Today is the day you become an inbound marketer. Are you excited? Nervous? Do you have any idea where to start?
If the answer to that question is "no," fear not -- we're here to make that transition easier for you. You see, the inbound methodology is a type of marketing strategy, but it's also a philosophy. At the heart of it, you'll be turning your focus away from company-focused efforts, and more toward customer-centric marketing.
And for it to truly work, you'll need to become a dedicated student of inbound marketing. The most successful inbound marketers learn skills and create habits in their first 100 days in this new role. To make sure your trajectory is set correctly, we've catalogued much of what you'll need to succeed in inbound marketing. Don't be scared by the length -- remember, this document is one to use over the course of three months.
Still, it's not intended to be a complete list of every little thing you need to know -- rather, it’s a fairly comprehensive collection of the fundamentals. Your company's own plan can be tailored based on the goals you need to achieve, but this outline is a good guide to begin with.
So, are we gonna do this thing? Let's get started.
The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Plan for Your First 100 Days
1) Days 1-33
Here is a short list of resources you should read through during your first week. We handpicked some of our best HubSpot articles to get you familiar with inbound marketing and a few key concepts, themes, and methodologies that will help you strategically tackle your marketing goals.
HubSpot Academy Classes
During your first month, take the 11 classes from the certification course, which you can view on-demand, at your own pace. These classes cover all the topics you'll want to master in your first 100 days, as well as other topics in which you should be well-versed for the future. If you want to dig deeper in any one subject, the course pages are full of links to supplemental reading material.
During your first month in this role, you'll want to create buyer personas, which make for one of -- if not, the most -- important parts of a successful inbound strategy. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on real data and some educated speculations about demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
Companies can have several different personas, but the ones you'll be creating content for are the ones who you want to eventually turn into real customers. Creating and tweaking them over time allows you to better understand your customers' needs and interests, and clue you into where they spend time online. At HubSpot, every employee learns about our buyer personas when we first start working here, which means everyone -- from marketers, to product designers, to sales representatives, to accountants -- knows exactly who buys our software.
So, how do you create your own? There are many nuances to buyer personas -- for example, they aren't just job titles -- so learn more about them by watching HubSpot Academy's free introduction to buyer personas video series. Then, use our free MakeMyPersona tool to create your own..
When creating your new marketing program, setting realistic goals should be a top priority. We call these realistic goals SMART, with each letter standing for:
- Specific. Set goals with tangible metrics and deadlines. "Having a good marketing year" is not a specific goal.
- Measurable. You need to be able to use hard numbers to measure your success.
- Attainable. While you want your goals to be challenging, they should still be feasible. Be honest with yourself -- you know what you and your team are capable of. Anticipate and account for obstacles when possible.
- Relevant. Your goals should actually matter to your business. Let's say you're a teddy bear manufacturer with 100 stores that carry your product, each of which will only accept 10 bears per month. In this situation, your goal probably shouldn't be to "increase production of teddy bears from 1,000 per month to 5,000 per month." While it's great you have more product, if no one is going to take them for sale, why bother? Finding more buyers might be more relevant -- from there, you can scale production.
- Timely. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Don't keep pushing toward a goal you might hit "someday."
Learn more about tracking your SMART goals in this free HubSpot Academy guide, then use this free template to set them. As you go through your 100 days, remember to check your analytics regularly and make appropriate adjustments to help you reach your goals.
Content mapping is a process that helps you identify content gaps -- the subject matter and other marketing holes in what you're producing. It helps you deliver the right content to the right people, at the right time.
Knowing who your buyers are by creating those personas is half of the content mapping equation, so check that off the list first. The second half is knowing where your personas are in the buyer's journey, which is sometimes referred to as a lifecycle stage. There are three content-related stages of the journey:
- Awareness: A person has realized and expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity.
- Consideration: A person has clearly defined and given a name to the problem or opportunity.
- Decision: A person has defined the solution strategy, method, or approach.
By combining buyer personas with lifecycle stages, you can really hone in on specific segments of your audience, and tailor content to resonate with each of them.
To get started, check out this free content mapping flowchart/worksheet with helpful suggestions for content formats and types, according to a given buyer's stage in the journey. To help you brainstorm and map out content ideas for targeting specific segments of your audience, we also created this free template and kit.
