10 Steps to Implementing Inbound Marketing

By Scott Anderson Miller

Getting started with inbound marketing doesn’t have to be a monumental task. By taking a logical calculated approach, you can be up and running with your inbound marketing within 90 days.

In order to begin inbound marketing, you need the basics of your Conversion Machine to be in place. You need a functional website that is both attractive and conversion-oriented. Your goals and objectives should be very clear and manageable. Lastly, assessing your current digital marketing position and defining your problems in business terms rather than in marketing terms increases your conversion rates and your success rate.

Determining whether your organization is open to change

The first step in implementing inbound marketing into your organization is company acceptance, of a new method of marketing. Here’s how to determine if your company is ready for inbound marketing:

  1. Assess your current marketing to determine if there is a measurable link between your marketing initiatives and your business outcomes.

  2. Identify gaps in your current marketing plan and your desired inbound marketing to determine your marketing initiatives priorities.

  3. Paint a picture of the positive business outcomes by writing down several “What if?” questions that include not only the marketing department, but also the sales department, customer service, billing, and so on.

  4. Share your ideal outcomes with colleagues to see who on your team has the most to gain by implementing inbound marketing, then seek their support.

  5. Research investment costs of implementing inbound marketing, including the costs of paid assessment, marketing automation software, expert consultant fees, content creation, paid search, SEO, PPC, and social media, then break down those costs into manageable pieces with a timeline.

  6. Create a presentation for the business case for implementing inbound marketing.

  7. Seek budget approval.

Discussing internal and external goals with other departments or colleagues

Knowing your company’s goals and objectives is paramount to implementing inbound marketing and its associated philosophy and methodology. One of your jobs as a marketer is to help the companies achieve those goals and objectives. To do this, you need information. Interview others inside your company, starting with people in different departments that are on the same level as you, and then moving as high up the management chain as is permissible or as you feel comfortable.

Formulating your company’s customer conversion chain

The quickest way to build a business case for inbound marketing is to formulate a Customer Conversion Chain for one of your best products or services. You may need help with this, but you can surely get started by looking at analytics to determine your current monthly numbers for the following:

  • Impressions by attraction source (PPC, SEO, social media, and so on)

  • Website sessions/unique visits

  • Leads/contacts

  • Quality leads

  • Demonstrated interest (presentations/demos/trials)

  • Customers

  • Average purchase (in dollars)

  • Repeat customers

  • Average repeat purchase (in dollars)

Determining budget of time, energy, and money to achieve goals

After performing your initial Customer Conversion Chain assessment, evaluate the resources you’ll need (in terms of time, energy, and money) to begin inbound marketing. Every company operates with limited resources so how you choose to allocate yours eventually will determine an optimal allocation of your marketing resources.

Money is one thing, but timelines are another. You may have a highly profitable product line with a very long sales cycle, which means your marketing investments will take longer to pay off.

Your collective internal energy is an oft-overlooked factor in determining budget. Consider the following questions and then decide where to reallocate your budgets and time both internally among your marketing team and externally with marketing partners:

  • Which areas of digital marketing does your internal marketing team possess expertise?

  • Which of your current external marketing vendor partners contribute the least to your business goals and objectives?

  • Who on your internal team has experience in digital marketing, who can learn, and who needs to be replaced with internal experts?

  • Can you achieve your marketing and business goals with your current team or do you need to add seats and/or hire experts?

  • What combination of internal marketing team and external marketing partners will help you implement inbound marketing strategy and tactics the quickest?

Both energy and time are consumed in a steep learning curve when you and your team have to simultaneously learn inbound best practices, inbound terminology, and then actually perform the inbound marketing. That’s why sometimes it pays to add internal and external experts onto your marketing team.

Performing an inbound marketing assessment

Find a consultant or marketing firm and invest in a paid inbound marketing assessment. This is your starting point to frame your future initiatives, regardless of who performs those initiatives. Keep an open mind as to what you may discover and who might be best suited to perform future inbound marketing tactics. Your IMA outlines a series of prioritized inbound initiatives some of which you may be able to deliver with your current internal marketing team and some that may require help from external marketing partners. You won’t know this until after you perform your IMA.

