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To truly understand Inbound Marketing and the benefits it holds for small to medium businesses, you need to focus in on traditional marketing. That is, marketing focussed on interruptions. Traditional marketing is convenient for the brand. It is convenient for a marketer to place an ad in front of someone. To interrupt the consumer when it’s most convenient for the brand to do so. For example, we’ve all been frustrated by the annoying telemarketing cold calls at 6:30pm at night when we’re just about to sit down for dinner. It’s convenient for the brand to call at this time because they know you’ll be home and more likely to answer the phone. Not so convenient for the person on the receiving end of this call.
Traditional marketing is interruptive. It’s focussed on pushing a message onto someone. Cold calls. Television commercials. Radio commercials. Digital display ads. Brands push messages through these channels to drive sales.
The tolerance for these interruptions has gone down. And the technology to block them out has advanced. Think about free to air TV versus streaming services like Netflix. Radio versus podcasts. Even cold calling has become easy to block. Thank you caller ID!
Traditional marketing is no longer a cost effective solution. It’s become difficult for SMEs to get a message in front of their ideal customer. They’re not just competing with their own marketing budget restrictions. SMEs are competing in a world of information abundance and attention scarcity. It’s harder now than ever before to win the attention of potential customers. Information is everywhere. It’s easy to access from anywhere in the world. For SMEs, it’s difficult to differentiate and cut through this clutter and interruption blockages to gain the attention of potential customers.
The solution to this problem is Inbound Marketing.
Inbound Marketing is about asking for permission to market to someone. It is earning the right to your target market’s attention. It’s about leading someone on a journey by matching the way you market to the way people live. It allows customers to find you through online search. Through social media, and through blogs.
Since the mid 2000s, Inbound Marketing has been one of the most effective ways to market a business online, generate leads and decrease the conversion time.
Inbound Marketing uses automation and content specifically designed to attract, engage and delight customers. The content appeals to the needs, wants and pain points of people defined as an ideal customer for the brand. And delivering that content where and when they need it. This draws ideal customers into a brand by earning the right to their permission and building consumer trust for the brand.
By delivering content that truly solves a problem, answers questions and enriches people’s lives, a brand can create aligned buyers who are more likely to convert. Trust can be established in the relationship from the outset.
The Inbound Marketing Methodology has 4 stages:
Every relationship starts with attraction. In this phase of the methodology you draw in an audience who may potentially, one day, become an aligned customer and brand advocate. Leads are attracted to your business using quality content that can be easily found in search, social media, or other digital channels.
You don’t ask to jump to 3rd base the moment you meet! So no, the convert phase is not converting to a customer. It’s converting them into a lead. A lead who you want to nurture. Think of this process like a farmer. A farmer will water his crops over a longer period of time. When they’re ready, he harvests his crops. And has enough food to feed his family on an ongoing basis. The same goes for your leads. The convert stage captures data using things like eBooks, webinars and special content offers on landing pages and forms. This data is captured in a CRM for future lead nurturing.
Roll in the Benjamins! This stage takes that well-nurtured lead and turns them into a happy customer. Email and automation play a vital role in this stage of the methodology. Things like lead scoring, automated email workflows and closed loop reporting help turn marketing qualified leads into sales qualified leads. What does that mean? It means these sales qualified leads are ready to be placed into your sales process.
Just because someone is a customer, doesn’t mean you can forget about them! Delighting your customers in service and tailored marketing is one of the most important parts of Inbound Marketing. Yet it’s a stage most business owners and marketers forget about as they focus on attracting new leads to the business. Remember, your current customers will always be better at marketing your business than you ever will be!
HubSpot intelligently defines Inbound Marketing as creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business. These experiences are fuelled by content. But not just any content. Good content. People always tend to find good content and the internet is quite effective at guiding people towards this good content.
Historically, the cost to develop content was huge! Television, radio and even billboards are content formats that are not a cost-effective solution for SMEs. But today it is much cheaper and easier to develop content and reach and audience. Firstly, you no longer have to rent space on someone else's platform [like the TV stations]. SMEs can easily develop content for their own platforms, i.e. their website. Secondly, producing content used to be about the width of your wallet. Today, it’s more about the width of your brain. You don’t need large sums of money to start a podcast, or to launch a video series. You simply need some time and knowledge on a topic that is relevant to your brand and your ideal customers.
One of the most beneficial aspects of Inbound Marketing is that it uses content formats that are easy to work with and cost effective to implement. The methodology then maps those content formats and topics to different stages of the buyer's journey. As I mentioned above, Inbound uses content to attract, engage and delight customers. So the content you produce will be different at each stage of the buyer’s journey. For example, the content piece one receives at the beginning of their buying journey [attract], will be vastly different to someone at the end of their decision-making process [conversion].
