Yes, you can absolutely do inbound marketing without an agency. The real question is, can you do inbound marketing well without an agency? This isn’t as easy as it sounds – a full-scale inbound marketing strategy takes time, effort and lots of trial and error when attempted on your own. If you want to undertake the task, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do inbound marketing without an agency.
1: Defining SMART goals & developing an inbound marketing gameplan
When inbound marketing is executed in-house, defining SMART goals for your company’s overarching inbound marketing goals is a logical place to start. Per the acronym, these goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Keep in mind that while some of the criteria, such as Specific and Measurable, are critical to every set of goals, others can deter your company from taking bold action when necessary (Achievable and Realistic). That’s when having an agency helping to guide the process can take your marketing from mediocre to exceptional.
Regardless, your marketing team must enter every campaign with specific goals that can be measured within a defined timeframe. How will you know if you were successful if you can’t define what you were trying to achieve? Whether your goal is lead generation, website traffic, product purchase conversions, or a combination of things, every marketing action you take should tie directly back to your goals.
2: Persona development - target the right audience
No matter how astute your goals are, you cannot achieve them without a full understanding of your target audience(s). Your target audience will dictate your marketing strategy and tactics, so you must truly comprehend who you are trying to reach. That’s where persona development comes in: this involves creating a thorough depiction your ideal buyer, based on real data and molds about their demographics, behavior, motivations, and objectives. The process must repeat for each audience, and again if subsets exist within audiences. This allows your team to implement an integrated inbound strategy that does not lose sight of the most important aspect of your marketing campaigns – the audience. What good is an outstanding marketing campaign with lofty goals if no one is listening?
3: Creating the right content for your persona to meet your goals
Goals? Check. Defined target audience personas? Check. Now it’s time to get creative with your content to satisfy your goals and appeal to your personas. To do this, you’ll need a content creation process that enables your team to pump out relevant content on a regular basis. Create a shared editorial calendar, allowing you to plan, assign and distribute content over a set period of time. With so many platforms for content such as blogs, social media, website and PR, an editorial calendar will help you organize when and where content takes place. If you’re running multiple campaigns simultaneously, each with different goals and buyer personas, a calendar will be the roadmap to ensure you don’t get lost.
If you have a clear understanding of your audience personas, you’ll be able to generate content that meets them on their terms, aligning with where they are in the decision-making process. In other words, you’ll know how to create the “right” content to help your personas along in their buyer journey. The goal of content is to influence your audience to do whatever it is you want them to do – whether it’s simply subscribing to a newsletter, gaining trust in your company, or purchasing what you’re selling. Based on what you know about your audience, put yourself in their shoes to determine what kind of content will get their attention.
4: Optimizing your existing site for SEO and conversion rates
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) isn’t a term you hear very often, but as marketers advance it will become as common and well-known as SEO. CRO is the process of examining user feedback and analytics to pinpoint deterrents on your website conversion, and then remove them. If you’re less familiar with the term “conversion”, here is a refresher: conversion is when a user carries out an action you want them to – i.e., anything from completing a lead generation form, to filling out a survey, to signing up for alerts from your company.
Visualize the classic sales funnel: first consumers notice you and your brand, then become interested in your product or service, and finally they convert. What if there is an obstruction somewhere in that funnel? CRO hones in on the conversion process so you can identify and repair barriers to conversion. The CRO process includes a thorough investigation of everything from the content itself to the layout of landing pages and forms, relating each back to optimizing the user experience. Your knowledge of SEO is a huge asset as you dig deep into what is and isn’t working for your website, and dictates the level of analysis you’re capable of on your own. If successful, CRO results in better conversion rates – for you this could mean more lead generation or fewer abandoned shopping carts.
5: Leveraging and promoting content in the right channels
Every audience persona is different when it comes to the platforms they use, and the marketing channels that will reach them. If you’re already putting yourself in your audience’s shoes to determine what content they want, take it a step further and investigate how they want to receive this content. Then you can use platforms such as email, blog posts, social media, and PPC to appeal to your target audience – putting more emphasis on the channels where they are active. Analyze your analytics to determine if your audience primarily uses desktop, mobile or tablet so you can optimize the experience across devices. Unfortunately, the “if you build it they will come” adage isn’t true for inbound marketing – your company should know enough about the consumer to find them first.
6: Test - analyze - adjust - repeat
Insanity, as defined by Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. That might sound a little extreme in reference to your inbound marketing, but the sentiment still applies. In order to achieve the best results, your marketing campaigns should involve continual testing, analyzing, and adjustment accordingly. The tools to do this are available, and if your company makes analytics a vital piece of its inbound marketing strategy, growth is inevitable. Examples of this kind of continual process improvement include things like: A/B testing email campaigns, analyzing conversion mid-campaign to identify weak spots, and adjusting landing pages to drive better performance. This mindset will sharpen your marketing efforts, allowing you get the best possible results based on data and benchmarks you’ve collected yourself.
7: Report and prove results to your boss
Once a campaign is over, reporting is much easier if you defined your goals up front. However, many companies still don’t know what metrics to collect and how to prove ROI to their boss, which is another area that an agency comes in handy. This can be done in-house if you can dedicate the time and resources to establish links between your marketing campaigns and results benefitting the business – whether its fiscal success or something more intangible, such as greater brand recognition by potential customers. Reporting should be done throughout the duration of each campaign, quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year so that you have a clear starting point, empowering you to show progress where applicable. If your company stakeholders see that its leads increased by 25% above average last quarter, but they aren’t aware of the marketing efforts causing this, you didn’t finish your job.
Back to the original question posed in this article: yes, you can do inbound marketing without an agency. However, you might have to get used to the dreaded feeling that you’re missing out on growth opportunities due to limited knowledge or capacity. You likely have many experts in-house, but their specialties have a limit. An agency can act as supplemental expertise where needed, or ramp up and provide full the spectrum of inbound duties.