Once your content is mapped, you'll want to do some keyword research -- before you change anything on your website or start publishing content. Otherwise, you risk "keyword-stuffing" your content after you've already written it, which looks forced and can get you penalized by search engines.
There are some useful tools out there that will help you choose the right keywords -- in general, good keywords are popular industry terms that your buyer personas are searching for that don't have too much competition. To get started, check out the free trial for the HubSpot Keywords Tool, or learn more about how it works here.
Once you've jump-started this research, you'll want to start with a list of 40-50 keywords to gradually build upon. You'll use this list to optimize the rest of your marketing content -- then, over time, you'll analyze your keyword performance and ranking, known as your "listing position." You can easily find this information in the aforementioned Keywords Tool, where you can simply select a keyword to see your listing position.
Landing and Thank You Pages
Do you already have an demo, trial, or free quote? Pick your favorite offer, and create a landing and thank-you page for it. If you already have pages of this kind, redesign or revamp them to be more inbound-friendly.
Your landing page should include a description about the offer, and a form for the visitor to fill out with their personal information -- here's a free guide to give you an idea of the different pieces that comprise a good landing page.
Visitors see your thank-you page after they've filled out the form on your landing page. Learn how to create a thank-you page here.
Consistent blogging is a foundational part of inbound marketing -- learn why here. If you're a HubSpot customer, congrats -- the Blogging tool is integrated with your marketing software. If you're not using HubSpot, you'll need to use a third-party platform to create your blog, like WordPress, though you might want to learn about the differences between HubSpot and WordPress first.
Whichever blogging platform you choose, familiarize yourself with it by playing around with the tools on a daily basis. Search for tips online, watch instructional videos on YouTube, and meet with anyone you know who's used that platform before to learn some tricks, tips, and shortcuts in person. Once you get up-to-speed on your inbound marketing, you'll be using your blogging tool every week.
Psst -- you can also check out some free HubSpot Academy lessons here.
Calls-to-action (CTAs) serve as a key to lead generation, and every inbound marketer should be able to design and create their own, without relying on busy designer friends. But if this is your first time creating a CTA that's okay -- it's not nearly as complicated as it sounds.
In fact, you can create CTAs using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, pre-made images, or one of HubSpot's 50 free CTA templates. For a step-by-step tutorial on how to create CTAs using all of these resources -- as well as how to outsource CTAs from designers -- check out the detailed tutorials in this free ebook.
The two CTAs you should make are:
- One for the existing offer for which you created a new landing page and thank-you page. You can put this CTA on one of your top-trafficked pages of your website.
- One encouraging people to subscribe to your blog. You'll also include this CTA in a re-engagement email campaign during your second month, but don't worry about that quite yet.
For those with a little more experience creating CTAs, improve your skills with our step-by-step guide to mastering the CTA design and copy.
To analyze the success of your CTAs, you should look at the number of clicks and views each one received. Then, look at the percentage of views that lead to clicks, and the percentage of clicks that lead to landing page form submissions. If you find that you have a low clickthrough or submission rate, you may need to tweak your design or copy.
These shouldn't be just any blog post topics -- and your backlog should have between 10-20 of them -- they need to be ones your prospects would find interesting. Use your keyword list to help you come up with working titles for posts, and backlog them somewhere. At HubSpot, we use Trello to keep track of our post ideas, but Google Docs also works.
Make sure your topics are specific. "How to Fish," for example, is too general -- you can start brainstorming sessions with umbrella topics like that, but make sure your working titles are much more specific, like "How to Pick the Perfect Fishing Spot," or, "Must-Have Fishing Gear for Beginners," or, "The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Bait [Infographic]."
Need help brainstorming? Learn how your HubSpot blog tool can help you create and organize topics here.
2) Days 34-66
New Blog Posts
You've already learned how important blogging is for getting organic traffic and leads. We challenge you to write, edit, and publish your first blog post as an inbound marketer on the first day of your second month. Then, write 3-4 more new blog posts during the rest of the month, until you've published between four and five new blog posts by the end of your second month.
After you publish each post, check to see whether your blog traffic has increased -- but don't expect to have tons of new visitors overnight. Building your readership will take a while, and in order to increase your credibility and up the chance of your posts being found on search engines, you need to produce a high volume of content. That's why it's important to stick with it and blog consistently -- you'll see we suggest increasing the number of posts per month as you progress through these 100 days.
