ESSENTIALS OF AN EFFECTIVE INBOUND STRATEGY
Inbound is transforming the way the world does business. Before we could get into Inbound, it’s important to know the traditional techniques.
It focuses on finding customers. They use techniques that are more interruptive like:
- Cold Calling
- Imprint Ads
- TV Ads and Junk Mails
They all have their own setbacks like caller id’s blocks cold calling, DVR makes imprint ads less effective and junk mail spams filters block mass emails.
There are ways to overcome these and get to the masses but again technology has made it less effective and more expensive.
In the traditional method, it is convenient for the marketer to push contents into the customer’s faces whenever they want even when the potential customer does not want it, obviously which is not a great experience for the user (the customer).
Coming to Inbound…
It is a fundamental shift in the way we do business. Instead of that old/ interruption based message, it empowers the customers to do business other than giving all the control to the salesperson or the marketer.
Instead of interrupting customers with TV ads they would create videos that they would want to see instead of buying display ads and print publications; create a business blog that people would be ready to read and instead of cold calling, create useful content so that prospects could contact them when they need more information.
Inbound marketing is marketing focused on getting found by the customer. It is customer focused, it’s helpful, its focus on the customer needs than its own!
It is as simple as finding the solutions to your problem in LinkedIn, or the problem-solving blog post found on top of the search engine or the product review found on facebook. Inbound is about being a part of the conversation which helps in sharing that helpful, useful and informative content with the world. Its about drawing people in. Hence the term “INBOUND”.
“It’s ABOUT CREATING MARKETING THAT PEOPLE LOVE.”
Unlike the olden days these days we depend more on online research than the salesman or the marketer.
How do we start INBOUND?
The best way to start is by understanding the inbound methodology. The 4 stages that illustrate the inbound marketing sales process:
- ATTRACT – blog, keywords, social publication
- CONVERT – forms calls to action, landing pages
- CLOSE – CRM, e-Mails, word flows
- DELIGHT – surveys, smart content, social monitoring
We use the tools adjacent to the actions to accomplish them. These tools are not only applicable to those particular stages. Some tools like e-Mails could be essential for multiple stages of the methodology.
To attract strangers to your site and converting them into visitors. Some of the most important tools to attract new visitors are blogging, optimizing your website and social media.
After you attract new visitors the next step is to convert some of them into leads. By gathering their contact information, at the least, their email address. The contact information is the world of inbound currency, in order for the visitors to offer you that currency willingly, you will have to give them something in return. The payment comes in the form of offers as e-books, trip sheets, any information that could be interesting or valuable to your prospects.
Component action like landing pages can actually entice the visitors and help get information about them. Now, we have successfully converted the visitors into leads and now its time to convert them into customers.
In the close stage tools like e-mail, CRM; helps to seel the right leads at the right time.
Inbound is all about providing remarkable content to your users whether they are visitors, leads or existing customers. Inbound companies continue to delight and engage their customer base And most importantly the customer cannot be forgotten as they would be converted into happy promoters of the products and services they love. And then the whole methodology starts from the beginning when the promoters talk to their network, more strangers listen and spread the word about the product and services.
In the entire process, what we don’t see is ANALYSIS…!!!! But why?
The reason being analysis should be inherent in every single thing you do with your inbound strategy. Any content you write or a campaign you launched should be analyzed.
To be a true and successful Inbound Marketer you need to know whats working and what isn’t, and how to implement new solutions and improve your efforts as efficiently as possible.
And the only way to do is to ANALYZE!!!
What does INBOUND look like?
Inbound has taken the world by storm. To illustrate this, let’s know how to analyze and change the marketing strategy?
As a marketing team works on developing your buyer personas and create a detailed profile representative of your target audience mainly the business audience. By understanding your main customer’s demographics, role and business problems the team could create better-targeted content, emails, and offers for your audience.
