If you are considering putting an automation solution like HubSpot to work for your content management, lead nurturing and CRM needs, here is a primer on what your first three months will need to include in order to start out successfully.
Automation is great—it can improve your team’s efficiency and effectiveness and be a lifesaver in scaling content management, email and lead qualification efforts as you grow—but automation alone won’t foster growth. The software can only streamline processes. Increasing lead generation and sales through content and marketing automation requires a commitment to the inbound marketing philosophy and a comprehensive strategy centered around maximizing the ROI of those efficiencies.
As a HubSpot certified partner agency, JONES has helped multiple brands take advantage of all that HubSpot offers, from content management and email automation to customer-relationship management, analysis and reporting.
We’ve outlined a full 18-month implementation timeline with estimated resources needed in this downloadable resource: HubSpot Implementation Timeline & Planning Template. Even if your chosen automation tool isn’t HubSpot, this timeline and the details I’ll share below about how to tackle your first three months provide a great starting point for any new venture into content marketing and email automation.
1. Set SMART goals.
It may seem like our Inbound Accelerator blog talks a lot about starting every strategy with goals, but that’s just because it is so important. (See here: Marketing Goals + Documented Strategy = More Marketing Success, Why & How To Set Goals For Your Content, or Do The Math To Calculate Marketing Goals (how-to video).)
Setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timebound) goals for your marketing content and automation with HubSpot begins with your company’s revenue goals and works backward from there.
- How many new customers do you need to achieve revenue goals?
- Based on your current sales conversion rates, how many leads do you need to generate to close that many new sales?
- Based on your current website visit-to-lead conversion rates, how many website visitors do you need to attract?
- And how much content will you need to attract those visitors?
Those goals will guide everything you do in developing and implementing a HubSpot marketing automation strategy.
2. Define and develop buyer personas.
If you have already been using content marketing for some time, and are just switching to a new automation platform, you may already have customer or buyer personas defined and in use. If not, spend some time before sketching out your overall marketing content strategy defining who your best customers are, what they need from you, and how they want to receive that information. Consider their pain points, what terms they are searching online as they look for solutions, and what their typical decision-making style looks like.
These blog posts and resources can guide your buyer persona development process:
- Create A Great Customer Persona (downloadable sample)
- 3 Reasons You Need Customer Personas
- Branding Mistake: Not Mapping Out Customer Personas
3. Plan overall marketing strategy.
Once you have your goals and personas in place, it’s time to think through your overall marketing strategy. It pays off to think through the entire strategy (not just individual campaigns or content plans) and put it into writing. Why?
According to CoSchedule, marketers with a documented strategy are more than five times as likely to report success as those without. (See more here.)
Your overall strategy should include:
- Keywords and topics to address
- Target markets
- Content creation goals (how much content you will create, how often, who will create it)
- Promotional strategies (which distribution channels will you use: website, blog, social media, in-person, traditional print, etc.)
- Lead nurturing and lead qualification strategies
- SEO and website priorities
- Paid vs. organic content use
- Analysis and reporting schedules with KPIs
- Alignment with sales
- Additional marketing activities (such as surveys, focus groups, etc.)
Consider these statistics about how marketers are approaching marketing, and how consumers and B2B decision makers find the information they need: 101 Statistics To Know For Your 2020 Marketing Strategy.
4. Develop content strategy.
Now, what is the difference between the overall marketing strategy outlined above and your content strategy? Your overall strategy sets up the parameters for all of your marketing efforts, while the content strategy gets more specific.
Your marketing strategy may say that you will target three key markets or buyer personas, using digital channels only, and will outline what constitutes a marketing qualified lead that is ready to be sent on the sales department.
Your content strategy gets into the details of how you will create and deploy content.
For example, your content strategy might outline that you will conduct a consumer survey each year, designed to produce the data needed for 4 quarterly reports. Each report would be supported and promoted by:
- 3 thought leadership articles to be placed with industry media
- 6 blog posts
- 2 explainer or how-to videos
- 16 social media updates
- 1 lead nurturing workflow for new contacts that download the report
- 1 direct email campaign
- 1 presentation to be used by sales or at events
This is just an example, but you get the idea.
This strategy guides each campaign you will create to support your inbound marketing and content marketing efforts.
