact information. You are using the keyword strategy we discussed above to uncover and create interesting and useful content ideas. You’ll use these keywords in blog titles, meta-tags, collateral, and content downloads. As part of your inbound marketing plan, you’ll calendar a regular schedule to create additional content.

So now that you have a plan in hand, what do you do from here? Watch for our next article, “Implementing Your Business Inbound Marketing Plan,” and we’ll show you how to get things moving.