Are you ready to skyrocket the success of your startup?
If so, you need to focus your efforts on inbound marketing.
Instead of broadcasting to the customer, like traditional outbound marketing does, inbound marketing focuses on creating reasons for the customer to come to you.
According to HubSpot, which coined the term “inbound marketing” back in 2006, the strategy consists of four stages.
First, you work to attract a visitor by using compelling content and appearing in search engine results.
Next, you convert that visitor to a lead. Then you close the deal and create a customer.
Finally, you delight that customer with stellar content.
It’s a proven system that works for the best companies in the world, and it has launched dozens of startups to stellar success.
In this article, you’ll learn the 22 inbound marketing strategies I recommend you use to grow your startup.
Let’s get started.
Create a target persona
The first and most critical part in creating compelling content is to deeply understand what your target customers want to learn about.
Since 79 percent of decision makers say their decision window has shrunk in the past two years, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of your market so you can react quickly.
Here’s how you can do that.
1. Review Facebook page insights
As you work to create a customer profile, you’ll need to understand the demographics that define most of your customers.
While age, gender, and location aren’t the biggest factors in who wants to buy from you, they can be helpful.
If your startup has a Facebook page with a few hundred fans, you can easily see what your current market looks like.
First, go to your Facebook page. At the top, you’ll see a button labeled Insights. Click on it.
In the sidebar that opens, click on People.
From there, you’re going to want to look at the Your Fans column. Check to see where the percentages lie to understand what demographics apply to your business.
This can give you a general feel for who is interested in your startup. But that’s not all we need.
Next, we’re going to find out what interests these people, and how you can write content that appeals to what they truly care about.
2. Survey your current customers and leads
The first and easiest way to get to know your target market is through a survey.
This doesn’t have to complicated. If you already have an email list, you can send them a simple form through SurveyMonkey.
To make this work, you really only need to ask one question: “What is your biggest struggle?”
Your goal is to understand the problems they’re facing so you can create effective content that targets their deepest interests.
3. Conduct in-depth interviews
Once you have the general feelings of your target market, it’s a good idea to start seeking out individuals you can contact for more in-depth information.
I recommend looking for a few clients or customers you’ve already acquired.
(Usually, customers are excited about this. It’s like a free consultation for them.)
Once you’re on the call, try to find out exactly what their biggest struggles are. Ask them to describe those struggles in the clearest language possible.
Get to exactly what frustrates them, and what solutions they tried before but weren’t successful with.
You’ll use this data to create content.
Produce incredible content
The quality of the content you create is the most important feature of your inbound marketing strategy.
If you create generic, self-serving articles and videos, you’ll never see success.
No matter how hard you promote this content or how you designed it to rank well in search engines, you’re going to struggle to find new clients and customers.
The best-in-class content marketers work tirelessly to adapt their content to the target audiences they want to attract — and where they are in the customer journey.
According to recent data, 69 percent of best-in-class marketers align their content with their marketing and sales funnel stages, while only 48 percent of other marketers do this.
Understanding the customer journey and their needs is critical to making great content, but it’s not the only strategy you’ll need to draw in new customers and leads.
Here’s how you can make your content stand out from the millions of pieces of content those customers are currently ignoring.
4. Start with a great headline
The most important piece of the work you create is the headline. This is what will drive the most clicks and draw in new traffic.
You should spend lots of time crafting a headline that appeals to your most targeted customers.
One of the best ways to do this is to include a bit of negativity, according to data by WordStream.
Of course, you shouldn’t always have negative headlines.
But if you have a list of mistakes, or you talk about the worst strategies that could be hurting your customer, this can be an effective way to drive traffic.
According to SevenAtoms, companies who blog receive 97 percent more leads to their websites than companies that don’t.
If you’re going to produce this content, you need to make sure it works to its best ability.
5. Include other forms of media in your content
Humans are drawn to visuals and other types of media. For your content to appeal to your ideal readers, make sure there’s more to it than just large blocks of text.