You'll also want to look at where your traffic is coming from. If you're getting organic search traffic, it means more visitors are arriving at your site from search engine results pages. If you're not getting organic search traffic, you might be focusing on the wrong keywords, or your blog may not be optimized for search. For some great tips, check out this free guide to optimizing your pages for SEO.
To keep an eye on your traffic -- without getting discouraged by the slower initial progress -- monitor the percentage your blog traffic grows every week and month. This is simple to view in your HubSpot software. Just visit your "Sources," define the time period you're monitoring, and select "Organic Search" on the right.
Scrubbing and Segmenting Email Lists
Inbound marketers don't push their companies or products at people -- they pull people toward their companies and products with great content. That means: No more sending emails to people who haven't opted in for them. No more spamming. No more buying email lists. No more sending emails to old, decaying lists. It's time to significantly decrease your email bounce rate by sending emails only to people who ask and expect to receive them.
It all starts with the health of your email contact lists. In your first month, check how healthy your lists are by asking five questions:
- Does everybody on this list have a prior relationship with your business? (The answer should be yes.)
- Do you have an unsubscribe list? (The answer should be yes.)
- Did you purchase, rent, or lease the list from a third party? (The answer should be no.)
- Will the people on the list be expecting -- or not surprised by -- your email? (The answer should be yes.)
- Have you emailed these contacts within the last 12 months? (The answer should be yes.)
Then, review your lists and remove every single email address on there that doesn't pass this test.
Next, segment your email lists. Remember the buyer personas you created in your first 33 days? There's a reason you probably have more than one of them -- your buyers don't all fit into one category. If you own a fitness club, you might cater to athletes, as well as first-time gym goers, but you shouldn't send both those groups the same exact email. Sending more targeted, relevant emails to each subgroup will improve your clickthrough rate.
There are a few ways to segment your email lists. Start by looking at the data you already have about your contacts, and figure out the most logical subgroups based on the information they want from you, the questions they may have, or their stage in the buyer's journey. Once you get the data into an Excel spreadsheet, you can import it to your contacts database and create the different segments. Looking for a solution to make that easier? Good news -- the HubSpot CRM is free.
You cleaned your list last month, while simultaneously creating some great content for your blog. Now, it's time to reinvigorate the rest of your list with a re-engagement campaign. This is a chance for you to remind the people on your email list that you exist, to tell them about the cool content you've been creating and will be sending from here on out. That'll help to urge them to subscribe to your blog, though you'll need to include that subscribe CTA you made earlier. After sending this email, you'll remove anyone from your contact list who doesn't subsequently choose to opt in to your emails.
To create a re-engagement campaign, start by writing a compelling opt-in email message that gives readers the chance to subscribe to your emails. Don't be afraid to get creative -- but if you're struggling to come up with ideas, check out this free introductory ebook to email marketing. You can use this opportunity to ask for feedback, too, so you can learn how to better customize your email marketing to their interests and needs.
The goals of this email message are mainly two-fold:
- Grow your subscriber list.
- Further clean your email list.
Track how many new blog subscribers you get from this campaign. As you send out more email campaigns and add subscribe CTAs to your blog, you might be watching your subscriber list grow. Track this campaign's bounce rate, too, which measures the percentage of the total emails sent that could not be delivered to the recipient's inbox. The benchmark for bounce rate is less than 2%, but don't worry if it's higher than that for this re-engagement email -- you're still cleaning your list. Remove any email addresses that have deliverability issues, and from here on out, try to keep your total bounce rate under that amount.
3) Day 67-100
More Blog Posts
Again, the key to a successful blogging strategy is consistency. As your blog content volume increases, more people will find your site through search, and you'll build credibility. Remember, these posts don't have to be novels -- know when good enough is good enough.
You'll find it's much easier to write and keep track of blog posts and ideas when you have a plan. Create an editorial calendar so you know what you're writing and for when -- here's a free template for creating your own.
Continue tracking blog traffic numbers and sources. As you publish more and more content, start tracking how many inbound links your blog posts are getting -- those are the ones that link back to your site from other sites on the web. You can see how many inbound links you have to your domain using HubSpot's Marketing Grader.
