As the intensity level ratchets up for marketers of all stripes - CMOs, VPs of Marketing, Directors of Marketing, Marketing Managers and small business owners - in their quest to develop and finalize their marketing plans for 2013, it's easy for them to get lost in the details of planning and stray from the strategic vision.
As a "professional outsider", it's easier for me to see the frequent disconnect between companies' strategic marketing plans and their stated business objectives. Let's face the facts - while inbound marketing is a wonderfully potent methodology with which to grow a business, there are many moving pieces to coordinate and implement. If you add traditional marketing into the strategic plan, it increases the complexity of successful execution exponentially.
So, this post is for you whether you have been ardently working on inbound marketing for years or you're incorporating it into your marketing plan for the very first time. For the first group, it provides an evaluation framework to objectively assess your direction; for the latter group it will encourage you to take a deeper look at the work ahead and align the resources necessary to get things done.
The Five Keys are:
1. Culture. I've worked with companies where there was buy-in at the top but it didn't trickle down from the C-suite and I've also seen the opposite where buy-in originated in the middle of the org chart and never spread beyond that point. Either way, the inbound marketing effort is at best going to require a lot more time to take root and at worst will fail because of the lack of proper support. Cultural change requires: full buy-in from (at a minimum) all customer-facing personnel, group participation in formulating content, discipline to develop and stick to the plan and long-term commitment to the process.
2. Content. The best way for companies to wrap their heads around the inbound marketing content requirement is this: consider yourselves in the publishing business. The focal point for your content efforts has to be answering questions your clients and prospects have about how your products or services solve their problems. If the cultural foundation has been properly established - you're always in publish mode and you're always looking for ways to communicate from your prospects' point of view.
3. Conversion. This is the professional outsider's term for the process that enables prospects to take action. You can steadily crank out all the content you want but if you don't guide your prospects through a well designed activity process related to that content, it becomes an excercise in futility. This is the leaky bucket syndrome I wrote about in a previous post.
4. Integration. There are two dimensions to integration - the integration of inbound and outbound marketing techniques and the integration of technology. With respect to the first one, the majority of businesses have some form of traditional marketing in place when they adopt inbound marketing. The key here is to look for synergies between the two. For example, if your company has a successful history with direct mail, it would be beneficial to add a new engagement pathway to your direct mail campaigns via dedicated landing pages that support the core message of the campaigns and provide for more immediate prospect action.
The technology side of integration provides business intelligence when your various platforms are talking to each other and allows for a better prospect experience. For example, if your content management system is integrated with your marketing automation system you could incorporate lead scoring into your sales process and optimally time sales team intervention with prospects based on the prospects' specific activity score.
5. Measurement. Measurement is critical in two respects - it's a feedback mechanism that supports the decision to invest in inbound marketing (ROI) and it's a scorecard to track improvements, in process and performance, over time. Most importantly, consistent distribution of the key performance metrics throughout the organization serves to reinforce the cultural commitment to inbound marketing.
Over to You
If you're new to inbound marketing, are you using some sort of strategic planning process to move forward with things? What about you experienced inbound marketers - do you feel that it's embedded into your corporate culture?
I welcome and appreciate all feedback on this one.