Inbound marketing is a modern approach to engaging a modern consumer. It embodies the idea that customers want to engage with businesses they have a relationship with. Offer the opportunity to get to know your customers, and they will want to get to know you. In turn, you ensure you spend precious time and money interacting with the right audience, resulting in meaningful interactions. Customers will trust your organization to solve their immediate needs, as well as future ones.
Marketing has changed. 100 years and a few large companies controlled the entire landscape. Giants such as Sears & Roebuck and JC Penney interacted with their customers by mailing catalogs filled with solutions to every problem of the day. What the customer though, felt, or needed was of little consequence. Surely a solution would be in their massive supply chain somewhere!
When it came to marketing, advertising volume was more important than individual relationships. 1,000 silent, purchasing customers mattered more than 2 unhappy ones. If those two weren’t satisfied, they could go buy from the local store in town. But they’d come back; they always did. When consumers only had a handful of choices, their individual voice was of little consequence to these titans of commerce.
Travel back 50 years ago and technology was leveling the playing field between the Goliaths and the Davids of the business world. Avenues into people’s lives were opening by the minute. Landline telephones, radios, televisions, and news publications all created new opportunities for any company with funding to get their products in front of the masses. They hired armies of marketers to reach new customers. All of a sudden sports heroes were on Wheaties boxes and musicians were holding Coca Colas to entice you during TV show intermissions. Companies had the power to shape your opinion of their product. The customer had little power to shape their own.
Then, the internet was born. All of a sudden every company, from a basement game developer to a penthouse art collector, could get their product seen across the globe. An endless sea of companies rose up, all competing for the customer’s attention. A catalog mailed was simply one of many in a mailbox. A highway billboard competed with 25 others on a simple work commute. A video ad was just one of hundreds. A search engine result was just one of millions. Yes, the internet gave any company a voice yell into the void, but it also gave the customer one too.
A catalog, billboard, video ad, or search result isn’t enough to attract today’s consumer. Now, they have all the power. They can search for answers to their own problems. They don’t need to passively be pressured into a possible solution. They can go out and find their solution on their own! They are now the titans of commerce. And as a business, you’d better start listening to what they want.
If customers hold the power of knowledge, then businesses need to change how they interact. You need to listen. You need to inform. You need to become something of value. Otherwise, customers will move on the next option! Consider these statistics on modern buyer behavior:
Customers do indeed have all the power in today’s tech-savvy landscape. They want more than to just be annoyed, to be sold, to be treated like they are just a number on a sales chart. So what do they want? Customers in our modern world want to know who they are doing business with. Are they trustworthy? Are they knowledgeable? Are they transparent? Billboards, magazine ads, and video spots can convey this to an extent, but it’s just not enough. That’s why traditional marketing is indeed a dying strategy. It will always have a place, just more so in the way that you have a fancy dish you only take out of the cupboard on special occasions. It’s not for everyday use!
Building meaningful relationships with customers is a multi-step process and can feel like a complicated and unpredictable journey. So what tools, as a marketer, will you need to guide people to your product or service?.
Hubspot, an industry leader in inbound marketing, published a framework to guide marketing efforts, known as the Inbound Methodology. It’s a method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people - all focused on providing value and building trust. It’s about creating a human connection and being as helpful as possible. Inbound is a better way to market, a better way to sell, and a better way to serve your customers. To learn more about the inbound methodology, see Rizen’s Guide to if the inbound methodology is right for your business.
If you’re interested in taking an inbound-focused approach to marketing, that’s great! In order to best position yourself to be the right answer to a problem someone is looking to solve, you need to start by understanding how to reach every person based on the buyer’s journey.
The first step in implementing an inbound marketing strategy is introducing your brand to the right people - attracting them to your product or service. But who are these “right” people? How do you find them? How do begin building content to draw people in?
Begin by creating a “customer profile” (also known as a buyer persona) by brainstorming what their situation looks like. What are the problems causing them to search for a solution? What makes your solution the best option? What commonalities might these people share? Step into the shoes of your potential audience, and try to gain genuine insight into their lives so you can best speak to them.
At the start, your profile may be basic, but it will grow as your customer base does. Keep building those important relationships and your strategies for reaching similar customers will too. But every journey begins with a first step, so make initial marketing attempts as targeted as possible by doing the prep work to create that snapshot of your ideal customer. For a free template to get you started, check out our guide on building effective buyer personas.
