Marketing Insights for Tech Creators

How to Get Started with Inbound Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for Startups

Like any other startup owner, you’re eager to see your company grow and prosper, and do so as quickly and smoothly as possible.

You’ve likely heard a few things about inbound marketing and how effective it was in helping other startups take off.

Perhaps you’ve already seen a few inbound marketing statistics.

They can be impressive; impressive enough to make you wish you’d kicked off an inbound marketing campaign yesterday—if not 6 months ago.

But there’s one small problem…

You don’t know exactly what is involved, or quite where to begin.

That so-called “small problem” is easy to overcome. For example, you won’t have to spend countless hours trying various marketing schemes that may or may not work for you (despite consuming a big chunk of your budget either way).

No doubt you’re aware that your investors won’t be happy if you invest time & money in guesswork that doesn’t bring the ROI they were hoping for. Or, even worse, results in a major loss.

The good news is, Inbound marketing is proven to be super effective.

And it will work for you.

Because we’re going to show you exactly what to do, how to do it, and why.

Everything you need to know about inbound marketing is right here in this guide. We’ll give answers to questions like:

  • What makes inbound marketing so powerful?
  • How can it help a tech startup like yours?
  • What do you need to know and work on to get started?

There’s a fair amount of material to cover, but as you work your way through it, you’ll find everything is quite straightforward.

Inbound marketing methods and techniques have this “superpower”.

When you cumulate them in a coherent action plan, you’ll start seeing some immediate measurable results that will snowball into crazy-good results in a few months’ time.

Exponential growth (the kind that leaves investors speechless) may not happen immediately. But if you follow this guide step by step, you’ll probably be seeing the first significant results in just a few short weeks.

That said, let’s get started.

What is Inbound Marketing, and why is it so powerful?

First, let’s examine what differences between tradition marketing and inbound marketing:

The traditional marketing approach is to get a message out to as many people as possible with the objective of forcing a product on a significant number of them.

Inbound marketing takes a different approach, and that is to pull in those who are actively searching for a solution like yours by letting them know you have exactly what they want.

  • Traditional marketing is a brute force approach. It’s the sword (or sledgehammer if you prefer).
  • Inbound marketing is more subtle. It’s the pen – literally.

Guess which one is mightier; and by a factor of 10 or more.

That little 10X statistic alone may be more than enough to make you jump on the inbound marketing bandwagon – now.

That’s OK – but be forewarned; there’s a lot of hard work to be done, and it will take some time.

Like we said earlier, your startup isn’t likely to experience exponential growth the first few weeks – but elements of your plan just might.

Inbound marketing is not about billboards, fliers, junk mail, and those ever-so-slightly too loud TV commercials.

It’s about pulling in those who are actively searching for solutions to fill a want or need. Instead of trying to force a product on them, you help them make informed decisions.

Those newly well-informed, smart buyers will choose you.

That’s the plan.

The inbound marketing approach?

It involves a carefully thought out combination of outstanding content creation, SEO, website optimization, email marketing, lead generation, and social media marketing.

These are all mixed together in a way that’s guaranteed to get prospective buyers’ attention, engage them, and make them want to follow the journey you’ve laid out for them.

It’s the exact opposite of high pressure, in-your-face sales tactics.

Think of inbound marketing in terms of a simple flow chart made up of four key elements or actions:

Attract, Convert, Close, Delight.

  • Start by generating compelling, informative, and engaging content to Attract people who’ve never heard of you before.

Important Note: Make sure your website is search engine optimized so anyone can find you.

  • Convert your reader into a lead by giving them valuable information.
  • Close the deal by gently guiding your new lead through the buying process. Congrats, you now have a customer!
  • Now you’ll want to Delight your customer by providing outstanding content that will make him or her gain trust in your product and your brand, tell others, and come back for more.

Delight is all about providing post-conversion value – and it pays off. It’s worth noting that social media provides a great outlet for delighting customers and turning them into promoters of your product.

That’s all there is to it – except of course, for the details – and the attention that needs to be paid to those details to reap the rewards of exponential growth.

Which is where this guide comes in.

How can inbound marketing help a tech startup like yours?

The short answer:

Because of the logic behind it, and the way it works, inbound marketing brings more consumers to startups; far more than traditional marketing ever can.

The beauty of it is, you don’t need a complex or trial-by-error sales and marketing approach, or pure dumb luck, to succeed.

Content is king. If you’re capable of generating helpful, relevant content you already have a foot in the door.

Content, SEO, social media marketing, and other approaches are straightforward, effective, and can’t easily be mimicked or emulated by other forms of marketing.

