Research suggests that buyer habits are changing. Attention spans are getting shorter and consumers are less likely to engage with traditional advertising. As a result, there has been a shift away from digital advertising and a move towards content marketing. The reason? Today's consumers want to consume content on their own terms. This is where inbound marketing comes in.
“We need to sell the way that our customers are buying.”
The principles of traditional marketing talk about mass reach, repetition and focus on customer acquisition. These principles are outdated for the modern consumer.
Everyday consumers are bombarded with an over-saturation of marketing content; all screaming for attention. No wonder more and more consumers are blocking out advertising content...
This happens because advertisers are throwing out promotional content to the masses, hoping that consumers will bite and become customers. But most of us don’t bite, because we are not hungry.
Why advertise to those who are not ready for your products or services? It doesn’t make sense.
Inbound marketing is different. It’s not a wild stab in the dark, it's a different approach to marketing that only sends content to those who want it and those who are ready for it. Qualified marketing leads, qualified sales leads.
What is inbound marketing?
Essentially, inbound marketing is an approach that uses the inbound methodology to guide consumers through the buyer journey. The inbound methodology utilises both digital and content marketing best-practices to turn your website traffic into paying customers. Unlike most marketing strategies, inbound waits until consumers are ready for them. This means increased marketing efficiency for you.
In order to make inbound marketing work for you, you need to develop buyer personas.
What are buyer personas?
A persona is a human profile, comprising of a segment of your customer base that share similar attributes and behavioural patterns. Personas help you to identify and better understand your different customer segments at a deeper level. In turn, this helps you to tailor your messaging, content and solutions to meet your different customer needs.
Let's see a persona in action.
Name: Accountant Josh
Income: $35 - $45k
Education: Tertiary degree
Role: Junior Accounts Manager
Company: SME Accountancy Firm
Wants to move up in the firm
Wants to pay off his student loan
Wants to buy a new car
Struggles to pay off student loan
Wants to save money but has to continue to dip into savings to cover basic costs
Doesn’t feel like his contribution is valued at work
Josh is an introvert who values time by himself to play video games and watch movies. Josh has a small group of friends who he often socialises with online through in-game chatting, Facebook Messenger and Line. He doesn’t often use social media but he does check his Facebook profile once or twice a week.
As you can see, the story part of the persona is where you bring all the components together and craft a story in order to dig deeper into how your persona lives. The more detailed you are with developing your personas: the better. Next, we need to take these personas and guide them through the buyer journey.
The Buyer Journey:
Today, consumers are far more likely to search for information before they search for solutions. Consumers type their queries into search engines and often find their answers on the first page. At this point, consumers are in what inbound categorises as the awareness stage of the buyer journey.
As you can see in the diagram; the family doesn’t have enough space, the kids want a pool and the local schools aren’t satisfactory. They have a problem but they don’t know how to fix it. Next we have the consideration stage. The family has realised that they need to move but they don’t know where to go or how to go about finding a new place. They have defined their problem so they move into the decision stage. After thinking about it, researching and asking their close friends; the family decides that they need an experienced real estate agent to help them find the perfect home.
So, what does this mean for marketers? Fundamental to inbound marketing, marketers need to learn how to guide consumers through the buyer journey. Here’s how you do it:
The Inbound Methodology:
Image credit: DCD Agency
Just like in our buyer journey example, consumers want answers to their problems. In order to attract these consumers to your website, you need to provide them with highly relevant answers. You can provide these answers through carefully planned keyword research, sharing content and social publishing. Content such as blogs, videos and podcasts can be great for both educating and attracting your different personas. SEO and keywords are how you actually get traffic to your site. Perform keyword research and use these keywords as the basis for all of your content.
Another good strategy is to organise your content around topic clusters. This will help your content to appear higher up the pecking order in search results.
Lastly, social publishing is another way to attract and educate your personas. When sharing content, it is a great idea to also share content from other sources such as your customers or credible content creators. 70% should be your voice, 20% other people’s voice and 10% self-promotion. There are great benefits from using user-generated content (UGC) and sharing content from authoritative sources.
Now that you have attracted visitors to your website, you need to convert them into leads.
