Inbound Marketing Plan

Social selling and inbound marketing go hand-in-hand. Building a social presence plays a large role in any inbound marketing plan, and combining social selling with broader social media marketing tactics can help to facilitate alignment between your sales and marketing teams.

An inbound marketing plan should have a few basic components to ensure that your plan is well-rounded, positions your company for success, and allows you to ensure that you begin your inbound marketing efforts with a solid understanding of what steps that you need to take next.

The core components of any inbound marketing plan include:

1. Buyer Personas


You can’t create an effective inbound marketing plan without understanding who you are targeting. When you think about your buyer persona you think you have it down. It’s a little bit more challenging to precisely explain it to someone else. But putting it in writing is an entirely different story. Finding the right words to describe each aspect of your buyer persona is a really good exercise, because it forces you to be exact. When you’re working with a team, conduct this exercise together and you’ll see how everyone will end up wanting to use a different word here and there. Coming together as a team and agreeing on the right words and using that definition moving forward in the prospecting process is an amazingly unifying focing-function.

A buyer persona creates a vivid picture of the type of prospects that you target. For example, a commercial insurance company that targets manufacturing companies might target owners or GMs of manufacturing companies. Their buyer persona would include information about their average age, income, hobbies, business information, goals, and typical pain points that they encounter. One of my favorite templates to create buyer personas is from Xtensio. It’s simple, intuitive, easy to fill out and incorporates the most important aspects you need to consider.

2. Buyer Journey Map


Once you have a solid understanding of who you are targeting, you can begin to map out the journey that you would like them to take on their way to becoming a customer. Mapping out the buyer’s journey helps you to create targeted content for specific points in this journey and create plans that address the four main stages of the inbound marketing process:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Experience & Delight


A buyer’s journey map ensures that each step in the process is fulfilling for your customers.

3. Goals and KPIs


For your inbound marketing efforts to be successful, you have to define what success actually looks like for your business. Outlining the KPIs that your business cares most about — whether those are sales, subscribers, recurring revenue, etc. — puts you in a position to measure whether your investment is truly paying off for your business. Any goals that you outline should follow the SMART goals system.

4. Budget


Because inbound marketing relies so heavily on the content creation process to be successful, it can be quite budget-heavy at first, as you build out your foundational content. It’s very important that you go into your inbound marketing strategy with a well-defined budget to stick to. This budget should take into consideration what it will cost to create all components of an effective inbound marketing system, including blog posts, lead magnets, email sequences, social media posts, graphics, and time spent managing your social media accounts.

5. Content Strategy


You can’t have inbound marketing without content. Many would say that your content strategy is the bread and butter of any inbound marketing plan. Make sure that you have a solid understanding of what your customers would like to know about your product, what keywords you would like to target, and whether or not you have the content creation resources (writers, editors, graphic designers, social media managers) on hand to effectively execute the strategy that you’ve outlined.

6. Sales and Marketing Alignment Plan


Inbound marketing is most effective when you align your sales and marketing teams. By creating content that will be useful to both teams, you position your sales team to make the most of the leads that come into your system, while giving your marketing team the tools that they need to succeed. Map out the steps that you will take to ensure that there is alignment between your teams.


 
Social Selling Company

How do you view social selling? Do you see it as a short-term benefit to your sales numbers, or a long-term strategy meant to position you for ongoing success in your endeavors?

The truth is that far too many salespeople view social selling as a purely transactional strategy. You do the things that you need to do and are rewarded with conversations with your ideal prospects and sales.

But — social selling shouldn’t be viewed through a transactional lens. The benefits of social selling are vast and go well beyond a simple sale. Social selling lays a foundation for the rest of your career, helping to meet quotas when things are slow, establish connections with large and valuable organizations, and position yourself as a true expert in your industry.

It’s important to understand this because this understanding should affect the way that you devise a strategy. Some of the ways in which social selling can help you to lay the foundation of your sales future include:

Create a Reliable Social Presence


At its heart, social selling is all about creating a reliable social presence that will last you for years to come. Because social selling places the focus on building relationships instead of simply making sales, it helps you to establish a respected presence among prospects within your industry.