To get your startup on the map you need to make a statement. And making a statement is precisely what inbound marketing is all about.

Who’s out there?

Whoever your ideal consumer is, or your target audience consists of, they all browse the web.

At any one time, <5% are ready to purchase something; the remaining 95+% are still looking and researching.

When you create content that’s tailored to a target base, you can forget about those statistics.

When you can offer people the solutions they’re looking for *and* gain their trust with valuable content, you’ll get your fair share of both the 5% and the 95%.

What you need to get started

Quoting Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of HubSpot:

“The day your startup starts building a product,

it should start building an audience for that product.

Inbound gets you going, so you can start growing.”

First things first: You must have a plan.

If you try to wing it, your lack of success will eventually demoralize you and your employees.

… If you don’t crash and burn first that is, because using ineffective marketing techniques leads to long days & nights of hard work without any concrete result.

A good piece of advice—

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do too much of it.”

Your plan can consist of a workflow, to-do lists, or a series of steps. Just be sure you’ve defined a goal and a realistic approach to achieving it.

Work on being able to accomplish the following, and you’ll be on your way to exponential growth:

1- Create an ideal buyer persona or personas.

These personas give you a target to aim your marketing program at.

In the event you already have a few customers, or a few hundred, take time to find out everything you can about their demographics and interests.

Inbound marketing is never scattershot.

It’s always directed toward those who are most likely to purchase from you once they know you exist. You have to be keenly aware of what they have in common in terms of demographics, interests, wants, and needs.

2- Publish great content.

Learn how to write engaging headlines.

A visitor who doesn’t get past your headline isn’t particularly likely to end up at your CTA button. The better your content, the more likely you’re going to arouse a reader’s interest.

It’s also more likely the reader will share it with others, recommend your site to others, and actually act as a promoter of your site, product, and brand.

Avoid dry and academic content.

This applies even if your target audience’s interests tend toward things that are dry and academic.

You will sometimes have to rely on statistics and analyses to get a message across. That’s OK, but the best way to get potential customers to learn about you is offer content that tells a story, or an article that has a plot.

Why? Because 80% of your readers prefer storytelling to conventional advertising.

3- Have a good understanding of SEO.

This is an absolute necessity if you’re going to achieve success.

SEO leads have a close rate of just under 15%, as opposed to a close rate of less than 2% for those who on traditional ads.

When you consider that 9 out of 10 shoppers are busy conducting online research before buying, it’s easy to see the importance of SEO.

It can be a great help if your startup has an employee who is skilled at writing great content and understands the importance of SEO, keywords, PPC, and the like.

Well-written, engaging content is sometimes enough, but investing in a quality SEO tool is still a wise investment.

There are people out there looking for what you have to offer, and you want to make every effort to help them find you. The more shoppers you can reach while they are researching online, the better.

4- Create an irresistible lead magnet.

Free content is a great way to attract leads.

A technique many inbound marketers prefer is to post content that informs and engages a reader and offer a related and more detailed free report in exchange for an email address. You may well have taken advantage of offers like this yourself

It can be extremely effective.

Or, you could offer an eBook at no cost or at a substantial discount if a reader is willing to provide additional information.

Other effective lead-generating approaches include free webinars, training sessions, and email courses.

Note: The term “course” suggests the content carries significant value and weight.

Start an influencer campaign.

This will usually take some work, but it’s also an area where using social media has proven to be effective in recruiting new leads.

You need to target influencers and build relationships with them; but when you can find a person, site, or publication that is willing to help you promote your product, it’s worth the effort.

5- Craft impactful email campaigns

These days, the marketing emphasis seems to mainly center around website content, and email marketing is often delegated to a secondary marketing approach, if it is used at all.

Once you have your lead generating operation up and running and start accumulating email addresses, you might as well put those leads to good use.

For one thing, email marketing is one of the least expensive marketing approaches.

Even if email marketing was expensive, the ROI is still almost unbelievable.

For every $1 invested; the average ROI is just over $44, and you could realize increasing numbers of sales-ready leads by sending out promotional emails designed to capture their attention; and at a low cost.

To make an email campaign work:

  • Provide helpful content that will encourage them to stay subscribed to your email list. Avoid worthless content or spamming at all cost.
  • Write content that will have your subscribers looking forward to the next email and keep it up. You want to be in it for the long term.

6- Optimize your website for a high conversion rate

Remember the flow—Attract, Convert, Close, Delight.

Make sure each page “goes with the flow”. The content in a given page may go into significant detail, but it still has to stick to the message you’re trying to deliver by attracting and engaging a visitor and pointing that visitor in the direction you want him or her to go.

Focus on educating visitors.

