This is the first post of our new Marketing Boot Camp Series. In this new blog series, we are focusing on providing accessible, easy-to-understand knowledge on a variety of aspects of marketing–primarily digital and inbound marketing.
Our focus is to provide practical, actionable insights for your business. This means that you’re not going to hear about million-dollar social media campaigns, or how best to advertise on primetime network television. This boot camp is going to be filled with valuable information that you can start implementing right away for your own organization.
Inbound Marketing Recap
As we discussed in a previous post, Inbound Marketing has arrived. To reiterate, many consumers are simultaneously distracted by phones, tablets, TV, social media, and more, and bombarded with more marketing messages than ever before. One of the biggest challenges in marketing and advertising over the past few years has simply been getting your target market to pay attention. You can spend all the money you want on advertising during American Idol, but that does not necessarily mean that your messages are going to effectively make it to your intended audience.
Let’s ground this concept in a bit of reality: imagine you are the CMO of a small event planning firm in Boston. You do some advertising in subway stations, on city buses, on some billboards, and you occasionally spend a bit of money on some local radio advertisements. You’re hoping that someone is standing in the subway waiting for their train, thinking about the corporate Christmas party they need to plan, and happen to see your advertisement in a big “aha” moment. Right place, right time. The stars align and a new client walks in your door. Now, this has worked in the past, and it still does to some extent. However, it leaves a certain degree of your success to chance. What if your advertisements are in the Park Street station but this prospective client happens to be at Government Center?
The good news is that there is another way, and it’s called Inbound Marketing. It’s about eliminating the problem of the distracted customer, it’s about eliminating the problem of advertising overload, and it’s about an alternative approach to “right place, right time” marketing strategies. At its core, inbound marketing is about providing value and resources to prospective customers, so that when they actively search “event planning agencies in Boston”, they find you.
“Inbound Marketing Sounds Great, but How Do I Start?”
That question is what we are here to answer. The shortest answer is: create quality content. Content is the foundation of your inbound marketing strategy. Everything else (SEO, keyword targeting, CTAs, landing pages, social PR, lead generation, lead nurturing, successful e-mail marketing, social media, and more) starts fundamentally with content.
For most smaller businesses, content is going to be predominantly blogging. We can get into deeper topics such as offers, e-books, and infographics later, but for now we’re going to focus on your day-to-day blogging strategy. We’re going to keep this first post at an introductory level so you can take away simple, valuable action items. As we move forward, we’ll cover these topics more in-depth and add some additional topics for you to learn and implement.
So, let’s get down to basics. We’re going to write about blogs in a three-phase process, and it’s a process you can consistently follow as you continue to build up your content. These are the fundamentals, and like any good set of fundamentals, they’ll serve you as well on day 1,000 as they did on day 1. Today, we’re speaking about phase one. Look for our other posts on phase two and three to come out shortly.
Phase One (Preparation)
Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
He is only one of a long line of great thinkers who have spoken about the value of preparation before taking on a large task. Just like Abraham Lincoln, you too should take the required time to prepare for your blogging undertaking. So, phase one is all about preparation.
Remember that inbound marketing is about being found at the moment when your prospective customers are searching on Google or other search engines for services or products your company provides. The way you get found is by working these search terms (referred to as keywords) into your content. The more content you have related to these keywords, the more likely you are to rank highly on Google. With this in mind, you need to ask yourself: what are the search terms my prospects are likely to use? Further, are you trying to expand your business into other products and services?
Again, let’s use the example of the local event planning agency. This event planning agency has well-established services for corporate events such as parties and retreats. Even before undertaking an inbound marketing campaign, they were ranked on the second page of Google results for search terms such as “event planning for company parties in Boston”. Seeing this, they decide to start creating a lot of content related to these keywords in an effort to achieve a page one ranking for core search terms, and begin building toward solid rankings for related search terms. Their new blog posts include:
- Five Reasons to Have an End-of-Year Company Party
- Open bar, or no open bar? That is the question.
