So, you’ve decided to become an inbound marketer. Woohoo! Okay, so where do you start?
We’re here to make that transition easier for you. You see, inbound marketing is a marketing strategy, but it’s also a philosophy. At the heart of it, you’ll be turning your focus away from company-focused marketing and toward customer-centric marketing.
And for inbound marketing to truly work, you’ll need to become an inbound marketing student.
The most successful inbound marketers learn skills and create habits in their first 100 days. To make sure your trajectory is set correctly, we’ve catalogued much of what you’ll need to succeed in inbound marketing. Don’t be scared by the length — this is supposed to be a document you use over three months.
Still, this isn’t intended to be a complete list of everything little thing you need to know — but it’s a fairly exhaustive collection of the fundamentals. Your company’s plan could be tailored based on the goals you need to achieve.
Ready to start this whole inbound thing? Let’s do it.
Read these things.
Here is a short list of resources you should read through during your first week. We handpicked some of our best HubSpot articles to get you familiar with inbound marketing and a few key concepts, themes, and methodologies that will help you strategically tackle your marketing goals.
Take classes from HubSpot Academy’s Inbound Marketing Certification.
During your first month, take the 11 classes from the certification course, which you can watch on-demand at your own pace. These classes cover all the topics you’ll want to master in your first 100 days, as well as other topics you’ll want to learn about for the future. If you want to dig deeper in any one subject, the course pages are chock-full of links to supplemental reading material.
Create buyer personas.
Buyer personas are one of, if not the most important part of a successful inbound strategy. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data and some educated speculations about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Companies often can have several different personas.
They’re the ones you’re creating content for, the ones you’re trying to reach, and the ones who (hopefully!) will eventually turn into real customers.
Creating them and tweaking them over time allows you to better understand your customers’ needs and interests and clue you in to where they spend time online. At HubSpot, everyone knows exactly who our buyer personas are, which means everyone, from marketers to product designers to salespeople to accountants, knows exactly who buys our software.
So, how do you create your own? There are a lot of nuances to buyer personas — for example, they aren’t just job titles! — so learn more about them by reading this post for beginners on buyer personas and segmentation. Then, use this template to create your own buyer personas for your business.
Set SMART Goals.
When creating your new marketing program, setting realistic goals should be a top priority. We call these realistic goals SMART goals. SMART stands for:
- Specific. Set real numbers with real deadlines. “Having a good marketing year” is not a specific goal.
- Measurable. You need to be able to use hard numbers to measure your success.
- Attainable. You want to set challenging goals, but they should still be attainable. Be honest with yourself — you know what you and your team are capable of. Anticipate and account for obstacles when possible.
- Relevant. Your goals should actually matter to your business. Let’s say you’re a teddy bear company that has 100 stores that will only accept 10 teddy bears per month in their toy store. In this situation, your goal likely shouldn’t be to “increase production of teddy bears from 1,000 per month to 5,000 per month.” While it’s great you have more product, if no one is going to take them for sale, why bother?
- Timely. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Don’t keep pushing toward a goal you might hit “someday.”
Use this free template as a guide to help you set your SMART goals. And as you go through your 100 days, remember to check your analytics regularly and make appropriate adjustments to help you reach your goals.
Figure out what content you need to create.
Content mapping is a process that helps you identify the holes in your content. It helps you make you can deliver the right content to the right people at the right time.
Knowing who your buyers are by creating those buyer personas is half of the content mapping equation, so check that off the list first. The second half is of content mapping is knowing where your buyers are in the buying cycle — which is known as the lifecycle stage. There are three lifecycle stages related to content:
- Awareness: In the awareness stage, a person has realized and expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity.
- Consideration: In the consideration stage, a person has clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity.
- Decision: In the decision stage, a person has defined their solution strategy, method, or approach.
By combining buyer personas with lifecycle stages, you can really hone in on specific segments of your audience and tailor content to resonate with each of those segments.
Everything you need to know about how to do content mapping is in this blog post. To help you brainstorm and map out content ideas for targeting specific segments of your audience, we also created this free template.
Make a list of relevant keywords.
