As a newcomer to marketing, many of my preconceptions of the industry have been drastically reshaped, or quashed entirely since I got involved. Things have changed. Within less than a decade, Inbound Marketing has become one of the dominant forces in promoting business and enticing buyers.
It seems an Inbound approach is the consequence of a number of digital tools and practices coalescing into a genuinely effective selling format. The idea is simple. However, ensuring you successfully exploit the full potential of these incredibly useful tools, is a whole other ball game for sure.
In this post I explore the main challenges and best practices that I have encountered so far as I build my knowledge and understanding of Inbound Marketing, and the key ingredients you will need to consider if you adopt this innovative approach.
Marketing has changed and needs to reflect the way people buy
The digital age we find ourselves in, has transformed the way businesses, and industries as a whole, present themselves to the world and attract new customers in order to grow. A vast sea of information, both good and bad, is now readily available to buyers throughout every stage of the buying process. This has given them far more control than ever before.
With the genius of search engines such as Google and Bing at their fingertips, people can make up their mind on a product or service within seconds. All it takes is one damaging review or a glowing mention by a well-respected influencer to sway a buyer’s perspective.
The position of power has shifted. No longer can companies hold all the cards to their chest. Buyers are well-informed and immunised to traditional, interruptive methods of marketing.
The art of pestering, as I would call it, is now no more than an annoyance, a fly to be flicked off the shoulder. People will do anything to avoid a cold call, blocking your number if necessary. They don’t have time for long-winded sales drivel and this might even damage a relationship quickly.
Buyers want no-nonsense advice, solutions to their problems and challenges, and a trustworthy product and/or service. This is where Inbound Marketing content comes into play and can help brands align the way they market their business to the way in which buyers buy today. Look at content as your high grade sweet honey that will attract those hungry for information they need to do their job.
Why Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is the utilisation of your digital presence, to attract customers to your business like a magnet. Through the online publication of remarkable and relevant content that genuinely helps people, Inbound has become the predominant successor to the now out-dated and domineering hard-sell approach.
Inbound is customer focused. It empowers the buyer throughout the process, certainly, but crucially it also allows you and your business to become part of the conversation. It gives you the chance to be that first link someone clicks on when they reach the search results page looking for answers to their questions.
The Laws of Attraction
Attraction is the first frontier in Inbound Marketing. You have an infinitesimal time frame in which you can grab the buyer by the scruff of the neck and say “Hey. We understand your problem, let’s fix it for you”.
People have ever-shrinking attention spans, sales jargon just won’t cut it. Inbound Marketing encourages creative, buyer-focused, useful content. Content such as blogs, ebooks and webinars, should focus on educating buyers around their high priority issues and then cleverly directing them to your offering, rather than ramming it down their throats from the word go.
Think about a recent trip to see the doctor. He/she didn’t offer you medication as soon as you walked into the room. And you, I hope, wouldn’t readily accept it if they did. It is the doctor’s duty to assess your ailment, explain the treatments on offer, and prescribe the one that best suits you as an individual.
Start a Nurturing Relationship
Inbound Marketing works in a similar way as far as I can see. It is the buyer who comes to you. Not to buy your product, well not initially anyway, but to seek out information in a bid to educate themselves and ultimately help them overcome their problem.
It is down to you, as a brand and as a business, to nurture their interest by relaying valuable information to them in a succinct, accurate and engaging way, long before the sales process begins.
According to The Annuitas Group, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
How Can Inbound Content Work For You?
There is no definitive answer to this question. You need to know your brand, your target audience and your marketing goals like the back of your hand. These are unique aspects which change from business to business.
Create Buyer Personas to Focus Content Efforts
Use your existing knowledge of the market, and follow this up with primary research, to establish a clear, unwavering vision of the type of person you are selling to. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.
Setting out specific criteria will also help you to create a desirable outward image and a tone of voice for your brand.
There are innumerable factors to consider when building a buyer persona. But the most valuable from a B2B viewpoint is in drawing out the key challenges and issues they face in their work role. If we understand what they care about, and we can match that to your expertise, we have a clear sweet spot for our content creation programme.
Which Content Works Best for Your Brand?
It may take some time for you to fully understand which output is having the greatest effect on your audience - good old fashioned trial and error never hurt anybody.
However, there is an array of avenues out there for you to choose from, so start simple.
Blogging continues to affirm itself as one of, if not the best approaches in content marketing. In fact, HubSpot research suggests that marketers who have prioritised blogging, are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.
Not only will blogging drive traffic to your website, but it allows a company to communicate their marketing ideas and general ethos with prospective leads on a conversational, human level.
This platform is also particularly versatile. It gives you the ability to expose your audience to a seemingly endless bank of knowledge, on a regular basis. You can write about anything, as long as you keep it relevant. The possibilities are endless!
Beyond the consistent drumbeat of a blog
Ebooks are also a fantastic way of sharing your industry expertise with the world. This format can offer up a comprehensive overview of your ideas and solutions.
Free downloads, situated on landing pages, will make the consumer feel like they have gained something from you almost instantaneously, whilst enabling you to gather invaluable data at the same time.
There are many more specific ways to ensure your content is effective, but that’s a conversation for another day...
Other types of content well worth considering:
The list goes on and on.
Content, Content, Content and, Yep, You Guessed It, More Content
Be consistent. You can be as creative and innovative as you want, but let’s face it, information is fast out-dated in our digital age.
You should be posting on a daily basis. Whether that be to your own website, to social media platforms, or through other important marketing tools such as email – stay in the loop and top of mind with your prospective buyers.
They will forget you as quickly as they discovered you if you’re not careful!
You may think I’m stating the obvious when I say that social media is the most rapidly evolving communication outlet in the world. But it is up to you as a marketer to harness its power to promote your content.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest etc. We’ve all got personal accounts on at least one of these sites, but their astounding ability to capture consumer attention was, until really quite recently, an untapped resource.
Promotion and post-sale satisfaction are perhaps the most prominent advantages of using social media. However, it has a role to play throughout the buyer’s process, if used in the right ways.
Don’t limit your networking to simply sharing your own content, new and old, communicate with your followers on an individual basis. Respond to their queries as soon as possible, contribute to their ongoing conversations with useful information/advice. Just don’t go forcing your product/service upon them before you have built a relationship.
Do Your Research To Optimise Content Interaction
There’s nothing worse than working yourself into the ground to finish a blog post, eBook, newsletter etc, for it to then receive little, or even no activity.
Interaction is everything. Incorporating Calls-to-Action (CTA) and links to related articles to provoke exploration, subscription and lead generation, will end up seeming pretty futile if your content is going unnoticed.
Online, stat-grabbing, software such as Google Analytics and HubSpot can be extremely useful tools when put to correct use. These programmes will supply you with readily available information focused on the performance of your content.
Analysing this data will allow you to ascertain exactly which of your content is going down well with your audience, which social media platforms are benefitting you most and which emails are receiving the most clicks.
By learning and growing from these results, you can put particular emphasis on your most productive methods and look to improve in the areas in which you are not performing so well.
So, there you have it.
These are some of the key marketing lessons I have learned in only my first week in marketing at SupaReal!
There is so much more to come and so much more to learn - so exciting!