This simple step-by-step inbound content plan will work for most small and medium-sized companies. While the schedule is weekly it could very well be monthly. It’s flexible to fit most time and budget constraints.

The point of inbound marketing is to get qualified prospects in the door. Inbound marketing uses content as an attractor. When successful, the content captures some contact information from prospects, and then nurtures them until they eventually become customers. This simple inbound content plan can be greatly expanded, but I’ve tried to include the most important bits in a straightforward way.

Summary: The Simple Inbound Plan

This is essentially what I am about to tell you to do:

  1. Learn about a specific subset of your audience (persona)
  2. Create an e-book (long-form content)
  3. Create five blog posts (short-form content)
  4. Create one post to sponsor (paid content)
  5. Create social media posts (the social piece)
  6. Schedule everything to post at specific times (marketing automation)
  7. Repeat (you’ll need grit for this bit)

You Have to Give Something to Get Something

A good inbound content initiative gets you the prospects name and email address. The process described below will walk you through the steps needed to get that information by offering something of value in return for peoples contact information (and a solemn promise to keep it safe).

First: Define the Target Persona

Don’t skip this step – even if you feel like it.

Interruption-based marketing is dead. I mean super-dead. Like stinky lying in the desert sun roadkill dead. Salespeople are rarely super models. Who wants to get a call from a salesperson who isn’t a supermodel? Me either.

Modern marketing combines the art of content creation with the power of data science. To do this, decide who you are targeting by creating an archetypal persona. Basically, a fake person.

Modern marketing is combines the art of content creation with the power of data science

Creating a Persona to Target with Your Marketing

An archetypal persona is a representation of the “ideal” person your marketing will target. The key is not to start with the product or service, but instead to focus on your audience.

Really get to know your sub-audience. Are they left-handed dog walkers who enjoy tweezing angry cats? How about middle-aged marketing executives trapped in a sea of gray cubicles regretting last nights questionable sushi?

Whoever they are, persona research and documentation will focus your efforts and keep your tiny team on mission. Typically you’ll describe at least the following attributes about the “perfect” prospect:

  • Name (made up, we like funny names)
  • Job Title
  • Age
  • Industry
  • Company Size
  • LinkedIn Groups They Belong To
  • The problem they’re experiencing
  • The solution represented by your content

Once you’ve create the target persona you’ll begin to understand, and maybe even empathize, with the person for which your content will eventually solve a problem. Here is an example of a simple persona for an entrepreneur staring a venture-backed business – we’ll call him “Eddie Entrepreneur”. We even provided a lovely image below with an angelic glow about him:

image of entrepreneur
Name: Eddie Entrepreneur

Job Title: CEO

Age: 38

Industry: Software

Company Size: 3 People

LinkedIn Groups: Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network, Business Analytics, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence

Problem: Eddie is starting a software company using a growth-hacking marketing model so he’s building virality right into his application. Money is tight.

He knows the software won’t be perfect out the gate and hopes to iterate his way to perfection. But early negative reviews could kill his business before he even makes it to the second round of funding.

He also feels he needs to make his three-person company seem more robust than it truly is by priming the media pump and dominating his competition in search engines, especially in the area of product comparison-related searches.

Identify the Content Group

A content group is not a LinkedIn Group. A Content Group is a subset of your overarching content plan. A piece of it. It’s a grouping of related content that works together to satisfy an objective. The content group will often adhere to a cohort analysis.

Want that in English now? It’s a group of stuff you’ll work on that is thematically similar and focused on helping your prospect.

The more focused your content is on solving a particular sub-group’s problems the more successful it will be.

Now that we know who we are creating content for we can begin to design what goes into that content group. Ideally, we want to work on only one content group per week. That way all of your content focuses like a laser on solving one problem-set from multiple angles. It also keeps things organized.

Quick Recap: The Plan in a Nutshell

Remember the objective: We want to get the names and email addresses of the types of people we think will be a good fit for our services (or product) so we can market to them later via lead nurturing process. That is the main success metric of this inbound process: Contact information of qualified prospects. Later we’ll gather more information to better serve them to augment the data set, but for now just the name and email will do because… well, we have to start somewhere.

To get that information we need to attract them with something enticing. We’ll create small bits of content as teasers in order to get them to provide us with their contact information in return for more robust detailed content.

Do All People Look Like Fish to You?

If you’re one of those people who think of all people as lumbering land-roaming fish this might help: Think of short-form blog posts as bait, and long-form e-books as the hook.

Inbound is Essentially a Two-Step Process

It’s a two-step process. Some will say (rightly) that it has more steps. But I’m not here to confuse you more than need be.

