health clubIf the glut of television ads for weight loss plans and health club memberships are any indication, this must be the start of a new year. Happy New Year! Like your new year’s resolution to shed a few pounds and get that svelte new bod you want, you can also resolve to whip your Internet marketing into shape this year too.

Think of your online marketing plan like that new gym membership. The health club has all the equipment – the treadmill and the weights – but if you don’t actually use it, you don’t stand a chance of getting in shape. Likewise, your marketing plan outlines the tactics to achieve your marketing goals for the year, but if you don’t act on them consistently, your online marketing will not create results, increase website traffic and generate leads.

To make sure your inbound marketing gets off to a good start and maintains momentum for more than a few months, it’s good practice to set your starting point, and then review your progress from time to time. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or just getting started, here are five questions to help assess your inbound marketing strategy.

Have you defined the demographics and other characteristics of an ideal customer?

This used to be called your “target audience,” but in the age of the Internet, that term has become outdated. Because inbound marketing happens mostly on the web, and we are able to track and measure the activity of specific users, it is more useful to develop “Customer Personas.”

Like your target audience, a Customer Persona includes demographic information. But customer personas get more detailed by developing a story behind each type of ideal customer. Does she have kids? What is a typical day at the office like? What does she do for fun? Even, what is her name? By creating a back-story about each of your customer personas, you can create specific, highly targeted content, blogs and offers that appeal directly to each customer persona you want to attract.

Do you have a company blog and publish at least once per week?

Search engines love fresh, new content, and there’s no better way to produce it than with a company blog. Research from HubSpot shows B2B companies that blog just once or twice per month generate 70% more leads than those who don’t blog. And companies that blog 15 or more times per month generate five times more website traffic than those that do not blog.

Our experience with the V2 Marketing blog has played this out over the past year. In 2012, our website traffic maxed out around 600 visits per month. Our new year’s resolution for 2013 was to double our blogging. The result has been more than 200% increase in website traffic and over 1,100% increase in leads. By the end of 2013, our website consistently attracts more than 2,500 visits and generates over 50 new leads per month.

Is your company using social media to build brand awareness, engagement and traffic?

It’s no longer enough for businesses to simply push out company information via traditional advertising, trade shows or news releases. Customers today expect to have a two-way relationship with the brands they love via social networks. And that social media engagement increases website traffic. According to research from HubSpot, companies with more than 1,000 Facebook Likes see a 185% increase in website traffic.

Does your company have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms and do you have an active, engaged community? Do your blogs have social media sharing functionality? Do you monitor social media for mentions of your brand name, important keywords and competitors? Download our eBook about How to Enhance Your Internet Presence with Social Media for help getting started.

How often do you send email marketing messages?

Email marketing remains one of the most effective forms of online marketing. But you can supercharge your email marketing this year by segmenting your email lists according to the customer personas you’ve defined, and send different, highly targeted messages to different segments.

Customers buy from brands they know, like and trust. But they may not be ready to buy at the time you send your email campaign. Use automated lead nurturing to cultivate a relationship with prospects that have expressed interest in your company by downloading your content, by sending personalized, periodic follow-up emails including offers to further engage with you.

What percentage of website traffic converts into leads/leads into customers

Inbound marketing excels at attracting traffic to your company website and converting anonymous visitors into leads. In addition, using marketing automation software, an effective inbound marketing campaign can provide detailed website analytics of visitor behavior, and even notify your sales team when a lead is visiting your website and which pages they view.

Make it a new year marketing resolution to assess your website traffic over the past year and determine how many of those visitors became actual sales leads and customers. Then set monthly goals for the upcoming year to increase the number of website visitors and sales leads.