Remember, starting with tactics to solve your problem is a dangerous endeavor, especially the tactics touted by ad agencies promoting only the services they’re selling (SEO, content, social media, PPC, and so on) as the end-all fix. Those agencies may be experts in those areas, but what they’re selling may not be the optimal tactic to achieve your business objectives. Instead, use your IMA to determine which inbound marketing tactical inputs are most likely to contribute to better outcomes and then seek experts in those specific areas — not vice-versa.

Writing your inbound marketing strategy

Writing a strategy is no small undertaking; however, your strategy is your inbound marketing roadmap so it’s important to your success. After introducing the findings of your IMA to your internal team members, and outlining gaps, opportunities, and priorities, begin writing your strategy.

Often, because of the company knowledge of budgets, key initiatives, and general inner workings of your organization, marketing strategy is written internally. Because inbound is a newer concept to marketers and their companies, inbound marketing strategy is more likely to require help from an outside expert. Should you choose this route, you’ll still need to be intimately involved in providing internal company information because of the aforementioned reasons.

By performing an IMA first, followed by a written inbound marketing strategy, you’re setting the state for success.

Assigning in-house and outsourced inbound marketing responsibilities

After creating the framework for the inbound marketing work to be done, you’ll need to apply your discoveries by assigning marketing initiatives and tactics. Here are some questions to ask when considering whether to perform your inbound marketing internally versus outsourcing:

  • Do you have the time and expertise to build a conversion-based website in-house?

  • Do you have the time and expertise to set up analytics, create meaningful attraction and conversion dashboard reports, and recommend future action points?

  • Do you have internal competency in content creation?

  • Do you have internal SEO competency?

  • Do you have PPC/paid-search competency?

  • Do you have social-media competency?

  • Do you have competency in conversion optimization?

  • Can your internal team build out complete campaigns that include blogs, content pages, landing pages, CTAs, and automated email workflows?

  • For any of the questions you answered “yes,” which, if any, benefit from additional outside help?

  • Will you achieve you objectives more quickly with an internal marketing team, an external marketing firm, or a combination of the two?

You may be able to implement all your inbound marketing efforts internally. It depends on your internal marketing team’s base of knowledge and how quickly you wish to achieve your objectives.

Retooling or rebuilding your website

You now know that your website is the engine in your Customer Conversion Machine. If your website isn’t built upon conversion architecture, it doesn’t make sense to attract additional traffic. Budget for a conversion-based website build now. In that budget, consider adding in marketing automation software from the get-go.

Because your website is the hub of your online attraction and conversion activity, your first initiative in applied inbound is to retool or rebuild your website. Sometimes, it makes sense to do a quick retool in order to increase conversions while redesigning an entire rebuild or your website. At the very least, create a basic CTA Map, add in CTA buttons and forms, and build out conversion-based landing pages so you can increase conversion with your current website traffic.

Writing your first shared strategic blueprint

As part of your strategy, break down objectives and initiatives into three month marketing sprints with clear marketing goals. These marketing conversion goals are based on your Customer Conversion Chain and are formulated by populating our digital media inputs into that formula.

Chances are, your first Shared Strategic Blueprint (SSB) projections will be way off. Don’t worry. Start with conservative milestones, learn as you go, examine trends, and prepare to be flexible when populating your second SSB. The important thing is to begin forming a habit of planning and accountability. There is no right or wrong answers and there is no magic bullet. An SSB helps you and your company be cognizant of the daily, weekly, and quarterly marketing inputs that contribute to achieving your business goals.

Outline which campaigns you plan on building and the timeframe in which they’ll be completed. Remember to include build-out time for the campaign so that you’re not including inadvertent falsely high attraction and conversion numbers. Add those numbers into your SSB only after your estimated campaign completion date. Be willing to change your input numbers should you not achieve your campaign build-out timelines.

Beginning content creation

Creating content is so important to your inbound marketing that you’ll probably want to start creating product campaign content while you’re rebuilding or retooling your website. In your strategy, you’ll have outlined your content assets, your content gaps based on the Lifestyle Loop purchase path, and your content needs. Consider creating content in the following ways:

  • On-page website content

  • Encouragement content (“Contact Us” forms, product with pricing, coupons SKUs, and so on)

  • Engagement downloadable content such as ebooks and white papers

  • Landing-page content

  • Email content

If you have the resources, it’s possible to create all this content simultaneously.