Ask any elite athlete about how they consistently out-perform their peers and they’ll invariably all say the same thing in one way or another: it’s all about the game plan.

What they mean is that their success isn’t dependent on their ability to execute or their world-class athleticism. It’s their approach and preparation to their craft – a.k.a. their game plan – that makes all of the difference. It tells them everything they need to know about moving forward: what to do, how to do it, when to do is, and even why to do it. Without a game plan, they’re just guessing. With a game plan, they’re on a mission!

The reason I bring this up, is because one of the key reasons I see Inbound Marketing campaigns fail is they don’t have a game plan from the start. That’s why at my Inbound Marketing Agency, we’re proud to build professional game plans for all of our clients.

While each game plan is unique and customized for our clients, here are some of the elements that they all have in common and questions you can ask yourself to create your own inbound marketing game plan:

  • Goal Identification

First, we work closely with our clients through several enlightening conversations to identify business goals that are suitable for their marketplace positioning and their level of inbound marketing investment. We like to know their current marketing efforts and where they want to go in order to build a game plan to get them where they want to be!

Questions to Ask: Where is our business situated compared to our competitors? What marketing campaigns do we have running now? Which marketing efforts have paid off in the past? How many leads do we want to see each month? How much money do we have in our budget to pay for marketing investments?

  • Strategic Direction

Knowing where each of our clients need and want to go is vital, but it’s only part of the picture. We also need to map out how they’re going to get there efficiently and cost-effectively. This is truly where the strategic direction element comes into play. Furthermore, we don’t merely layout strategy for a few weeks or a quarter. We look at a year-long horizon, and identify what we’ll be doing for our clients to attract, convert and close more of their ideal customers over the next 12 months. Inbound marketing is an investment for the future, not a day or two turnaround.

Questions to Ask: How can we see X amount of leads in a year? What does our website & sales approach lack in terms of attracting, converting and closing? Do we need to focus on building traffic, optimizing conversions or closing more clients?

  • Buyer Personas

Speaking of ideal customers: one of the most valuable and interesting aspects of our game plan process is developing buyer personas. These are fictional representations of our clients’ ideal target market groups – including those who purchase their offerings and those who influence others to make a purchase. These buyer personas shape and guide many inbound marketing campaign aspects, including messaging, delivery, customer journey dynamics, and more.

Questions to Ask: Who is my ideal customer? Who do I want to sell to? Who makes up the largest percentage of my customers? What problems is this person experiencing during the awareness, consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey?

  • Processes, Assets and Deliverables

There are many moving parts of an inbound marketing campaign, which commonly increase when there are multiple campaigns running concurrently for targeting different buyer personas. While clients hire inbound marketing agencies to be their marketing experts, we know that educated clients are also the most successful clients.

As such, without drilling into technical details that our clients would find overwhelming, in each game plan we highlight the processes, assets and deliverables that our team of specialists will produce and distribute. These can include ebooks, infographics, blog posts, and so on. If our client has existing assets that they want us to integrate into an inbound marketing campaign, we capture this fact in the game plan as well.

Questions to Ask: When should we aim to have the first eBook done? How many blog posts should we post each week? When will we create infographics and send out emails? Should any of this repeat and how often?

  • Expectations & Reports

While a game plan is a valuable strategic map, it’s more than that. It’s also a charter that establishes mutual expectations, and identifies how and when we’ll provide reports. This is a critical element that, frankly, many other inbound marketing companies don’t even want to discuss with their clients, because they’d rather take a “wait-and-see” approach. We think that’s a plan for failure, which is why we’re extremely transparent about this in our game plans. In other words: we WANT our clients to know what they can expect from us, how we’re going to report on progress and results, what we can do better and when we’re going to share that information.

Questions to Ask: How will we show results from our inbound marketing campaign? Which statistics will we track to see how our campaign is performing? Is the timeline on these expectations realistic?

Flexibility and Updating

With all of this being said, you should regularly review your game plan to ensure that it’s optimized, and reflect any new opportunities or evolution in direction. In this way, your game plan is always relevant, reliable, and working non-stop to support your short and long-term success.

What’s Next?

Now that you have a game plan, get on track to be inducted into the Inbound Marketing Hall of Fame! To read more about inbound marketing best practices, download our FREE eBook below:

This article originally appeared on the Leap Clixx Blog and has been republished with permission.

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