If you were to change jobs, found your own company, or simply move to selling a new product — that foundational presence that you have built doesn’t go anywhere. It is yours to keep. It doesn’t disappear when you make your change. Those relationships remain intact and can be leveraged in your new position as well.

Develop Connections that Lead to Referrals


The thing about building reliable relationships instead of focusing on making sales is that it puts you in a position to be a trusted resource, even for people that are not interested in buying your product themselves. This can help you to facilitate referrals and position yourself as a go-to resource for those that you build relationships with.

The focus on developing genuine connections ensures that when a friend or colleague is looking for a solution like the one you provide, you are already top-of-mind and positioned as a true resource for those needs.

Viewing social selling as purely transactional leads to you missing these opportunities. When you move on from discussions before building a connection, you never position yourself for these referrals. Then, they’ll go to the social seller that puts in the time to build the relationship without a focus on short-term sales.

Improved Brand Recognition & Authority


The foundation that social selling lays for you helps you to improve the recognition of the brand and product that you are promoting while increasing your own personal authority within your industry. It serves both your own sales career, as well as the brand that you are working for. This is part of the reason why it has become so popular among sales professionals — social selling allows you to simultaneously promote the brand that you work for while building your own status as well.

 
Worthy Blog Topics

Creating high-value content is a core tenant of effective social selling. But sometimes it can be difficult to discern what type of content your audience truly wants. We’ve all been there. You spend your day creating that next great blog post, only to launch it and receive minimal interaction from a normally-engaged audience.

Identifying blog topics that foster engagement and are truly share-worthy is actually a much harder task than most people realize. Your audience is likely inundated with content options. Just take a look at these stats that show how competitive people’s content consumption time truly is:


In short, most of the time when people visit a piece of content, they are skimming and generally disengaged. They only truly interact and recommend content that they find exceedingly useful. A full inbox,influencers, brands, and friends are vying for their attention. To break into their attention bandwidth you have to offer something that truly stands out.

Here is a simple three-step process that you can use to discover content that fits that bill:

Step #1: Gather Data


Data is your best friend when you want to create content that is truly share-worthy within your industry. A 2016 study by Conductor found that 38% of content marketers rarely use data. You have to look at what has worked for you, what has worked for others, and what kind of content is facilitating the most discussion. As you plan share-worthy topics, use these data sources to help you  narrow the list down:

  • Your Own Popular Content. What content have you published that has done well on social media? Use this as a helpful guide into what your audience is looking for.
  • Popular Content Within Your Industry. What are others sharing that has performed well. Tools like BuzzSumo can be incredibly helpful in this area.
  • Content with High Engagement in Communities. Look at industry social networks, forums, and discussions to get an idea of what people are talking about and sharing. Use this as a guide for developing your own topics.


Trust the data that you gather. Blindly choosing topics will more often lead to middling results. Use data whenever possible to identify topics that are share-worthy.

Step #2: Ask Questions About Those Topics


After using data to identify topics that your community has responded to, you should begin to look at unique ways and angles you can use to approach that topic in a fresh and exciting way. You don’t want to create the same content that everyone else has been creating. You want to find a new and interesting way to facilitate interest.

Create a list of common questions that your audience typically asks or may want to know about a given topic. Use those questions as a guide for the way that you approach topics. Remember — people engage with topics because they have genuine questions. You want to present your content as an answer to those questions.

Quora can be useful for finding questions from your audience. Quora is a community built around asking and answering questions, and makes for an excellent research tool for determining what questions your audience has and how you can position yourself as an authority by answering those questions.

Step #3: Filter your List to Focus on Potential


Once you have a list of questions for each topic, filter your list down to the angles and questions that you think your audience will find the most interesting. Just because you can think of ten relevant questions about a given topic doesn’t mean that you need to create content for each of those questions. Several of those questions can be answered in the same article. Choose angles that seem fresh and interesting to your audience.