You can also include videos, calculators, or other features that make the content engaging and interactive.
CoSchedule does a great job of including lots of images in their articles, and it’s one of the reasons they’ve become so successful with their content marketing.
Instead of providing fluff, the CoSchedule blog is full of detailed guides and step-by-step instructions for accomplishing tasks important to their target audience.
6. Write long, data-driven articles
Instead of writing short posts, you should be doing extensive research and producing in-depth content.
This is true no matter what type of content you’re producing. Longer videos around 10 minutes work well, as do long reports, e-books, and podcasts.
But since blog posts are the most effective type of content at bringing in leads, I’ll focus there.
You should be writing articles that are a few thousand words long and supported by lots of data and analysis.
This is not only better for your SEO rankings, it’s more helpful for your customers.
7. Include stories in what you write
Just because you base your content around data and analysis, however, it doesn’t mean it needs to be dry and academic.
In fact, you should work to produce the opposite type of content. Create articles that tell a story in a conversational way.
Content that tells a story and articles with a plot are the best ways for customers to learn about you. Research shows that 80 percent of decision makers prefer this to advertising.
To make this effective, look for story lines where you can talk about your product or business.
This will draw more people to your sales funnel and help grow your startup through inbound marketing.
Start guest posting
When you look at the data, you’ll find that guest blogging is the best inbound marketing strategy.
This is because it provides you with backlinks, authority in the space, and relationships with key influencers.
Here’s how to make it work for you.
8. Make guest contributions consistently
First and most importantly, you need to write consistently.
This is how the most successful startup owners have made guest blogging work well for them. Instead of a few posts, they wrote prolifically and gained ground quickly.
If you do a Google search for guest posts by Danny Iny, you’ll find dozens of pieces of content across the web.
This massive, consistent guest-posting strategy allowed him to grow his business Mirasee into the powerhouse it is today.
On his homepage, he displays an in-depth list of all the sites where he has been featured.
Dedicate some of your time to creating compelling content for other blogs to reach as many customers as possible.
9. Publish on blogs with engaged readers
Another problem I see with entrepreneurs who want to use guest posting an an inbound marketing strategy is that they don’t look for sites that will actually give them much ROI.
The truth is that every guest post requires work, and that’s work that needs to give you a distinct benefit in visitors or leads.
If you post on a blog that has a dead audience, you won’t get any benefit and you’ll have largely wasted your time.
I like to look at the comments on different sites. This recent article on the WordStream blog has lots of relevant comments.
This tells me the readers are engaged, and a blog post here might result in readers clicking through to my startup’s website and purchasing from me.
Maximize your results from SEO
You need to have a good understanding of SEO to achieve any success with your startup in today’s search-driven marketplace.
The most important things to focus on are basic on-page SEO and getting backlinks for your site and your content.
Here’s how to do both.
10. Optimize keywords on each page
To start with, you need to make sure that each piece of your content is prepared to make the best use of the traffic search engines could send to you.
While there are lots of strategies that will help improve your search engine results, I recommend starting with great keyword optimization.
To do this, you’re going to need to find specific keywords which you’d like to use for targeting your content.
Use them across the page in a natural way, without seeming too intent on “stuffing” your words into the article.
Since SEO leads have a 14.6-percent close rate and 81 percent of shoppers research online before buying, this is a great way to meet your customers at their moment of buying.
But there’s another key to successful SEO.
11. Promote what you write to build backlinks
Backlinks are perhaps the most important factor in your search engine results.
At the simplest level, backlinks are other sites who link to your site. There are lots of ways to increase the number of backlinks you get to your content.
By promoting your content to other relevant influencers, you can increase the number of people that link back to you.
The exact number of backlinks you need to be successful on the search engines varies depending on the keyword, topic, and the competing sites that are ranking well now.
With careful prompting, though, you can easily outrank pages on massive sites with more authority.
Acquire leads with free content
When it’s time to convert your visitors into leads, you need some bulletproof strategies to get people to give you their email addresses.
The best method I’ve seen is to offer free content in exchange for this contact information.