Social Media Accounts
Now that you have your bearings with keywords, blogging, and CTAs, it's time to optimize your social media marketing efforts. The reason you didn't do this until the third month is because you need to have content to share on social media -- so you had to spend time getting that optimized first. Now, you should:
- Figure out which social media sites your buyer personas are using. Those are usually the social networks that are already sending you traffic, but it might be worth it to look at data like this social media usership report from Pew Research. Then, create accounts on those sites.
- Make your social media profiles look good. Are you using the proper image dimensions for social media profiles and posts? (If you're not sure, these free templates can help.) Do your descriptions include a link to your company website? Are you using the right tone and voice for each social media channel?
- Stop buying followers. Instead, grow your following organically by posting awesome, relevant content, and putting social media sharing and follow buttons on your website, blog, and emails. (Here's a guide for how to do that in your HubSpot software.)
- Grow your reach by becoming active on social media. Not sure where to find the time? You guessed it -- there's a template for that. This one will help you create a social media publishing schedule.
At this stage, track your follower count and measure engagement -- these are metrics like retweets and @replies on Twitter, likes and comments on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. Message clicks -- the number of people who have clicked the link attached to your social message -- is another way to gauge how your content is doing. In your HubSpot software, you can sort your messages by click count using Social Inbox -- just select the "Clicks" tab on the menu bar, and HubSpot will automatically sort them in ascending order for you.
Don't be afraid to experiment with your social media messaging, and be flexible when it comes to factors like tone, voice, offers, photos, and time of day. Test different tactics, measure everything, and then adjust. Do more of what works, and less of what doesn't.
New Offer Conversion Paths -- Like an Offer, CTA, Landing Page, or Thank-You Page
Offers are the primary gateways to lead generation -- and without them, website visitors have no way of getting converted into leads. During this last segment of your first 100 days, create one longer-form offer gated behind a landing page. Website visitors will have to enter in personal information, like a name and email address, to download your offer.
There are four overarching steps to creating an offer conversion path: The offer itself, the CTA, the landing page, and the thank-you page.
- The Offer: Your offer can be an ebook, guide, checklist, template, webinar, trial, product demo -- the list goes on. There are plenty of resources to help -- this step-by-step guide to creating lovable marketing campaigns, for example, will help you learn how to actually write the offer.
- The Landing Page: Use your skills from the first month to create a landing page for your new offer.
- The Thank-You Page: The same rules apply from the landing page.
- The CTA: It should include copy about your offer, a picture of the offer, and link to your landing page. You learned how to create CTAs in your second month as an inbound marketer -- refer back to that section for guidance.
Then, promote your offer on email, social media, and your blog.
To measure the success of your offer, look at the number of website visitors your content generates. Then, look at the conversion rate of visitor to lead, and the number of leads the offer generated -- meaning the number of people who filled out your landing page form. The initial data from the top of your funnel is really easy to find with resources like HubSpot's Landing Page tool, which you can use to find the specific landing pages where your offer is featured. From there, you can find the number of views it received, contacts it generated, and its overall conversion rate.
As you collect more data and publish more offers, you'll be able to compare offer topics and types to figure out which marketing strategies work best for your target buyers.
You made it. Pat yourself on the back -- you've learned a lot about the inbound marketing methodology. You set up a blog and wrote some killer posts, you cleaned and segmented your email list, you designed and created your own CTAs to drive prospects toward certain actions, and you created a gated offer to generate leads. Most important, you developed the key foundational skills and habits that will lead to success in inbound marketing -- and, ultimately, more happy customers. That's progress -- and it leaves you equipped to master not only inbound marketing, but also, the rest of the HubSpot Growth Stack.
Now, sit down and review the past 100 days. Which goals were easiest to complete, and which were the hardest? What personal and company-wide strengths and weaknesses did you uncover in the past 100 days? What will you master next?
These questions, especially on top of this to-do list, might seem overwhelming. But there truly are a heap of easy-to-use and budget-friendly resources available to make these efforts more efficient and manageable. That's why we created HubSpot Academy and HubSpot Marketing Free -- to give you every opportunity to excel as an inbound marketer.
What were your first 100 days as an inbound marketer like? Let us know in the comments.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.