One

First, you attract prospects with short-form content, this content is excellent but doesn’t quite provide all the details they need to solve their problem… wonderfully devious – right?!

You’ll embed a CTA (call-to-action) in your content that might look something like this.

great-software-reviews.png

Two

To ultimately satisfy themselves they must perform the second step: download the longer-form content (an e-book in this case). To get that they must provide their name and email.

getyours.png

The name and email will then be used to add them to a very selective email list in which they will only receive actually helpful emails that continue to solve their problems and build the relationship further.

I won’t go into it here, but the email lists and messaging must later be segmented according to affinity / cohort groups. Perhaps I’ll do a blog post on that someday.

Moving Prospects Down the Funnel

The image below was stolen borrowed from Hubspot.

marketingfunnel.png

You are moving people down the marketing funnel (more about the funnel here). At the top prospects are just browsing the web trying to find a solution. You entice them with your wonderful content, it’s so good they give you their information making them leads. Now they’re further down the funnel. Then you help them along some more, they give you more information about themselves voluntarily – now they’re marketing qualified leads… etc.. Eventually they buy from you (hopefully).

The Inbound Content Plan Ingredient List

Basic Content Plan Ingredients

1 Persona
1 Long-form content – e-book that solves persona’s problem.
5 Short-form content: Blog posts
1 Short-form sponsored content: LinkedIn
30 Social media messages (you can do less if you want)

Thing One: Create a 5-7 Page E-Book

Create a five to seven page e-book that will be behind an information-wall requesting basic information about the person downloading the content. Here is a good article on how to do it. Typically you’ll be asking for an email address, as well as first and last name.

You’re trying to solve a problem for the prospect. In this case we’re trying to solve “Eddies” problem. Specifically:

  • He has a software startup.
  • He has very little money, and no time.
  • He can’t afford to hire an in-house marketing team.
  • He needs to dominate searches against his competitors in search results.
  • He needs the best possible reviews as early as possible.

Knowing the above we might come up with a few e-book ideas. For example:

  • How to Attract Great Reviews Even Before Your Software Launches
  • Positioning Your Software Startup for Early Search Engine Dominance
  • How to Make Your Software Company Look Better Online

Thing Two: Create 5 Blogs Posts

Blog posts must satisfy the following criteria:

Tease E-Book Content

They must summarize content found in the e-book to which the blog post is designed to support. In other words, if an e-book is about How to Make Your Software Company Look Better Online, then the blog posts might be entitled:

  • Five Sites Every App Startup Should Be Listed On
  • How Startups Look Bigger Than They Are Online
  • Why People Download Inferior Apps Over Yours
  • The Trick to Getting Good Reviews for Your New App
  • Winning the Online Brand War for App Developers

Clicky

The blog post headlines must beg to be clicked. The most important part of a blog post is the headline – really. The worst way to pick a headline is to use your gut feeling as to what a great headline is. Instead, use data if you can. Upworthy creates 25 versions of headlines before using A/B testing to pick one!

Sticky

Once someone clicks the awesome headline you AB tested the heck out of to find they will arrive at your blog post. Do they stay? I hope so. This is called “dwell time”. “Dwell time” is how much time elapses between someone clicking a search result and then returning to Google or Bing. In other words, they don’t “bounce” back after viewing your content immediately. You need them to read, at least a little bit, to get some context. Ideally though, your blog posts are designed to get people to click the CTA embedded in it. That’s most of the reason you are putting time into this whole exercise, right?

The CTA

I hate to beat it into you, but I must. It’s my job. The biggest reason you are creating content is to increase the size and quality of your email list. So, to recap:

  1. Create blog posts to drive traffic to the e-book.
  2. The e-book drives email sign ups.
  3. The email sign ups are used for a newsletter or similar campaign.

Most people aren’t ready to buy when they come to your site. This method helps insure you’re top of mind when they finally are because you’re so damned helpful!

Here is an example of what a CTA might look like for the e-book:

great-software-reviews.png

Where Does the CTA Lead?

The CTA leads to a landing page. Not your home page. A special page made just for Eddie and your offer. There are many articles about how to create a landing page. For example, this one and this one are good.

SEO Value

There is a secondary reason for all this content too, it drives SEO. The more high quality content you have the more traffic your site will have (generally). Which is pretty cool.

Create One Post for LinkedIn (Sponsored)

The LinkedIn post will be designed specifically to target Eddie. You might notice the criteria you chose for Eddie the Entrepreneur’s persona match the criteria LinkedIn ad targeting provides. Coincidence? I think not. More on this later.