You want to be educating visitors rather than hard-selling them something from the get-go.

People like to feel their decision to buy is an informed one.

Earn the trust of your readers by thinking of the questions and objections they might have and provide answers to them.

Identify and use targeted keywords throughout your website.

Optimize each page of content around one and preferably only one keyword.

Always use keywords in a natural way.

Don’t overdo it. If you place your keyword in every other sentence you’re effectively talking down to people. They don’t like that.

Make sure your website is mobile friendly.

Google’s search engine will notice whether or not your website is mobile friendly.

It will give you a better ranking if it is, which typically translates into more traffic, and ultimately, more conversions.

A few years back mobile friendly was a suggestion. Today, it’s a must.

Use clear Calls to Action

If you make a visitor hunt for your CTA, you might not close the deal.

Big, bold, and bright are the watchwords here. Just don’t go overboard.

7- Create an inbound marketing plan

Putting together an effective inbound marketing plan takes time; due in large part to the amount of detail involved in each of the recommended approaches.

It’s a great learning-by-doing exercise however, and once it’s completed you should have some very positive feelings about what you can expect.

On the other hand, if you’re more comfortable going with a ready-made plan so you can use the time it would otherwise take to devise a plan, and use it on other priorities, we can help.

Your plan should address:

Analyses of your company, your industry, and your top competition.

This includes fully understanding the skills, talents, and tools and systems your company already has or may need to acquire.

You also need to understand your company’s workflows and processes and which of them need changing, what to add, and which to keep.

Goals and objectives

What you want to accomplish during the next 12 months.

Whatever your goals and objectives are, make certain they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely

i.e., SMART

Keep Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight in mind as you build your plan. That’s what inboard marketing is all about. It’s the flow you’ll always be coming back to.

Prioritize your actions

Identify those things you’ll need to work on first once you start implementing your plan. As far as building your plan is concerned, if it’s something that doesn’t have to be addressed right away, push it further down your list.

Put a plan of action in place.

You’re obviously not going to wait to get started until you finish your plan, but once it is finished there’s bound to be a whole host of things demanding your “immediate” attention.

Or so you think.

One of the common mistakes we mentioned is: don’t try to do too much at once.

The best way to avoid falling into that trap is to have an action plan in place; one you can follow for 30 to 60 days.

By then you should have found your groove.

Checking off one critical item at a time will also make you feel good.

Hmm… Have we forgotten anything?

Indeed we have! – Blogging.

Most inbound marketers make blogging a priority.

Some will even tell you it’s the most effective inbound marketing technique you can use.

So, start blogging.

And once you’ve finished, blog some more.

An informative blog, especially one that features in-depth content and is at least somewhat evergreen, will continue to bring in potential customers long after you first published it.

Blogs are the most effective type of content you can put into play to generate leads. According to SevenAtoms, blogging alone can double the number of leads your company will receive.

Inbound marketers that make blogging a priority are on the average a dozen times more likely to realize a positive ROI.

Common mistakes you should avoid.

Everyone makes mistakes.

You will as well, but it’s not all that difficult to avoid most or all of those that could slow your business down or cause it to crash and burn.

Here are some of the most common mistakes people new to inbound marketing are prone to make:

Not having a set of measurable goals and objectives

Or, not sticking to those you have. This is a mistake people in almost any business endeavor are guilty of making.

To repeat: If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do too much of it. Obviously, the goals have to be realistic to have any hope of achieving them.

Trying to do everything at once.

The inevitable result will be confusion and frustration when there is a host of different things that have to be attended to.

Make it a point to ensure that you, or any member of your team, is not in a position to have to try and take on too many things at once.

Neglecting the impacting of blogging.

You may think that everything you need to say has been said, but search engines don’t look at it that way.

They like dynamic websites that constantly generate great content.

Trying to meet your inbound marketing goals will be just that much harder if you neglect blogging.

Not making use of what you already have.

Is it a website that you could spice up? A brochure you could use as a basis for promotional blogs or articles? Or is it putting a semi-dormant list of email addresses to good use?

You’ll already be plenty busy without having to constantly be reinventing the wheel.

Creating content just to create content.

That’s definitely not a recipe for creating the kind of content that attracts people and search engines love. Make sure your content is valuable and relevant for the people you want to attract.

Neglecting or avoiding metrics.

If you’re not measuring results and making necessary adjustments, you may never know if you are meeting your objectives.

You may eventually meet them, but it will probably take much longer to do so.

When can you expect to see results?

Google Analytics screenshot from one of our clients’ blog that we built.

In the near term, you can expect to see some solid growth indicators along with some measurable results. Enough to convince you that life is indeed good.

