How’s your inbound marketing strategy? A little stale?
If you’re looking for actionable tips to improve it, you’ve come to the right place.
Last week, we were joined by HubSpot Platinum Agency Kula Partners. The co-founders, Jeff White and Carman Pirie, gave us a masterclass on advanced inbound marketing techniques.
It was 45 minutes of rock-solid content strategy, full of case studies with real companies. There’s far too much information for one blog post, so we’ve pulled out some of our favorite nuggets.
We’re going to look in-depth at five of their top tips. But first…
What is a people-focused inbound marketing strategy?
Build your inbound marketing strategy around what works best for the end user. If you’re writing a how-to guide, answer questions that people actually ask. If you’re making a website, the layout needs to meet the goals of the user.
To help you out, let’s look at five of Jeff and Carman’s top tactics for a people-focused marketing strategy.
1. Do your research, and test the results
We all like to think we’re creating user-focused content. But are we testing it?
Kula Partners take a phenomenological approach to content creation. This is a fancy word that means they examine how users experience content. Not only do they write with users in mind, they actually structure content based on how people interact with it.
The key to this approach is testing. They test how their users read content, both before and after publishing. It’s not enough to guess how people will respond to their content. They actually find out.
For example, they were hired to improve the Halifax Airport website, which Carman called “the most atrocious example of user-focused design you’ll see this year.”
Here’s what it looked like before:
Aside from being cluttered, the page was too focused on branding and images. Or, as Carman put it, “a heavy dose of naval-gazing.”
They looked at industry best practices to see what the top airport websites were doing. From their research, they built a map of what a great airport homepage should look like:
In this map, purple represents user-focused elements of a website, orange is for branding, and green is for news and parking.
In this case, arrivals and departures needed to be front and center, since it’s why most people are visiting airport websites.
To contrast, the original Halifax Airport page looked like this:
The new version of the site places user experience first and makes branding less prominent:
And the testing didn’t stop there. Since they followed airport website best practices, they displayed arrivals by default. “We didn’t even really question it.”
But using heat maps, they found that 68% of page visitors were actually clicking on departure information, and only 6% went back to arrivals after that. So they switched the default view to departures to give visitors the information they’re clearly looking for.
“It’s important to build in those ways to listen and observe your customers as they experience the marketing you create.”
Takeaway: Create content with the user in mind, then test it to make sure your guesses were correct.
Learn more about using psychology in your content and social marketing.
2. Use social monitoring to fuel your inbound content
You know you need content, but how do you come up with ideas? If you know what your prospects are talking about, you can create content to suit them.
Kula Partners use social listening for just this reason. Social media is the perfect place to find out what problems people have, and how you can solve them.
Jeff and Carman recommend a three-step process to social monitoring:
- Listen for common questions in your space
- Research keywords around these questions
- Create content to win
When Kula Partners were hired by orthodontists DocBraces, they started by researching what matters most to people with braces. They found that the biggest problem for new braces-wearers is food:
Sensing an opportunity to solve a problem, they created two pieces of content around this issue. The first was a blog post, aptly titled “Best Foods to Eat With New Braces.” The second was an ebook used to collect lead information:
Not only did that post get great traffic, but the site’s overall authority rose as well. The blog post became the top-ranking result for “what to eat with braces.” Even now, over two years later, it’s the fourth result on Google.
Takeaway: Use social monitoring to find issues that matter to your target market. Find questions without good answers, and create winning content to fill that void.
For more information about using monitoring for content ideas, we have a great blog post on the subject.
3. Create content buyers love
When building a content strategy, it’s important to appeal to active buyers too – not just prospects doing research. They know what their problems are, you need to show how you can help.
Interactive tools like calculators show buyers exactly what they’d gain from your services. Users who don’t understand your service won’t be interested. But users considering several options get a chance to see the return on investment. For this reason, calculators are great for weeding out bad leads.
Because you’re creating content for specific visitors, you’re more likely to see conversions. “Our interactive calculators often convert at a 2x higher rate than traditional static offers.”
Interactive content also provides extra opportunities to collect buyer information. Not only can you ask for an email address and phone number, you can also find out the size of the company and the magnitude of its problems. Put this information into your CRM to create detailed buyer profiles.
Takeaway: Interactive content is perfect for buyers. “It’s a really fantastic way of not only providing useful and targeted information, but also allowing you to build a more robust profile of buyers.”
4. Find and engage influencers
It’s no longer good enough to simply create great content. You need additional people to promote it for you.
Working with influencers is an inbound marketing essential. These industry VIPs direct traffic online, and people trust their recommendations. Use their status to promote your content.
An easy way to do this is to reference influencers in your content. They’ll be thrilled and will be happy to spread your content around.
To drive shares once you’ve published the content, tell these influencers you’re talking about them.
Let’s look at an example.
Kula Partners wanted to bring traffic to their site, so they used Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique to create content to outperform their competition.
To do this yourself, find the best piece of content in your niche, then make something better. Like finding the world’s tallest tower, then building your own 20 stories higher. Your content should either look better, be more thorough, or simply be up-to-date.
Kula Partners created a mammoth 15,000 word guide to inbound marketing. Next, they packed it full of links to influencers, “to show the relationship between the content we were creating and the expert opinions of those people.”
Afterwards, they reached out to these people to credit them. Just by genuinely giving thanks, they received tweets from influencers like Brian Dean himself:
Takeaway: Once you’ve created great content, reach out to influencers who might share it. If there’s a logical connection, you can easily earn a tweet, or even a backlink.
For more information about influencer marketing, check out the Ultimate Guide to Influencer Research.
5. Make guest blogging better
Guest posts are a great way to put your content (and brand) in front of new audiences. This is not news. But Jeff and Carman have a few keys they use to get more out of them.
- Build in opportunities for social engagement
- Connect with a quality content asset
- Ask for the CTA
Opportunities for social engagement
Add “social snippets,” quotes or text that are easy to share on social media. Since one goal of guest blogging is exposure, it pays to make content easy to share.
Jeff and Carman see more social interaction through people sharing these than sharing the post as a whole.
For experts: Follow up those social shares to see if those individuals are potential customers, and reach out. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to try to access more accurate contact details for the people.
In the example above, Jeff and Carman might have contacted @GaionJP after his tweet. He seemed interested in their work, and a small amount of LinkedIn research would tell them whether his company was a good fit or not.
Social snippets can be an easy way to generate leads.
Connect with a quality content asset
It’s great to build brand awareness with a guest blog post. But why not try to convert leads too? Find natural connections between your blog content and an asset you own, and send traffic there. This could be through inline links or your own call-to-action included at the end.
Which leads to the final point…
Ask for the CTA
You’re investing a lot of time in writing these guest blog posts. Don’t be afraid to ask to have a CTA included.
Pro tip: If the host isn’t keen on sending traffic straight to your site, ask about creating a special landing page. Create a co-branded page on their site, with the opportunity to download your asset directly from them.
That way, they keep traffic on their site, and you still get what you want: leads.
Takeaway: Use guest blog posts as a way to generate leads, not just awareness. And don’t be afraid to ask for a little extra in return.
And there you have it!
Five great tips, with actual case studies to back them up. Aren’t we lucky?
The full webinar has plenty more to offer, including a great Q&A at the end. It’s free, and yours to watch as often as you like.