Criteria for LinkedIn Sponsored Content

Here are the basic criteria for a LinkedIn sponsored content article.

  • Thumbnail image size: 1.91:1 ratio (1200x627px) displayed on mobile.
  • Title must be 70 characters max. to avoid truncation.
  • Introductory Text: 150 characters or less, including the landing page URL
  • Image must be more than 200px in width.
  • Manual image upload max weight: 5MB
  • Recommended PPI (pixels per inch) is 72.
  • Manual image upload supported types: JPG, GIF, PNG
  • Animated GIFs are not accepted.
  • Characters count toward introductory text limitation.
  • All embedded URLs must have the “http://” “or https://” prefix.

Embed a Call-to-Action in Each Post

The blog posts and LinkedIn sponsored posts must have a call to action (CTA) embedded near the top and at the bottom of each post. The CTA’s must be in-line, meaning they are part of the content of the post. The CTA’s are the main reason we are creating this content – remember, we want people to click on the CTA to access the long-form e-book. In doing so you capture their email address and name for further targeted marketing.

Thing Three: Create Five Tweets for Each of the Six Posts (30)

besttweet.png

Once you have the e-book and the six supporting short-form content pieces you’re ready to create social media messages. There are three forms of social media being used in this campaign (but you could use more). The three we are targeting are:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook

You’ll need to create five tweets for each of the posts. There are a total of six posts, so that’s a total of 30 tweets. Why so many? Because different messages and hash tags attract different people. For example, here is an example of a tweet promoting the blog post “Five Sites Every App Startup Should Be Listed On”:

Five Sites Every App Startup Should Be Listed On. Where should your new app company be listed? Here are five of the best.

Remember, tweets are a max of 140 characters not counting the @replies.

Here is a great guide to creating great tweets.

Thing Four: Schedule Blog Posts – One Per Weekday

Once the e-book and six articles are ready, place them in your CRM (customer relationship software). Most companies use WordPress (we use Hubspot).

The beauty of scheduling online content is you can get a lot of it done well in advance. For example, you can create all of the July content in June. That way you schedule the blog posts as well as the social media (mentioned later) and then essentially forget about it (sort of).

Schedule the first post on Monday, the second on Tuesday, etc. You’ve created five, so you should have one for each day of the week. This is a great way to do it because your content weeks get a “theme”.

Thing Five: Schedule Tweets

We use Hubspot for our CRM at Reputation X. It enables us to do quite a few cool things, one is to schedule social media. Other solutions work very well for scheduling social media too, the best ones are probably HootSuite and Buffer. Below is an image of what the Hubspot Social Publishing view looks like.

socialpub.png

Scheduling social media is pretty similar across platforms. I won’t get into the specifics of each platform, but will say there should be a schedule. Due to the nature of Twitter, it gets a lot of repetition. Other channels don’t.

Twitter

Tweet one of the messages each day. Make sure each is unique and contains different hash tags. Repeat the five tweets the following week. Once per weekday, with other different hash tags. Do the same for two more weeks. This way you use the same five tweets repeatedly but with different hashtags to connect different similar interests. Schedule these in advance of course so you only have to set it up once.

LinkedIn

Share the blog post on LinkedIn. When you post it Hubspot will do this for you. Post to LinkedIn only once.

Facebook

Same rules as LinkedIn. Of course there are many tweaks you could make for each platform, and they’re worth doing, but this guide is supposed to be simple.

Paid Stuff: Target Persona A with a LinkedIn Sponsored Post

One of the articles you created was for LinkedIn specifically. This is a Sponsored Post. You have to pay to play, but you can target Eddie very specifically. When you set up the targeting for the post you will see options like those below:

You should have the following items from the Eddie persona readily available:

  • Job Title
  • Industry
  • Company Size
  • LinkedIn Groups

For a detailed walk-through of how to setup a LinkedIn campaign see this link.

Get Creative: Other Types of Online Content

There are more kinds of online content to support your downloadable long-form content than blog posts. Here are a few ideas:

Opinion Post Lists
White Papers Surveys
Videos Resources
Cartoons Quotes
Illustrations Polls
Summaries of Books Image Pin Boards
Tool Reviews Photos
Give-Aways Research
Webinars Press Releases
How-To Guides News (Company)
Glossaries Newsletters
InfoGraphics White Papers
Interviews Tools
Slides Case Studies

That’s It!

This plan should get you started. Do the above once a week if you can, or at least once per month.

Once you’re off and running you can add to it, tweak it, delve into analytics, CRO (conversion rate optimization), SEO (search engine optimization), influencer outreach, clickbait headlines, and much more. But at least you’ll be started!