The Principles of Inbound Marketing Design

Marketing under the influence

Drinking may make your content look better but why not try a little planning instead?

Have you ever been the victim of marketing that felt less like premeditation was involved and more like alcohol was a contributing factor? Good marketing doesn’t just happen. It has to be designed. Borrowing from the principles of graphic design I thought I’d share a few ideas for inbound marketers.

Balance

Balance is achieved when inbound marketing communication feels like a conversation. There are many ways to achieve balance, but a good way to lose it is to be manipulative, take what you want from your audience, and give nothing in return.

Rhythm

Establish a a rhythm of regular posts or touches so that your audience knows what to expect and has a sense of where the relationship is going. You can set the tempo. Create a sense of anticipation, certainty, or progression it’s all up to you.

Proportion

As a marketer today you have a remarkable variety of tools available to you. In choosing the right marketing mix its important consider the experience of the user. Over reliance on one mode of communication leads to monotony.

Dominance

Make sure your value proposition is clear. Direct your reader to the most important information. Make it easy to consume. Give your key points the most weight. Ensure that subordinate ideas get their due without hijacking the message. Repetition, bullets, and graphic elements can help clarify your key points without making the audience think too hard and losing them.

Unity

Unity describes the relationship between the individual parts of a whole and arises from the way the human brain stores information. I believe, communication is most naturally organized in the human brain through conversation and story-telling.

One of the keys to making communication feel like conversation is a sense of order. The sequence of messages need to naturally follow what came before. If not, a confusing experience will result. Inbound marketing is not a natural conversation the audience is going to have to fill in missing information for themselves. It’s a good idea to anticipate questions that are likely to arise and answer them when they are likely to occur.

It’s also important to recognize the reader may move in a different direction than your were originally taking them. Be aware of this so that instead of letting the conversation end, you can move to a new topic when they do. This can be achieved through means as simple as links to related topics or as sophisticated as marketing automation tools that read their digital body language.

B2B content marketing tips for more blog viewers

It's hard to be under a microscope Why aren’t you getting more blog viewers? It can be hard to put yourself under a microscope to find out. Not liking what you see could be terrifying. It feels safer to read what the experts have to say:

“Simply put, do these six things, get more viewers”, says Joe Chernov, VP of content marketing at Eloqua. I read these 6 tips and so should you.

I thought the post included useful stuff that already seemed familiar. But looking closer I thought the most interesting thing about Joe’s insights is where he got them:

We recently deconstructed why some of Eloqua’s 280 blog posts generated considerably more views than others. We looked at the headline, topic, author and whether or not there was any PR driving traffic to the post. Then we came up with six absolute locks for triggering views.

In short they looked at where they were having success, identified the factors that were common among their most successful posts and shined a light on how they could reproduce those results elsewhere.

This is the same method suggested by Chip and Dan Heath in their new book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. You probably think their names sound familiar. That’s because they also authored Made to Stick, which is a favorite in my library.

When change is hard, Chip and Dan recommend looking at the data, finding the bright spots, and figuring out the underlying cause of success. Getting more traffic to your website or blog is a continuous fight. Some posts do well and others do not. Why not find the bright spots, and reproduce success?

Content is not King – it’s a monster!

Content is not King. Content marketing is a monster and wants to feed. If you’re going to feed the content monster, you will need to follow some rules my friend, or it may eat you alive.

Content marketing is a monster

Rule #1 – Know what the monster likes to eat

You know the topics that interest your market. Make a list. Identify the most popular topics on your website. Prioritize them.  Pay attention to frequently requested information. Realize it may be buried in your email. Finally, monitor what your audience is talking about on the web.

Notice that people go through stages when making a purchase. At different stages they need different information. In the beginning they want to know who they can trust. Later, they want to evaluate which solutions are best. Ever notice that good opportunities will sometimes hit a snag? The right information at the right time can remove the friction that stalls a sale.

Rule #2 – Get organized

So you have a list of topics. I will bet you have already written on some. Take an inventory. Collect everything you have: articles, press releases, emails, technical notes etc… Tag each item with a topic and stage in the buying cycle. Notice which topics or stages of the buying are not represented. Check out Content Grid published by Eloqua for ideas.

Rule #3 – Reduce, reuse, recycle.

During your audit, you may find that some of your content can no longer be used. Archive it.  But not so fast! A lot of old content just needs a simple face lift to be ready to use again. For example, an old article can be turned into a new engaging blog post. If you have a blog post why not tweet about it? You probably belong to a LinkedIn group that would like to discuss it. Why not post a link to it on your Facebook page too?

It could be that you have the basis for a new video or podcast. You can stretch the content and re-use it over and over. Finally, don’t forget to mention the blog post, video or podcast in your next newsletter!

Rule #4 – Fill in the gaps

This is where it gets a little harder, but if you follow Rule #3 you will have significantly fewer gaps to worry about. In step #2 you noticed there was some missing content. It could be that you don’t have anything for an important buying stage, or you have nothing written on a topic of strategic importance. First prioritize the gaps. Focus on the critical few that need to be filled to drive results in your business. Use the Pareto principle which states that 80% of your results will be gained through 20% of your effort.

Often the experts that you need to write the content are too busy with other priorities. You will only get so far on the kindness of others. Try a little persuasion. Why do sales and marketing people forget how to sell when the customer is internal? Figure out the value proposition and sell it!

If you need to fill in a lot of gaps quickly, don’t have the man power, but do have some budget you can hire writers to interview your experts and write the content for you. A word of caution. If you have a technical product and the people you hire do not have experience in your market they may not produce credible material. However, there are a lot of great writers out there and many agencies have the ability to help you with your strategy and the writing.

Rule #5 – Put the monster on a feeding schedule

Once you have prioritized list of topics to write about, you can embrace your role as a publisher and maintain an editorial calendar. Make sure those who are assigned know what is expected of them and when it is due. Even if you are the only writer it helps to have a plan to stick to. The amount of content you generate will depend on your resources and your goals. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what both of those are.

There’s a monster at the end of this blog

Don’t be overwhelmed by the task ahead of you. You can tame the content monster if you have a strategy, keep organized, prioritize, make efficient use of resources, and stick to a plan. Follow these rules and you won’t be eaten alive.