- The Art of the Schmooze: Working the Room at Your Next Company Party
It’s clear that they are specifically targeting people looking for information related to planning company parties. Because of their strong initial keyword strategy, they were able to think of great content ideas that were fun, enticing, and informative. More importantly, they were able to strengthen the presence of corporate event related keywords. This increases the probability that they will get ranked highly for terms like these once Google combs this new content using their search algorithm. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that they will get found by a greater volume, and wider range, of prospective corporate events clients.
Now, imagine that this same company wants to start getting more into the wedding side of event planning. Unfortunately, they haven’t done much wedding event planning in the past, and are starting off at ground zero in the rankings. That’s okay. Content can help them overcome that gap. They decide to target new keywords related to “wedding planning” and “wedding decorations”, writing posts such as:
- The Top Three Wedding Color Schemes This Year
- Chicken, Steak, or Both? Finally, an Answer to that Age-old Question
- Need Inspiration? Here Are 20+ Wedding Albums
As a result of this new content, people actually start seeing them in the search rankings when they search for wedding planning services. Not only does this event agency increase the likelihood that they get found, but they also show the prospective customer that they know what they’re doing. After all, who are you going to trust more: The company who simply says on their home page how good they are, or the company with a wealth of blog posts demonstrating their expertise in wedding planning? Likely the latter.
These great posts arose from great keyword strategy/selection. Your keywords should drive your content topics. What keywords should you be using for your company? Here are some tips:
- List the products/services your customers already associate you with
- List the attributes that differentiate your products/services
- Talk to your customers and see what type of words they would use to find you.
- Use tools such as Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner to quantitatively test your initial keyword ideas and get related keyword suggestions that might work better.
Take a few minutes now to think about what keywords you could be using for your business. Did you come up with some? Great, now let’s move on to content ideation.
Now that you have some solid keywords, it’s time to start thinking of things you could write about that are relevant to your business, your new keywords, and your customers’ needs. My suspicion is that you may already have some content ideas swirling around in your head. Here are some basic strategies to guide your content ideation.
- The Keyword Post: Choose a less obvious keyword phrase (often called a long-tail keyword), and write a topic specifically on that long-tail keyword phrase. There may be fewer people using the phrase in searches, but you’ll have a better chance of achieving early ranking wins to build on.
- The Customer Need Post: What are some of your customers’ needs that you can address through content? In our fictitious event planning agency, there was a post titled “Five Reasons to Have an End-of-Year Company Party”. In this example, a customer need may have been selling the value of a company party to the owner of the company. This post would have met that need.
- The How-To Post: Can you teach your customers something new? They will appreciate your efforts to teach them, and how-to posts typically perform very well.
- The Link Post: Sometimes, there is a lot of value in creating blog articles that link out to other valuable resources. Write a post on an industry-relevant article, provide your own point-of-view, and link out to the article.
- The Quote Post: Is there an inspiring quote, or a great industry-specific quote? Create a post centered around that quote. In inbound marketing, for example, a very popular quote is “Goodbye Broadcast. Hello Conversation.”
- The Reader Comment Post: Did someone comment on one of your previous posts with a particularly insightful question or comment? Run with it and create a post centered around it.
These strategies should help you to come up with some great content ideas. Keep track of all of your ideas. Even if you don’t initially think the idea is worthy of its own post, it may warrant a post at a later date. These ideas will start to form your topic pipeline and give you a wealth of topics to refer back to and write about. In addition to this topic pipeline, you should begin to compose these ideas into a content calendar.
Most content-related industries (newspapers, journals, etc.) have content calendars with topics and deadlines. Content marketing is no different. Think like a marketer, act like a journalist. That’s the key here. Put together a content calendar that includes:
- Due Date (For Editing)
- Publish Date
- Type of Content (e.g. article, audio, video, link, how-to, etc.)
- Target Audience (customer segment, general audience, social followers, etc.)
- Promotion Channels (Social Media, Paid Search, etc.)
- Targeted Keywords
- Measurement Metrics
Creating the content calendar will help you to organize your topic ideas into an overall strategy, including sequencing, posting frequency, and deadlines that your company can rally around.
We hope that you can take this post and immediately begin implementing some of these strategies. The value of inbound marketing has been proven and content marketing is the foundation of that. These fundamentals of blogging will assist you in preparing for your new content strategy. Stay on the lookout for future posts in our Marketing Boot Camp Series, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.