How do you go about doing this? It’s pretty simple: offer content that provides value in exchange for their personal details. Your offer should match the value that your personas will receive for giving up their information. If your personas don’t see value in your offer, they will give you nothing!
As a general rule-of-thumb, the greater the value of the offer, the more information they will be willing to give up. Value for your personas could be an E-book that helps solve their problems. Whereas, value for your organisation could be in the form of an email address, job title or phone number.
In order for your visitors to receive this shiny new E-book, they must fill out a form on your website. You can also promote your content offer on dedicated landing pages, using call-to-action buttons (CTAs) and across your social channels. Also consider promoting your offer with paid advertising through social channels, PPC and remarketing.
Once they've downloaded your offer, make sure you have a 'thank you page' in place. They have done you a favour so make them feel appreciated! 'Thank you pages' are also a great opportunity to provide your leads with even more value and drive them further through the buyer journey.
Now that we have leads, we need to take these leads and convert them into paying customers. For your leads, you should have an email address and a name at the very least. The more information you have about your leads; the better. At this stage, they are not strangers; they are ideally, qualified leads.
Alright, how do we take your leads and turn them into customers? If you haven’t already, invest in CRM software. As this will make your job a whole lot easier! CRM such as HubSpot enables you to track and manage all of your leads right through the buyer journey.
At its most basic form, you should have an email address from all of your leads. Emails are still a powerful way to move your leads through the buyer journey.
However, context vs content is the catalyst to great emails. Content is what you produce; the email header, the topic, the copy and the visuals. And it is the combination of a relevant subject-line, engaging copy and stimulating visuals that will create great email content. In addition, personalised emails have been found to have an open rate of 18.8% when compared with non-personalised (13.1%).
The other key to effective emails is context. Context is who you are sending the email to and when are you sending it. This is where the inbound methodology really comes into play. It is not enough to just create great emails. Your emails need to be sent to the right people at the right time.
What does this mean in practice? This means segmenting your emails based on your buyer personas and their stage in the buyer journey. For instance, you wouldn’t send a product demo to someone in the awareness stage. Why? Because it has no context and it is not relevant to their needs. They are not ready to buy; not yet.
In order to send the right content at the right time, you need to understand your personas and track their progress through the buyer journey. In this way, all of your emails will be highly relevant and sent to your personas when they need it most. This gives you the best opportunity of converting them into paying customers.
It is important not to forget about your customers after the first transaction. Why? Because it is 5x more expensive to generate new customers than it is to keep existing ones. Your customers have the potential to be in it for the long-haul, so delight them! Give them such great customer service that they will never want to go anywhere else. Here's some different ways to delight your customers:
Follow-up after a purchase.
Did they like your product or service? If not, ask how you can make the situation better? What else can you do for them? Do you have another product or service that could add additional value?
Ask their opinion.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and probe deeper. Not only can you gain new insights but it is also makes your customers feel more valued. Another great way to engage with your customers is by involving them in decision-making. Perhaps, run a competition where contestants get to submit new product ideas? Or ask your customers about new product features?
Take an interest in their lives.
Social media is a great way to monitor, engage and interact with your customers. Many marketers make the mistake of continually pushing out content but never engaging with their audiences. You also need to interact with your customer’s content. This could be engaging in discussions on LinkedIn, liking and commenting on Instagram, sharing user-generated content on Facebook etc. It all depends on your industry and who your customers are. Your customers will engage with your content if you engage with theirs.
If you nail customer service then your customers will want to keep coming back time and time again. You might even find that some of your customers promote your business behind your back. Free promo, sweet...
To summarise, documented buyer personas are a method to help you better understand your different customer segments. The buyer journey is the process your different personas take as they go from having a problem right through to solving that problem. The inbound methodology is how you utilise your documented personas together with digital and content marketing best practices to lead your prospects through the buyer journey.
In essence, you are providing value for your customers at every digital touch-point in order to nurture and convert them down the funnel. Armed with this knowledge, you can create sales funnels that convert website traffic into leads and leads into customers. And over time, your business will reap the benefits of adopting an inbound approach.
Ready to start your first inbound campaign? Get our free checklist below: