Goals rock. You need them to keep you motivated, you need them to feel like you are accomplishing something, and most of us are evaluated in our jobs by reaching some sort of goal. When I talk to our Inbound Marketing clients about setting SMART Goals for their business, the obvious next question is: what is the plan to get there?And that is where strategy comes in – developing the plan to meet your goals. You may (or may not) be surprised that the “how” can be a lot harder than the “what” or the “why” or the ”when” that gets determined during goal setting. In fact, in study of 50,000 marketing professionals, 46% of them said that “lack of an effective strategy” was one of the most challenging obstacles to being successful with Inbound Marketing.
There’s plenty to talk about in regards to Inbound Marketing strategy and how to develop a successful one. For today, let’s focus on research, because an Inbound Marketing strategy that has a foundation of research will ultimately be more successful than one that does not.
Why should I invest time into research? It’s pretty simple:
- A successful inbound marketing strategy is based on knowing your audience and developing accurate buyer personas.
- You need to focus your content decisions on how to help those personas, where to help them (ie.e website, social media, etc) and what type of content will help (i.e. tip sheets, videos, eBooks, interactive modules).
- You need to do 1 and 2 better than your competition.
So what should you focus on when doing inbound marketing research?
1. Find out more about your existing customers
Talk to the people at your company that talk to customers. They are a wealth of information about what questions your customers have, why they are buying from you, and how they use your services. Sales people hear questions all of the time related to your products and services. Support staff hear the good, bad, and ugly as well.
2. Learn more about where your potential customers do their research
Visit online forums, blogs, and communities to understand your industry better. For example, what LinkedIn Groups exist that are connected to your industry? What are people talking about in these groups? Research hashtags on Twitter to get a pulse of what’s being bantered about. Check into top blogs and read through the comments. The key is to focus on the problems and pain points in these discussions; look for common frustrations and concerns.
3. Know your digital competition
What is your competition doing online? What kind of content are they producing? How active are they in social channels? Do they spend money on PPC or paid social ads? What keywords are they targeting? Who is doing better than you in search engine results pages? Do they blog?
4. Analyze your website
Your site metrics can give you a lot of insight into who is using your site and how. Demographics, location, type of device being used, how people are finding you now, what they are looking at and for how long, and the myriad other available reports are incredibly useful when planning your inbound marketing strategy. You should also consider a User Experience (UX) review of your site to uncover pain points of usability in order to make design and function changes.
5. Understand your keyword potential
While you always want to write content for people and not search engines, you do want to make sure that content is optimized for the best search engine results. Knowing what keywords people are using to research their business problems online and how often those words or collections of words are searched for is critical.
If you haven’t yet defined HOW you are going to reach those goals, then be sure to take the steps you need to get a solid strategy in place by starting with research. The tools that I’ve suggested are by no means a comprehensive list. Have you found a useful research tool? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!