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Key Phases in the Inbound Marketing Process

     -     Oct 4th, 2013   -     Accounting Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing   -     0 Comments

By now most every accounting and accounting marketing professional has heard about inbound marketing. It’s all the rage. In fact at every marketing conference I personally attend there seems to be a few sessions dedicated to the topic. However, one thing that seems to elude many professionals is how SEO, social media, pay per click advertising and email marketing play a role in inbound marketing. There is a lot of confusion about how these tactics should be implemented. At Flashpoint Marketing we are often asked about the inbound marketing process and where firms should invest their time. To help clients, prospects, and others we have outlined the key steps in the inbound marketing process and provided details about each.

Key Steps in the Inbound Marketing Process

Traffic Generation

The first hurdle to overcome is getting traffic to your website. This is the area that requires the most time planning and executing because it’s the foundation of any inbound effort. It requires you to consider how to represent your business online, who your target audience is, how you are going to engage them and finally what you want to share with them. Remember, it’s impossible to engage people through your website if no one is aware it exists or knows where to go looking for it. In the traffic generation stage, the goal is to leverage tactics that will increase the amount of visitors to your website. If you attend marketing conferences throughout the year then the tactics mentioned here will probably be familiar. Activities most commonly associated with traffic generation include:

  • Content Creation – Before you can generate traffic to the site there must be something of value that your audience will want to read, engage with, or experience. This is one of the most important aspects of inbound marketing. All other steps in the process hinge on the premise that you have strong, engaging content. Common content examples include blogs, articles, (tax and audit) alerts, and whitepapers. The more appealing this type of content is to your core audience, the faster you can expect to see the traffic increases you are looking for.
  • Search Engine Optimization – SEO is the practice of positioning each page on your website in such a way that search engines will index them according to keywords or concepts most closely related to the subject matter. This tactic gives you the ability to guide search engines in how they index your site and where it ranks when related searches are conducted.
  • Social Media Marketing – Most people have heard enough about social media by now. However, it’s an effective method for sharing content with your network. Operating on the assumption that like attracts like it stands to reason an accounting professional would have other professionals interested in or working in accounting in their network. As a result, sharing engaging content with likeminded professionals is bound to drive traffic to the site.

Site Engagement & Conversions

The second stage in the process of inbound marketing is engaging visitors on your website. It’s important to ensure you are able to somehow connect with a high % of visitors that come to your website. An important point to consider here is that each visitor will be in a different position in the sales cycle. For this reason it’s imperative to identify tactics for engaging visitors that are not only ready to buy but also those who are just starting their purchasing journey. Activities most commonly associated with site engagement and conversions include:

  • Calls to Action – One of the most common mistakes we encounter with CPA firm websites are a lack of calls to action. They often provide pages of valuable content on an emerging issue and at the conclusion they don’t offer any next steps on how to get started or get help. It just ends. This is the epitome of poor marketing. If you have someone engaged and they are interested you need to make it easy for them to connect with you. Even if they aren’t at the point where a purchase is eminent you don’t want them to leave empty handed.
  • Conversion Strategies – This is a broad term referring to any on page item that visitors can take, sign up for, or download. Examples, as stated previously, might include whitepapers, webinar recordings, survey results, service trial, and videos. The key with conversions is they should not only offer something of value to the site visitor, but make sure they also give something to you. In other words, ask them to fill out a brief form whereby you collect important information on the prospect. Go beyond the typical contact information and ask for information that’s relevant to the service topic. For example, one firm we work with offered a whitepaper on FBAR and one of the fields on the form was country of citizenship. This is very relevant to the service offering and for marketing purposes later on.
  • Email Marketing – Although not always associated with inbound marketing it is an important method for engaging a specific segment of customers with website content. Remember, since you are engaging prospects and clients each email should have a marketing goal and link to specific or special content. Before sending emails consider both the value of the content and what actions you want the reader to take after receiving it. Broader examples of email marketing might include RSS feeds for your blog, eNewsletter, e-invite or promotional offers (where appropriate).

In Perspective

Inbound marketing is a comprehensive process that requires significant planning and attention. Often time’s firms realize they need to seek outside help to reach established goals. Whatever your situation we encourage you to take small steps and assess results. In my next blog post I will address the role of analytics and metrics in how results are measured and progress is shared with partners and other stakeholders.

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