Filter questions by the subjects that they tackle. You don’t want to focus too much on one specific category, so separating your list by category is a good start. Once you’ve done that, then you can start to flesh out topic ideas that can cover singular or multiple questions from your list.

 
B2B Social Selling

Making meaningful headway with social selling is part science and part art form. Most that attempt to sell socially, fail. The dismal success rate that most experience would make you believe that social selling is hard — but in truth, the opposite is true. Social selling is incredibly simple, so long as you are committed to making it work. Most social sellers fail for many reasons, but chief among them is a lack of consistency and an inability to follow the critical principles that lead to social selling success.

For all of the blog posts, podcasts, webinars, and videos covering advanced social selling tips and tricks, being successful in social selling is actually a very simple process. By adhering to some basic principles, success is almost guaranteed in the long-term.

The principles that every social seller should follow include:

Identify and Purposefully Engage with Prospects


It may sound basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many people come to us having tried their hand at “social selling” without actually identifying a list of people that they want to sell to. That’s the first thing that any social seller should do!

But, you can’t just make a list of prospects and expect magic to happen. You have to purposefully engage with them as well. This includes both more overt communications like responding to their posts and joining conversations they participate in and less over micro-engagements such as liking their content or engaging with people in their peripheral. When your prospects see you adding value and engaging with people throughout their industry, you do a lot to establish yourself as a person to pay attention to.

Choose the Right Platform and Tools


Choosing the right platform(s) for your audience is so critical. Sometimes, you may want to be active on more than a single platform if you have the bandwidth for it. Either way, knowing where to find your audience and being able to identify the platform that will give you the best chance of success is critical.

Then you need the right tools, and the platform you choose will affect the tools that you use. Choosing tools that will facilitate and complement your strategy is so important because it sets the stage for you to focus on refining that strategy. If you are going to employ strategies that rely on automation and tools — you can’t truly begin testing things until you’ve pinned down the platform and tools that you will use. As you expand your strategy, new tools will have to be integrated.

Mix In Automation Intelligently


For social selling to be successful, you can’t rely solely on automation. You have to engage in genuine, unplanned conversations with your prospects to get anywhere. Still, automation has its place. You want to stay top-of-mind even when you’re not directly engaging with your prospects. That requires that you have a consistent presence on social platforms, delivering value and helpful content.

Finding that sweet spot can be tough. There are definitely ways to be too heavy handed with automation. Likewise, you can automate too little, keeping you from making the most of the manual interactions you take part in.

Track and Analyze Your Results to Improve


Another critical but often overlooked principle. Like in any form of digital marketing you have to optimize your strategies for success. You can follow all of the tips you want, but if you aren’t actively tracking what is working then you are going into every new engagement with a prospect blind. This relies heavily on having the right tools, as we discussed in a previous step. But it is so important to analyze the steps that you take and determine what works for you.

 
B2B Social Media Marketing

As a B2B marketer or sales professional, you are probably fully aware of how useful a social media presence can be. You can see how critical it is to the success of competitors in your industry and — if you’re smart — you probably want something similar for yourself.

But building a reliable presence on social media isn’t so easy. Otherwise, you (and the rest of your social media-starved competition) would already have a booming presence there.

 

Numbers

Many of our clients here at SocialSellinator come to us after having given social media a chance in the past. Most of the time, their success in this arena has been middling at best and non-existent at worst. They come to us looking for direction.

Most of the time in this situation, we find there to be some common misunderstandings about social media marketing and how it actually works for your business. Often, they’ll have created some content, scheduled some posts to promote that content for several weeks or months, and then become disappointed when they don’t generate any sales.

In truth — B2B social media marketing is a much longer process. It requires foresight, consistency, and an effort to genuinely engage in real conversations with your audience. Social media success doesn’t come overnight, but when it does come, the results are impressive.

