Stand and Deliver your Inbound Marketing Strategy

As the football season comes to a crashing end, and folks like me look forward to the fact it’s an even year which therefore means a summer of football, thus avoiding weeks of gardening/DIY/visits to monuments/talking, in a small corner of Oldham new shoots are appearing.

As an Oldham fan my naturally optimistic nature and glass half-full approach to life has been tested severely over the past 28 years. Indeed, it is actually almost to the day 20 years ago that a last second Mark Hughes volleyed equaliser for Manchester United denied little Oldham an FA Cup final appearance.

A Premier League side at the time, Oldham were seconds away from beating Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi Final 1994 before the goal. It is a goal and an event that is used by some Oldham fans as the day our moment in the sun faded…badly. Favourites to stay up in the Premier League that season the team, stung by the disappointment of the late heartbreak, failed to win a game in their remaining fixtures were relegated and have since spent 20 years in the Championship and mostly League One (or the Third Division in old money).

For the last 4 of those years we’ve operated in a ground with only 3 stands, one knocked down as part of a ground rebuild that has taken far longer than it should to happen. It’s meant we’ve been the butt of many jokes and “Ice Station Zebra” as Boundary Park is known due to its uniquely freezing micro-climate has been just a bit more cold and windswept than normal.

Yet there is now renewed hope. From the mud piles that have sat unmoving until now, shiny new steelwork is leaping, Cristiano Ronaldo like, from the barren ground. A huge new shadow is appearing across the turf like never before. The new stand, still a meccano looking order of steel and concrete, is in the early stages of build, yet it symbolises a new start for the club, an exciting time.

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Eventually, the new structure will house corporate facilities, shops, bars and gym all vital to today’s football clubs in order to generate income away from the everyday slog on the pitch.

Why do I mention all this football I hear you ask?

Like the development of a new stand, created to transform a business, generate new income and engage with new customers, a website or in fact any marketing campaign is only the start of a long process. In other words, the development is just the beginning.

The stand at Oldham is only the start, the old Field of Dreams saying “Build it and they will come” is fine for Hollywood, but the reality with this stand development is that without a strategic approach to selling and running the stand, they won’t come.

The same applies to any website, building it is only the start.

Yet the planning for selling and running – the operation of it – has to start way back in the whole briefing of the project.

Driving traffic, conversions, using your networks, generating content ideas and plans are all born from this early stage approach. As such your inbound marketing strategy, is as crucial to the success of your development as the building itself. In simple terms inbound marketing is the utilisation of what was traditionally called “pull” marketing. Instead of the traditional marketing methods of TV ads, articles and direct mail pieces or “push” marketing, inbound marketing takes advantage of many digital channels and involves creating good, quality content in many forms that drive customers and opportunities to you.

 

So, just what is the best way to plan an inbound marketing strategy?

1. Set your Goals
Any strategy must start with goal setting. Without knowing what you want to achieve/the destination how will you ever know you’ve arrived?

2. Understand your Customer
Your customers are unique and very precious. So the least you can do is take the time to understand who they are, what motivates them and importantly where they “hangout” in the digital world. Gaining this understanding gives you the ability to not only get your “persona” right, but it also identifies what your audience are interested in and where you need to place your content.

3. Understand your Product/Service Triggers
Understanding the triggers and issues that lead customers to use you or your service is key. Adding the knowledge of the issues and what motivates a “buy” can lead you to explore areas of potential content that you have never thought of before. For example, the purchase of a new dining table may not be just that the customer is having an update. They may be moving to a new house/first house, the previous one may have broken, they may be trying to create a family dining experience…all these reason can open up different potential areas that content could be created match.

4. Create your Keyword Lists
Alongside the understanding of customers and triggers it’s time to make a keyword list. As in the general approach to SEO, creating your keyword list is a combination of researching on search engines, analytics and the good old asking friends and colleagues what they think.

5. Create your Content Strategy
Your content strategy begins to put some order to the information you gained in steps 2 and 3. A well designed content strategy is, in simple terms, organising your content in such a way that it drives customers through your sales funnel. Some of the content ideas you have will be very broad, designed to get you maximum exposure. Other ideas will be much more brand and company specific, focused on converting customers to your final sales cycle.
In planning your content look at content that fits into:

  • Awareness – content that gets you attention/gets you noticed. These are often the more general content tools such as social media, slideshare, blog posts etc… designed to introduce people to you or provide general information.
  • Qualification – this is content much more focused down into the key customer information and triggers. Often things such as product sheets, samples, case studies and brochures form a large part of this level. This is the content that is focused entirely around drawing the customer into the sales process and engaging directly with you (hopefully!).

Creating this two stage approach to your content forms a natural funnel from general awareness content to your sales cycle. Effective!

6. Structure Activity
Your content strategy will only remain effective as long as you have assigned responsibilities internally. This covers not only areas of responsibility, but the creation of things like blogging plans, conversational calendars and so on. Your day to day content activity needs structure. Not only that, but in areas such as blogging you may require external bloggers to make the most effective use of content opportunities. In this case, what is your plan for a blogger outreach plan and who is responsible?

We are in an exciting age of marketing channels, and the content we create as an organisation is more key than ever. It is no longer the case that we can just “build it and they will come”. Like the new stand at Boundary Park, the creation of your website is just the start, continuing to build and work on your content is what will ultimately make your website work.

Simon Brooke is a Director and creative thinker at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to www.happy-creative.co.uk or @Happy_Creative

 

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