As time goes by, those measurable results and growth indicators will begin to crop up more frequently.

It all gets back to the planning stage where you’ll be putting in a lot of effort to make certain that all the t’s were crossed and every i was dotted.

While devising a plan and putting it in place, you should come to the realization that getting the good results you want could take some time.

You’ll be seeing positive results during the first 12 months, so there’s no need to circle a date on the calendar 12 months from now and wait until then to see how you’re doing.

You can influence how quickly your company takes off.

Published statistics indicate that nearly 84% of companies that put inbound marketing into play can expect to see a significant increase in the number leads they’ve acquired within the first 7 months.

Note the word “significant”. It suggests you could be witnessing signs of positive growth much earlier.

Take into consideration that putting a workable plan together can take a couple of months. Although there will be segments of the plan you could, and should, put into practice before the planning exercise is complete.

  • You have to map out a journey for your potential customers.
  • You have to get to know the competition.
  • You may have to gain a better understanding of your own company; especially of its available skills and experience and the processes you already have in place that may have to be changed.
  • You’ll need to start producing content from the get-go.
  • And, you need to establish who is responsible for what (if you don’t have marketing people on your team, outsource to specialists to make sure you get quality work)

When you can expect to start seeing results will also depend on:

How frequently you publish new content.

For example, the more frequently you publish blog posts, the more traffic you can expect to get.

If you can manage 16 or more blog posts a month, you could get more than 3 times as much traffic than if you published 4 or fewer blogs each month.

The quality of your content.

We mentioned this before. If you publish high-quality content that is at least semi-evergreen, it should keep delivering leads long after you posted it.

HubSpot statistics indicate that 90% of new leads and 75% of website traffic comes from old content.

Old content can often become the gift that keeps on giving.

How you share your content.

An effective way of promoting your content is to share it.

Targeting relevant audiences on social media to share your blog posts with is one way to generate new leads and turn existing ones into customers.

Planning your exponential growth

Exponential growth is like compound interest on steroids. How can you make it happen?

Keep this in mind: Your brand is everything.

Content may be king, but you have to make sure it’s always in alignment with your brand strategy.

What does a brand strategy involve?

It involves doing whatever you need to do to make people place their trust in your brand.

This includes:

  • Publishing content that sets your company apart from the rest
  • Publishing content that makes people feel good, and
  • Publishing content that makes people feel they are in familiar territory when reading that content or doing business with you.

If your content doesn’t represent or relate to your brand, people won’t remember which company it was that seemed to have solutions to their wants and needs.

Your tone of voice has a lot to do with how people perceive your brand.

  • Can they believe what you are telling them is true?
  • Can they expect high-quality customer support – including talking with real people?

You need to make every effort to ensure the content you produce is always aligned with your brand.

  • If it isn’t, your brand will suffer.
  • If your brand takes a hit, your marketing campaign will as well.

We hit upon the need for frequent blog posting before.

Frequent blog posting bolsters your brand’s reputation and gets you closer to the exponential growth you’re anticipating.

A good way to ensure the blogs keep coming and are always appropriate is to have a blog editorial calendar to refer to.

  • It serves as a reminder to publish.
  • It also serves to suggest publishing content that relates to holidays, special events, conferences, or anything else going on that your audience might be interested in.

There’s one other thing to take into account when planning for exponential growth.

  • Get your employees excited about inbound marketing, so they’ll be eager to actively participate.

Let’s recap!

Now you’ve seen what inbound marketing is all about; how totally different it is from traditional marketing approaches; why it is that way; and what a powerful tool it can be to help your startup business grow when you go about it right.

You’ve also seen how straightforward an inbound marketing approach can be in that everything you learn and do ties back to one basic flow:

Attract, Convert, Close, Delight.

Less than 5% of active shoppers are ready to buy a product. More than 95% are still researching, even when they may already have something in mind.

Successfully target people in both groups, and you’ll get more than your fair share of leads, converts, and customers.

That can be a pretty sizable number.

You’ve seen the value of accumulating a list of email addresses and using it to convert leads to customers and attract even more leads.

The same is true for your social media connections and other potential tools and methods you may already have at your fingertips.

You might consider taking up blogging if you’re not already doing so. It’s a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal.

Need help getting started with inbound marketing?

Putting an inbound marketing program in place takes time, and time is a precious commodity.

Instead of spending weeks trying to come up with the perfect marketing plan for your start-up, you’d probably rather focus on other priorities on your list. Things that only YOU can do to grow your startup.”

If you need someone to help you put a plan in place quickly, and once that’s accomplished make sure you’re on the right track—let us know.

We’re here to help!

Let’s talk about inbound marketing