In this series, we’ll take you step-by-step through how we work with clients to build their valuable online presence; from the small things you need to do before you get started, to using your content to generate interest and enquiries. Our 5 Steps to Inbound Marketing are all you need to get started on the road to revolutionising how you market your firm. Missed out on any of Step 1, Step 2 or Step 3? Head there first for the groundwork needed before this step.
Before we get on to Step 4, it’s worth having a bit of a recap on what we’ve already managed to achieve.
Step 1 was fairly simple. Before we could start, we needed the platforms, tools and people in place to do so. Step 2 involved making those platforms, tools and people work for us, by giving them some great content. Step 3 involved putting those two steps together, making sure our content was distributed in the right place, to the right people, on the right platforms.
But now that the content is out there, isn’t the job done? We’ve shared what we’ve produced in the best possible places, so now do we just sit back and wait?
“You can’t leave that there!”
Content, like any marketing effort, is something that needs to be carefully curated. If you’ve posted in a public forum - and in most cases, you will have done - then you need to make sure you’re looking out for reactions to your content. If you’ve used content to engage clients (in an eNewsletter, for example), then how are you following it up? Does the content warrant a further approach to your clients, a proactive discussion, another piece of marketing, or a more overt sales push perhaps? Have you left clients with unanswered questions?
Content marketing is an ongoing process, a slow build-up of authority and information over time, which results in trust and conversation. If you leave your content wherever you have distributed it then it is fair to expect that it will struggle to perform in the way you want it to. Of course, as per Step 3, there is a point when you should be prepared to walk away from poorly performing content, but in the immediate aftermath, embrace your role as a curator, join in any conversation and attempt to add more value to that which you have already put out into the world.
Understand your aims
This is incredibly important once you get to this stage not to mention beforehand. A huge amount of inbound marketing initiatives struggle from setting accurate KPIs and therefore being accurately appraised, monitored and evaluated. This is something we will look at more in the next step but it should be at the forefront of your mind during this stage too.
For example, for many, a fairly standard, concrete KPI at the beginning of an inbound marketing effort will be to increase their website visitors. There are a number of problems with this.
Firstly, not all inbound marketing initiatives facilitate this. If you send a marketing eshot, for example, with all of the content within the email, rather than linking to your website, it is not going to increase your website visits. That isn’t to say though, that it is not going to help your perception amongst your clients and potential clients, to build your business up as an authority they can trust. In short: to benefit your marketing.
Secondly, though the above KPI aim is popular, is it really the overall aim? A visitor to your website who never contacts you is worth nothing. So should the aim be an increase in visitors to your ‘contact’ page? Again, a metric worth nothing if your phone number is visible on your homepage. What if someone does ring in? How will you know that they did so because of your Inbound Marketing?
At the point of monitoring and engaging, don’t be too concerned with data interpretation - although we’ll consider this briefly below - but do be concerned with data gathering. What impact did your piece of marketing have on your brand? That question is one with many, many answers and answers that will take you a full and considered about of time to interpret.
Sometimes reactions are not positive. Not positive reactions are not always negative.
This is an important one to note, especially for those starting to produce content for the first time. It is a fact of the content marketing world that, quite often, highly opinionated pieces of content can produce highly opinionated responses. Even non-opinionated ones might incite the ire of someone you have previously not considered to be a stakeholder in the topic you are writing about.
The point is that once you begin to put content out there, and to monitor and engage with those who are consuming it, you will meet some negative reactions. Whether it is someone who doesn’t like your prose, your opinion or just, in general, the cut of your jib, at some point down the line someone will react negatively to your content.
This is, however, not always a bad thing. Content that gets people talking - however they are talking about it - gets shared around and content that gets shared around gets put in front of more people.
Have a plan in place for negative reactions. Know when to walk away, when to fight your corner and when to admit that you were wrong. But also know that a negative reaction can have positive implications for your content.
The key word in ‘social media’ is ‘social’.
It really goes without saying at this point, but if you want people to engage with you then engaging with them can be a good start. Don’t be afraid to join conversations between others whilst representing your brand. If you see someone discussing your brand then join in and give them feedback on their questions or topic of conversation. No one has ever moaned at a brand for being too responsive, or willing to engage too much, so be proactive and see which conversations have started without you even trying.
Some tools that will help…
The following are the useful ‘basics’ to have in place at this stage to enable a level of monitoring and to begin your engagement and evaluation. All of the below are free solutions, although paid for versions of the below, or separate paid-for products, do exist.
Google Analytics - vital for measuring website performance.
Google Webmaster Tools - highlights website errors and contributes to SEO performance.
A SEO solution - we use an agency-level paid solution but there are a variety of free tools that can help. Try Open Site Explorer and Quick Sprout, although others are available.
A social media solution - Hootsuite allows you to monitor all of your networks in one place as do others such as Buffer and Sprout Social. In Hootsuite’s case, do consider upgrading to Pro to get all of the features and the Company feature, which is vital in keeping your networks safe. Outside of this, each network does produce its own metrics; Facebook’s are particularly good. Tweetdeck is a good free alternative to allow you to monitor engagement across twitter accounts but it has no analytic functions.
Tracking and KPI report - you can develop these in-house to monitor a variety of metrics. Decide what you need to measure and make sure you never lose sight of any one piece of content.
Email tracking - our paid for MailFirst solution has a full suite of reports and tracking. There are free versions of other software available but most will need you to upgrade to get any level of design, data usage or reporting.
As you monitor and engage, do start to think about the next stage
Monitoring and engagement should be about just those elements: not evaluation. With that said, the monitoring and engagement stage is definitely the time to properly begin to look at your KPIs. If you are implementing Inbound fully across your firm then it is justifiable to look at overall sales and enquiries and link those to your new marketing efforts, an activity you’ll want to start well in advance of beginning to promote your own pieces of material.
Smaller level KPIs can be very useful at this stage. Let’s say you place a guest post on a website which usually gets an average of 1,000 views per article and 6 comments per article. Your post receives 2,000 views but only 1 comment. Is your article a success or a failure? It depends on the article’s intention. If it asked for, or invited, feedback then you could say it failed. If it was a lengthy essay, or short visual piece, then you could say that it succeeded: this was one never likely to incite much debate. Monitoring your early pieces can help you to set KPIs in the next stage.
With inbound, an open-minded approach to KPIs does help - if either of the above KPIs had been set in advance then your piece could have been seen as a failure, whereas actually it could have been a success. Be prepared at this stage to look for new KPIs, with the tools highlighted above, but also to alter your overall approach if you can see that content is not performing in your accurately identified metrics.
By Sam Turner. Sam is ClientsFirst's Marketing Executive and writes here on topics including; inbound and content marketing, social media, design and e-marketing. He likes all of those things as well as travel, golf and frequent cups of tea. You can find him on Google+, Twitter & LinkedIn.