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The Power of Process in Inbound Marketing

By John McTigueSep 13, 2012

Marketers aren't any different from factory workers in several important ways. We are trying to produce repeatable, verifiable results using a common set of inputs. Granted, our inputs aren't nuts and bolts, they're strategies and content, but like line workers, we are trying to mold those inputs into tangible, measurable results. We are creating inbound marketing campaigns designed to generate a certain number of qualified sales leads based on what we know at the beginning of the campaign. We are launching these campaigns and measuring them in order to improve on our KPIs. Like manufacturing, it's not easy, but successful marketing companies develop and continuously improve processes to get the job done.

inbound marketing process is not so different from manufacturing

What Goes Into an Inbound Marketing Process?

Standards: First we need to agree on definitions so that we all speak the same language and understand the process the same way. In manufacturing, there are ISO 9000 standards that define everything needed for customer satisfaction, regulatory approval and continuous improvement. In marketing, we don't yet have such a strict set of standards, but there are a few commonly accepted definitions (at least for digital marketing):

  • Visitor - someone who visits our website but may or may not interact in any way
  • Subscriber - someone who signs up for a newsletter or blog but may not otherwise interact with us further
  • Lead - someone who signs up for one of our marketing offers, including top-funnel content, and may or may not enter a lead nurturing campaign
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) - someone who repeatedly converts on content offers and otherwise "hangs around" but does not request a sales contact of any kind
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) - someone who converts on an obvious sales request offer, such as a free trial, demo or consultation

Goals: Like any other process, we need to know where we are going and why. A common set of goals for an inbound marketing campaign would be to increase the number of subscriptions, leads, MQLs and SQLs month-over-month by "X" percent. Setting appropriate targets in advance can be tricky, but in most cases you can establish reasonable goals based on prior performance and conversion rates. This part of the process allows you to create scorecards where you track these KPIs on a monthly basis and evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns and their contribution to growth and profitability. Output: Scorecard for tracking KPIs.

Targets: We've talked about this one a lot lately. You need to identify and describe the buyer personas you intend to attract and nurture for each campaign. All of your messaging, content, design and delivery strategies should be appropriate for the target persona of your inbound marketing campaign. Output: Buyer persona definition, demographics and available contact databases for reaching them.

Inventory: What drives any inbound marketing campaign is the quality and quantity of content that is available for lead generation and lead nurturing. The first step is a thorough accounting of all of the digital content assets you have available. Creating a simple spreadsheet of these assets is a good starting point. Then you need to content map your assets to your target buyer persona and segment them into top, middle and bottom funnel buyer stages. This will show you whether or not you have the right content available for each stage in a combined lead generation and lead nurturing campaign. Output: Digital asset list mapped to persona and sales funnel stages.

Campaign Plan: Basically an outline or workflow showing the architecture and timing of your campaign. Which piece of content will you use to attract new leads and how will you distribute it to your targets? What's the strategy of your lead nurturing campaign and what content will you deploy (and when) to achieve your objectives? Output: Campaign map or workflow diagram.

Communication: Someone needs to approve everything, so there needs to be constant communication between the campaign "owner" and the person or group responsible for final approval. This includes strategy sessions, daily updates, proofs and review, summary reports and schedules. Output: Documentation of all stages, reports and to-dos in a shareable location, such as a project management system.

Content Creation: Now that you know what you have and what you need, you can create what's missing or repurpose content from existing assets. You will need copywriters, developers and designers to create and deploy the content and all of the mechanics of the campaign including calls-to-action, landing pages, blogs, emails, PPC ads, social media updates and lead nurturing workflows. Output: Inbound marketing content, promotion and conversion assets ready for campaign launch.

Campaign Launch and Management: Someone with both analytical skills and an eye for marketing strategy needs to monitor the campaign on a daily basis. Any glitches need to be addressed right away, and the right people need to be notified when something interesting (good or bad) happens that might justify a change in content or strategy. You need robust marketing automation tools for this part of the campaign. Otherwise, too much time is spent putting together pieces of the campaign puzzle.

The Benefits of an Inbound Marketing Process

Nailing down a process for each type of digital marketing campaign yields powerful and lasting benefits such as:

  • Ability to repeat success on a sustainable basis
  • Ability to learn from mistakes and continuously improve
  • Increased capacity to scale and launch new campaigns quickly
  • Ability to bring in new talent and quickly deploy them to profitable ventures
  • Ability to measure results, demonstrate ROI and show improvement over time

We will be showing you specific examples of how we build and execute these processes for ourselves and for our clients over the coming months. Your ideas are more than welcome!

Photo credit: BiblioArchives/LibraryArchives




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The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.
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