There is an abundance of content on the web today. The main issue SME brands are facing when it comes to their content is engagement. A majority of the time this low engagement is caused by a lack of understanding of a brand’s ideal customer, their pain points, goals and motivations.
These two definitions are nearly one and the same. Someone with no understanding of Inbound Marketing will look at their target market from a more generalised view. Age groups. White collar. Blue collar. Location. Sex. Income.
Inbound marketers develop an understanding of the ideal customer by diving much deeper than demographics. They look at psychographics. This focuses on things like; lifestyle, values, goals, personality, interests and opinions. This puts you in the shoes of your ideal customers and helps you understand how they want to be marketed to, how they want to be sold to, and how they want to be serviced.
Knowing both demographics and psychographics gives a deeper view into who your ideal customers are [demographics], and explains why they buy [psychographics]. Inbound marketers call this customer data, a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. What do I mean by semi-fictional you ask? Simply put, you use a combination of existing customer data [looking at both demographics and psychographics], market research and some “gut feel”. A buyer persona is not based on one person alone. It captures the essence of your ideal customer using all the data you capture.
In the data you collate, you are looking for responses to questions like:
What are their pain points?
Where do they consume content and in what format?
What does their average day look like?
What’s been their career journey?
How do they make purchase decisions?
Why would they NOT buy from me?
Following your extensive research, you look for commonalities in the responses and craft them into a buyer persona. Use this to write a bio for your ideal buyer or buyers. Give them a name. Give them a photo. Share this buyer persona with the rest of your team so everyone understands who you ideal customer is.
Crafting your buyer persona is the first step in any Inbound Marketing strategy. Not only will it provide you a deeper view of your ideal customer. It helps in crafting compelling and relevant content and marketing messages that will increase engagement and drive conversions. Create a buyer persona here.
Marketing automation plays a vital role in the success of Inbound Marketing. A marketing infrastructure should be the second most important focus for SMEs looking to do Inbound Marketing. Without it, you have little to no automation. Your data will most likely be splattered all over the place. It’ll all feel disorganised. You will have no marketing nerve centre.
A Customer Relationship Manager [CRM] and marketing platform will be your best friend in Inbound land. You’ll be able to create segmented lists based on demographics and psychographics. You can build and send automated email newsletter. Schedule your social media activity. Implement a lead scoring process. Setup automated workflows using lead scoring and email marketing for lead nurturing. The opportunities are [almost] endless. What’s the best thing about it all? You can access everything you need in one central place. Have full visibility over your website analytics. Sales opportunities. Social media performance. Blog engagement. Email performance. The whole lot!
You can also view your database growth and draw insights from the data of your leads to make smarter marketing decisions and create deeper relationships. Your marketing infrastructure will make or break your Inbound Marketing approach. It’s important to have it in place and integrated with all your systems and platforms from the get go.
If you’re still reading this, then I’m guessing that means you’re very interested in diving into Inbound Marketing? Ok then. Let’s run through some quick setup points to get you started.
Like all marketing, Inbound Marketing begins with strategy. The first step is to take the time to understand your buyer persona. Do the research that is required to truly understand your ideal customer on a much deeper level. You won’t regret it. Everything you do in Inbound draws from the buyer persona.
Following that you should start mapping out your buyers journey. What does that process look like? Thinking about your persona you created, what does their typical path to purchase look like? How many touch points do they need to finally make a decision to raise their hand and ask for your help? Then, start mapping your content formats to this journey. Check out how to create topic clusters to give you content ideas.
The final stage in the setup of your Inbound Marketing approach is your marketing infrastructure. This includes finding a CRM and automation platform [including email] that suits your business and budget, but also has all the functionality you need to allow your Inbound Marketing function to run smoothly. There are literally hundreds of platforms on the market. You need to do your research, read the reviews, compare and make a decision. Most importantly, you need to USE IT! Consistently!
Let’s face it, marketing in general can be overwhelming. Inbound Marketing is no exception. If you feel you want to jump into the wonderful world of Inbound, but don’t know if you have the time or expertise to do so. Seek help. Consult someone who has a particular expertise in Inbound Marketing to help build you personas, buyer's journey, and implement a CRM and marketing automation platform best suited for you business.
Inbound Marketing holds many benefits for SMEs. More leads. Better data. Stronger bonds with customers. Higher conversions. Lower production costs. Shall I go on? The next time you start thinking about ways to advertise your product or service, stop to think about the investment of time and money knowing there is an easier and more cost effective way to attract leads, nurture them, and convert them into aligned buyers. That better way, is Inbound Marketing.