Key Stages in the Inbound Marketing Process

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By Brian Swanson, Flashpoint Marketing 

By now, most every accounting and accounting marketing professional has heard about inbound marketing. It's all the rage. In fact, at every marketing conference I personally attend, there seem to be a few sessions dedicated to the topic. However, one thing that seems to elude many professionals is how SEO, social media, pay-per-click advertising, and e-mail marketing play a role in inbound marketing. There's a lot of confusion about how these tactics should be implemented. At Flashpoint Marketing, we're often asked about the inbound marketing process and where firms should invest their time. To help clients, prospects, and others, I've outlined the key steps in the inbound marketing process and provided details about each.

Traffic Generation

The first hurdle to overcome is getting traffic to your website. This is the area that requires the most time planning and executing because it's the foundation of any inbound effort. It requires you to consider how to represent your business online, who your target audience is, how you're going to engage them, and what you want to share with them. Remember, it's impossible to engage people through your website if no one is aware it exists or knows where to go looking for it. In the traffic generation stage, the goal is to leverage tactics that will increase the amount of visitors to your website. If you attend marketing conferences throughout the year, then the tactics mentioned here will probably be familiar. Activities most commonly associated with traffic generation include:

Content creation – Before you can generate traffic to the site there must be something of value that your audience will want to read, engage with, or experience. This is one of the most important aspects of inbound marketing. All other steps in the process hinge on the premise that you have strong, engaging content. Common content examples include blogs, articles (tax and audit), alerts, and white papers. The more appealing this type of content is to your core audience, the faster you can expect to see the traffic increases you're looking for.

Search engine optimization (SEO) – SEO is the practice of positioning each page on your website in such a way that search engines will index them according to keywords or concepts most closely related to the subject matter. This tactic gives you the ability to guide search engines in how they index your site and where it ranks when related searches are conducted.

Social media – Most people have heard enough about social media by now. However, it's an effective method for sharing content with your network. Operating on the assumption that like attracts like, it stands to reason accounting professionals would have other professionals interested in or working in accounting in their network. As a result, sharing engaging content with like-minded professionals is bound to drive traffic to the site.

Site Engagement and Conversions

The second stage in the process of inbound marketing is engaging visitors on your website. It's important to ensure you're able to somehow connect with a high percentage of visitors that come to your website. An important point to consider here is that each visitor will be in a different position in the sales cycle. For this reason, it's imperative to identify tactics for engaging visitors who are not only ready to buy, but also those who are just starting their purchasing journey. Activities most commonly associated with site engagement and conversions include:

Calls to action – One of the most common mistakes we encounter with CPA firm websites is a lack of calls to action. They often provide pages of valuable content on an emerging issue and at the conclusion, they don't offer any next steps on how to get started or get help. It just ends. This is the epitome of poor marketing. If you have people engaged and they're interested, you need to make it easy for them to connect with you. Even if they aren't at the point where a purchase is eminent, you don't want them to leave empty-handed.

Conversion strategies – This is a broad term referring to any on-page item that visitors can take, sign up for, or download. Examples, as stated previously, might include white papers, webinar recordings, survey results, service trial, and videos. The key with conversions is they should not only offer something of value to the site visitor, but make sure they also give something to you. In other words, ask visitors to fill out a brief form whereby you collect important information on them. Go beyond the typical contact information and ask for information that's relevant to the service topic. For example, one firm we work with offered a white paper on FBAR, and one of the fields on the form was country of citizenship. This is very relevant to the service offering and for marketing purposes later on.

e-mail marketing – Although not always associated with inbound marketing, it's an important method for engaging a specific segment of customers with website content. Remember, since you're engaging prospects and clients, each e-mail should have a marketing goal and link to specific or special content. Before sending e-mails, consider both the value of the content and what actions you want the reader to take after receiving it. Broader examples of e-mail marketing might include RSS feeds for your blog, e-newsletter, e-invite, or promotional offers (where appropriate).

In Perspective

Inbound marketing is a comprehensive process that requires significant planning and attention. Oftentimes, firms realize they need to seek outside help to reach established goals. Whatever your situation, we encourage you to take small steps and assess results. 

Read more articles by Brian Swanson.

About the author:

Brian Swanson is a partner at Flashpoint Marketing, a marketing consulting firm that focuses on providing traditional and digital lead generation services exclusively to the accounting profession. He leads the development of the firm’s digital services practice which included traditional and mobile website development, inbound marketing programs, and search engine optimization efforts.

© 2013, Flashpoint Marketing. All rights reserved. The material presented here is copyright by Flashpoint Marketing. Reprinting or reproduction is prohibited without the express written consent of Flashpoint Marketing.



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