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Companies are discovering the power of inbound marketing for sustainable, better business growth. As a customer-centric marketing strategy, inbound marketing uses digital channels and technology to identify, attract and convert the best customers. It focuses on building relationships and turning customers into advocates.
It's a powerful strategy, but it's also one that many businesses struggle to implement. Below are the questions we've heard time after time from companies as they get started with inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is a customer-centric marketing strategy that uses content to answer questions and help prospects as they research possible solutions to the problems they face. Provide the best possible answers to the questions prospects have. Be helpful, not disruptive. Focus on solutions rather than products. By providing help and consulting on the solution, yours will be the first business a prospect turns to when they are ready to purchase.
Inbound marketing is focused on growing a prospect into a customer and then an advocate, rather than just making a single sale. The benefit of inbound marketing for a business is clear. You find the best buyers looking for a product or service like yours. The sales team isn't wasting time on prospects with little interest in purchasing.
In traditional marketing, the business is in control. The marketing department pushes marketing content at the consumer, a disruptive technique designed to create a need in the audience. Today the consumer is in control, and disruptive tactics don't create sales.
Fueled by easy access to information, consumers are doing research on the internet before they make a purchase. They are talking to friends and looking at reviews. Inbound marketing targets the digital channel a prospect uses, and then provides the best possible answer. Inbound marketing is helpful, focused on building a relationship, rather than disruptive and transaction driven like traditional marketing.
Any inbound marketing campaign starts by researching a buyer persona — a fictional representation of the target person you are trying to reach with your marketing. The better you can understand the buyer persona, the more effective your inbound marketing, no matter the industry or the business.
We've worked with both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) companies in many different verticals, including manufacturing, technology, healthcare, medical, home improvement, service industries, consultants, lawyers and more. What you offer and what you sell matters less than clearly defining that target audience and the solution your business provides.
How well do you know your customers? Before you begin an inbound marketing initiative, you'll want to do some research on your ideal customer — who are they, what are their interests, what challenges do they face and what problems do they have? You'll want key data points like where they go for information and how they make buying decisions. You'll use the information to build out this fictional buyer — the buyer persona.
Once you have your personas (many businesses find they have several ideal customers,) you'll know what answers they are looking for. You'll be able to create more engaging content, and know where your ideal customers go when they are looking for answers and solutions so you can better reach them.
Goals help you guide and manage the project, and are critical in identifying the ROI. They are the foundation of your strategy, and can be used to identify the KPIs for evaluating results. But determining the initial goals can be difficult. Where do you begin?
Start by considering your business goals. The business goals should guide the strategy of your inbound marketing. For example, if you are a consulting business, then your inbound strategy should focus on finding companies that would benefit from your help. Provide the best possible answers to the questions those people have. Goals should be the guidepost you use in the content you create, tactics you use, and digital channels you focus on.
It's all about your buyer personas — the target audience. In your research, you should have identified the problems they are looking to solve. Providing the best possible answers and helping them should be the focus of your content. It should speak to the buyer personas, leading them to the solution that your product or service can provide. Fix their problems and answer their questions.
The medium you use is just as important as the information. For example, mothers looking for day care on Facebook don't want to read a white paper — they don't have time! You want your content to be as easy to access and use as possible for the target audience. Consider what content they are currently using as they research. What content do they want to consume?
Blogs are a powerful tool for many businesses. They are a great way to answer questions and can provide a boost to your SEO. Ebooks and white papers are longer, more comprehensive formats useful for judging prospect interest in your solution. Infographics and videos are very popular and easy to share on social media. Case studies and testimonials are often the last bits of research a buyer needs before they make a purchase.
Keep in mind as you build your content plan that you are providing solutions and answers, not selling your products and services. It's easy to fall into a pattern of just talking about your business, but that's not what the audience is looking for. They are doing research to solve a problem.
Consistency and quality in content creation are critical for success. We suggest blocking off time regularly for content creation. Take the time you need to produce quality work — the results are worth it. Look at keeping an idea bank for new content. Write down the questions and problems your customers have. Inspiration is everywhere.
Continually producing new quality content can be difficult, so many businesses turn to outside resources like agencies. An agency has the experience and expertise to produce outstanding quality content at a fraction of the time and cost it may take your team. Get more use from each piece of content through repurposing.
Also consider the buyer's journey. Potential buyer research isn't an event, but a journey with multiple steps. As you begin to build out your content library, consider the content your buyer will need later in their journey. Your goal should be to provide the best possible answer at every phase.
The success of your inbound marketing plan starts with your goals. Don't look at your goals as a to-do list, but as a roadmap. They should map out what you need to do and what needs to happen to fuel business growth. Evaluate the different phases of the project and use the results to guide your future efforts. Each iteration should deliver better results at a lower cost.
Keep in mind, inbound marketing can take time, especially in the beginning. Your first blog probably won't go viral, and a single infographic isn't going to blow away the competition. Over time, as you build your brand through your content and start building a relationship with your target audience, sales and success will follow.
Many businesses struggle in the beginning. Sometimes they mix new inbound marketing techniques with dated traditional marketing strategies, only to see both suffer. Other companies take on too much at once, only to overwhelm their team. Sometimes businesses struggle to identify a target audience. In an effort to reach everyone with their message, they reach no one.
We suggest starting small, with a target audience in a single digital channel. Set manageable initial goals and roll out the program in phases. Select and use tools like HubSpot to help manage the inbound process. HubSpot is an inbound platform, automating tasks and managing information so you can focus on the highest priority items.
Getting started with inbound marketing can be scary, but you'll discover it's not only better for your business, but also your customers.