Most companies need a shift in mindset to achieve B2B social media marketing success. That starts with changing the way they look at specific aspects of their social media presence:

1. Your Buyers Want to Engage Through Social Media


This is (sometimes surprisingly) a big hurdle for a lot of the companies that they work with. They see social media selling as more of a passive thing. They hope that consistent posting and interesting content will be enough. While that does provide a foundation for success, it really does take a bit more to deliver the results that most B2B companies are hoping for.

The bad news is that it takes you a moment to think about it and that you have to be intentional. The good news is that it’s not very complicated. It’s important to know that your customers want to buy through social media. They want to develop real, lasting relationships with the companies that they work with. They want to get to know people before they buy from them. Social media gives them that chance. It’s more personal than a cold email or call.
Getting over the mental block of seeing social media as a passive presence-building platform and instead looking at it as a legitimate sales channel that your prospects prefer is important for engaging with prospects in the right way — fearlessly.

2. Focus on Building Relationships, Not Sales


With that said, it is very important that you not approach the conversatiosn on social media as if they were a cold call. Yes, your audience wants to buy and get to know your company through social media. But that doesn’t mean that they want to be hounded or pursued in the traditional sales-sense. Many folks on social media simply switch out the word ‘phone’ for ‘LinkedIn’ or ‘Twitter’ and before you know it, someone tries to sell you rugs, services or hardware immediately after you connected with them on the platform of choice.

Instead of focusing on the number of sales that your social media presence generates, focus on the number of worthwhile relationships you’ve been able to build. Direct social media sales come through prospects that you’ve built a relationship with, not prospects that you blindly launch a sales pitch at. In a nutshell: if you’re selling, you’re already doing it wrong.

3. B2B Social Media Marketing is a Long-Term Strategy


The last and perhaps most important mindset change that all businesses need to undergo to put themselves in a position for B2B social media marketing success is tempering your expectations regarding time frame. It will most likely take weeks for your first results to begin showing and months before your social media marketing presence is driving impressive, measurable results.

Don’t get down on yourself when you don’t see results right away. Relationships take time to build. No one meets someone and considers them a friend right away. Those relationships require continued interaction to reach that stage. For that reason, we set the expectation with our clients that they should see sales-relevant results within 3-4 months. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see traction before then, but building relationships and trust simply takes time. It’s not done with a tweet.

The good news: the relationships you build that way are based on your engagement and your expertise. You will build yourself a long-lasting pipeline of contacts that will either engage with you directly or refer you to others. It’s not the quick rush of getting 500 clicks to your website after running an ad on Facebook. But the advantage is that the relationships from social selling are pre-qualified; it’s not simply someone clicking on a keyword-ad, only to realize that you define their search term differently then they do. And finally,  it’s also not something that immediately stops afterwards after that initial engagement.

 

Social Media Marketing Tools

Social media marketing tools play a critical role in social selling. They give social sellers the ability to analyze the effectiveness of their efforts, schedule and automate portions of their social presence, and discover new and interesting content to share with their following. But social sellers often have limited budgets and it is so important that you invest in the right tools to put yourself in the best position for success.

As the prominence of social selling has grown, more competition has entered the ring. To get ahead, you need an edge. In this article, we’ll cover four of the best social media marketing tools that will help you to discover new prospects, schedule your social posts, find new and interesting content sources, and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. It’s a crowded arena. There are hundreds of different tools to choose from, each offering their own unique features. However, we feel that these

#1: Top Social Media Prospecting Tool — LinkedIn Sales Navigator


Every social seller knows how powerful social media can be - especially for B2B sales prospecting. It’s perhaps the best source for not only identifying prospects, but learning more about your buyers so you can position yourself appropriately and speak to subjects that they care the most about. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the key to unlocking the full potential of LinkedIn, giving you more information to work with as you begin to develop relationships with your prospects.

Sales Navigator seamlessly integrates with most CRM solutions, allowing you to find prospects that match your ideal client profile. It also features detailed messaging and analytics features that make it easy to evaluate how your efforts are going on the platform. While prospecting can still be performed on LinkedIn without Sales Navigator, it certainly will make your efforts easier and more effective.