Next, do some keyword research before you change anything on your website or start publishing content. (Otherwise, you risk “keyword-stuffing” your content after you’ve already written it, which looks forced and can get you penalized by search engines.) To jumpstart your keyword research, click here for a beginner’s guide.
There are some helpful tools out there that will help you choose the right keywords — in general, good keywords are popular industry terms that your buyer personas are searching for that don’t have too much competition. Here’s a list of the top four along with instructions and tips for how to use each of them. Start with a list of 40-50 keywords to build on over time. You’ll use your keyword list to optimize the rest of your marketing content.
Then, over time, you’ll analyze your keyword performance and ranking, known as your “listing position.” Using HubSpot, you can easily find this in the Keywords tool — just select a keyword to see your listing position. Click here for more information on tracking and analyzing your keyword and search engine optimization strategy.
Create a landing page and a thank-you page for one of your existing offers.
Do you already have an demo, trial, or free quote? Pick your favorite offer and create a landing page and thank-you page for it. If you already have landing pages and thank-you pages, redesign or revamp them to be more inbound-friendly.
Your landing page should include a description about the offer and a form for the visitor to fill out with their personal information. Here’s a cheat sheet for creating awesome landing pages to get you started. Another great resource is this essential landing page checklist.
Visitors see your thank-you page after they’ve filled out the form on your landing page. Learn how to create a thank-you page here.
Set up a blog if you don’t already have one.
Consistent blogging is a foundational part of inbound marketing. Learn why your business needs a blog here.
So you’ll need to set up a blog. If you’re a HubSpot customer, congrats — the Blog tool is integrated with the rest of your site already. If you’re not using HubSpot, you’ll need to use a third-party platform to create your blog. The most common is WordPress. You can read more about the differences between HubSpot and WordPress here.
Whichever blogging platform you choose, familiarize yourself with it by playing around with the tools on a daily basis. Search for tips online, watch instructional videos on YouTube and Lynda.com, and meet with anyone you know who’s used that platform before to learn some tricks, tips, and shortcuts in person. (And HubSpot customers, you’ll get additional training when you start using the software.) Once you get up-to-speed on your inbound marketing, you’ll be using your blogging tool every week.
Design and create 2 calls-to-action.
Calls-to-action (CTAs) are the keys to lead generation, and every inbound marketer should be able to design and create their own without relying on our busy designer friends.
If this is your first time creating a CTA, never fear! It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. In fact, you can create CTAs using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, premade images, or one of HubSpot’s 50 CTA Templates. For a step-by-step tutorial on how to create CTAs using all four of these resources (as well as how to outsource CTAs from designers), check out the detailed tutorials in this free ebook.
The two CTAs you make should be:
- A CTA for the existing offer you already created a new landing page and thank-you page for. You can should put this CTA on one of your top-trafficked pages of your website.
- A CTA encouraging people to subscribe to your blog. (You’ll also include this CTA in a re-engagement email campaign during your second month, but don’t worry about that campaign yet.)
For those of you with a little more experience with CTA creation, improve your skills with our step-by-step guide to mastering the CTA design and copy.
To analyze the success of your CTAs, you should look at the number of clicks and views each CTA received. Then, look at the percentage of views that lead to clicks and the percentage of clicks that lead to landing page form submissions. If you find that you have a low clickthrough or submission rate, you may need to tweak your CTA design or copy.
Brainstorm a backlog of 10-20 blog post topics.
These shouldn’t be just any blog post topics — they need to be ones your prospects would find interesting. Use your keyword list to help you come up with working titles for posts, and backlog them somewhere. At HubSpot, we use Trello to keep track of our post ideas. Google Docs also works just fine.
Make sure your topics are specific. “How to Fish” is far too broad a working title. You can start your brainstorming session with umbrella topics like that, but make sure your working titles are much more narrowed down: “How to Pick the Perfect Fishing Spot”; “Must-Have Fishing Gear for Beginners”; “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Bait [Infographic].”
Need help brainstorming? Check out this post on how to think up a year’s worth of blog post topics in an hour.
Publish 4-5 new blog posts by the end of your second month.
