The 4 Milestones of a Successful Inbound Partnership
Here's the scene:
You spend a lot of time marketing, you start talking to a lead, the conversation stretches out, you agree on terms for an inbound marketing partnership (yay!), and then …
Uh Oh ...
Well, you’re not exactly sure what comes next. Too often agencies get the “yes,” but don’t have a defined system in place to lead the rest of the client engagement. Without a system in place, you’re stuck improvising, which has unknown results.
Your clients aren’t hiring you to lead them into the wilderness for 40 years! They’re hiring you because they’re looking for a partner who is going to lead them to success. In order to lead well though, you need to have a plan.
Season 2 Is All About What Happens After the Contract is Signed
In Season 1, we went over some crucial client relations basics including:
- What clients to avoid
- How to get paid on time
- Things annoying the heck out of your clients
- How to transition a pesky legacy client
- Ways to prevent conflict before it begins
- Why clients are not always right
The Step-by-Step Season About Inbound Partnerships
This season, we're focusing entirely on perfecting your inbound partnerships.
We’re going to walk you through what a successful client engagement looks like—from the time the client signs on the dotted line until the first blog post gets published on your very first campaign for that client. We’ll explore the key milestones along the way, which is really what we’re focusing on here.
Successful Inbound Partnerships Hit Four Milestones
Milestones are planned, forecasting stops along the way.
Without these key points, we're left wandering in the wilderness like Moses. And guess what? The people we're leading (our clients and team members) are stuck wandering with us!
The 4 key milestones are:
- Inbound GamePlan
- Building the Engine
- Tweaking/Redesign the Website
- Inbound Campaigns
Milestone 1: Inbound GamePlan
The GamePlan is a strategic plan to unite an organization to the mission of systematically sharing answers to prospect’s and customer’s questions through helpful online content.
This vital cornerstone strategy will determine the strategy for reaching and making the most of the other milestones. In terms of the partnership, the GamePlan is absolutely everything. Without it, you don't have a charted path to success.
What a GamePlan Does
The GamePlan is developed over a series of meetings and communications with the client.
It is a powerful chain of events that accomplishes five things:
- Creates inbound buy-in from people outside the marketing department
- Helps you identify the current state of affairs and how the client's team interacts
- Identifies the client's target audience—aka Buyer Personas—and who represents them
- Spends time getting to know your client's Buyer Personas
- Creates a content outline that answers the questions of each Buyer Persona, which is the bread and butter of inbound
The Parts of a GamePlanThere are several parts of the GamePlan:
- Discovery Meeting
- Persona Meetings
- Building the GamePlan
- Presenting the GamePlan
Key Part: the Discovery Meeting (aka the onboarding)
In terms of the journey, this is where you prepare your provisions and get ready for the journey ahead.
Think the Hobbit. Think Lord of the Rings. Everyone sits around the table, tells their stories, connects, learns about one another, anticipates the challenges ahead, and gets everyone's mind ready.
An onboarding should accomplish several things:
- It should get all of the key team members around the table
- It should transition your new client from the sales team to the project management team.
- It should lay out the map for the journey ahead. Show the milestones, assign value to each one.
- It should set expectations—from how you’re going to handle payments, to how collaboration on content occurs.
- As an agency, you should be sure to:
- Establish yourself as a guide, not a pawn
- Come with conviction!
Key Part: Persona Meetings
Persona meetings are absolutely vital. This is where you identify who you're trying to reach and how to reach them.
Too many agencies fall into the trap of trying to develop content on the fly. They try to brainstorm on an on-going basis with no strategy and a small understanding of who they're trying to reach. That approach leaves a lot of guess work and confusion.
Persona Meetings help you draw out content for the first 12 months of the engagement. Although you might not write every bit of copy, you have an outline of every step your content strategy will take.
Learn How to GamePlan
Shameless plug, we have a course dedicated to teaching the art of selling, running, and constructing the GamePlan.
Milestone 2: Building the Engine
The strategy is in place, but in order to bring that strategy to life, we need to create the marketing funnel. This funnel should share content specific for each target persona. The content should educate them through the Buyer’s Journey.
This is where you construct the funnels that will lead strangers to customers.
But the content funnels are not enough—you need to set up the marketing automation systems here as well.
Here’s a brief overview of the work flow:
- When someone visits the website through a blog post. They read through the post and love the content. At the end of the post there is a CTA to download an Awareness Stage Offer. This is an offer that is related in context to the subject covered in the blog post.
- When they download that offer, they’re going to fill out a form. On the form they’re going to share their name, email, and “Best Describes Me” statement. The last statement identifies them as a target persona.
- This action will trigger the Awareness Stage Lead Nurturing. This is a series of 5-10 emails that are focused on answering awareness stage questions. Use these emails to convey value. Don’t waste the opportunity by being too pushy or salesy.
Milestone 3: Tweaking/Redesigning the Website
Even the best GamePlan and marketing automation funnels in the world aren't enough. A website that isn't optimized for inbound can hold back the success of a partnership.
A powerful online destination is the secret to Campaigns that get results. Everything in inbound is born with the website. It's the place that attracts and converts and without that we really have nothing.
Inbound-Optimized Websites Are ...
- Built in a search-engine optimized manner
- Designed with specific Buyer Personas in mind (identified in the GamePlan!)
- Centered with an enjoyable blog
- Equipped with conversion opportunities
Milestone 4: Inbound Campaigns
This is where your journey really takes off. The hardest points are now behind you and you have everything you need to pour your focus into running your campaigns.
An Inbound Campaign is made up of three basic elements. It has a start date, an end date, and a goal. With these three elements in place you can properly measure the effectiveness.
We’ve found a 12 week period is a great length for an Inbound Campaign. There is enough length to get a significant amount of analytics feedback. It is also short enough to pivot based on the data you collect.
There You Have It!
These are the four major milestones successful inbound partnerships hit. By charting and mastering these places, you will be on your way to leading more successful relationships.