5. Sketch out your first year of inbound campaigns.
Again, each step gets more specific. Now you are going to combine the content strategy from above and the keywords and topics from Step 3 to outline each piece of content you will create in the first year.
Using our content strategy example, you might have quarterly campaigns, though we recommend working hard to complete the content for a new campaign each month. Here’s why “more” really is more when it comes to inbound marketing—but it has to be high quality.
You can use a format like our Campaign Planning Calendar Template to outline specific content pieces for each level of the sales funnel, from awareness through sales enablement. This would include the initial downloadable report to generate leads, blog posts, social media updates, thought leadership articles, and additional downloadable resources such as templates or case studies to appeal to leads as they reach the consideration and decision stages of the buying cycle.
If you want to see what a full campaign looks like in action, download a sample here: Creating A Winning Inbound Program Sample Campaign.
6. Develop content for the first two monthly campaigns.
Finally! We’re moving out of the planning stages into the work that feels like it produces something to show for all the time.
If you are using a survey to generate data for content creation, your timeline might be pushed back a bit in order to complete quality survey. (Find more about using surveys to drive marketing content here.)
Of course, you may have had plenty of topic ideas and information ready to use for your marketing content already at hand. (Where Marketers Find Their Content Ideas)
That means it is time to start creating, either using your in-house team or by identifying partners who can create the content for you: full-service agencies, specialized content agencies such as video producers, or freelancers. Each option has its own pros and cons.
If you need help in creating content, these blog posts can help you find the right partner for your team:
- Why Creating Great Content Matters
- Grade Your Marketing Agency’s Content Creation Performance
- Agency Vs. In-House: Pros & Cons And How To Make The Most Of Outsourcing
- 8 Benefits Of Hiring A Full-Service Marketing Agency
- A CMO’s Guide To Resourcing Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
7. Train a point person on HubSpot.
HubSpot’s many offerings can manage and automate a wide range of marketing tasks, including content management (blog posts, social media, downloadable assets, landing pages, etc.), lead nurturing workflows, outbound email marketing, customer relationship management and more, not to mention the analysis and reporting that goes along with all of those.
It will take time to tap into all that it offers, which is why we suggest your team have at least one point-person take time to train in all of the features you will be using with your HubSpot contract.
As a certified HubSpot agency, we can also be a great resource—we have used most of those features and been through the training ourselves. And if we don’t know the answer to a specific question, we probably know exactly who to ask to find out right away.
8. Set up blog and initial campaigns before the official launch.
Before you start promoting your new business blog or linking back to landing pages, I suggest making sure you have that first campaign all in the system and ready to go. This means everything from the first few blog posts loaded up (and set to publish on a specified date), landing pages tested by in-house staff, nurturing workflows programmed in, and social media updates scheduled and just waiting for the right date to roll around. By having everything in place before you launch, you are ready to roll with any troubleshooting that may arise.
Or, better yet, you may be able to take a quick breather as your hard work begins to pay off before starting steps 6 and 8 all over again.
What if this is too much to do in-house?
Successfully moving the needle on your lead generation and sales conversions with inbound marketing is definitely an investment of resources. In fact, we estimate that if you are to follow HubSpot’s best practices (which call for 30-40 blog posts a month, plus downloadable assets and the supporting social media needed to promote them), your team will need to invest more than 640 hours in the first quarter.
With more than 40 percent of marketers saying that a lack of human resources is their greatest barrier to effective content marketing, sometimes you just need a partner to help you get over the hurdle of starting a program like this.
Among the benefits of working with a certified HubSpot agency to get your content and marketing automation up and running:
- Add resources without having to go through the search process of bringing on a new hire (especially finding one with the experience needed).
- Eliminate ramp-up time to train staff internally first on all of the tools in your automation solution.
- Avoid spending extra time managing projects or editing the work of inexperienced writers.
- Have large-scale long-form projects delivered ready to go, which your staff can repurpose and reuse in different ways.
- Prevent content creation and content management from being put off as staff is pulled into other work.
- Receive comprehensive data analysis of your inbound marketing efforts, including what is working, what isn’t working, and the ROI of each marketing channel you use.
Learn more about how to choose the right HubSpot agency by downloading our checklist of what you should expect, or check out the JONES HubSpot Solution, which outlines how our marketing methodology and experience match up to HubSpot’s tools and efficiencies to provide results.