You’ve already learned how important blogging is for getting organic traffic and leads. We challenge you to write, edit, and publish your first blog post as an inbound marketer on the first day of your second month. Then, write 3-4 more new blog posts during the rest of the month. Here are some resources to get you started:
- A Blog Post to Help You Write Blog Posts [+ 5 Free Blogging Templates]
- How to Write a Blog Post Outline: A Simple Formula to Follow
- How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula to Follow
- The Secrets to Writing an Attention-Grabbing Blog Post [Infographic]
After you publish each post, check to see whether your blog traffic has increased — but don’t expect to have tons of new visitors overnight. Building your readership will take a long time, and you need to build a lot of content to increase credibility and up the chance of your posts being found on search engines. This is why it’s important to stick with it and blog consistently, and you’ll see we suggest increasing the number of posts per month throughout these 100 days.
You’ll also want to look at where your traffic is coming from. If you’re getting organic search traffic, it means more visitors are arriving at your site from search engine results pages. If you’re not getting organic search traffic, you may be focusing on the wrong keywords, or your blog may not be optimized for search. For some great blog SEO tips, check out this post on blog SEO and optimizing your posts for search.
To keep an eye on your traffic without getting discouraged by the initial progress, monitor the percentage your blog traffic grows every week and month. This is simple to view in HubSpot — just visit your “Sources,” define the time period you’re monitoring, and select “Organic Search” on the right.
Scrub and segment your email lists.
Inbound marketers don’t push their companies or products at people — they pull people toward their companies and products with great content. This means no more sending emails to people who haven’t opted in to receiving your emails. No more spamming people. No more buying email lists. No more sending emails to old, decaying lists. It’s time to significantly decrease your email bounce rate by sending emails only to people who expect to receive them.
It all starts with the health of your email contact lists. In your first month, check how healthy your lists are with this five-question sniff test. Then, review your lists and remove every single email address on there that doesn’t pass the test.
Next, segment your email lists. Remember the buyer personas you created in your first 33 days? There’s a reason you probably have more than one of them: Your buyers don’t all fit into just one category. If you own a fitness club, you might cater to athletes as well as first-time gym goers — and you shouldn’t send both those groups the same exact email. Sending more targeted, relevant emails to each subgroup will improve your clickthrough rate.
There are a few ways to segment your email lists. The first thing you should do is look at the data you already have about your contacts and figure out the most logical subgroups based on the information these recipients want from you, the questions they may have, or their stage in the buying cycle. Once you get the data into an Excel spreadsheet, you can import it to your contacts database and create the different segments.
Send a re-engagement campaign.
You cleaned your list last month while simultaneously creating some great content for your blog. Now it’s time to reinvigorate the rest of your list with a re-engagement campaign. This is a chance for you to remind the people on your email list that you exist, to tell them about the cool content you’ve been creating and will be sending from here on out, and to urge them to subscribe to your blog. (You’ll need to include that subscribe CTA you made earlier on.) After emailing this out, you’ll remove anyone who didn’t choose to opt in to your emails from your contact list.
To create a re-engagement campaign, create a compelling opt-in email message that gives readers the chance to opt in to your emails. Get creative! For example, check out the re-engagement campaign HubSpot sent that increased our email click-through rate by 583%. Use this opportunity to ask for feedback, too, so you can learn how to better customize your email marketing to their interests and needs. Here are 9 must-have components of compelling email copy to get you started.
The goals of this email are: 1) to grow your subscriber list, and 2) to further clean your email list. Track how many new blog subscribers you get from this campaign. As you send out more email campaigns and add subscribe CTAs to your blog, watch your subscriber list grow. Track this campaign’s bounce rate, too, which measures the percentage of the total emails sent that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox. The benchmark for bounce rate is less than 2% — don’t worry if the bounce rate for this re-engagement email is higher than that, as you’re still cleaning your list. Remove any email addresses that have deliverability issues, and from here on out, try to keep your total bounce rate under 2%.
Publish 6 new blog posts by the end of Day 100.
Again, the key to a successful blogging strategy is consistency. As your blog content volume increases, more people will find your site through search and you’ll build credibility. Remember, these posts don’t have to be novels. Know when good enough is good enough.
