Once again, it's time to turn our attention to finishing the year strong and developing strategies to grow even more next year. Depending on what your analytics tell you, there are different areas of inbound marketing that will require more focus. For example, if you need to get more qualified visitors coming to your website, you may need to put more emphasis on your blogging efforts.
Every so often, it makes sense to step back from the tactical elements of your growth strategy and revisit the foundations of your marketing process. Things change. you develop new services, you enter new markets and you add new staff with unique talents. Look back at where you were 12 months ago and ask, "What's changed?" If the answer is nothing, you're in the minority.
Here are 4 inbound marketing foundations and assumptions to revisit as part of your annual growth planning.
Who is your ideal customer?
Unless you're Google or IBM, it makes a lot of sense to focus on those types of businesses that are most likely to become profitable customers. You know what industries, what company sizes and what geographies you can really do a great job for. And within those customer profiles, there are those that you can really help. For example, an accounting firm might target technology companies without an internal controller. Most of us know who our ideal customers are and target our marketing efforts towards them. We just don't have the time or resources to waste on battles that we're not going to win.
Now is the time to revisit the question, "Who is our ideal customer?" Maybe you've added a new capability that opens new markets for you. Maybe you've hired a new employee who has an established reputation in a new vertical. Maybe you want to expand success you've had in one vertical market to one with similar characteristics. Most businesses look for ways to expand their ideal customer profiles.
What most businesses don't think about is how to focus their ideal customer profile more narrowly. Rather than focus on technology companies, you can re-focuss on cybersecurity firms. It's quite possible you can grow more rapidly by being highly specialized in a narrow market segment. Why be viewed as a good provider to the technology industry when you can be viewed as the go-to provider for cybersecurity companies?
Do you have a clear view of your target market's buying process?
The business buying process has changed dramatically over the past five years. To briefly summarize, buying processes are longer and involve more people. And buyers almost invariably start their buying process by searching for content on the web.
If your sales process is built around connecting with the C-Suite to sell, you're probably overlooking some key players in the buying process. CEOs aren't going to risk making expensive mistakes by not including critical team members in the buying process. Does your sales and marketing process reflect this? Are you connecting with user buyers as well as the C-Suite? Does your sales process recognize corporate governance requirements that are required for purchases of your services? These are all questions you should be asking yourself.
You also should be creating content for all of the influencers in the buying process for all stages, from education/awareness to consideration to decision. Here is a chart that shows the types of content to create for different stages of the buying process.
Make sure that your sales and marketing process syncs up with how your buyers buy. There's been so much change in this area that you probably have at least some areas that are out of sync.
Do your SMART inbound marketing goals reflect reality?
SMART goals are the foundation of any good inbound marketing process. With the ability to measure all of your efforts and tie them back to revenue, it just doesn't make sense to set SMART goals and analyze them regularly.
To frame the discussion of SMART goals for inbound marketing, it's helpful to review the process by which a website visitor becomes a customer.
The top-level goals for inbound marketing will always be website visitors, leads and customers. Two other key factors to keep an eye on are conversion rates from website visitors to leads and from leads to customers. Most, if not all, SMART goals will flow into these foundational goals. For example, you will want to develop SMART goals for website visitors that come from your blogging efforts. You can close the loop on this by tracking which leads and customers come from your blogging efforts. This lets you tie revenue (and ROI) back to your investment in blogging.
In your annual planning process, look back at your assumptions and SMART goals to see if you need to adjust them to reflect the new buying process and to emphasize efforts that are producing success. You might find that if you can do a better job converting website visitors to leads, you don't need to get as much website traffic.
As you start your annual growth planning process, it's important to recognize fundamental changes in the way buyers buy. It's also important to consider changes in your business and in your target markets. In any case, a fresh look at how you plan for growth is needed now more than ever. Need some help with your growth planning? Schedule a free consultation with us.