Now that you’ve identified your customer, begin to create content that will help them find the solution to their problem. Think of yourself as an “advisor” who can provide answers to those looking for an answer. You’re going to want to plan out what content you’ll create over the coming year - a roadmap to how you’ll create publicize, and measure your content’s effectiveness. The best way to do this is by using a content compass.
A content compass is a spreadsheet that lays out, on a monthly basis, all the content you’ll create. You’ll choose an overall campaign focus to tie a theme together, such as a push to cater to lawyers if you’re a software company. As part of your focus, you’ll set a S.M.A.R.T. goal for your campaign to measure its effectiveness. You’ll also lay out what blog posts you’ll create, what videos, podcasts, infographics or other content you’ll produce, what you’ll include in an email newsletter, what external events you’ll hold, and much more. You can learn more about how to create a content compass and download a free template.
Once you’ve assembled a long-term plan by filling out a content compass, it’s time to start up the content creation machine!
Some possible content types to start with include:
A great place to start building content is with blog posts. Written content is still king, and helps your site rank high in search results on Google, Bing, or any other search engine. To get started, you just need to start writing! As you build out your content, you can add videos, graphics, or even podcast episodes to supplement the blog posts you created. The important thing is to start creating, and blog posts are the easiest content type to start with! Just make sure you optimize each article before publishing using our blog post optimization checklist. If you’re interested in getting into the technical side of choosing what topics write about, then you should learn the process of keywords and SEO optimization.
As you create and distribute content, it’s important to keep a close eye on how effective each medium is in reaching potential customers. For instance, if social media engagement is successful on Facebook but not Twitter, consider narrowing your focus to better reach where your customers are. Do articles on your blog generate visitors? Would that content be more effective if delivered by email?
Inbound marketing isn’t about creating content to just throw into the void - it’s about creating content and putting it where your customers are. So they can grow in awareness of who your brand truly is.
The next step in implementing an inbound marketing strategy is building brand trust by engaging with your new potential customers. You’ve created buyer personas and produced content to make this audience aware of your solutions to their problems. Now that people have engaged with you on some level, it’s time to cultivate those relationships.
Your most important tool to help build customer trust is through a website - one place where customers can interact with your brand. The site should be built and designed around that same profile customer profile you’ve built. When they visit, they should feel a familiar, comfortable experience that reminds them of how they became aware of you in the first place.
A website can’t just be photos and products though; not if you want to reach the modern consumer. A website needs to be both helpful and personable. Think of it as an extension of your ideal customer service associate. Any published content or product descriptions should have clear language aimed at relaying your unique solution.
Consider integrating direct conversational options, like customer service messaging windows or chatbots where users can decide to be guided through their journey across your website. Interested in learning how to get started with an automated chat option for your site? Check out our guide on marketing automation options.
You’ll also want to provide website visitors with an opportunity to download additional content. These opportunities should provide even more value to their visit, as they are trusting you to help solve their problem! Using call-to-action buttons (CTA’s) provides a way for you to interact with your potential customers in a more meaningful way. Check out our guide to learn more about making really engaging CTA’s.
Social media is another powerful means of engaging and building trust with customers. Most popular platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest come with direct messaging features, allowing you to answer questions from your audience as they arise. Posting videos, audio clips, links to brochures and white papers through social media also allow you to provide beneficial assistance directly to a specific audience as well.
Also, use the engagement stage as an opportunity to learn more about your customers. Using promotional offers, surveys, or invitation-only Q&A sessions make your customers feel even more linked to you as someone who can help solve their original issue. Remember, they engaged with your brand in the first place for a reason; now make sure they grow in confidence with that decision!
The last step in the inbound marketing strategy is capitalizing on the delight you’ve created - also known as brand satisfaction. Hopefully, those prospects you began with and built trust over a period of time have converted into customers. You’ve built a relationship over time, and now you want to empower them to continue looking to you for solutions in the future.
If you make them feel like you are a reliable support system, the customer will continue to return to you for future business. Take time to ask them how you can improve your process based on their experience. Offer them exclusives and promos as a reward for their patronage. A strong focus on retainment of customers ensures long-term growth for your brand because you’ve built a connection stronger than just a mail-in catalog or search engine result.
The process then starts over. Your organization should continually re-visit and improve how you approach the awareness, trust and satisfaction process. Your customers will thank you for it. That’s what inbound marketing is all about. Real. Human. Relationships.
By taking the step of using the inbound methodology, you’re transforming how you interact with customers. This change needs ripple across your entire organization. As the saying goes, “to do inbound, you need to be inbound!”