Here’s a sample of Buyer Persona that we can create after researching someone’s business to have a performing digital marketing output;
XYZ THE BUSINESS OWNER
Background: (Sample Analysis)
- Runs a small business that started after a career in the industry
- Married with a couple of children
- Been running own business for about 3 years
Demographics: (Sample Analysis)
- Typically in mid 40’s
Identifiers: (Sample Analysis)
- Drives a modest vehicle
- Determined individual and a natural leader
- Entrepreneurial flair
- Have high ambitions for business
- Can see great opportunities in marketplace for growth
- Likes to be own boss
- Cash flow can limit growth potential
- Lenders aren’t too helpful about borrowing funds to grow
- Income can be a little erratic at times due to business cash flow
- Occasionally has to borrow funds to borrow money which causes stress
- Isn’t on the same wavelength as accountant
- Feels stretched at times
Imagine being on the marketing team of XYZ .. Do u have a better picture of who you’re going to sell to? Or do you have an idea of the different type of content you could create to help this bio persona solve their problems and address their challenges? Now, this is the exact reason to have a buyer persona story, you can get into the mindset of your buyer and understand them that much more.
Next the team at XYZ work on expanding the CONTENT OFFERINGS on their website by creating the white paper, e-books and blog posts shared financial advice to small businesses that were looking to grow. Please check the different titles of the blog posts:
- “22 warning signs of a Business in Trouble”
- “9 keys to small business growth for 2014”
- “8 ways to improve profit in a business.”
Now, these are the blog posts the buyer personas would be definitely interested. If u look at XYZ he’s got some kind of financial trouble, he wants his business to grow and also wants to make a profit! All these blog posts speak directly to the XYZ’s buyer persona’s.
As a result of this strategy;
- A 200% increase in traffic in a period of 6 months.
- 6 times increase in leads because of the tools in place to easily capture more leads from their site.
- Improved sales-ready leads by 153% with lead management and nurturing
- 1 to 3 success rate as compared to the 1 to 20 close rate prior to doing inbound marketing.
Definitely will work well for all, but every industry is different and this mix of inbound marketing is, “what worked best for XYZ, but your inbound strategy will be your own!
What are the Fundamental of Inbound Success?
Before we get into inbound marketing, it’s necessary to know the fundamentals of Inbound success. It is very necessary to know that the customers want to be educated not sold to and inbound provides such information that the consumer can rely on to make their own decisions. If we follow certain practices all this becomes very easy.
INBOUND Best Practices
- Use Buyer Persona
- Use the Buyer’s Journey
- Create Remarkable Content
- Leverage your Content
Let’s discuss one at a time;
- Use Buyer Persona
Now since inbound is all about customers, it is very important to know, who you are trying to reach. You do need any traffic to your site, you want the right traffic. You want the people who would be interested in the sales and services you are providing, the RIGHT people. They are the ideal customers or the buyer personas.
Buyer Persona’s – they are the semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behavior pattern, motivation, and goals.
Buyer Personas are created from the analysis, research, and your existing customers. So you are basically getting into the minds of your customers, creating contents as per their requirement and converting them into leads, and closing them as customers. It is basically the adhesive that glues the whole Inbound Marketing together.
Since the Buyer personas are more or less the nucleus of inbound, you have to make sure that you create the right one. There are 3 aspects that go into the making of a Buyer Persona;
- Identifying Trends
- Creating Buyer Persona stories
Research and Not Assumptions as, if even one of the assumptions is wrong your personas will be wrong too. Though research takes a long time, it does bring out accurate details. There are a few questions that could be asked to tour existing customer while creating a buyer persona;
- Role – check for the job profile of the customer
- The company or organization – the kind of industry the customer is working for
- Goals – what are you working to accomplish
- Challenges – the biggest challenges that are faced by them
- Watering Holes – the source of information for the current job profile
- Shopping Preferences – is internet used to research for vendors and products.
Make question specific to your industry. Concentrate on the “why” the motives of your buyer personas, not their actions. The follow-up question should be “why” as you are trying to understand your customer requirements, motivation, goals, what really drives them so as to make a remarkable content. Your existing customer base the perfect place to conduct interviews as they have already purchased your product and are already using them. Reach out to both good and bad customers. The bad ones will always help you cover up the loopholes. Interview your prospects, the former ones, and even your co-workers. It’s time to go looking for trends patterns and similarities and questions related to personal research. All these indicate, who your personas really are. And how much research it takes to create personas? As much as it takes to identify trends. Have as many as needed to create your persona. The final step is to compile these steps and make the persona profile stories. You want these stories to contain information about, who your persona is using information about their background, demographics, challenges, and goals including how you can help them. Include common objections and use real use quotes from your interviews so that they can relate to them.
- Basic details about personas role, key information about the personas company
- Relevant background information
- Gender, age, range, household income
- Buzzwords and mannerisms
- Personas primary and secondary goal
- Primary and secondary challenge to personas success
How we help:
- How you solve the personas problems and help achieve their goals
- Identify the most common objection your persona will raise during the sales process
- Include a few real quotes (taken during the interview) that will represent your persona to make it easier for your employees to relate to / understand them
When it comes to making a great inbound strategy it is not enough to know who you want to reach but it is also important to know what they want. Buyer personas are important for any type of business.
Every conversation your personas has with your organization should be tailored to where they are on the buyers journey!
The buyer’s journey is the active research journey that someone goes through leading to a purchase. Understanding the buyer’s journey of your persona will be the key to making the best content possible. The buyer’s journey is made up of 3 different stages that portray the experiences your potential customer goes through;
- Awareness Stage: It is where the prospect is expressing symptoms of opportunity or problems. They are trying to name their problem. Whats wrong with me?
E.g,.: I have a sore throat, fever, and I’m achy all over
- Consideration stage: Where the prospect has clearly defined or named their problems or opportunity. They are all set to solve the defined problem or opportunity
E.g,.: I’ve strep throat. What are my options for relieving or curing my symptoms?
- Decision stage: They have decided on their solution strategy, method or approach. Compiling a list of all available list of vendors and products and could also be trying to shorten the list down! And then finally making a purchase decision.
E.g,.: Meet my primary care physician, the ER or go to a clinic. The ER costs a lot but I have insurance
This is how one could go on a buyers journey. From a buyers perspective.
Now, let’s think of it from a marketers point of view; he should be creating a content, which is more specific to the solutions of the problem rather than explains the product to the customer. If we take the about set example instead of talking about providing the solution to the issue if the marketer talks about all the possible drugs the customer would not find it useful and may never return to the page. It is necessary to understand the buyer personas problems and to provide a solution to it instead of promoting the product and telling him, why it is important?
While creating a content. Keep it EDUCATIONAL. Do not educate your buyer personas on, who you are and what you do. But educating them on their problems and solutions to their problems!
Create Remarkable Content
No inbound marketing would be successful without a good content as inbound marketing is equal to content plus context.
Content is an inbound marketing toolkit: Blogs, interactive tools, photos, infographics, videos, e-books, presentation workings towards ATTRACT – CONVERT – CLOSE – DELIGHT
Context is who you creating it for. It should be tailored to who you trying to reach and what they are interested in!
The best content is the one which is totally grounded in the correct context. It is just not enough to write any blog post or email. It should be tailored to the audience you are trying to reach your BUYER PERSONA and also what they are interested in seeing?
Leverage Your Content
Make content available for your buyer personas to find. Content distribution is to provide the context to your content. It’s not just enough to have a good content you should find means to get that content available to the world, DISTRIBUTION makes content relevant.
The few different tools you can use to leverage content are by right DISTRIBUTION. The right tools for distribution are:
- Website pages
- Business blog
- Social Media
- Landing Pages
- Marketing Emails
For e.g., You just have to use tactics to make sure that your content reaches your buyer personas where they are spending time. If your buyer persona is spending time on facebook that is what your target should be and not anywhere else.
Thanks Deepthy Varghese for writing up this content on Inbound Marketing & Strategy. Your efforts are much appreciated.