12. Create a free report to drive leads
If your startup is in the B2B sector, or if you appeal to customers who want or need in-depth analysis before purchasing, you can make an effective lead magnet from a report.
This is a great way to get leads because the comprehensiveness of your work seems like a great deal for an email address.
HubSpot’s list of marketing statistics includes a pitch for their “State of Inbound” report. This is a detailed guide with massive amounts of high-quality data.
But they aren’t giving this away for free. To receive the report, you need to provide a detailed amount of information that HubSpot will use to follow up with you on their products.
This is an effective way to drive your visitors into your sales funnel and reach them even more effectively.
13. Host a webinar
One of my favorite techniques is to provide a free webinar or training session that encourages a customer to learn in real time.
This is great because it lets them see your face and understand your personality. Besides, lots of people will download a guide and never read it.
But if someone signs up for a webinar, you can see that they actually watch the whole thing.
I use this kind of training on my homepage. I don’t call it a webinar, though. I just use the term “training.”
This is a great way to increase your leads, and it’s working out well for me. Visitors must enter their first name and email address to get access to the training I offer.
Since this is such a valuable piece of teaching, people who come to my website are happy to provide their email address to learn SEO better.
14. Launch an email course
There’s another form of content you can create that will drive new customers.
Even better, it won’t require the extensive research that a report demands, or the complicated backend software necessary for a webinar.
That strategy is to create an email course. This is a simple way to provide extra value without spending tons of time creating something with design elements or video.
A great example is the free email course Mariah Coz offers on Femtrepreneur. Because it’s a course, it makes the content feel more valuable.
If you’re currently giving away an e-book for your startup and you’ve found that it isn’t converting well, consider breaking down the content into sections.
Then use each section as its own email. You may find that an email course like this converts even better than an e-book.
Start an influencer marketing campaign
One of the most effective strategies for building up your inbound marketing is getting other influencers to market for you.
If you do this the right way, it can be a free method to get people excited about your brand.
If you’re going to launch an influencer marketing campaign, you need to understand exactly what will make it work best.
15. Find and target relevant authorities
First and most importantly, you need to make sure you’re appealing to the right influencers.
This is easy to get wrong, as the people you think you’re appealing to may not be truly persuasive to your target audience.
The earlier research you did on your audience should be a great starting place to understand exactly who they pay attention to, but you might need to do even more work than that.
According to Flying Point Digital, 84 percent of brands say they manually find influencers rather than using identification tools.
If you want to start finding influencers with a tool, use one like Buzzsumo to understand who is sharing the content that appeals to your target audience.
16. Build relationships with influencers
Once you know which influencers are best for your brand, you need to start targeting them specifically.
While you can just run into promotion and start spamming them with requests to share the content you created, this won’t be very effective.
You’ll irritate them and ruin the relationship.
Instead, you need to start slow and gradually build a relationship with the influencers you’d like to have help you promote your content.
One of the best ways to reach influencers is through targeted communication on social media. You can let them know when they inspired you to write.
You should also do everything you can to help those influencers, by providing communication that’s always focused on their needs.
While it may seem frustrating to always focus on them, you’ll eventually start to build a relationship that allows you to make a small request.
If you’ve built great relationships from the start, they’ll be happy to oblige.
Build effective email campaigns
You already know that email marketing is critical to a successful inbound marketing campaign for your startup.
But are you using it effectively?
Email marketing has a massive ROI. For every $1 spent, email returns an average of $44.25. That’s insane.
But to make it work, you need to be strategic with how you promote your brand through email.
Here are the most important strategies to keep in mind.
17. Send helpful content to subscribers
First and foremost, you need to be useful to your subscribers. When someone signs up for your site, you need to provide them with a reason to stay on your email list.
If you’re constantly spamming them or sending worthless content, they’ll unsubscribe and probably never return.
Instead, send emails with valuable information they can’t get anywhere else.
Buzzsumo does a great job with this in their articles and emails. Their most recent weekly update included a report on engagement on Facebook, based on 880-million posts.
