We marketers are known for launching and running various campaigns. But like lots of other terms in our industry -- 'engagement,' 'brand equity,' 'virality' -- what an inbound marketing campaign actually is sometimes seems like sort of a mystery.
It's not that it's a difficult concept -- an inbound marketing campaign is simply a concentrated effort to attract leads and customers who are interested in a particular topic, or have a specific need.
But it gets complicated in the execution, because inbound marketing campaigns have lots of moving parts that require plenty of forethought and coordination. In other words, if you fly by the seat of your pants, your campaign's results will suffer accordingly. So whether you're starting your first campaign or just need a brush up on the basics, follow this simple, 5-step process to execute your next inbound marketing campaign like a pro.
Step 1: Determine Your Offer Mix
Inbound marketing campaigns are all about creating the right mix of offers. The idea is to create a number of pieces of valuable content that you anticipate will drive conversions. If this is your first campaign, I'd recommend starting with around 4-5 different offers of varying formats. Remember, you can always scale this up if you need to.
For example, HubSpot recently announced a brand new email tool. In anticipation of the launch, we wanted to raise awareness about how to build the right sort of email strategy that adds value for recipients rather than interrupts them. We also wanted to give people the chance to check out the new tools themselves and ask any questions they might have about them. So naturally, we wanted our offer mix to reflect those two goals. Some of the offers were more "top of the funnel" in nature -- meaning they were more educational and discussed email strategy and concepts. Others were more "middle of the funnel” -- better suited for individuals who were interested in learning about the email marketing software itself. Here are some of the offers we chose to include in our email campaign to achieve that balance:
A whitepaper with facts and benchmarks about email marketing
A series of webinars offering a first look at the new email tool
Each of the offers had a unique value proposition but were tied together by a unifying theme -- creating an email marketing strategy people love that simultaneously helps you achieve your goals with an email marketing program. As part of your own inbound marketing campaign, all of your offers should do this, too. And of course, each offer should have its own landing page so you can track the conversion of your offers over time!
What to Measure: Downloads, registrations, new leads, and eventually, the number of customers those offers generated
Step 2: Set a Timeline and Goals
The timeline will be unique for every campaign, but think about how to spread out your mix of offers to maximize their impact without having them run so long that the overall theme is diluted. A more complex topic may take longer than a straightforward campaign. As a rule of thumb, however, campaigns typically run anywhere from 30 to 90 days, with offers spread throughout.
Setting goals is easiest if you've already got benchmarks. Once you know your offer mix, try to find similar offers in your marketing history to compare each against. In the case of the intermediate email marketing guide, for example, we looked to see how many leads our introductory guide had generated and how many leads other ebooks on similar topics had generated. We then used those metrics to set benchmarks for this campaign. By adding up the unique leads, submissions, and customers generated by past campaigns, we got a framework for how to measure the whole campaign.
In addition to metrics directly tied to your set of offers (downloads, registrations, etc.), you may also want to add some complementary goals. As part of the HubSpot email campaign, we wanted to increase awareness about our new email software. For that, we planned to also measure the number of media mentions and external content created around the launch.
What to Measure: Keep an eye on your benchmarks; if a given offer doesn't meet your expectations for submissions or new leads, you may need to redirect your efforts or add in an additional offer mid-stream. By measuring throughout your campaign timeframe, you will ensure that you don't fall too far behind.
To support your campaign and drive traffic to your offers, give the rest of your communication channels an editorial tilt toward your campaign.
Blog: Dedicate a percentage of your blog posts to the topic your campaign covers. Include internal links to the offers where appropriate, and keep track of the traction those posts get.
Social Media: Post teasers to your ebooks and other offers to your social media channels, and join existing conversations on other blogs and forums. Try not to post the same content again and again; rather, mix up the content and offer different angles.
Email: Launch some of your offers with an introductory email, but don’t just blast a general email to your full list. Make sure your list is segmented to include people who are most likely to be interested in the topic or content. Save some of your offers for lead nurturing campaigns, which we'll discuss more in the next section.
Pay-Per-Click Ads: If you have the budget, paid search ads (PPC) aren't a bad way to drive traffic to your offers. Just make sure that what you're offering provides value and matches the message in your ads.
What to Measure: Click-throughs to your offers, conversions, content sharing (retweets, “likes,” re-posts)
Step 4: Nurture Your Leads
The cardinal rule of inbound marketing is to provide value, not high-pressured sales pitches. Just because someone converts on one offer in your campaign doesn't mean they're ready to make a purchasing decision. Use a series of related emails to incrementally give your leads more and more information, and to nurture them through the sales funnel. As your lead becomes more engaged in the content and opts to download additional offers, start to introduce them to your product or service. If they aren’t interested, don’t push a sales call on them. If they do continue to click through on your emails and convert on your offers, they may be ready to hear more. Lead nurturing tools make it easier to automate and scale this practice, but if you’re a small enough business, it’s something you can do on your own. We've written an introductory ebook about lead nurturing that you can download for more information about managing lead nurturing.
What to Measure: Watch that the click-through rates of your lead nurturing campaigns don't fall below 5%. If they do, your offer may not be sticky enough or you may have pushed a sale too early.
Step 5: Close Your Campaign & Report On It
At the end of the day, there are a few metrics that are truly central to the success your campaign. When your campaign period comes to a close, it's a good idea to report on the following:
Views: Measuring the number of views will give you a sense of how effective your promotion was. If your conversion rate was high, but views were low, you need to evaluate and improve upon your promotion channels and strategy.
New Leads: New leads are critical to your sales team and therefore central to any B2B campaign. New leads are a sign that you're tapping into a market that you haven't hit before, and that the content was valuable in attracting people to your company.
Total Submissions: Don't dismiss submissions from existing leads. They are another point of engagement, and they give you further indication of what your leads are interested in.
New Customers: Obviously, the number of customers your campaign generates is a critical metric. While you often can't measure this fully until some time has passed, it is especially interesting to measure which campaigns brought in actual customers compared to just leads.
Here's an example of campaign metrics in one of HubSpot's analytics reports. In it, you can see how each offer (color coded) contributed to the core metrics.
As an inbound marketing software company, HubSpot creates a number of content offers throughout the year, but we only run a few campaigns. That's because concentrated campaigns require efforts from of every member of your team -- from your bloggers, to your email marketers, to your sales reps. Your entire company should be aware of the campaign and ready to contribute to it.
Have you launched and run concentrated campaigns for your company? What lessons have you learned?