You’ll find it’s much easier to write and keep track of blog posts and ideas when you have a plan. Create an editorial calendar so you know what you’re writing and for when. Here’s a free template for creating your own blog editorial calendar. (Read this post for tips on how to use the template.)
Continue tracking blog traffic numbers and sources. As you publish more and more content, start tracking how many inbound links your blog posts are getting. Inbound links are link back to your site from other sites on the web. You can see how many inbound links you have to your domain using Marketing Grader.
Set up and optimize your social media accounts.
Now that you have your bearings with keywords, blogging, and CTAs, it’s time to focus some more on your social media marketing efforts. The reason you didn’t do this until the third month is because you need to have content to share on social media to be successful — so you needed to spend time getting that all optimized first. Now, you should:
- Figure out which social media sites your buyer personas are using (usually the social networks that are already sending you traffic), and then create accounts on those sites.
- Make your social media profiles look good. Are you using the proper image dimensions for social media profiles and posts? Do your descriptions include a link to your company website? Are you using the right tone and voice for each social media channel?
- Stop buying followers. Instead, grow your following organically by posting awesome, relevant content and putting social media sharing and follow buttons for your website, blog, and emails. (Click here for a cheat sheet on how to create these buttons.)
- Grow your reach by becoming really active on social media. Here’s a template to create your own social media publishing schedule.
To learn about these social media tips in more detail, check out this handy guide to optimizing your social media channels.
At this stage, track your follower count and measure engagement (retweets and @replies on Twitter; Likes and comments on Facebook and LinkedIn). Message clicks (the number of people who have clicked the link attached to your social message) is another way to gauge how your content is doing. In HubSpot, you can sorting your messages by click count using Social Inbox — just select the “Clicks” tab on the menu bar and HubSpot will automatically sort them in ascending order for you. You can learn more about measuring social media effectiveness here.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your social media messaging — tone, voice, offers, photos, and time of day. Test different tactics, measure everything, and then adjust. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Create one new offer conversion path (offer, CTA, landing page, and thank-you page included).
Offers are the primary gateways to lead generation — and without them, website visitors have no way of getting converted into leads. Along with publishing more blog posts, create one longer-form offer gated behind a landing page. Website visitors will have to enter in personal information (like a name and email address) to download your offer.
There are four overarching steps to creating an offer conversion path: The offer itself, the CTA, the landing page, and the thank-you page.
- The Offer: Your offer can be an ebook, guide, checklist, template, webinar, trial, product demo … the list goes on. This post explains how to create a compelling marketing offer and promote it effectively. Then, read this step-by-step guide to creating lovable marketing campaigns to learn how to actually write the offer.
- The Landing Page: Use your skills from the first month to create a landing page for your new offer.
- The Thank-You Page: Same with the thank-you page.
- The CTA: The CTA should include copy about your offer, a picture of the offer, and it should link to your landing page. You learned how to create CTAs in your second month as an inbound marketer — refer back to that section for guidance.
Then, promote your offer on email, social media, and your blog.
To measure the success of your offer, look at the number of website visitors your content generates. Then, look at the conversion rate of visitor to lead, the number of leads the offer generated (meaning the number of people who filled out your landing page form). The initial data from the top of your funnel is really easy to find if you have marketing software like HubSpot. For example, with HubSpot’s Landing Page tool, you can search for a specific landing page where you featured your offer and find the number of views it received, contacts it generated, and its overall conversion rate.
As you collect more data and publish more offers, you’ll be able to compare offer topics and types to figure out which marketing strategies work best for your target buyers.
Whew, you made it! Pat yourself on the back — you learned a ton about the inbound marketing methodology, you set up a blog and wrote some killer posts, you cleansed and segmented your email list, you designed and created your own CTAs to drive prospects toward certain actions, and you created a gated offer to generate leads.
Most importantly, you developed the key, foundational skills and habits that will lead to success in inbound marketing — and ultimately more happy customers. That’s huge progress.
Now, sit down and review the past 100 days. Did you cross all the items off the list? Which goals were easiest to complete, and which were the hardest? What personal and company-wide strengths and weaknesses did you uncover in the past 100 days? Which skills do you need to work on the most? What will you master next?