That’s a hugely valuable piece of content I want to read.
More importantly, I want to stay subscribed to the newsletter, and I’ll keep looking forward to their emails.
This is the kind of reaction you need to build with your subscribers. If they’re looking forward to your marketing, you’re doing it correctly.
18. Stick with email marketing for the long term
You need to be in the email game for the long term.
If you’re not consistently providing great content with your inbound marketing, you’re going to be frustrated.
Instead of pitching your product immediately after someone signs up on your email list, send them a welcome sequence that gradually introduces them to what you have to offer.
If you want to save massive dollars on your marketing strategies, you need to get ready to work for a while on each prospect.
Be patient, and you’ll be thankful for the results.
Make your website convert like crazy
Ultimately, the goal of much of your inbound marketing is to drive people to your startup’s website.
If you’re not converting people once they arrive, however, what’s the point?
Conversion is the key to inbound marketing since it’s the transition from visitor to prospect.
You need to make sure your website is ready to convert your traffic into leads and customers.
It’s the only way to make your startup grow with the traffic you’ve worked so hard to acquire.
19. Ensure your site is mobile accessible
The first and most important way to ensure you’re getting the conversions you deserve is by making your website mobile accessible.
Mobile searches are making up a larger and larger proportion of visits.
If your startup’s site isn’t responsive, you’re going to struggle to convert the traffic you’ve worked so hard to drive there.
According to WVO, out of 100 leading websites, only 11 were responsive. Perhaps even more telling, only seven of 148 companies felt the need for mobile optimization.
In short, the vast majority of websites aren’t appealing to mobile users, and they aren’t putting in the work they need to make these changes.
Instead of actually converting their mobile customers, they’re losing out on valuable traffic.
Don’t let that happen to you. Make sure your site is responsive and that it works well on mobile.
20. Install Hello Bar
If you want to get more conversions from the traffic you’re sending to your site, you should consider installing Hello Bar.
This is a simple tool that allows you to add a signup form at the top of your website. Since it’s unobtrusive, it won’t distract from the user experience.
But since it’s always at the top of your pages, it will drive massive conversions.
It’s a great way to get a few new leads each day.
21. Drive conversions with content upgrades
If you want to skyrocket the conversions you’re getting from the content you publish on your website, look no further than a content upgrade.
Unlike a traditional lead magnet, a content upgrade is specifically designed to optimize your highest-converting pieces of content.
A great example is the “700+ Power Word Cheatsheet” used in the article on the topic over at OptinMonster.
Because the people reading this article are interested in finding out more about the words that can make their writing more effective, this is a great way to encourage them to sign up.
You can do the same thing. To make this work, find a popular article and create a custom bonus that adds to the piece of content you’ve already written.
Link this in the article, and watch the new leads for your startup skyrocket.
22. Test and refine your strategies
It’s no secret that I think testing is the only way to improve all kinds of marketing.
This applies to the inbound marketing you’re using for your startup as well.
You need to monitor your results and make gradual improvements to different components of your campaign.
If they don’t work as expected, you should refine those strategies and try something new. But even if they do work for you, I recommend going back and making improvements.
Keeping an A/B split-test running at all times is a great way to make small but consistent changes to your marketing strategy, and to make sure everything is working at its best.
If you’re launching a startup, you want to make sure you’re implementing the best practices for extremely fast growth.
By now, you know that inbound marketing is the most effective way to increase your visitors, leads, and buyers.
You’ll need to attract customers by understanding their deepest needs, aspirations, and struggles. Using that data, create epic content that draws them in like a magnet.
Extend your reach to other sites and present your content around the web, acquiring new customers and building your influence and authority.
You’ll need to include SEO best practices so that customers can find you through search engines as well.
Once you have the traffic, work to convert those visitors with free content and influencer marketing that drives leads.
With a compelling email campaign and a high-converting website, you can be guaranteed to grow your business like never before.
Which inbound marketing strategies will you use to grow your startup?