#2: Social Media Scheduling Tool — Buffer


There are tons of social media scheduling tools to choose from. Buffer is the most popular among them, and the tool that we feel most comfortable recommending due to its ease-of-use. While many scheduling tools are built into larger software suites, Buffer focuses on doing one thing and doing it very well.

Buffer makes it easy to schedule social updates across multiple accounts. They also have a built-in recommendation feature that hones its recommendations over time as Buffer learns about the types of content that you like to share with your audience. When it comes to automating a continued presence on social platforms, there are no tools that do it as efficiently (and cheaply) as Buffer.

#3: Content Research & Curation Tool — BuzzSumo


BuzzSumo is a very useful social media analytics tool that differs from the competition in several ways. Instead of analyzing your own brand’s social media performance, Buzzsumo looks at social media as a whole, giving you access to the most-shared content across the different social platforms.

This makes BuzzSumo the perfect tool for two tasks in particular (a reason why the tool has become an industry standard) — content research and curation. It’s perfect for seeing what your audience has shared and finding content sources to share with your own audience.

#4: Social Media Analytics Tool — Sprout Social


SproutSocial is the perfect social media analytics tools for social sellers. Sprout allows you to measure performance of your campaigns across all relevant social networks from a single platform, making it easy to monitor engagement and communication from prospects from a central hub. It provides a beautiful, informative dashboard that quickly allows you to compare the performance of different campaigns across your chosen platforms, with customization features that ensure you always have the most useful view for your needs. It’s simple to set up, easy to use, and in-depth enough to make it hard to choose another solution in this category.

 
Effective Social Selling Strategy

If social media continues on its current course of popularity, the average person will have spent five years of their lives on social media. The medium has changed the way we communicate, interact with our friends, and most certainly, the way we do business.

It comes as no surprise that social selling has taken off in popularity along with the rise in prominence of social media. If there is a channel where people are willing to connect and communicate, salespeople will find ways to leverage it.
It wasn’t long after everyone started to have phones in their homes before forward-thinking sales teams were learning how to leverage that fact to conduct cold calling in order to sell products. Today, forward-thinking salespeople are already knee-deep in social selling and have been honing their skills for years. If you aren’t one of those people, you’re already falling behind.

To be successful in social selling, there are some basic pillars you should embrace and consistently work on:

1) A Willingness to Engage


You can’t be successful with social selling if you aren’t willing to engage with your intended audience. Even “worse,” it’s the whole point of doing social selling. If you’re selling, you’re doing it wrong. While for some, interacting with people for the first time can be a scary prospect. Jumping into conversations with people that you don’t know and providing advice, guidance, and insight can feel strange at first. At first you may be scared and think that everyone online will be seeing what your thoughts and opinions are. Maybe, you’ll even think that people think what you say doesn’t make sense. Being an introvert, it took me personally a long time to realize that’s not the case at all. Get over it and you’ll be amazed how grateful people are.

But — it’s the confidence to engage from a position of authority that makes social selling so powerful. Apprehension leads to fewer conversations and reduced effectiveness. Further, jumping into public conversations and failing to provide value doesn’t help you get your name on people’s radars.

This is a hump that every social seller has to get over to find success. You must be willing to not only engage with new people at scale, but you must also be willing to share your thoughts and assert your authority in those conversations. So, find an area that you’re passionate about, focus on it and share comments, observations and guidance.

2) Truly Valuable Content


One of the biggest mistakes that many people make when they first break into social selling is underestimating the importance of delivering truly valuable content. You can’t just share the same old “X Tips for ____” that your audience has seen a million times before. That won’t help you stand out. You want to impress them. Not only that: if you just boil up what someone else already did dozens of times, you’re not really contributing something new. To do that, you have to deliver content that is genuinely valuable. Bookmark-worthy, if you will.

To deliver content that your prospects find valuable, you have to have a deep understanding of their situation. Custom-crafting content that speaks to their biggest concerns and needs is the only way to really catch their eye.
This also speaks to the frequency in which you publish content. Publishing a healthy amount of content is a good thing, but only if all of it is truly valuable to your audience. If the content that you share fluctuates in the value that it provides, you’ll have a hard time catching their eye when you do share something truly helpful. It’s better to publish one really impressive piece than it is to publish five forgettable ones in the same timeframe.