The best way to go about instituting organizational change is by adopting inbound principals. What are these? They’re a set of guidelines that will guide every interaction your team has with prospects or customers. They make sure your company is being helpful, human and holistic with your customers. Hubspot has assembled a detailed overview known as the S.C.O.P.E. principal to guide you through this transformative step.
The S.C.O.P.E. principal relies on one central theme - empathy. Inbound is all about putting the customer first and positioning your organization to help them solve their issue and become their trusted partner to do business with. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In order to truly attract, engage, and delight your customers, you need to be able to connect on this level with them - every time!
If your marketing and sales teams always try and be aware of the sentiment of an interaction, you’ll be better able to connect not only on a business level, but on a personal level as well. Customers want a relationship with the brands they support nowadays, and they want to know you care about their experience! Using the S.C.O.P.E. principal is an easy way to make sure you’re injecting empathy across your organization. As an acronym, each letter stands for a method to use when developing principles for everyone to follow. To get an in-depth explanation of the entire process, check out our breakdown on using the S.C.O.P.E. principal to inject empathy across your organization.
Inbound is all about making your company easy to find for the people that need your help. How does developing a company purpose help? People need to understand the job your company was founded to do. This applies to both employees and customers. You need to inspire by explaining WHY you exist! This isn’t standard business fare - developing a company purpose is deeply rooted in inbound philosophy.
According to Harvard Business Review, “To inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.
Developing a company purpose is different than drafting a mission statement. While the mission statement explains your company’s goals, it doesn’t explain why you exist! To contrast the two, let’s look at the mission statement of the Kellogg Food Company:
This statement clearly outlines what their products are intended to do - enrich and delight. A lofty goal! While it certainly shows a desire to create change on a global level, it doesn’t speak on a personal level to people. They likely aren’t going to “feel” the impact. Now let’s look at their company purpose to see how they differ:
This speaks clearly on an individual level. Every parent wants their children to flourish and thrive.The purpose statement targets one of the most central groups to the human experience - the family. By reading this, it’s clear Kellogg’s existence is all about making families flourish and thrive. Now that’s a statement both customers and families can feel!
When creating a company purpose, keep three overall goals in mind:
Having a clearly identified purpose helps marketing, sales and services teams really step into the shoes of customers and prospects and stay connected to them. To learn more about developing a this important organizational statement, along with some more examples to draw inspiration from, see Rizen’s article on how to develop a company purpose.
Why should you take time to set organizational goals? Every business is going to face its own unique set of challenges. Whether you’re starting up or expanding, growth takes time and effort. And, sometimes the difference between where you are and where you want to be can quickly feel insurmountable. That’s why you need a clear vision!
Nobody launched a wildly successful company without a clear plan. That’s where your business goals come in. Think about your business. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solo company or a team of one hundred. Whatever the size of your organization, you have need to align everyone behind a set of shared goals that everyone is working together towards.
So where to start? You start with your objectives. Objectives are statements that define the qualitative outcome of your goal. Objectives answer the question:
They convey your endpoint. They are meant to be more broad. For example, an objective could be:
Now that you’ve identified an objective everyone can work towards, lay out your key results. These need to be specific. How will you reach that objective? Key results are measurable and you should be able to verify whether or not those results were achieved. An example of a KR related to our objective would be:
By using this system of creating objectives and key results, your employees know exactly what the organizational goal is. Every actionable item will revolve around completing this objective, bringing all your departments together towards a unified goal. Marketing no longer is on an island - they’ll need to work closely with others across the organization to be successful! Everything is more transparent when business leaders take time to lay out quality organizational goals. There’s no better way to increase the effectiveness of your marketing efforts!
You’ve invested in laying the groundwork for inbound to be a success in your company. You’ve taken the time to understand the inbound methodology, adopted inbound principles, developed a clear company purpose, and set quality organizational goals. You’re creating content to attract customers to your brand or service, using a content compass to organize and plan your marketing efforts. Just by taking these steps, you’re placing your organization in a position to help customers who are searching for an answer to their problem.
We have so much more to share with about using the inbound philosophy to market your organization effectively. If you’re interested in starting with an inbound focus for sales, check out our complete guide here.
And remember, if you’re looking for an experienced, friendly and results-driven team to help you further with your inbound marketing efforts, contact us today or following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn by searching for the user name “Rizen_Inbound.” We’re here to help!