The days of Mad Men-style shout and wait marketing are over. Buyers are more sophisticated than ever and have higher expectations from brands than ever before. Technology has enabled companies to have more direct interactions with customers in a scalable way – a concept that would have been virtually alien to people only a few decades ago.

The downside with this advancement, however, is that successful marketing is harder than ever before. If you are stuck in an outbound-only model, you have probably been facing higher customer turnover in the last few years. While some turn is inevitable, let's discuss how to retain those customers that you worked so hard to win in the first place.

Imagine if each customer bought one more widget each year, or opted into a higher service level. And imagine if you could double or triple your conversion rate on new customers. Would that make a difference to your bottom line? Damn right it would! Those increases just so happen to be some of the benefits of developing an inbound marketing strategy.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, read our recent post on What Is Inbound Marketing. Now, let’s talk about how to develop a successful strategy.

Clean up Your Existing Data

old rolodexIf your database is old and hasn’t been maintained well, you may have a lot of emails for people who have left their companies, are no longer interested in what you offer, or are otherwise poor prospects for your products. The first thing is to clean what data you already have – strip out old email addresses that haven’t opened an email in over a year. That may make many marketing executives cringe – “that would shrink my list size!” – but in reality, the size of your list means nothing if it’s full of junk.

A larger list with bogus or outdated info in it can actually harm you – with lower open and clickthrough rates, resulting in lower future deliverability rates, spam complaints, and eventually blacklisting. Spend the time now to ensure you’re starting with good data.

Get ‘em Cookied

stack of cookiesYou can’t track and nurture people properly if you don’t know who they are, so the first task is getting them cookied properly using a tool like HubSpot. Send an email to your clean list, with the single goal of getting them to click to your website – thereby setting the tracking cookie. A few options that have proven to be successful in the past:

  • Visit our discounts page for a code to receive 10% off your next order
  • Download our newest eBook/Guide on something that matters in your industry

Again, the goal is to get the click to associate the known user (the email) with their browser – everything from here is based on that cookie being set.

Structure your Plans to Explore Various Types of Content

bored babyThere are many ways to build and distribute content, and the more ways you try, the better. Some may be more effective than others in your particular industry, so try everything and see what sticks. No matter how you distribute your content, ask yourself this question – what would my prospect find interesting or helpful? Don’t bother with boring content because that’s how your brand will be viewed if you do. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Webinars
  • Top 10 lists
  • “Big data” summaries
  • Infographics
  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Expert user guides
  • FAQs
  • Demo videos
  • Review videos
  • Short podcasts

Not every type of content may make sense for your business. For example, case studies may be an inefficient use of time if you sell socks for $5 at retail stores. Determine what would provide value and start there.

Repurpose Content for Different Mediums

repurposed tableLet’s say you spent 20+ hours writing and polishing the perfect eBook for a particular segment of your audience. It would be a shame to stop there – with all the different platforms we have today, you can make it work much harder for you. Take interesting screenshots or infographics from your eBook, create landing pages exclusively for them and share those (bonus – that will also help increase the number of downloads of the eBook itself because it’s teasing the quality content locked within). Or expand on different chapters in standalone blog posts or evergreen articles (articles which are always timely). You’ve already spent the time and effort to create good content. Now figure out how you can leverage it better!

There’s no reason you can’t have similar content displayed in multiple locations, as long as you address duplicate content issues for search engine indexing purposes. If it’s good content, make sure people can access it from as many (relevant) places as possible. Review your existing content to see where you have opportunities to repurpose it.

Are your Landing Pages Converting?

successful baby poseAll the traffic in the world is useless if your landing pages aren’t converting, or you’re not capturing their email address and tagging them for lead scoring and tracking going forward. Decide which content should be freely available and which content should be gated behind a registration form. The greater the perceived value of the content, the more information you can generally request. For example, an expert assessment request can get away with requesting more personally identifiable information (PII) than a newsletter signup.

Set the Tone Early for the Relationship

slow down signWhen asking for PII, set expectations early and don’t be too pushy. Will they be receiving emails from you daily or weekly or monthly - or less often than that? Will newsletters be anything more than veiled sales pitches, or will they actually contain useful information?

If they are signing up for a discount offer email, they are expecting to get discounts in their email – set and follow those expectations. This is often your first opportunity to engage with potential customers so don't start off with poor communication.

Align Sales & Marketing: Define Aspects of a Good Lead

aligning sales and marketingEvery salesperson wants qualified leads. Often times marketing and sales teams are not well aligned and friction exists between them because a qualified lead means one thing to marketing and another thing to sales. The best way to handle this type of situation is to have both teams sit down together and flesh out what is considered to be positive and negative indicators, and then rank them in order of importance. This is the first step in building a lead scoring model.

Set up Lead Scoring

lead identificationIf your content is good and you’re sharing it well, and your landing pages are converting, you are going to have a lot of people to contact. By setting up lead scoring based on what salespeople want to see or avoid in a prospect, what pages people are visiting, how often they engage with the content, and more, you can quickly determine who is a hot lead and needs to be contacted right away. For example, people visiting a pricing page are often much further down the buying funnel than someone who visits the About Us page, and therefore should be given a higher score. On the other hand, people who immediately look for the careers section are generally not good leads.

By incorporating lead scoring across your entire known database, you will be able to quickly determine who to contact and when. As a side benefit, you will start seeing patterns in what generates different types of conversions, which may help you further refine your marketing efforts going forward.

Start Developing your Content

develop your contentAll the planning in the word won’t bring in a single lead – eventually you need to build the meat that makes inbound marketing work. Write an eBook or some targeted blog posts, create some social contests – it doesn’t matter as long as it’s compelling content. Just get started … it will get easier as you go, I promise.


In Part 2, we will go into detail on how to implement your growing arsenal of content. Eventually you will reach the point in which your sales team will never have to make a cold call again because they are too busy responding to the qualified leads coming in from your marketing efforts. In a previous job, one of my happiest moments was when one of the top salespeople came to me and said, “all the leads you’re sending over are fantastic, but I can’t keep up. You can assign my new leads to someone else for a few months.” It took awhile to get there, but that’s the power of a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy. So what’s stopping you from making an awesome strategy for your business?

Want help developing your own inbound marketing plan? Contact us below!

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