3) A Clear Goal for Each Interaction


As you create a list of prospects that you would like to target through social selling, it’s important that you have a clear goal for the interaction. For salespeople, the goal is often to facilitate the relationship and eventually close the sale.

However, since social selling relies so heavily on your ability to build a broader presence on the social platforms of your choosing, not every target is a sale target. Sometimes, you just want to get on an influencer’s radar and get in front of new audiences. By defining a clear goal for each engagement, you put yourself in a position to shape your discussions in a way that gives you the best chance of completing that goal. And again: many times, the primary goal shouldn’t be to sell. Contribute, build relationships and add value. The selling will follow. Seriously.

 
Best Social Selling Book

Even if you’ve been on social media for years, being good at social selling isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. There are nuances to building beneficial business relationships that can take years to truly master. Putting themselves into the buyer’s shoes and reverse-engineering how to successfully build trust and relationships online are also more learned than natural abilities for many. To improve your social selling skills and embrace the future of sales — a channel-neutral, relationship-focused method of connecting with prospects — you’ll need to invest in resources that can point you in the right direction.

There are plenty of great social selling resources online for you to turn to in order to learn the basics of social selling. But having a complete resource on hand is always helpful. The books in this list offer a deep-dive into the art and science that is social selling, giving you a deeper understanding of not only how to perform social selling, but they also explain why the psychology behind it works so well.

Instead of sifting through Amazon to find the best social selling books, we wanted to provide you with some of our favorites. Each of these books features a slightly different focus. What they all have in common is that they provide actionable insights into effective social selling techniques:

“Social Selling Mastery: Scaling Up Your Sales and Marketing Machine for the Digital Buyer” by Jamie Shanks


“Social Selling Mastery” is the go-to book recommendation among social selling industry leaders. The book focuses on the art of developing and nurturing relationships with prospects that fit your ideal buyer persona. It delves into how to reach new customers online by identifying where your customers go in order to conduct research on products that are similar to yours.

The book is authored by Sales for Life CEO Jamie Shanks, who has worked with companies like Microsoft, Intel, Xerox, and Oracle to re-shape their sales strategies to incorporate social selling principles. “Social Selling Mastery” is widely regarded as the industry standard for learning how to genuinely connect with today’s digital customer.

“The LinkedIn Sales Playbook: A Tactical Guide to Social Selling” by Brynne Tillman


“The LinkedIn Sales Playbook” is the best resource available today on cultivating B2B relationships by leveraging LinkedIn. While it doesn’t provide the in-depth strategies for other social platforms, the focus on LinkedIn makes it the perfect companion for B2B social sellers. This book places a lot of focus on the connections between today’s social selling tactics and their connections to more traditional sales tactics.

Tillman outlines step-by-step instructions for connecting with targeted buyers, facilitating warm introductions, nurturing prospects, and converting more of your LinkedIn connections to phone calls.

Brynne Tillman has honed her social selling skills in her time as Chief Learning Officer at Vengreso, a social selling company. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies to help them improve their digital sales strategies and install tools that help them to fully leverage LinkedIn.

“Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling” by Jeb Blount and Mike Weinberg


“Fanatical Prospecting” is another book that counts to my industry standards on modern sales techniques. The book provides salespeople and executives with an in-depth guide that clearly explains the importance and nuances of prospecting, and how you can use modern channels to turbo-charge your efforts.

The book focuses on the biggest reason why many sales pipelines fail — a failure to consistently prospect and keep the top of the pipeline filled. By zeroing in on that particular aspect of social selling, the book serves as a true deep-dive into the art of prospecting, featuring a unique approach that is effective regardless of channel.

If you need help keeping sharpening your social selling skills, if you want industry best-practices or if you simply need ideas on how to keep your sales pipeline filled, all three are excellent starting points.